- Tullian Tchividjian - http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian -

Law And Gospel: Part 3

Posted By Tullian Tchividjian On April 3, 2012 @ 10:37 am In Uncategorized | 21 Comments

[1]Believe it or not, the purity of the Gospel’s proclamation depends on the distinction between Law and Gospel.

James Nestingen wrote:

When the Law and Gospel are improperly distinguished, both are undermined. Separated from the Law, the Gospel gets absorbed into an ideology of tolerance in which leniency is equated with grace. Separated from the Gospel, the Law becomes an insatiable demand hammering away at the conscience until it destroys a person.

When the Law and Gospel are properly distinguished, however, both are established. The Law can be set forth in its full-scale demand, so that it lights the way to order and, through the work of the Spirit, drives us to Christ. The Gospel can be declared in all of its purity, so that forgiveness of sins and deliverance from the powers of death and the devil are bestowed in the presence of our crucified and risen Lord.

Or, to put it another way, “The failure to distinguish the law and the gospel always means the abandonment of the gospel” (Gerhard Ebeling). A confusion of law and gospel is the main contributor to moralism in the church simply because the law gets softened into “helpful tips for practical living”, instead of God’s unwavering demand for absolute perfection. While the gospel gets hardened into a set of moral and social demands that “we must live out”, instead of God’s unconditional declaration that “God justifies the ungodly.” As my friend Jono Linebaugh says, “God doesn’t serve mixed drinks. The divine cocktail is not law mixed with gospel. God serves two separate shots: law then gospel.”

As I mentioned in my previous post, while there are a host of great resources available to help you better understand the important distinction between the law and the gospel, I found the most helpful resource to be John Pless’ easy-to-read Handling the Word of Truth: Law and Gospel in the Church Today [2]. In the first chapter he summarizes C.F.W. Walther’s six ways in which the law and the gospel are different. I’ve already highlighted the first three [3]. Below are the second three. Recovering this distinction is THE answer to the church rediscovering the gospel in our day:


Fourth, Law and Gospel are distinct when it comes to threats. Walther puts it simply: “The Gospel contains no threats at all, but only words of consolation. Wherever in Scripture you come across a threat, you may be assured that the passage belongs in the Law” (Walther, 11). The Law threatens sinners with punishment, pronouncing a curse on all who fail to live up to its requirements (Deuteronomy 27:26). The Gospel announces forgiveness for those crushed by the threat of the Law, for Christ Jesus came into the world to rescue the unrighteous (1 Timothy 1:15).

Fifth, the effects of Law and Gospel are different. Walther summarizes the threefold effect of the Law: (1) It demands but does not enable compliance. (2) It hurls people into despair, for it diagnoses the disease but provides no cure. (3) It produces contrition, that is, it terrifies the conscience but offers no comfort. Walther echoes the early Lutheran hymn writer Paul Speratus, who captured the biblical teaching of the Law’s lethal effectiveness:

What God did in is Law demand
And none to him could render
Caused wrath and woe on ev’ry hand
For man, the vile offender.
Our flesh has not those pure desires
The spirit of the Law requires,

And lost is our condition.

It was a false, misleading dream
The God his Law had given
That sinners could themselves redeem
And by their works gain heaven.
The Law is but a mirror bright
To bring the inbred sin to light
That lurks within our nature.

Public debates have raged over whether or not the Ten Commandments should be displayed in courtrooms and classrooms. Sometimes well-meaning people have argued that placards containing the Ten Commandments would have a positive effect on public morality. Actually, Scriptures teach that the Law makes matters worse, not better. Knowledge of the Law does not entail the ability to keep it. The Law not only identifies the sin but also, like a swift kick to a sleeping dog that arouses the animal to bark and bite, the Law stirs up the power of sin (Romans 7:7-9). The Law brings death, not life, for it is a letter that kills (2 Corinthians 3:6). Without the Gospel, the Law can only be the cause for grief, as it was in the case of the rich young man who thought himself capable of keeping the Law (Matthew 19:22).

