Posts Tagged ‘Gospel’

WordonFire

“I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” He also said to the multitudes, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it happens. And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat’; and it happens. You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky; but why do you not know how to interpret the present time? “And why do you not judge for yourselves what is right? As you go with your accuser before the magistrate, make an effort to settle with him on the way, lest he drag you to the judge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer put you in prison. I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper.”  Luke 12:49-59

These passages from the Gospel of Luke are very important for these days and times in which we live.

 In the Gospel of Luke 12:49 Jesus says that He came to cast fire to the earth!

The word “cast” in the original Greek “balein” means “to violently or intensely throw or cast.

What does this verse mean?

Jeremiah 23:29 says, “Is not My Word like fire, and like a hammer that breaks the rock into pieces?”

I believe that the fire that Jesus casts to the earth is the fire of the Holy Spirit in the proclamation of the Gospel.

God’s Word is like fire!

Let me qualify this: The baptism Jesus mentions to His disciples in our Gospel lesson is one which begins with His blood.

Jesus bloody baptism occurs in His death, burial, then in His resurrection and ascension. All this must occur before Jesus casts the fire.

In Matthew 3:11 John the Baptist prophesied that Jesus would baptize Christians with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

This baptism of Jesus must take place before He sends the Holy Spirit – before Jesus baptizes Christians with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

When Jesus sends the Holy Spirit, the Fire, the Holy Spirit comes into Christians to enable them to proclaim the Gospel of His Kingdom.

The Holy Spirit is the higher element of our spiritual life we need; we need His holy Fire!

We need the preaching of the Gospel!

What happened when the Holy Spirit came? The Holy Spirit descended with tongues as of fire!

What happened after the Holy Spirit came on the disciples and those with them?

The Gospel message was preached and 3000 people were saved through Peter’s message!

The preaching of the Gospel will bring down God’s Fire to burn the dross off His people!

The preaching of the Gospel is going to divide people – even families!

Here are some results of Gospel preaching:

Some will oppose the Gospel – opposition

Some will persecute those who proclaim the Gospel – persecution

There is a disturbance in the world today, a shaking as it were of the things in this world and there is a shaking going on in the Church!

Why? Some are preaching the Gospel faithfully!

There is no peace in this world and in the Church!

There is no peace in the world and in the Church because the Gospel is not being proclaimed!

Do you see the paradox? The Gospel IS being preached and it is not!

The only peace we have is the peace God sheds upon our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Jesus says where the Gospel is preached there will be division and no peace!

Jesus was to suffer a baptism and be in anguish until it was completed.

Jesus was immersed into the ultimate sacrifice; His body broken for our redemption; He suffered for our forgiveness; He suffered for the remission of our sin and to cleanse us of all our unrighteousness!

Preaching the Gospel will give occasion for discord among all humanity, even in our own families!

HEAR ME NOW!

Standing for the TRUE Gospel will also give occasion for discord to those who do not believe it within the Church!

Unbelief will be provoked by the TRUTH of the Gospel!

Now, more than even before, people will start becoming uncomfortable in their pews or chairs upon hearing the Gospel.

God is calling for our faith and obedience to the Gospel.

Now let me share something prophetic with you:

“The Holy Spirit is expressing His heart now for the Church. God desires true repentance in the hearts of the leaders of the Church; the gatekeepers, the ordained members of the clergy and board members (those who have authority within Christianity). God is primarily concerned with the sincerity and humility of the “fathers” because what they do affects their wives and children…both in the natural realm and in the spiritual realm. We must not be deceived into judging the homosexual sins of “others,” this is in the open, while hiding from our own secret sexual immorality and idolatry!

We must examine our hearts, thoughts, words, and deeds first! Taking the log out of our own eye and allowing the Holy Spirit to break our hearts over our own sin before daring to examine, correct and judge others, lest we find ourselves in the desolate graves of Pharisees and heartless hypocrites!”

