Archive for the ‘Law-Gospel’ Category

Don’t Mention God’s Law, Because It’s About the Gospel!

April 7, 2011

True antinomians would simply deny that God’s law has any force. Homiletic antinomians would make a comment like the title of this post. Those who have been influenced by a Lutheran division between “Law” and “Gospel” may even go so far as to suggest that preaching God’s law is actually detrimental to preaching the gospel.

At least, that’s the sense I got from a recent post at the Confessional Outhouse. According to the author, “Zrim,” preaching a sermon against abortion (a rather heinous violation of the sixth of God’s ten commandments) “goes a fair distance to alienate people from the gospel” (emphasis mine).

Yes, Zrim, people may not want to follow a God who has a law like God’s law. People may be turned off by God’s commandments. They don’t love God’s law, they hate it. Preaching repentance and faith is harder than just preaching faith. We get it.

But the gospel that Christ preached was a gospel of repentance and faith. If we want to preach the gospel Christ preached, we are going to have to preach against sin, even if that alienates people. Sorry if that bothers you, but that’s how it is.

I know, I know. I’ve dealt with Zrim before. His response is that he just meant that we shouldn’t bring politics into church. But Zrim has it backwards. We shouldn’t identify something like abortion primarily as political, but as moral. It is first moral and afterwards political. In America today (unlike America 100 years ago) it is a matter that has become politicized. But just because something has become politicized doesn’t mean preachers can’t or shouldn’t preach about it.

Indeed, the politicization of an issue may coincide with an increased need to preach on that very issue! The fact that people may be unhappy to hear the preaching is simply the cost of standing up for what is right. The Bible never tells us to avoid preaching about sins that are well-loved in a community or society. Quite the contrary: in the midst of a society full of fornication, John preached that fornicators have their place in the lake of fire.

And moreover if a particular political party chooses to support what the Bible teaches, and another particular political party chooses to reject what the Bible teaches, that does not make the Bible’s teachings fundamentally “political.” If one political party caters to evangelicals, that doesn’t make evangelicalism fundamentally “political,” even though it may make it a political issue.

The issue of abortion is fundamentally a moral issue. It’s not like the difference between a Chevy or a Ford or the Yankees and the rest of major league baseball (I realize that some people may disagree with me about whether the New York Yankees are a moral issue). It’s not simply a popularity contest. Political candidates may appeal to that issue, but fundamentally the issue is a moral issue. It is right for ministers to preach about it, and frankly in a society full of that abomination, it is hard to understand how ministers could properly perform their role without preaching about it (they will have to answer to God, not me, about that).

I would agree with Zrim if his point is that a church shouldn’t hang banners supporting the New York Yankees up in a church in Boston, because it will alienate people without a good reason. One’s sports allegiance is less important than the Truth. But preaching God’s law regarding abortion isn’t like rooting for the Yankees in Boston. Preaching God’s law is a duty of Gospel ministers. Men, like the Bayly brothers, who preach against abortion should be praised, not criticized, for doing so.


Frame on the Law/Gospel Distinction

March 15, 2011

Frame writes:

So the definitions that sharply separate law and gospel break down on careful analysis. In both law and gospel, then, God proclaims his saving work, and he demands that his people respond by obeying his commands. The terms “law” and “gospel” differ in emphasis, but they overlap and intersect. They present the whole Word of God from different perspectives. Indeed, we can say that our Bible as a whole is both law (because as a whole it speaks with divine authority and requires belief) and gospel (because as a whole it is good news to fallen creatures). Each concept is meaningless apart from the other. Each implies the other.

For those who have been spending a lot of time listening to the White Horse Inn, I think Frame’s article (available here) may be a challenging and important counter-point.

Thanks to Ronald W. Di Giacomo and Steve Hays for bringing this to my attention.


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