August 7, 2020

Riffs: 02:13:08: The White Horse Inn, Law/Gospel and Why I Want My Sermon On The Mount Back

logo.gifUPDATE: Dr. Michael Horton offers some helpful input in the comments. I appreciate his interest in this discussion.

I love the White Horse Inn. Never miss it. I love Michael Horton and Rod Rosenbladt especially.

I love the Law and Gospel distinction. I use it. I teach it to my students. I stress it to my chapel preachers.

But sometimes…..sometimes you have a program like this week’s “Good Advice vs Good News?” and I’m left with a lot of questions.

Listening to this week’s discussion (February 10, 2008), you’d have to conclude that the Sermon on the Mount was given with the express purpose of driving all of us to despair that we can ever be justified by works. And that’s pretty much all the Sermon on the Mount does, to hear this week’s program explain it.

Check and Amen on the not being justified by works. Check and Amen on Jesus ramping up the externals of the old covenant to the internals of the new and leaving us with no choice but to know we can’t fulfill the law perfectly. Check and Amen on true righteousness being a fruit of grace and faith. Check and Amen on Ryle’s distinction between justification and sanctification. You should memorize it and force others to do the same for their own good.

But when the usual gang got done with the Sermon on the Mount this week, they had to scramble to assure the audience that it still had some relevance for Christian living, and I was feeling like I needed to warn real Christians to never actually try to love an enemy, less they disregard the true meaning of justification.

This is what bothers me about some of the law/Gospel discussion I hear at WHI and elsewhere. There is such a determination to make the law the opposite of the Gospel that the teachings of Jesus seem to have no application for the Christian. It’s not that far from the old Scofield notes that said the Sermon on the Mount wasn’t for the “age of grace,” i.e. the Church. Why, of course.

Horton spoke consistently negatively of an emphasis on the Kingdom of God, mostly because he associates it with the emerging church, but isn’t there a way to…

1) Let the Sermon on the Mount lead us to the Gospel?
2) Keep the Sermon of the Mount as relevant and authoritative for the Christian, and especially the Christian community?
3) And allow Jesus’ emphasis on the Kingdom of God to be everything he apparently intended it to be, without making it have to take a back seat to the Book of Romans and Reformation theology?

I’m convinced that justification by faith and the teachings of Jesus on the Kingdom of God, the life of discipleship and the community of the Kingdom can all co-exist within the right balance. When I hear Horton and company disparaging N.T. Wright for saying “the gospel is the Lordship of Jesus Christ,” there’s got to be some cylinder that’s not firing. “Jesus is Lord” has meaning across the board- Law and Gospel, justification and sanctification, Kingdom and Church. Am I naive to think that even “law and gospel” can continue being a helpful distinction without pushing other aspects of the New Testament to the back row?

I don’t believe anyone is saved by me “living the Gospel.” But I don’t believe the idea of “living the Gospel” is nonsense either. When I think about race relations, mercy ministries, evangelizing Muslims and being Christians in a skeptical, postmodern world, the Sermon on the Mount seems really important. Not as the Gospel itself, but as Jesus talking to all of us about what it means to belong to him and strive to be like him. We won’t do it perfectly, and we won’t save anyone by our works, but do we just leave the Sermon on the Mount on the chalkboard as a prepatory lesson for Romans 3?

It all comes back to those pesky “three uses of the law,” and which is the lead dog. I believe the first use of the law- to bring us to Christ- always leads out, but I don’t believe this fundamentally changes the application of the law to believers who no longer seek to be justified by them, but to love God and neighbor in the way they command, even if imperfectly. Even more so with the commands of Jesus, which go beyond the old covenant law to a heart that is alive only because of grace. The command to love enemy is both beyond us and binding on us. Both uses need to be heard.

It’s not an insult to the Gospel to seek to live out the Sermon on the Mount.