People, we need to be stirred up about the Gospel!

We need to obtain the boldness of the Holy Spirit to share the Gospel with others!

The Messiah has come and He has brought His Kingdom with Him!

He has sent His power to enable us to share the Gospel of His Kingdom.

What is your interest in the Kingdom of God?

The Jews could not even see the fact plainly that God’s Kingdom had come to them in Jesus, the Son of God, the prophesied Messiah, right before their eyes!

They could not interpret or discern the signs of their own times – right in front of them…what’s happening?

Let’s look at verse 56, “You hypocrites! You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but why do you not know how to interpret the present time?

What does Jesus mean here? Is this verse, time – “kairos” in the original Greek means “what time brings; the state of the times; the things and events of time.”

In Greek, there are two words for time “Chronos” and “Kairos.”

Chronos marks the quantity of time while kairos marks the quality of time.

The word we are looking at “kairos” means “a season, a time, a period possessed of certain characteristics.”

This is what Jesus was trying to make these people understand.

Today, there is a “quality” to the times or season we are in right now!

This is the “quality” of our own times:

There are those who pretend or are so deluded as to think they are wise – and cannot see what’s going on in this world, or in their own churches!

They can determine how the weather will change by looking at the sky; or if the south wind will blow in a dry heat – but they cannot even determine the condition of their own hearts or the heart of the church?

Oh, pray that the Holy Spirit speaks to your hearts, and leads you to true repentance and faith toward God!

Oh, pray that you will stand for the TRUE Gospel, by the power of the Holy Spirit and shun the deluded and deceptive other “gospel” which condones unbelief and sinful behavior!

God is ready with His fire…to rain down on us…to purge and purify our hearts by His Holy Fire, as the Refiner to purge the dross off our lives, to destroy the sin that remains in our hearts!

God send Your Fire down upon us!

Come Holy Spirit; rain down your Holy Fire!

Matthew 16:2-3 says, “He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”

Jesus says an evil and adulterous generation seeks signs! What is our present generation like?

Jesus says no sign will be given except the sign of Jonah.

What was the sign of Jonah? It was Jonah preaching repentance!

Look at the signs of the times/or season when Jesus preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God.

Now, we have been given the task in the power of the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom!

Remember what Jesus said about casting fire to the earth?

Malachi 3:2-3 says, “…For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD.”

Now look at Matthew 3:11-12, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in His hand, and He will clear his threshing floor and gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.”

You know you cannot tell the difference between wheat and tares?

The tare, or the bearded darnel, is a species of rye grass, the seeds of which are a strong soporific poison, i.e., it has the power to put you to sleep. It bears the closest resemblance to wheat only until the ear appears, and only then, the difference is discovered – in Jesus day it grew plentifully in Syria and in Palestine.

You cannot tell the difference until the ear appears…

What is Jesus telling us?

You cannot tell the difference until the fruit appears – the grain – when the truth about our lives appears – either the fruit of the Spirit or the fruit of the flesh, our sinful unregenerate self, meaning a life without Christ.

St. Paul talks about the fruit of the Spirit or the works of the flesh.

The “works” of the flesh means our effort or occupation in being sinful!

The works of the flesh are the result of sinful behavior that is our way of life.

Is your life producing the fruit of the Spirit or the works of the flesh?

Can we tell if you are the wheat or the tare?

Hear me, Christian! People HAVE to be able to tell the difference between you, the believer (the wheat), and the unbeliever, those of the world (the tares)!

If not, we are truly hypocrites!

Either you are for Jesus Christ or you are against Him.

Jesus has violently and intensely thrown fire to the earth! The Holy Spirit has come, His Kingdom is here, and we have been tasked and enabled to proclaim the Gospel to every Nation, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

Fire either purifies or destroys. The signs of the times here and now are those which bring us to the cross road of decision.

Do you choose unbelief, death, and eternal separation from God?

