Last week we learned about scripture’s wide and narrow uses of the term “gospel”. In lecture 27, Walther develops some more on this thought to finish off…
In the eleventh place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Gospel is turned into a preaching of repentance.
Let us now take up the Bible-passages which refer to the Gospel in the strict sense, and learn by what marks we may know them. There are five marks: —
1. Whenever the Gospel is contrasted with the Law, it is quite certain that the termGospel does not refer to the Gospel in the wide, but in the narrow sense.
Eph. 2, 14–17 we read: He is our Peace, who hath made both one and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us, having established in His flesh the enmity, even the Law of commandments, contained in ordinances; for to make in Himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that He might reconcile both unto God in one body by the Cross, having slain the enmity thereby; and came and preached peace [Luther: by the Gospel] unto you which were afar off and to them that were nigh. According to this text the preaching of the Law, which does not bring peace, precedes and is followed by the Gospel, which brings peace.
2. Whenever the Gospel is presented as the peculiar teaching of Christ or as the doctrine that proclaims Christ, it cannot refer to the Law at the same time; for we read, John 1, 17: The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ did not first publish the Law, but He purged the Law from the false interpretations of the Pharisees, because the proper knowledge of the Law is necessary before a person is able to accept the Gospel.
3. Whenever poor sinners are named as the subject to whom the Gospel is addressed, you may be certain that the reference is to the Gospel in the strict sense. Matt. 11, 5 The poor have the Gospel preached to them. Luke 4, 18: The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the Gospel to the poor.
4. Whenever forgiveness of sins, righteousness, and salvation by grace are named as effects of the Gospel, the reference is to the Gospel in the strict sense. Rom. 1, 16: I am not ashamed of the Gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth. Eph. 1, 13 In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the Word of Truth, the Gospel of your salvation.
5. When faith is named as the correlate of the Gospel, the reference is to the Gospel in the strict sense. Mark 1, 15 Repent ye and believe the Gospel. Mark 16, 15–16 Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned. Also the passage cited last certainly refers to the Gospel in the strict sense. The remarks of the Lord about unbelievers who shall be damned, are not indeed a part of the Gospel, but Law. The Lord adds these remarks in order to let those who reject the Gospel know that by their unbelief they are doing that which will hurl them into perdition.