Horton and company are dead on target to point out that moralism and good advice predominate American evangelicalism. But the corrective of the Gospel as the story of God in Jesus, providing salvation for us is also the story of our incorporation into the Kingdom of the Lord Jesus NOW, and living in it NOW as new creation in whom the Spirit of God is at work. We need the Gospel, but we need a Gospel that doesn’t lead to an antinomian reading of the teaching of Jesus.

Maybe the problem is the way I hear some of the enthusiasm for the law/Gospel distinction, but I continue to believe that disciples are called to hear and obey the Lord Jesus. The cross makes it clear that God doesn’t save us by our discipleship, but how our discipleship get separated so far from our justification that they can be presented as almost two opposite systems disturbs me.


  1. I know proof-texting doesn’t ever work, and I’m not trying to prove anything theologically with these texts, but I do want to show that the Bible is far less afraid to speak in ambiguous terms about the relationship between our works and our reward then many of you are. What bothers me is that you all refuse to use the language that all these author’s had no trouble using.

    John Calvin had no problem using the language of the Scriptures when dealing with the relationship between faith/works/rewards. But you would seem to chide him with the way you talk.

    After looking this list over, go find a copy of Calvin’s sermon “On the Final Advent of Our Lord Jesus Christ” (Sermon 20 on the AGES software under the section for sermons on the Diety of Christ) and watch how he protects against self-righteousness and justification by works, and yet has a thoroughly biblical way of speaking about our obedience in faith and the rewards that will be rendered to us because of what we have done through our faith.

    For according to the work of a man he will repay him, and according to his ways he will make it befall him.
    ESV Job 34:11

    and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.
    ESV Psalm 62:12

    If you say, “Behold, we did not know this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who keeps watch over your soul know it, and will he not repay man according to his work?
    ESV Proverbs 24:12

    Tell the righteous that it shall be well with them, for they shall eat the fruit of their deeds. 11 Woe to the wicked! It shall be ill with him, for what his hands have dealt out shall be done to him.
    ESV Isaiah 3:10

    “I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.”
    ESV Jeremiah 17:10

    great in counsel and mighty in deed, whose eyes are open to all the ways of the children of man, rewarding each one according to his ways and according to the fruit of his deeds.
    ESV Jeremiah 32:19

    The king mourns, the prince is wrapped in despair, and the hands of the people of the land are paralyzed by terror. According to their way I will do to them, and according to their judgments I will judge them, and they shall know that I am the LORD.”
    ESV Ezekiel 7:27

    The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person’s reward. 42 And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
    ESV Matthew 10:41

    He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.
    ESV Romans 2:6-11

    So then each of us will give an account of himself to God.
    ESV Romans 14:12

    For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.
    ESV 2 Corinthians 5:10

    knowing that whatever good anyone does, this he will receive back from the Lord, whether he is a slave or free.
    ESV Ephesians 6:8

    And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile,
    ESV 1 Peter 1:17

    and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you as your works deserve.
    ESV Revelation 2:23

    And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
    ESV Revelation 20:12

    “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay everyone for what he has done.
    ESV Revelation 22:12



  2. I had alluded to a movie called Les Meserables as showing forth grace. I find these very helpful because the Gospel is so counter intuitive and alien to us as to how it actually produces the humility and fruits the law calls for. While the law, at least a fallen measure of it, is so natural to us even in our fallen state and produces nothing, not due to itself but due to human fallen nature. There are a couple of good movie’s out there that are kind of “parables” of the modern age about the Law and Gospel. They are of course not Divine word, but they do divide much better, unfortunately, than many pastors now days do on Law and Gospel