Do you choose Christ, His Kingdom, and eternal life?

What is your decision today?

The Story is a beautiful, powerful, yet simple explanation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ using 4 major themes found in the Bible: Creation. The Fall. The Rescue. The Restoration. The Christian worldview is clearly communicated to those who are interested in what Christians believe and also provides an understanding of how to become a Christian through faith in the Gospel.

So, how does The Story answer worldview questions?

1) Creation answers, “How did everything begin?”
2) The Fall (of Mankind) answers, “What went wrong?”
3) The Rescue (of Mankind) answers, “Is there any hope?”
4) The Restoration answers, “What will the future hold?”

Enjoy!

CLICK THE LINK ABOVE TO READ “THE STORY.”

GOD BLESS YOU ALL!

Gospel

The Gospel is: εὐαγγέλιον – euaggelion; a reward for good tidings; the glad tidings of the kingdom of God soon to be set up, and subsequently also of Jesus the Messiah, the founder of this kingdom. After the death of Christ, the term Gospel comprises also the preaching of (concerning) Jesus Christ as having suffered death on the cross to procure eternal salvation for the men in the kingdom of God, but as restored to life and exalted to the right hand of God in heaven, thence to return in majesty to consummate the kingdom of God; the glad tidings of salvation through Jesus Christ; the proclamation of the grace of God manifest and pledged in Jesus Christ; as the Messianic rank of Jesus was proved by His words, His deeds, and His death, the narrative of the sayings, deeds, and death of Jesus Christ came to be called the Gospel or glad tidings.

The Gospel shall be proclaimed in all the inhabited world!

The Gospel must be preached, to the Jews; even to all, without any distinction of people, Jews and Gentiles, Barbarians, Scythians, bond and free, male and female, rich and poor, greater or lesser sinners, even to all mankind; than which, nothing was more provoking to the Jews; who would, if they could, have revoked and made null this commission of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is the word of peace and reconciliation, by His atoning sacrifice; the doctrine of free and full pardon by His blood; and of justification by His righteousness; and of complete salvation by Him: even every doctrine relating to His person, as God and man; to every office of His, as prophet, priest, and king; to His incarnation, sufferings, and death, His resurrection, ascension, session at the right hand of God, and intercession for His people, and second coming to judgment; with every doctrine relating to the grace of God, of the Father in election, and the covenant of peace, of the Son in redemption, and of the Spirit in regeneration and sanctification: all which he must be published and declared in the most free, plain, and open manner, with all boldness, faithfulness, and constancy! 

“Now brothers, I want to clarify for you the Gospel I proclaimed to you; you received it and have taken your stand on it. You are also saved by it, if you hold to the message I proclaimed to you—unless you believed for no purpose. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received:

that Christ died for our sins
according to the Scriptures,
that He was buried,
that He was raised on the third day
according to the Scriptures…” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:1-4

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Gospel means, simply, “good news.” There are numerous so-called gospels in the world proclaiming good news to those who would listen, and these gospels come in any number of forms—from the gospel of wealth and power to the gospel of health and beauty. These gospels, however, do not address the most basic problem that all men and women have—the problem of sin and guilt; that is, spiritual deadness.

Put simply, the Gospel is the good news of Jesus Christ. It is good news because, without it, we stand condemned as sinners before a holy and just God, deserving His wrath. In Isaiah’s vision of the throne room of God, seraphim (angelic beings) cry out continually, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” Isaiah, overwhelmed in the presence of God, cries out in despair: “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isa. 6:3, 5)

Yet, in God’s perfect holiness—and this is the good news—God has, in His good pleasure, made a way for sinners to be reconciled to Himself through His Son Jesus Christ. John 3:16-17 says,

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through Him.

Jesus Christ lived a righteous life and then died a terrible death on a Roman cross for His people. “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). Thus, Jesus Christ satisfied the holy and just requirements of God. God then raised Him from the dead, vindicating Christ’s work.

