We continue in Lecture 9, examining…
The first manner of confounding Law and Gospel is the one most easily recognized — and the grossest. It is adopted, for instance, by Papists, Socinians, and Rationalists and consists in this, that Christ is represented as a new Moses, or Lawgiver, and the Gospel turned into a doctrine of meritorious works, while at the same time those who teach that the Gospel is the message of the free grace of God in Christ are condemned and anathematized, as is done by the papists.
Reverting to the Old Testament, we see even there what the character of the teaching of Christ is. We read in Gen. 3:15: “It [the Woman’s Seed] shall bruise thy head.” What is the import of these words? It is this: The Messiah, the Redeemer, the Savior is not come for the purpose of telling us what we are to do, what works we are to perform in order to escape from the terrible dominion of darkness, sin, and death. These feats the Messiah is not going to leave for us to accomplish, but He will do all that Himself. “He shall bruise the serpent’s head,” that means nothing else than this, that He shall destroy the kingdom of the devil. All that man has to do is to know that he has been redeemed, that he has been set free from his prison, that he has no more to do than to believe and accept this message and rejoice over it with all his heart. If the text were to read: “He shall save you,” that would not be so comforting; or if it read: “You must believe in Him,” we should be at a loss to know what is meant by this faith. This protoevangelium, this First Gospel in Genesis, was the fountain from which the believers in the Old Testament drew their comfort. It was important for them to know: “There is One coming who will not only tell us what we must do to get to heaven. No, the Messiah will do all Himself to bring us there.” Now that the rule of the devil has been destroyed, anything that I must do cannot come into consideration. If the devil’s dominion is demolished, I am free. There is nothing for me to do but to appropriate this to myself. That is what Scripture means when it says, “Believe.” That means, Claim as your own what Christ has acquired.
Many additional prophecies might be cited to prove the correctness of this interpretation. Let me call your attention only to one, which shows clearly what the doctrine of the Gospel really is. Jer. 31:31–34 we read: Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which My covenant they brake, although I was an Husband unto them, saith the Lord. But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my Law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts and will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin on more. A new covenant, then, God is going to make. Note this well. This covenant is not to be a legal covenant like the one which He established with Israel on Mount Sinai. The Messiah will not say: “You must be people of such and such character; your manner of living must be after this or that fashion; you must do such and such works.” No such doctrine will be introduced by the Messiah. He writes His Law directly into the heart, so that person living under Him is a law unto himself. He is not coerced by a force from without, but is urged from within. “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more,” — these words state the reason for the preceding statement. They are a summary of the Gospel of Christ: forgiveness of sin by the free grace of God, fro the sake of Jesus Christ. Any one, therefore, imagining that Christ is a new Lawgiver and has brought us new laws cancels the entire Christian religion. For he removes that by which the Christian religion differs from all other religions in the world. All other religions say to man: “You must become just so and so and do such and such works if you wish to go to heaven.” Over against this the Christian religion says: “You are a lost and condemned sinner; you cannot be your own Savior. But do not despair on that account. There is One who has acquired salvation for you. Christ has opened the portals to heaven to you and says to you: Come, for all things are ready. Come to the marriage of the Lamb.” That is the reason, too, why Christ says: “I heal the sick, not them that are whole. I am come to seek and save that which was lost. I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”
…All the apostles corroborate His teaching. John says in his gospel, chap. 1:17: The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. He places the Law over against grace and truth. I need not explain what grace is. When John speaks of the “truth” that has come, he views Jesus as saying: “I teach the essence of the things which were foreshadowed in the Old Testament. The Old Testament presented emblems; I bring realities.” The entire Temple-service of the Levites was figurative. Christ actually brought what was typified in the Old Testament.
…In sundry other places of their confessions they explain their meaning more fully thus: Many laws were uttered by Christ of which Moses knew nothing; for instance, the law to love our enemies, the law not to seek private revenge, the law not to demand back what has been taken from us, etc. All these matters the papists declare to be “new laws.” This is wrong; for even Moses has said: “Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thine heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might,” Deut. 6:5; and: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself,” Lev. 19:18. Now, Christ did not abrogate this law of Moses, but neither did He publish any new laws. He only opened up the spiritual meaning of the Law. Accordingly, He says in Matt. 5:17: “Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.” That means that He did not come to issue new laws, but to fulfil the Law for us, so that we may share His fulfilment.