138 Is the Law Destroyed or Abolished by the Gospel?
- God forbid, says Paul, Rom. 3:31; but by the doctrine of the Gospel, or faith, the Law is rather established. See also Mat. 5:17.
139 But the Law and the Gospel Appear to Teach Complete Opposites. For the Law Sets an Angry and Offended God Before Sinners, But the Gospel [Presents] Him Gracious and Merciful. The Law Threatens Sinners with Punishment and Eternal Damnation; The Gospel Offers Them Remission of Sins and Life Eternal. The Law Promises Mercy, Life, and Salvation, But with the Condition of Fulfilling the Law; But the Gospel Promises Those Good Things Freely Without Our Works. These Things Truly Appear to Be So Contradictory that They Mutually Nullify and Destroy Themselves.
- This antithesis is to be carefully weighed and correctly stated on the basis of true foundations. For the true and sound understanding of the whole doctrine of the Gospel depends chiefly on this basis. And those profane and Epicurean fancies are to be completely taken away out of the hearts of men, that God in the Law only acts as if He is angered by sins, but that in the Gospel, with that statement of His mind and [with] His will changed, He thus nullifies and destroys the Law, that the statement of the Law concerning sin is now taken away and made invalid by the revealed Gospel, and that this is the position of the Gospel: God is now neither concerned about sin, nor hates nor abominates it, but loves and approves [it], and is so delighted by it that He wants to give the ungodly eternal life because of sins. For such opinions are not only false and ungodly but also blasphemous. For the divine law is and remains the serious, eternal, and unchangeable will of God, which the Gospel by no means either nullifies or destroys, but rather confirms and establishes, so that the rule might remain firm and unchangeable: Unless the law of God is kept with full and perfect obedience, God neither can nor wants to be merciful to any sinner. Matt. 5:18; Rom. 8:4; Rom. 10:5; Gal. 3:10.
140 But that Kind of Fulfillment or Satisfaction is Impossible for Us. How Then Shall We Obtain Either Righteousness or Salvation?
- As far as we are concerned, we would absolutely have to perish in eternal damnation. For if the divine law is not fulfilled, it can in no way be abolished or taken away. And for us its fulfillment is impossible. Therefore God, in his secret counsel regarding the restoration of the welfare of mankind, planned and determined, and made a decree, to send His Son into the flesh, who was not to abolish or destroy the Law, so that fulfillment would no longer be necessary for us, but who, made under the Law and subject [to it], would in our place perfectly render and discharge His fulfillment and satisfaction for our sins—indeed required of us by the unchangeable judgment of God, but impossible for us—and thus, since the Law would plainly be fulfilled for us, merit and obtain [this], that because of His obedience and satisfaction God would deign to be merciful and compassionate toward penitent sinners. And in this way the Gospel does not abolish or destroy the Law, but points out and testifies that Christ has fulfilled the Law for us by completely perfect fulfillment. Rom. 8:3–4; 2 Cor. 5:14; Is. 53:6; Gal. 4:4–5.
- [PAR – The Law and the Gospel are both fully in place. All people are born under the Law and stand unrighteous before God because they do not and cannot keep the Law. Those who hear the Gospel of Christ and believe in him are placed under the Gospel – under grace, having been credited with the righteousness of Christ who fulfilled the Law for them. Therefore, only those who have faith in Christ have a righteous status before God. Those who do not believe remain under the Law, and therefore, are not justified (in any sense), but rather still condemned (John 3:18).]
141 But, Someone May Object, What [Good Does It Do] Me, that Another Has Fulfilled the Law, Since the Law Makes Its Demands on Me, and How Can the Satisfaction of One Be Enough and Sufficient for All?
- Christ was made subject to the Law, was made sin and a curse, not because of Himself, but for us (Gal. 3:13; Gal. 4:4–5; 2 Cor. 5:21), and that by the decree and good pleasure of the will of God for our redemption (Eph. 1:5,7; 2 Cor. 5:14; Is. 53:6). And since this person is not only man, but God and man, that redemption is therefore so ample and great that it is sufficient propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 Jn. 2:2); since Christ accomplished it in the flesh it provides us highest and sweetest comfort (Rom. 8:3,34).