Sinners are called to repent and believe the Gospel and to trust in Christ for salvation. Sinners receive this free gift of salvation from God through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone and are thereby counted righteous before God. Romans 10:9-13 states,

If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in Him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Having been justified, Christians are called to walk as “living sacrifices” unto Him through the Holy Spirit because they are not their own, but were “bought with a price” (Rom. 12:1; 1 Cor. 6:20). Just as God raised Jesus Christ, so Christians await a resurrection of their own bodies, Christ being the “first fruits” of the new creation (1 Cor. 15:20). Ultimately, this is their hope—that God has begun His work of “making all things new” in the work of Jesus Christ and in the continued sanctification of His saints (Rev. 21:5). They await the new heavens and new earth in which there will be no more sin, pain, or sorrow (Rev. 21:4).

~ from St. Andrews (A Reformed Congregation)

Believe it or not, the purity of the Gospel’s proclamation depends on the distinction between Law and Gospel.

James Nestingen wrote:

When the Law and Gospel are improperly distinguished, both are undermined. Separated from the Law, the Gospel gets absorbed into an ideology of tolerance in which leniency is equated with grace. Separated from the Gospel, the Law becomes an insatiable demand hammering away at the conscience until it destroys a person.

When the Law and Gospel are properly distinguished, however, both are established. The Law can be set forth in its full-scale demand, so that it lights the way to order and, through the work of the Spirit, drives us to Christ. The Gospel can be declared in all of its purity, so that forgiveness of sins and deliverance from the powers of death and the devil are bestowed in the presence of our crucified and risen Lord.

Or, to put it another way, “The failure to distinguish the law and the gospel always means the abandonment of the gospel” (Gerhard Ebeling). A confusion of law and gospel is the main contributor to moralism in the church simply because the law gets softened into “helpful tips for practical living”, instead of God’s unwavering demand for absolute perfection. While the gospel gets hardened into a set of moral and social demands that “we must live out”, instead of God’s unconditional declaration that “God justifies the ungodly.” As my friend Jono Linebaugh says, “God doesn’t serve mixed drinks. The divine cocktail is not law mixed with gospel. God serves two separate shots: law then gospel.”

As I mentioned in my previous post, while there are a host of great resources available to help you better understand the important distinction between the law and the gospel, I found the most helpful resource to be John Pless’ easy-to-read Handling the Word of Truth: Law and Gospel in the Church Today. In the first chapter he summarizes C.F.W. Walther’s six ways in which the law and the gospel are different. I’ve already highlighted the first three. Below are the second three. Recovering this distinction is THE answer to the church rediscovering the gospel in our day:

Fourth, Law and Gospel are distinct when it comes to threats. Walther puts it simply: “The Gospel contains no threats at all, but only words of consolation. Wherever in Scripture you come across a threat, you may be assured that the passage belongs in the Law” (Walther, 11). The Law threatens sinners with punishment, pronouncing a curse on all who fail to live up to its requirements (Deuteronomy 27:26). The Gospel announces forgiveness for those crushed by the threat of the Law, for Christ Jesus came into the world to rescue the unrighteous (1 Timothy 1:15).

Fifth, the effects of Law and Gospel are different. Walther summarizes the threefold effect of the Law: (1) It demands but does not enable compliance. (2) It hurls people into despair, for it diagnoses the disease but provides no cure. (3) It produces contrition, that is, it terrifies the conscience but offers no comfort. Walther echoes the early Lutheran hymn writer Paul Speratus, who captured the biblical teaching of the Law’s lethal effectiveness:

What God did in is Law demand
And none to him could render
Caused wrath and woe on ev’ry hand
For man, the vile offender.
Our flesh has not those pure desires
The spirit of the Law requires,
And lost is our condition.
It was a false, misleading dream
The God his Law had given
That sinners could themselves redeem
And by their works gain heaven.
The Law is but a mirror bright
To bring the inbred sin to light
That lurks within our nature.