At each point, the Gospel is completely different from the Law. While it is only through faith that we receive the benefits of the Gospel, the Gospel itself creates faith (Romans 1:16; Ephesians 2:8-10). Rather than provoking terror of conscience, anguish of heart, and fear of condemnation like the Law, the Gospel stills every voice of accusation with the strong words of Christ’s own peace and joy guaranteed by the blood of the cross. The Gospel does not set in place requirements of something that we must do or contribute. “[T]he Gospel does not require anything good that man must furnish: not a good heart, not a good disposition, no improvement of his condition, no godliness, no love of either God or men. It issues no orders, but changes man. It plants love into his heart and makes him capable of all good works. It demands nothing, but gives all. Should not this fact make us leap for joy?” (Walther, 16).

[4]Sixth, Law and Gospel are to be distinguished in relation to the persons who are addressed, “The Law is to be preached to secure sinners and the Gospel to alarmed sinners” (Walther, 17). The secure sinner is the person who glories in his own self-righteous-ness. In the words of Lutheran theologian Gerhard Forde, the secure sinner is “addicted either to what is base or to what is high, either to lawlessness or to lawfulness. Theologically there is not any difference since both break the relationship to God, the giver.” Addicted to that which is base, secure sinners will excuse or rationalize their sinful behavior. They will live, to use the words of the confessional prayer, “as if God did not matter and as if I mattered most.” They will assert that their body and life and that of their neighbors are theirs to do with as they please. Or secure sinners might be addicted to that which is high. Like the Pharisee in Jesus’ parable (Luke 18:9-14), secure sinners will trust in their own righteousness, their self-made spirituality., The sinners who are snug in their own righteousness rehearse the Ten Commandments and conclude that they, like the rich young man in the Gospel narrative, have kept all of these rules and are deserving of God’s approval. To those ensnared in either of these securities, blind to God’s demand for total righteousness, the Law is to be proclaimed full blast so all presumption might be destroyed.

To those who have been crushed by the hammer blows of the Law, no longer secure in their lawlessness or self-righteousness, there is only one word that will do. That is the word of the Gospel. The Gospel is not a recipe for self-improvement. It is that word of God that declares sins to be forgiven for the sake of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It is all about Christ and what He has done for us. “Law is to be called, and to be, anything that refers to what we are to do. On the other hand, the Gospel, or the Creed, is any doctrine or word of God which does not require works from us and does not command us to do something, but bids us simply accept as a gift the gracious forgiveness of our sins and everlasting bliss offered us” (Walther, 19).

When Law and Gospel are muddled or mixed, the Holy Scriptures will be misread and misused. Without the right distinction of the Law from the Gospel, the Bible appears to be a book riddled with contradiction. At one place it condemns and at another it pardons. One text speaks of God’s wrath visited upon sinners, while another declares His undying love for His enemies. Throughout both the Old and the New Testaments, the Scriptures reveal both God’s wrath and His favor. The Scriptures show us a God who kills and who makes alive. This God does through two different words. With the word of His Law, sinners are put to death. It is only through the word of the Gospel that spiritual corpses are resurrected to live in Jesus Christ.

21 Comments (Open | Close)

21 Comments To "Law And Gospel: Part 3"

#1 Comment By Steve Martin On April 3, 2012 @ 11:17 am

Thanks, Pastor Tchividjian.

Great post with great points.

Peronally, I believe Nestingen and Forde are correct in that they recognize two uses of the Law. Luther never talked about a “3rd use”, either.

The so-called “3rd use” is already contained in the 1st use (as Nestingen says above, “The Law can be set forth in its full-scale demand, so that it lights the way to order and, through the work of the Spirit, drives us to Christ.” Those are the two uses. The civil use…and the theological use. The “guide” (so called “3rd use”) is part and parcel of the civil use.

Why is this important? Because allowing for a third use for ‘Christians’…is akin to letting the fox back in the henhouse, and can open the door to legalism.

For Christians, apart from the civil use, “Christ is the end of the law.”

Thank you, Pastor.