    The opening and closing scenes are dynamite. The opening scene has an ex-con, a seeding loathsome criminal, Val Jean freshly escaped from prison seeking shelter in a pastor and his wife’s home for shelter. Val Jean is seedy and ill spirited, suspicious all the time, so they feed him give him a warm bed to sleep in…treat him well. In the middle of the night Val Jean decides its time to go so he begins steeling all the fine silver ware and such while the couple sleep. That husband is awakened by this and goes to investigate. Val Jean catches him downstairs and hits him unconscious over the head with a candle stick. The next morning the police have apprehended Val Jean incidental and suspicious of the items he had (the pastor had never reported the incident) and they bring him to the pastor’s house again because Val Jean is desperate and says he had helped him by “giving” him these goods (VJ is lying of course and just shooting from the hip at this point). To VJ’s and the police’s surprise the pastor says yes and then begins to fill VJ’s bag with more silver items saying, “While Val Jean you forgot this and that…what were you thinking”. Of course everyone including and especially VJ are stunned. THAT free grace begins to change VJ which is of course the subject of the rest of the movie. VJ’s pursuer later in the movie, can’t recall the characters name, is a policeman legal beagle letter of the law par excellent from central Paris. He begins to suspect VJ, later in the movie, of being this ex-con that escaped so many years ago. This policeman is “letter of the law” and lives his life by this code with scrutiny above all else. In the end as Paris is beginning to come under revolution a couple of times VJ ends up saving his pursuer’s life. At the last scene the policeman cannot reconcile this grace and states how he lived his life according to the law. The policeman in this scene has the power now to finally apprehend VJ and VJ does not resist. In that powerful last scene he cannot do so because even though he has pursued VJ all his life and with the law in his right, the grace VJ showed him is something else. So the policeman lets him go. The powerful edge of this scene and conclusion is the policeman’s speech about living his whole life according to the law to perfection, yet he lets VJ go and YET he cannot live with himself for doing so. So he puts the handcuffs formerly on VJ on himself behind his back and jumps to his death into the river below.

    Another good movie I recommend is Babett’s Feast, an 80s foreign film. It’s not super high Hollywood quality but it’s story is nuclear. In this small fishing village there are a number of persons under the care and preaching of a rather puritanesqe pastor whose daughters are named Philipi and Martina (a play on ML and PM’s names). The whole town is raised on this subtle legalistic drival. It’s not over legalism mind you. The town is dreary they eat minimal tasteless food and drink no wine or beer. They deny themselves all the time. Over many many years they grow older and the pastor passes away, his daughters “keep things going”. This mysterious Christ figure, a French woman named Babbett, comes into the scene as a gift to the two sisters from an anonymous giver (I’m jumping scenes and details quite a bit to get the jist of it). She cooks and serves them for years. The town as it ages grows more and more backbiting and impatient with each other. Babette wins the French lottery and some sum of money. She wants to take her money and prepare for her employers and the town a traditional French feast (Babette is the culinary genious/artist, it is her gift). They, the sisters and town somewhat reluctantly agree. She begins making preparations by ordering and shipping in all these rich and exotic food items, expensive wine and everything. The town is watching all this unfold and the sisters especially begin to have reservations, “What have we done, what temptation is this”. The sisters begin to have night mares going back to their old pastor’s warnings and such, and visions of Babette really being the devil tempting them. Well the feast goes on and the wine flows and the town begins to unfold and be joyful again with each other, forgiving each other of grudges held for years and so forth, laughing and hugging. The general, a former towns person, gives this wonderful speech near the end of Christ has INDEED suffered.

    This movie is probable my favorite of all time. Because it shows a strong paradox, what appears to be godly is really demonic and what appears to be of the devil is of Christ, and the natural man reads true freedom and grace as demonic and reads bondage under law and resoluteness as godly. The yeast of the Pharisees, in whatever form, be it Wesley holiness stuff, puritan law or other, always gives rise to fruits of the flesh but it will be perceived as godliness and grace gives rise the other way. The minute someone slips up under grace into a more “gross sin”, according to man’s eyes (like sex or theft as opposed to the more egregious pretty sins like piety in church yard work the later hold a man infinitely from grace, because man is bewitched by them and their good look to him.) – the lawyer, the legalist jumps in and says, “See it doesn’t work.” But that’s just the old man trying to live again as AW Pink brilliantly once said, “…on the clean side of the broad road that leads to hell.” It’s even dangerous to think of the Gospel in terms of “something that will effect something”, because it’s right there that it morphs into law and law is pushed because the EFFECT becomes the consuming thing for a pastor, or church or people and not the naked MESSAGE regardless. Preach the Good News 200 proof and let God bring the increase, and quite trying to play god by pretending YOU can change people. Because what a person (pastor or layman) is really doing right there is trying to be deity themselves.