Public debates have raged over whether or not the Ten Commandments should be displayed in courtrooms and classrooms. Sometimes well-meaning people have argued that placards containing the Ten Commandments would have a positive effect on public morality. Actually, Scriptures teach that the Law makes matters worse, not better. Knowledge of the Law does not entail the ability to keep it. The Law not only identifies the sin but also, like a swift kick to a sleeping dog that arouses the animal to bark and bite, the Law stirs up the power of sin (Romans 7:7-9). The Law brings death, not life, for it is a letter that kills (2 Corinthians 3:6). Without the Gospel, the Law can only be the cause for grief, as it was in the case of the rich young man who thought himself capable of keeping the Law (Matthew 19:22).

At each point, the Gospel is completely different from the Law. While it is only through faith that we receive the benefits of the Gospel, the Gospel itself creates faith (Romans 1:16; Ephesians 2:8-10). Rather than provoking terror of conscience, anguish of heart, and fear of condemnation like the Law, the Gospel stills every voice of accusation with the strong words of Christ’s own peace and joy guaranteed by the blood of the cross. The Gospel does not set in place requirements of something that we must do or contribute. “[T]he Gospel does not require anything good that man must furnish: not a good heart, not a good disposition, no improvement of his condition, no godliness, no love of either God or men. It issues no orders, but changes man. It plants love into his heart and makes him capable of all good works. It demands nothing, but gives all. Should not this fact make us leap for joy?” (Walther, 16).

Sixth, Law and Gospel are to be distinguished in relation to the persons who are addressed, “The Law is to be preached to secure sinners and the Gospel to alarmed sinners” (Walther, 17). The secure sinner is the person who glories in his own self-righteous-ness. In the words of Lutheran theologian Gerhard Forde, the secure sinner is “addicted either to what is base or to what is high, either to lawlessness or to lawfulness. Theologically there is not any difference since both break the relationship to God, the giver.” Addicted to that which is base, secure sinners will excuse or rationalize their sinful behavior. They will live, to use the words of the confessional prayer, “as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most.” They will assert that their body and life and that of their neighbors are theirs to do with as they please. Or secure sinners might be addicted to that which is high. Like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable (Luke 18:9-14), secure sinners will trust in their own righteousness, their self-made spirituality., The sinners who are snug in their own righteousness rehearse the Ten Commandments and conclude that they, like the rich young man in the Gospel narrative, have kept all of these rules and are deserving of God’s approval. To those ensnared in either of these securities, blind to God’s demand for total righteousness, the Law is to be proclaimed full blast so all presumption might be destroyed.

To those who have been crushed by the hammer blows of the Law, no longer secure in their lawlessness or self-righteousness, there is only one word that will do. That is the word of the Gospel. The Gospel is not a recipe for self-improvement. It is that word of God that declares sins to be forgiven for the sake of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It is all about Christ and what He has done for us. “Law is to be called, and to be, anything that refers to what we are to do. On the other hand, the Gospel, or the Creed, is any doctrine or word of God which does not require works from us and does not command us to do something, but bids us simply accept as a gift the gracious forgiveness of our sins and everlasting bliss offered us” (Walther, 19).

When Law and Gospel are muddled or mixed, the Holy Scriptures will be misread and misused. Without the right distinction of the Law from the Gospel, the Bible appears to be a book riddled with contradiction. At one place it condemns and at another it pardons. One text speaks of God’s wrath visited upon sinners, while another declares His undying love for His enemies. Throughout both the Old and the New Testaments, the Scriptures reveal both God’s wrath and His favor. The Scriptures show us a God who kills and who makes alive. This God does through two different words. With the word of His Law, sinners are put to death. It is only through the word of the Gospel that spiritual corpses are resurrected to live in Jesus Christ.

