Law and Gospel?

“Law and gospel is all about naming reality. It’s about telling the truth, twice. First we hear the difficult truth of our brokenness, our fears, our sins. And then we hear the good and gracious news about God’s response to our condition, for Christ’s sake, no matter what. You can’t separate the two, because both come from God.”
-David Lose, Luther Seminary

The Bible contains two primary teachings, the Law and the Gospel. As Luther taught, we believe that the Law serves to convict sinners and to guide believers into the will of God. The Law shows us what we must do―or perish. Luther taught that the Law’s purpose is to bring sinners to despair and to convince us of our need of salvation in Christ. He taught three uses of the Law:
• a curb that restrains wickedness in society
• a mirror that brings a convicting reflection for the sinner
• and a guide or standard to reveal God’s will for believers

The Gospel alone
• saves
• gives life
• helps us grow

As Paul teaches in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, the Gospel shows us that Christ died according to the Scriptures, was buried, was raised and lives today. The Gospel shows us what God has done for us in Christ for our salvation and growth (Romans 7; Galatians 3:10-22).

“Homiletics in the Lutheran tradition has been governed by the law/gospel distinction…. Preaching can hardly scale heights of gospel when the backbone of law has been broken. Antinomianism has become pandemic in mainline Protestant preaching.”
-Carl Braaten, Lutheran School of Theology

“Can agreement on the gospel exist unless there is agreement on what the gospel rescues us from?”
-Albert B. Collver III, LC-MS President’s Office

Sarah Wilson explains the distinction between and the overlap of “law” and “gospel” as presented in the Book of Concord:

About Ben Unseth

Executive Director at Project Understanding (2014-2017), social service agency in Ventura, CA
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