    I highly recommend these two movies to anyone wanting to see in “parable” fashion grace.

    Richly in Christ Alone,


  3. Of course to trust nakedly passively Jesus, for the old man, the “doer” to so die at the Word and the new man the “truster” arise, to what He did, to so trust in nakedly, passively, empty handedly continually in Him as sin bearer and giver of all righteousness – to take the Word at His Word, to receive the incarnate Word of God the Father as HIS last Word on the matter – is the highest appraisement of the Law both as to what it REALLY is, utter selfless altruistic love (what the old man and Satan hate) and the incarnate embodiment of it itself Christ.

    God is not freshening up the old man, He’s calling into being the new man by the Word of Gospel.



  4. “What is it to do the will of the Father?”

    “Believe in the one whom He has sent.”

    – Jesus (the Gospel of John)

  5. And yet another point I’ve seen MANY times. Fruit of the faith, real faith that is passively resting and fixed upon Christ alone as opposed to that kind of faith that is just religious bravado and “I’m really doing this to sanctify or proof to myself and/or others I’m being sanctified” (religious show faith) often show up at different times. When I’ve seen either in my family or others, religious faith tends to show up during “high end” tragedies (not to say that all that do are doing this), but these situations draw false faith because BIG events are a kind of glory draw to false religious faith, it picks the glory times to be seen and is fleeting and not long suffering at that. But real saving faith is so not religiously engaged that it is around all the time, even at the low times of need. Glory faith shows up when an event is highly tragic or high end moments. But real saving faith is invisible and steadfast, it is there to change a babies diaper, at a nursing home in the middle of nowhere, watching a neighbors children for them, mowing the grass, doing the daily lowly inglorious things. Because it does not seek glory but Christ alone. False religious faith, even that distilled from Scripture shows up where it can be seen like Hollywood does, it enjoys the lime light of cameras flashing, it enjoys the idea (it thinks) that God is watching it “right now” doing “this thing”. Real faith is quite unaware of God’s watching it, again it is singularly fixed upon Christ alone for it.

    Blessings again,


  6. Are Jesus’ words “Go and Do Likewise” at the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan an actual command or not?

  7. I believe Jesus’ “Go and do likewise” is an actual command.

    He commands us to go out of our way to help those that are not of our group. Those that would defile us. To help those that would be considered our enemies. To help the likes of what we might consider scum, and not worry about how it might set us back. To pay for their extended care, no matter the cost to ourselves.

    Yes, I do believe this is exactly what Jesus commands that we do.

    I don’t know about you…but I’m not doing all that well at keeping His command.

    – Steve

  8. Brothers in Christ:

    I am new to this site, and I want to start off by saying, “Wow! What a great site and discussion.” A lot of passion out there for Jesus Christ and the gospel.

    All this talk about law and freedom got me thinking, and being a father of twin six-year-old boys, I came up with an easy analogy that a simple guy like me can follow when it comes to this topic. I’m sure I’m not the first guy to think along these lines. I’ll use the following scripture as a starting point:

    1 Corinthians 3:1-3: Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.

    Hebrews 5:12-14: In fact, though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you the elementary truths of God’s word all over again. You need milk, not solid food! Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

    As everybody knows, infants cannot digest–or at least have a lot of trouble digesting–solid food; hence, the wonderful provision of mother’s milk for sustenance. It appears Paul and the writer of Hebrews understood this basic physiological fact.