#2 Comment By John Dunn On April 3, 2012 @ 12:21 pm

The Law and the Gospel will never be muddled or mixed if the church would once again recognize the redemptive-historical and eschatological distinction between the ministry of the Old Covenant (Law) and the ministry of the New Covenent (Spirit) . . . as expounded by the apostle Paul (2 Cor 3, Rom 7:1-6, Gal 4:21-31).

The only reason mass confusion exists regarding Law and Gospel is because the Reformed church has clung to the artificial covenantal distinctions of Works vs. Grace rather than recognizing the biblical covenantal distinctions between the ministry of Moses and the ministry of Christ (John 1:17, Heb 3:1-6, Heb 12:18-24).

The Law vs. Gospel distinction introduces confusion into the realm of new covenant ethics . . . an ethic now governed by the Spirit of Christ living, abiding, transforming, and powerfully empowering the Church of Jesus Christ for new creational obedience. Such Spirit-wrought obedience in the saints (though imperfect and covered by grace) does not inhabit the same realm of Law, but is of faith, by pure Gospel grace . . . working through love.

Let us walk abundantly by the Spirit and thus fulfill the righteousness of the Law’s dim shaddow . . . the fruit of the Spirit is love.

#3 Comment By Steve Martin On April 3, 2012 @ 12:28 pm

You gotta have the law. We need to be kept in faith, and we need to live together.

Jesus said not one jot or tittle of the law will be undone until the New Kingdom is ushered in.

It still has it’s purpose. And it’s a super important purpose.

There’s no cure without a proper diagnosis. No new life without death.

#4 Comment By Richard Koconis On April 3, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

At the risk of sounding like a Tullian lapdog may I just say thank you so much. This is my first comment on this blog, but I need to say that you have such an eye opening clarity in your explanations and descriptions of all things christian and theological.

You consistently breach this topic and I am so appreciative of the fact that you beat it to death. As I have heard you say many times “We need to have the Gospel pounded into us every second of every minute of every hour of everyday”. I wholeheartedly agree, and I find it unfortunately in short supply.

I myself am a hapless sinner in need of the Gospel, and your insight into the truth of what Jesus has done for us is not only greatly appreciated, but desperately needed by us all.

Please don’t stop.

#5 Comment By Denton White On April 3, 2012 @ 8:22 pm

I enjoy reading Pastor Tchividjian’s thoughts when I’ve got a moment or two. Makes me smile, because all of theses authors he’s reading and quoting and expounding upon were the same ones I read and studied and I ended up in the LCMS after having begun ministry in the PCA. Careful, careful, what we read is powerfully influential. God’s richest blessing to you brother Pr. Tchividjian.

#6 Comment By Brandon E On April 3, 2012 @ 9:32 pm

A confusion of law and gospel is the main contributor to moralism in the church simply because the law gets softened into “helpful tips for practical living”, instead of God’s unwavering demand for absolute perfection. While the gospel gets hardened into a set of moral and social demands that “we must live out”, instead of God’s unconditional declaration that “God justifies the ungodly.”

If this can only be the case, what then should we make of the apostle Paul’s imperatives and principles at the end of Galatians (Gal. 5:13-6:16)? Are these “law” passages, “gospel” passages or a mixture/muddling of both?

If they are mere “civil” uses of the law, why does Paul link these principles of life in this section of his epistle to walking by the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, producing the fruits of the Spirit, being spiritual, fulfilling the law of Christ completely, sowing unto the Spirit and reaping eternal life, walking by the rule of the new creation, etc.–decidedly Christian categories?

I think that what John Dunn has described in his comment is much less confusing. The new covenant not only includes “God justifies the ungodly” but also includes new life in the Spirit. Stated another way, as regenerated believers we are “in-lawed” to the Spirit of Jesus Christ, “the law of the Spirit of life…in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:2).

The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus is not in black and white letters, but is God in Christ in the Spirit personally and intimately indwelling and operating within us.