- [PAR – This point must be repeated: Christ is most surely the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, whether people believe it or not. This is objectively true, and emphasized repeatedly by the Lutheran Reformers. This is properly understood in the context of the righteous requirements of the Law – that sin must be punished for God’s righteousness to be satisfied (propitiated). And indeed, it has been punished in Christ, sufficiently for every sinner who has ever lived or will ever live. The Law cannot require that any believer in Christ be further punished for sin or condemned, because those who believe in Christ have the God-Man as their Advocate. He has already suffered all the punishment their sins deserve.
But those who do not rely on Christ are still under the Law. They do not rely on his propitiation for their sins, and therefore the requirements of the Law are still in place for them – punishment and condemnation for all their sins.]
142 But How Does Scripture Affirm that We are Justified and Saved Freely, Without Merits, If the Work of Redemption Cost Christ So Much, Namely His Own Blood and Death?
- With respect to us, this righteousness and salvation is and is called free grace, which comes to us without either our works or merits and without any payment or satisfaction from us.
- [PAR – It is not “our justification” that comes to us. It is “free grace”, “the righteousness of Christ” that come to us. And Chemnitz will explain shortly how this grace and righteousness come to us. It does not come to “all people” by objective imputation. It comes only through Word and Sacrament (which is why they are called the “means of grace”.]
But with respect to Christ the Redeemer it is and is called redemption, lytron [in Greek], or satisfaction, something bought or merited. Rom. 3:24; 1 Cor. 6:20; 1 Pet. 1:18–19; 1 Tim. 2:6; Acts 20:28.
143 And What Kind of Satisfaction Does the Law Require that Christ Had to Render for Us?
- I. The Law requires complete, holy, pure, and perfect obedience. This Christ rendered fully and perfectly for us. Rom. 5:19; Heb. 10:9–10,14.
II. The Law requires satisfaction for sins, that by passion and punishment divine wrath might be satisfied. And Christ accomplished this satisfaction for us by His passion and death. 2 Cor. 5:14; Gal. 3:13; Is. 53:5–6.
And in this way Christ obtained this for us, that by His redemption we are justified freely, or by grace, without our merit. Rom. 3:24.
- [PAR – The phrase “we are justified” (here and in Romans 3:24) does not mean “all people have been justified.” It does not mean that “all people have a righteous status before God.” In Greek (and in German), this is a passive verb. The sense is that we “become justified” (werden gerecht) freely, without our providing any merit or righteousness of our own. As Chemnitz will point out in the next section, we “become” justified only in one way, that is, through faith in Christ’s completed redemption.]
144 What is the Difference Between the Law and the Gospel?
- I. The Law is to some extent known by nature. Rom. 2:14. But the Gospel is a mystery hidden to reason, which God has revealed only through His Word. Mat. 16:17; 1 Cor. 2:7; Eph. 1:9; Rom. 16:25–26.
II. The Law is a ministry pointing out, censuring, and rebuking sins, and pronouncing all men worthy of eternal death because of them; but the Gospel is a ministry that points to true righteousness before God through Christ and through it offers and bestows life eternal to all that apprehend it by faith. 2 Cor. 3:7, 9; Rom. 1:16–17.
- [PAR – According to Chemnitz, the Gospel does not point to an already-pronounced justification of the world. The Gospel points to the true righteousness that is the righteousness of Christ. Through the righteousness of Christ, the Gospel bestows eternal life, not on all men, but to all that apprehend it by faith.]
III. The Law indeed itself also speaks of righteousness and salvation, but it has respect to us, and it seeks and requires to perfection that righteousness in us, in our nature, actions, and works, if we want to be saved by it. But since that cannot be rendered by us because of our corrupt nature, therefore the Gospel sets Christ before us, who by His obedience, passion, and death has purchased for us the true righteousness before God that is imputed and given to us freely, without our merit, solely for the sake of Christ and through faith. Rom. 1:4; Gal. 3:24.
- [PAR – Again, Chemnitz reiterates, the Gospel does not set before us our own pre-existing justification. Instead it “sets Christ before us,” with his suffering for sin and his own righteousness. His suffering and His righteousness were the purchase price for the righteous status that God credits (or imputes), not to all sinners, but to those who have faith.
But note that faith is not the cause that makes God willing to credit the righteousness of Christ to the believer. It is credited through faith “solely for the sake of Christ.” Faith is certainly not a meritorious work. Faith is not that which makes God gracious to us. Christ is the cause that makes God gracious.]