    Those of use with kids know that the vast majority of our time as parents is spent policing kids with rules and regulations. With little children, one of the most common things parents say is, “No.” This is how kids learn the rules, from sticking a knife into a power outlet to touching a pan on top of the stove to whacking your brother or sister with a baseball bat. Deep down, a lot of kids love rules because they know where they stand, they know what they can do, and they know what they can’t do. If they follow the rules, they receive favor from the parents; if they break the rules, they are punished. Kids really don’t have to think too much–just follow the rules. It’s a pretty good system, and we all lived through it.

    Then, all of a sudden, kids are 18 years old and, in many cases, out on their own in the world without their parents there to say “No” anymore. In other words, Freedom! Wow, remember what a great feeling that was? Remember all the trouble we got into then? All the stupid decisions we made? All the selfishness we reveled in? All the damage we did to ourselves?

    The sudden freedom was a tough thing for some of us to handle. We abused it. We didn’t really know how to dwell in it. We were all over the map, so to speak. But time passed, and we matured. We started to figure things out. We started thinking. We got real jobs, careers, married, kids, experience. After time, we were now able to live on our own in freedom without our parents’ guidance and without screwing up too much (for the most part!).

    Now think back for a moment to the time when you got your clock rung by the Holy Spirit, to the time the lights got turned on and you found out you had been living your entire life in the dark. If that was too long ago, just look at one of the newbies in Christ in your congregation.

    What were some of the first things you did back then? I’ll bet you attempted to earnestly follow the Ten Commandments. I’ll bet you consciously tried to be a “good Christian” (whatever that is). I’ll bet when you read scripture, both Old and New Testaments, you felt like you weren’t doing the right things or weren’t doing enough good things. But I’ll also bet that when reading scripture, you felt you had a pretty good idea of what you had to do and of what you weren’t suppose to do in terms of your relationship with God. In other words, you knew how to make God happy and how to keep from ticking Him off. You may have even viewed God kind of like Santa Claus: be good and get rewards; be bad and get punished.

    My take is this: the milk that Paul and the Hebrew writer write about?—nothing more than The Law itself; and the solid food?—freedom and righteousness in Christ. Here the algebra: milk = law; solid food = freedom and righteousness in Christ. Infants in Christ, like small children, thrive on rules and regulations. In fact, like infants with milk, the Law is the only thing that infants in Christ are able to digest and understand.

    The Law provides infants in Christ their sustenance. The Law provides a clear delineation of what’s right and wrong, black and white, what Santa likes you to do and what Santa doesn’t like you to do. You really don’t have to think too much, and things are pretty easy to understand—you may even think you understand Romans sometimes. Just follow the rules, and here’s the Bible full of them to follow, and plenty of preachers out there to make it easy for you to figure out which rules are the best to follow. You can read the Bible, follow the rules, and live your life knowing that God’s going to be pretty happy with you. It’s safe. Just like kids following the rules of their parents: everything is safe and orderly, and my parents are pretty happy with me.

    Now, tell that law-abiding infant in Christ about his or her freedom in Christ. Like trying to feed an infant steak, asparagus, and potatoes, they reject it–it is not digestible, and it may even do some harm. They actually have to think. The black-and-white life lived in the law suddenly turns grey and mushy. The easily measured life in the law is now difficult to define and quantify. The life lived in Christ’s freedom is difficult to keep track of, difficult to measure, difficult to tell if I’m making God happy. At least living according to the Law I could compare myself to others (especially the real sinners!), but my life in freedom is incomparable to anything. There is anxiety.

    Telling a law-abiding infant in Christ to live in freedom is like removing all the rules for a six year old. What happens? Chaos and confusion because neither is mature enough to handle it.

    But as the Christian matures, hopefully the freedom in Christ starts to sink in. You learn to trust the Holy Spirit and His work in you. Sure, “you can do anything you want” but you don’t. Hmm… Not through any conscious effort on your part, but maybe, just maybe, because the Holy Spirit has something to do with that. You start to realize that you don’t have to worry anymore about the spiritual project called “Me” and can live your life for others as led by the Holy Spirit. You start to understand why Paul beats us over the head with “righteousness through faith” in Romans, like over 20 times or something.

