Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Law and Gospel: What do they teach? -- Part 3.1, The Events of the Gospel Accounts (The Prophecies and God's Love)

Part One of this series on Law and Gospel was posted back in October of 2010, and was addressed to the Lutheran layman who rightly, and probably often, asks, “What is Law and Gospel, anyway? Why is it so important to Lutherans?” I’ve heard some Lutheran laymen answer these questions by criticizing “Lutheran obsession” with “slavish adherence” to this “Lutheran preaching formula,” as much and in the same way as I’ve heard them criticize the historic liturgy of the Divine Service: it’s boring, it’s predictable, it’s not practical, it’s not culturally relevant, etc. And I’ve observed many who criticize Lutheran preaching suggest and turn to various sectarian ministries for advice on “spicing up” Lutheran preaching by making it exciting, unpredictable, practical and relevant. As a result, the Second Use of the Law is abandoned, and the Gospel becomes the basis and recipe for living a wholesome and fulfilling life; emphasis is taken off of the Saviour and His work on behalf of all mankind, and is instead focused on man himself; Justification is not preached, while works righteousness enters in its place. In answer to this, Part One of this series brought the necessity and centrality of Law and Gospel to bear:
    There is no teaching of Lutheran Doctrine – that is, of true Christian doctrine – that can be taught apart from also teaching Justification. And only the message of Law and Gospel teaches Justification. Thus, Law and Gospel, properly divided and properly used and applied, is not only central to all Lutheran preaching and teaching, it is necessary to all Lutheran preaching and teaching.
So, when we speak of “Law and Gospel,” what is the “Law,” itself? And what is the “Gospel,” itself? Part Two of this series, published just prior to Christmas 2010, started to answer these questions by addressing the Law, showing that while God reveals His Law to us Generally and Specifically, it is only in His Special Revelation that the Law is fully revealed to us in its searing reality. The wrath of God rests upon all of mankind as a result of his sinfulness. It would be impossible for God, being righteous and holy, to overlook sin or to waive the punishment for sin that is dictated by His divine justice; and the just punishment for sin is death and eternal separation from God. If God is to be reconciled with mankind, then man's guilt must be removed and God’s justice must be satisfied. Fallen man cannot accomplish this. It is impossible for anyone to perform the works required of him under God’s Law, and consistent with our fallen nature, we actively struggle against it. We cannot save ourselves from His righteous judgment; we deserve His eternal wrath and punishment, and there is nothing we can do to avoid it. The Law tells us most forcefully: we need a Saviour.

But... there is Good News!
God also loves sinners, and promised that He would send a Saviour

In addition to being perfectly Righteous and perfectly Just, God is also perfectly Loving. Knowing that Adam and his descendants could never regain fellowship with God by their own effort1, not desiring that any should fall into eternal death (Ez. 18:23,32; 33:11) but that He would be reconciled with man, God, as He cursed the serpent for leading Adam into sin, promised humanity's first parents that He would send a Saviour through the Seed of the woman (Ge. 3:14-15); He promised to Abraham that the Saviour would be the descendant of his son, Isaac (Ge. 17:6-8,19; 21:12), and that through this Saviour all nations would be blessed forever (Ge. 17:7,19; 22:18). This promise was repeated to Jacob, the second born of Isaac, through whose descendants all the families of the earth would be blessed (Ge. 28:14; Nu. 24:17) – through Jacob’s son, Judah (Ge. 49:10), and later descendants Jesse (Is. 11:10), and his son, King David (Ps. 132:11; Je. 23:5-6; Is. 9:7). The Saviour would be fully man, born of a Virgin (Is. 7:14), in Bethlehem – the "City of David" (Mi. 5:2). More significantly, the Saviour would also be God (Je. 23:5-6; Is. 45:18-25; Ze. 12:10), through Whom all nations would receive the forgiveness of sins, to Whom they would be eternally reconciled and with Whom they would enjoy eternal peace and fellowship (Je. 31:31-34; 32:36-42; Ez. 37:21-28). To accomplish this, the Saviour would bear and die for, not His own sins, as He would be perfect, but for the sins of the world (Is. 53:4-10; Da. 9:24-26). In all, there are on the order of three hundred Old Testament references to the Messiah2, or the Promised One of God. The perfect Love of God by which He promised a Saviour, through Whom the promise of eternal blessing would be extended to the whole world of sinners – this perfect Love of God which is merited by no man but which is nevertheless extended by God to all men – is called Grace.

More to come...



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Endnotes:
  1. See Law and Gospel: What do they teach? -- Part 2, The Teaching of the Law
  2. McDowell, J. (1999). The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers. pg. 164.


3 comments:

LutherRocks said...

"More significantly, the Saviour would also be God (Je. 23:5-6; Is. 45:18-25; Ze. 12:10), through Whom all nations would receive the forgiveness of sins, to Whom they would be eternally reconciled and with Whom they would enjoy eternal peace and fellowship (Je. 31:31-34; 32:36-42; Ez. 27:21-28)."

Joe

All nations would receive forgiveness or all believers????

Mr. Douglas Lindee said...

No, Joe. I meant to write "All nations." And, no, this isn't a universalistic statement.

We're speaking of Old Testament prophecy. "The nations" in the Old Testament is a reference to those outside of God's covenant with Israel. For example, after the Kingdom of Israel was divided, and the northern Kingdom decayed into apostasy and separated from the southern Kingdom of Judah, the northern Kingdom was thenceforth referred to as "Israel of the nations." That is the sense in which "All Nations" is used here -- all those outside of God's covenant with Israel, outside the Remnant to whom the prophecies of the new Covenant were spoken. In other words, the prophecies of the new Covenant did not apply exclusively to the Jews, but through the seed of Abraham all nations would be blessed. This means Gentiles as well as Jews, and this is clear in the prophecies and in their New Testament fulfillment. And this is a vitally important point. Dispensationalists insist that the prophecies were given only to the Jews, that their rejection of Christ after His coming thwarted His purpose to save them, to which He responded by pursuing "plan B" -- that is, expanding salvation to the Gentiles. The Church, according to Dispensationalism, is a big "parenthesis" -- it was not foretold, they claim, and it is difficult to account for. Moreover, they claim, the prophecies are still in effect for the Jews today, which is why we keep hearing about "Red Heifers," the Temple Mount, the eminent return of the Jewish sacrificial system, and the requirement that Christians celebrate Jewish religious festivals. Dispensationalists are modern day Judaizers, pure and simple. The fact is, through the Saviour all nations would receive the forgiveness of sins, reconciliation, peace and fellowship with Him. This is absolutely true. If it isn't, then (a) through whom else would they receive such things? (b) If not all nations, then which one's would be excluded? All but the Jews? This is how to read into that sentence.

LutherRocks said...

In light of the discussion of Justification we had recently, you confuse the issue by speaking in such manner.

All nations will be represented at the final banquet, but not all people of all nations. Only those present are the one who have received the forgiveness of their sins.

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