~ Tullian Tchividjian

If we are going to understand the Bible rightly, we have to be able to distinguish properly between God’s two words: law and gospel. All of God’s Word in the Bible comes to us in two forms of speech: God’s word of demand (law) and God’s word of deliverance (gospel). The law tells us what to do and the gospel tells us what God has done. As I mentioned in my previous post, both God’s law and God’s gospel are good and necessary, but both do very different things. Serious life confusion happens when we fail to understand their distinct “job descriptions.” We’ll wrongly depend on the law to do what only the gospel can do, and vice versa.

For example, Kim and I have three children: Gabe (17), Nate (15), and Genna (10). In order to function as a community of five in our home, rules need to be established–laws need to be put in place. Our kids know that they can’t steal from each other. They have to share the computer. Since harmonious relationships depend on trust, they can’t lie. Because we have two cars and three drivers, Gabe can’t simply announce that he’s taking one of the cars. He has to ask ahead of time. And so on and so forth. Rules are necessary. But telling them what they can and cannot do over and over can’t change their heart and make them want to comply.

When one of our kids (typically Genna) throws a temper tantrum, thereby breaking one of the rules, we can send her to her room and take away some of her privileges. And we do. But while this may rightly produce sorrow at the revelation of her sin, it does not have the power to remove her sin. In other words, the law can crush her but it cannot cure her–it can kill her but it cannot make her alive. If Kim and I don’t follow-up the law with the gospel, Genna would be left without hope–defeated but not delivered. The law illuminates sin but is powerless to eliminate sin. That’s not part of its job description. It points to righteousness but can’t produce it. It shows us what godliness is, but it cannot make us godly. As Martin Luther said, “Sin is not canceled by lawful living, for no person is able to live up to the Law. Nothing can take away sin except the grace of God.”

While there are a host of great resources available to help you better understand the important distinction between the law and the gospel, I found the most helpful resource to be John Pless’ easy-to-read Handling the Word of Truth: Law and Gospel in the Church Today. In the first chapter he summarizes C.F.W. Walther’s six ways in which the law and the gospel are different. I will highlight the first three today and the second three later this week.

First, the Law differs from the Gospel by the manner in which it is revealed. The Law is inscribed in the human heart, and though it is dulled by sin, the conscience bears witness to its truth (Romans 2:14-15). “The Ten Commandments were published only for the purpose of bringing out in bold outline the dulled script of the original Law written in men’s hearts” (Walther, 8). That is why the moral teachings of non-Christian religions are essentially the same as those found in the Bible. Yet it is different with the Gospel. The Gospel can never be known from the conscience. It is not a word from within the heart; it comes from outside. It comes from Christ alone. “All religions contain portions of the Law. Some of the heathen, by their knowledge of the Law, have advanced so far that they have even perceived the necessity of an inner cleansing of the soul, a purification of the thoughts and desires. But of the Gospel, not a particle is found anywhere except in the Christian religion” (Walther, 8). The fact that humanity is alienated from God, in need of cleansing and reconciliation, is a theme common to many belief systems. It is only Christianity that teaches that God himself justifies the ungodly.

Second, the Law is distinct from the Gospel in regard to content. The Law can only make demands. It tells us what we must do, but it is impotent to redeem us from its demands (Galatians 3:12-14). The Law speaks to our works, always showing that even the best of them are tainted with the fingerprints of our sin and insufficient for salvation. The Gospel contains no demand, only the gift of God’s grace and truth in Christ. It has nothing to say about works of human achievement and everything to say about the mercy of God for sinners. “The Law tells us what we are to do. No such instruction is contained in the Gospel. On the contrary, the Gospel reveals to us only what God is doing. The Law is speaking concerning our works; the Gospel, concerning the great works of God” (Walther, 9).