    Finally you start to understand Paul’s words in Galatians 1: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” And Paul’s words in 2 Corinthians 3:7: “Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, …”

    When you start to understand the freedom in Jesus Christ, pretty soon you realize every Sunday is simply Halloween for most Christians: they sit their in the pew, looking up at the pulpit, listening to Moses dressed up as Jesus, preaching the Law. And it’s a good costume: the law is preached in the name of Jesus Christ with Bible in hand, spewing out verses from Jesus Christ himself. It’s a good show, and one hard to argue with if you don’t have any maturity in Christ. Indeed, like little kids thinking that the fat man in the costume is actually Santa Claus, infants in Christ actually think Moses in the Jesus mask preaching at the pulpit knows what he is talking about or is a purveyor of the Gospel. It’s sad.

    Come on: following the rules because we think it is what God wants us to do (and because it somehow benefits us either now or down the road) is what 98% of all Christians believe. It’s no different than what 100% of all Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists, … believe. That’s why the message of living in the freedom of Christ is neither popular nor understood. Like little kids, people crave the structure and well-defined boundaries in their lives that the law provides. It keeps things easy, and you don’t have to think too much.

    Anyway, sorry for the long post, and sorry for the simple attempt at theology. I’m sure there are those out there much more well versed in these things that can poke holes all over this analogy. That’s fine, because all I really know is this: I need a savior, and Jesus Christ is that savior.

    In His grip,
    Eric S.

  9. The key there is that it is a parable and He’s speaking to some Israelites. It’s a “command” to give the Gospel. Nobody is saying “don’t help those in physical need”, I think that’s pretty obvious. But the parables are designed to be about the Kingdom. Heal them up by proclaiming Christ. Let’s put it another way. I’ve discussed this a million times with fellow believers. I, Larry, lay on death’s door step from a health issue, accident, robber attack, maybe my family has been killed…some GREAT tragedy. Sure provide for my needs. BUT! Above all, give me Christ afresh, because nothing, at the end of the day will prevent ultimate tragedy, my death, Lord willing not Job’s situation. At the end of the day I NEED the hope of the CROSS. No amount of white wash or salve in the “here and now” is going to help. BUT, IF I’m given Christ, IF I KNOW that in the end, eschatologically, the Gospel is true, FOR ME, FOR my loved ones…I have hope. EVEN if NOW I suffer. Don’t hear me wrong, suffering is suffering and this is no “buck up ole boy”, but it means, there is REAL HOPE, CERTAIN EXPECTATION. Why kill that! Why withhold that! Bind my wounds in the immediate, but at the end of the day what is that? Certainly death will come one way or the other and no amount of binding will prevent it!!! I need to know that this death is now a fluffy sleep in a warm bed to me…into the arm of Christ. I need to know that when I walk through the waters between the threat of sin and death…God, that is Christ, will hold back the waters of sin and death so that I too like Israel may pass between them into the sweet land of Promise. AND this time FOREVER. Given THAT, this suffering, though very real and very painful, is NOW endured!!!

    Go and do likewise! This amazes me constantly, because I was late to the faith in life, 33. Normally if I worked for someone and that employer said, “Larry ole boy, go to xy and z’s home and tell them that we are giving them a bazillion dollars, they will never have to worry ever again about money.” How asinine I would have to be to say, ‘Whooaaa, I don’t want to deliver that NEWS to anyone.’ Now take that to the infinite level and you see the folly. A pastor, elder, deacon even layman must find his/her joy and drive IN the message, not its effects, yea or nea. If you look for the effects you will always be driven to despair or pride…there are NO exceptions to this.

    Blessings in icy Ky,


  10. The basic fundamentals never get old. Thanks for the reminder.

  11. Larry, you made some great points. Thanks.

    Eric S, welcome aboard! Not quite sure where this boat is headed, but we’re still afloat and steaming ahead at 6 knots. The Internet Monk is in the wheelhouse so not to worry.

    I very much liked the Law = milk , and Freedom = Meat, analogy.

