Welcome back to Thesis Thursday. We are still on Walther’s
The doctrinal contents of the entire Holy Scriptures, both of the Old and the New Testament, are made up of two doctrines differing fundamentally from each other, viz., the Law and the Gospel.
Last time, learned what this distinction is not. This time, we begin consideration of what this distinction is. (Note that, for easier reading, my excerpts are somewhat reordered; please read the whole original over here!)
The true points of difference between the Law and the Gospel are the following:
1. In the first place, then, Law and Gospel differ as regards the manner of their being revealed to man; Man was created with the Law written in his heart. The Law may be preached to the most ungodly person and his conscience will tell him, That is true. But when the Gospel is preached to him, his conscience does not tell him the same. The preaching of the Gospel rather makes him angry. The Gospel reveals and proclaims nothing but free acts of divine grace; and these are not at all self-evident. What God has done according to the Gospel He was not obliged to do, as though He could not possibly have remained a just and loving God if He had not done it. God would still have been eternal Love if He had allowed all men to go to perdition.
Try and realize this important distinction. All religions contain portions of the Law. Some of the heathen, by their knowledge of the Law, have advanced so far that they have even perceived the necessity of an inner cleansing of the soul, a purification of the thoughts and desires. But of the Gospel not a particle is found anywhere except in the Christian religion.
Had the Law not been written in men’s hearts, no one would listen to the preaching of the Law. Everybody would turn away from it and say: “That is too cruel; nobody can keep commandments such as these.” But, my friends, do not hesitate to preach the Law. People may revile it, yet they do so only with their mouths. What you say when preaching the Law to people is something that their own conscience is preaching to them every day. Nor could we convert any person by preaching the Gospel to him unless we preached the Law to him first.
2. The second point of difference between the Law and the Gospel is shown by the contents of either. The Law tells us what we are to do. No such instruction is contained in the Gospel. On the contrary, the Gospel reveals to us only what God is doing. The Law is speaking concerning our works; the Gospel, concerning the great works of God. In the Law we hear the tenfold summons, “Thou shalt.” Beyond that the Law has nothing to say to us. The Gospel, on the other hand, makes no demands whatever.
But does not the Gospel demand faith? Yes; that, however, is just the same kind of command as when you say to a hungry person, “Come, sit down at my table and eat.” the hungry person will not reply: “Bosh! I will not take orders from you.” No, he will understand and accept your words as a kind invitation. That is what the Gospel is — a kind invitation to partake of heavenly blessings.
Gal. 3, 12 we read: The Law is not of faith; but, The man that doeth them shall live in them. This is an exceedingly important passage. The Law has nothing to say about forgiveness, about grace. The Law does not say: “If you are contrite, if you begin to make amends, the remainder of your trespasses will be forgiven.” Not a word of this is found in the Law. The Law issues only commands and demands. The Gospel, on the other hand, only makes offers. It means, not to take anything, but only to give.
That’s 2, there are 4 more before we finish off Thesis I. Slowly as we go…