Friday, April 09, 2010

On the Goodness of the Law


More Q&A from pastoral life:

Q: You wrote: This is the freedom of a Christian: not to be a slave to the law, kept under it as a guardian, but to be freed to pursue it with a clean conscience in the blood of Christ.

I don't know that I answer it fully, for I do not get into "guardianship" in Paul's writings, or the "clean conscience" of 1 Tim 1 and 1 Pet 3, but it is a vast topic!

A: The Law is "good." It's not just good because it shows us our sin. It does that, and that is God's ultimate use of the in terms of redemption. But the Law is first good because it is good. It is good not to kill people. It is good not to steal. It is good to love. It is good to protect our neighbor's possessions, etc. The proper distinction of Law and Gospel is about many things, but part of it is being able to look at the Law and see how good it is to do - not for salvation, not because I must, but because the result is goodness for someone else. This is Luther's great insight: "God doesn't need your good works. But your neighbor does."

Or think of it this way, the Ten Commandments are promises of what life will be like with Jesus' once we're freed from these body's of death. In paradise, forever, you will have no other gods. You will keep pure worship, always. You will live in perfect harmony under a King. You will never hurt nor harm. You will never lust or envy or lie or despise. This is the law kept. But it will not be to earn rewards or so that we can look at ourselves and say, "Ha, aren't we good." It will be God's gift of peace and bliss and innocence forever - and it will forever be in and from Jesus. The Lamb at the center will be our light.

This view of that is received through faith alone now. Christ is the end of it. He fulfills it, and in him, as Peter says, we do have an example of what humanity not merely was supposed to be, but what we are in Him. Thus, having in him died to sin, how can we live in it any longer?

Well...we have to, but we don't have to like it. That is learning to love the Law. Not because I have to keep it, but because it is the definition of love.

Granted: this makes it sound all nice and easy. It's not. Romans 7. The thing I want to do (the goodness of the law) I do not do, etc. The Law still must and will point us back to our need for Christ. But that's exactly why we must also hear it and be reminded of it, not merely, "You're a sinner," but "Do this. It is good to do this."

This is the properly distinguish Law and Gospel. Don't make the Law into the Gospel, for that will kill souls. But keep preaching the Law as the Law, otherwise you will make the Gospel into the Law in its stead, and that will kill souls, perhaps even more quickly.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

preach, preachah!

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