Thesis Thursday

Welcome back to Thesis Thursday. We are still on Walther’s

Thesis I

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…

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This entry was posted in Gospel, Law/Gospel Distinction, Legalism, Liberty, Lutheranism, Protestant preaching, Quotes, The Protestant Reformation, Thesis Thursday. Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Thesis Thursday

  1. RubeRad says:

    The preaching of the Gospel rather makes him angry

    I don’t get this. I’ve heard others (WHI, etc.) talking about how people resent not being able to contribute to their salvation, but here in Walther, all get is that maybe people are angry because the Gospel is counterintuitive?

    God would still have been eternal Love if He had allowed all men to go to perdition.

    I’m not sure I agree with this. Certainly not if you replace ‘Love’ with ‘Grace’. Christ’s redemption was “so that [God] might be just and the justifier” (Rom 3:26)

    But the rest, of course, is pure gold!

  2. Tony says:

    I would agree with your first inference. Walther first talks about how the Law is “intuitive.” Implicitly, so is self-justification. The Gospel engenders anger because it declares the alien and solely sufficient righteousness and cross work of Christ, received by faith alone. It is indeed counter-intuitive to proud, self-righteous sinners (like me).

  3. Rob H says:

    Isn’t it ingrained in us that we have to earn everything? All gifts must be paid for in some way? We don’t want, as natural men, to be beholden to anybody. There’s an owed something to accepting the Gospel in unregenerate conception.

    I’d say that grace is only accepted when it’s the only thing left. Before we’re “undone” or hopeless, we won’t accept it because at some level it’s not needed in our estimation. Therefore we’re angered, insulted at such a proposition as the Gospel. That tax-collector, standing over on the other side of the Pharisee was at the bottom, pleading. Nothing left for him to give in return for the mercy of God. The Pharisee would’ve been livid had anyone offered him the same mercy.

    Consider how a child would avoid a parent’s helping hand from the pool if he was trying to get out on his own. To the point of being frustrated or even angry with the parent’s persistent offer. But that same child, if drowning and scared to death is more than joyfully willing to grasp at that same life-giving hand for salvation.

    A grown man would be even more incensed at the offer of a way out of the hole. We don’t realize or admit we’re dead until the Law proves it. Then, under that all-consuming burden of hopelessness, we’re ready to take the Gospel offer of Salvation. All of that requires the Spirit’s work, however. So it’s our nature to fight until the last breath, angrily and as viciously as can be.

  4. RubeRad says:

    I agree with both of you, I just don’t see it spelled out in Walther, just stated and dropped.

  5. Rob H says:

    Seems sort of like he was writing to the in crowd, then; to those who already knew what he was talking about. Or to himself. I catch me doing that sometimes in my writing (less than I’d like). I think maybe he wasn’t thinking too well, chasing that rabbit, which led to worse in the next couple of sentences.

    Second part, love & grace, sure doesn’t seem to work for me. Purely speculative in nature, I believe. Silly to pursue such an end. You could argue self-love, but certainly not grace of any sort. That sort of requires a recipient. No grace in universal condemnation. Maybe some little mercy in allowing our existence at all, but hardly grace.

  6. Tony says:

    These were Friday evening lectures Walther gave to his sem students. If I remember correctly, I think the book resulted from a student’s notes / transcription. I’ll have to double check that. Also, not sure if Walther lectured from a manuscript or outline. But these things may account for some of the unevenness in presentation, underdeveloped points, etc. I’ve noticed this at times throughout this work.

  7. RubeRad says:

    Good point. If you go to the Preface and Introduction (scroll to the bottom) there is some info there about the transcription.

  8. Pingback: Thesis Thursday | The Confessional Outhouse

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