Third, the Law and the Gospel differ in the promises that each make. The Law offers great good to those who keep its demands. Think what life would be like in a world where the Ten Commandments were perfectly kept. Imagine a universe where God was feared, loved, and trusted above all things and the neighbor was loved so selflessly that there would be no murder, adultery, theft, lying, or coveting. Indeed such a world would be paradise. This is what the Law promises. There is only one stipulation: that we obey its commands perfectly. “Do the Law and you will live”, says Holy Scripture (Leviticus 18:5; Luke 10:25-28). The Gospel, by contrast, makes a promise without demand or condition. It is a word from God that does not cajole or manipulate, but simply gives and bestows what it says, namely, the forgiveness of sins. Luther defined the Gospel as “a preaching of the incarnate Son of God, given to us without any merit on our part for salvation and peace. It is a word of salvation, a word of grace, a word of comfort, a word of joy, a voice of the bridegroom and the bride, a good word, a word of peace.” This is the word that the church is to proclaim throughout the world (Mark 16:15-16). It is the message that salvation is not achieved but received by grace through faith alone. (Ephesians 2:8-9). The Gospel is a word that promises blessing to those who are cursed, righteousness to the unrighteous, and life to the dead.

~ Tullian Tchividjian

For centuries, Reformational Theologians have rightly noted that in the Bible God speaks two fundamentally different words: law and gospel. The law is God’s word of demand, the gospel is God’s word of deliverance. The law tells us what to do, the gospel tells us what God has done. So, when we speak of the distinction between law and gospel we are referring to different speech acts–or what linguist John Austin calls “illocutionary stances”–that run throughout the whole Bible. Everything in both the Old Testament and the New Testament is either in the form of an obligatory imperative or a declaratory indicative. “Hence,” wrote Martin Luther, “whoever knows well this art of distinguishing between the law and the gospel, him place at the head and call him a doctor of Holy Scripture.”

This may seem like a distinction that would fascinate only the theologian or linguist. But, believe it or not, every ounce of confusion regarding justification, sanctification, the human condition, God’s grace, how God relates to us, the nature of the Christian life, and so on, is due to our failure to properly distinguish between the law and the gospel.

Ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel is one of the principal sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity. (Theodore Beza)

Virtually the whole of the scriptures and the understanding of the whole of theology–the entire Christian life, even–depends upon the true understanding of the law and the gospel. (Martin Luther)

Obviously, both God’s law and God’s gospel come from God which means both are good. But, both do very different things. Serious life confusion happens when we fail to understand their distinct “job descriptions.” We’ll wrongly depend on the law to do what only the gospel can do, and vice versa. As Mike Horton says, “Where the law pronounces us all ‘guilty before God’ (Rom 3:19-20), the gospel announces ‘God’s gift of righteousness through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus’ (vv 21-31). The law is unyielding. It commands, but doesn’t give. The law says, “Do!”, but the gospel says, “Done!”

So, I’m going to be doing a series of posts that will spell out this distinction and hopefully explain why it’s so important. If we are ever going to experience the unconditional freedom that Jesus paid so dearly to secure for sinners like me, we must have a clear understanding of this crucial distinction.

To get things started I thought I would post this poetic and helpful hymn from Ralph Erskine where the job descriptions of both the law and the gospel are clearly spelled out and distinguished. Enjoy…

The law supposing I have all,
Does ever for perfection call;
The gospel suits my total want,
And all the law can seek does grant.

The law could promise life to me,
If my obedience perfect be;
But grace does promise life upon
My Lord’s obedience alone.

The law says, Do, and life you’ll win;
But grace says, Live, for all is done;
The former cannot ease my grief,
The latter yields me full relief.

The law will not abate a mite,
The gospel all the sum will quit;
There God in thret’nings is array’d
But here in promises display’d.

The law excludes not boasting vain,
But rather feeds it to my bane;
But gospel grace allows no boasts,
Save in the King, the Lord of Hosts.

Lo! in the law Jehovah dwells,
But Jesus is conceal’d;
Whereas the gospel’s nothing else
But Jesus Christ reveal’d.

~ Tullian Tchividjian