    But I’ve been arguing, so hard and for so long in one direction, that I actually think I’m starting to come around in the other direction.

    Don’t give up on me quite yet, Charley, H. Lee.

    My doctor has instructed me to eat less meat!

    Here’s another good one from my pastor:

    “The law, and it’s demand can never make us, or give us the goodness, that is the intent of that law, but certainly exposes what, and who we really are.” (or something like that)
    – Pastor Mark Anderson

    Thanks all!

    – Steve

  12. Bror Erickson says

    Michael Spencer,
    I’m thinking this discussion has morphed readically. What started out to be a discussion on the SOM and whether it was law or gospel, has now morphed into did Christ give an actual command at the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan.
    Yes, go and do likewise, is a command. But it is in no way gospel. That part of the parable is law. It is recorded in a gospel, but it is not gospel. The fact that Jesus says something does not make it gospel, niether is the fact that moses said something make it law. Both of these figures uttered both law and gospel at various times. The law though never saves. The gospel does.
    The best book written on this issue is CFW Walther “The proper distinction between Law and Gospel.” It would make good sabbatical reading.

  13. I think there is plenty of good news in obeying Jesus commands, even if you believe in justification by faith by grace by Christ. The command to do likewise is good news to the selfish, good news to the suffering and good news about the Savior who has mercy on us.

    I’ve read Walther and he’s valuable, but he doesn’t understand the Bible better than Jesus does. When someone says that a plain statement by Jesus to do something is actually an illustration of some kind of theological distinction where doing something is dead legalism, then the distinctions have gotten too deep.

    I appreciate my LCMS brothers, but there’s a reason I tossed my Scofield Bible. Jesus is the Gospel. Jesus is the good news. Jesus is salvation. And Jesus has all kinds of commands for his new community. None of them will justify us, but justified people do them. Imperfectly, but joyfully and diligently.

  14. Michael,

    …” but justified people do them. Imperfectly, but joyfully and diligently.”

    I wonder, Michael,… I wonder.

    I wonder how much of what is done out of a sense of obligation (and not true love).I know you said “imperfectly”, but that still doesn’t get us off the hook.

    I wonder how much is done outwardly, all the while wishing they were doing something else that they would really rather be doing.

    I wonder how many have a little voice in the back of their head that says “well, you’ve got to be getting some sort of recognition from this act, whether from God or from man.

    I wonder just how many follow the Lord’s commands that joyfully and diligently?

    I wonder what the percentage of time diligent Christians spend on others, as compared to the percentage of time spent on themselves.

    I only say this because of what the Bible says about the nature of humakind, the depth of our sinfulness, observation of other Christians, and knowledge of myself.



  15. Bror Erickson says

    Don’t know exactly what you mean with the Scolfield reference bible thing. But will agree with everything you said following it.

    I will say this though, just because I distinguish something as law, does not mean I ignore it. It does mean that I don’t look to it to provide me with salvation. I don’t think the question is whether or not Walther understood the Bible better than Jesus. But whether or not one or the other of us understands Jesus better than Walther when he systematized these distinctions.
    what did Christ mean in John 5:39? “you search the scriptures because in them you think you have eternal life, but they are these that testify of me.” what were the pharisees searching for in them? How does Christ differ. Is Christ our savior when he dies for our sins on the Cross? Or is he our savior when he reiterates the laws of Moses in better poetry? When can law be gospel? I don’t think it can ever be gospel. I don’t care who speaks it.
    Though if I understand your Scolfield reference correctly I will agree with you. There is reason I have begun to read through the Greek New Testament for a couple hours every morning. Nothing like going to the primary source. But I have benefited from looking over the shoulders of giants, Walther being one of those giants. As I also benefit from discussion with you and others on the net.

  16. I want to thank everyone who has contributed to this discussion. It was an excellent thread.

    I’m closing these comments and encourage anyone reading to visit the blogs of the various contributors.

    I’m sure we’ll return to this subject in the future.