Such a living law, accompanied with the written word of God, teaches us inwardly to “abide in Him” (1 John 2:27)–to remain in His presence, to grow in our knowledge, experience and enjoyment of Christ as our life. In such a loving, pleasant and holy atmosphere in spirit we bear fruit that we could not otherwise (John 15:4-5). When we sin, we may lose our mutual fellowship with God in Christ (but not our life-relationship as regenerated sons) and simply need to confess the sins we are conscious of in order to return to the fellowship (1 John 1:5-2:2); and the cycle of growing and bearing fruit in fellowship with God in Christ continues.

This is by no means an instant transformation–no one would condemn a newborn babe for not growing unto the full maturity of adulthood overnight–and none of us will be completely free from indwelling sin before the transfiguration of our bodies at the resurrection, but it is a gradual transformation nonetheless (1 Pet. 2:2-3; 2 Cor. 3:16-18).

In this way, the church grows together as His kingdom, Body, dwelling place and bride (Eph. 4:12-16; 2:21-22; 5:23-32; Col. 2:19; 1 Pet. 2:1-12) so that Christ in His unsearchable riches may be expressed (glorified) on earth.

This, I believe, is altogether a different principle than the law, legalism, or moralism, based upon the life of God in Christ rather than the law of God. Yet, it does involve a “pursuit”–a pursuit of Christ Himself in whom all things related to life and godliness have been granted (Phil. 3:7-16; 2 Pet. 1:3-11), not of mere law-keeping or morality.

That said, I believe that the difference between law and gospel is essential for seeing that justification is by grace through faith and not through works, that we don’t have to do anything to merit God’s love or the assurance of our salvation, and that the believers are not under the law as a rule of life for their sanctification.

Nevertheless, I believe that we can overextend the applicability of the dichotomy of law and gospel as a systematic theology and impose it upon matters in ways never intended by Christ and the apostles. Especially when we define “the law” as including all New Testament imperatives and “gospel” as exclusively unconditional (mostly judicial) pronouncements, as if everything must be seen as belonging to one of these two categories. There is more to the Bible and the Christian life than just law and gospel so defined.

#7 Comment By Steve Martin On April 3, 2012 @ 10:48 pm

“I believe that the difference between law and gospel is essential for seeing that justification is by grace through faith and not through works, that we don’t have to do anything to merit God’s love or the assurance of our salvation, and that the believers are not under the law as a rule of life for their sanctification.”

That’s perfect, Brandon.

I would have started with that…and ended with that.


Any demand that our existence places upon us to fulfill our humanity…is law.

It’s good for us that it helps us live together as peacefully as possible…and it exposes us, and convicts us for righteousness sake.

#8 Comment By John Thomson On April 4, 2012 @ 3:59 am

‘“The Gospel contains no threats at all, but only words of consolation. Wherever in Scripture you come across a threat, you may be assured that the passage belongs in the Law” (Walther, 11)’

Where does God’s discipline of his people fit into this paradigm?

Heb 12:5-7 (ESV)
And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, ​​​​​​​nor be weary when reproved by him. ​​​ ​​​​​​​​For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, ​​​​​​​and chastises every son whom he receives.” ​​​ It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline?

Notice in the above it is ‘sons’ he is disciplining – a word implying gospel relationship.


1Pet 4:17-18 (ESV)
For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? And ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​“If the righteous is scarcely saved, ​​​​​​​what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” ​​​

In Hebrews the revelation of law and gospel are paralled and the writer comments on the judgement implicit in disobeying either.

Heb 2:1-3 (ESV)
Therefore we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it. For since the message declared by angels proved to be reliable, and every transgression or disobedience received a just retribution, how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard,

Heb 10:26-31 (ESV)
For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

I must say these sound like gospel-related threats. I do not say they are gospel as such but nor are they law for they are not related to that covenant. Each covenant has consequences if ignored and despised.

#9 Comment By John Dunn On April 4, 2012 @ 6:51 am

Brandon E – Very well said . . . Amen!

#10 Comment By Peter E. On April 4, 2012 @ 10:55 am

It seems like many are struggling to harmonize this post with their Reformed systematics (covenantal theology). However, a lot of the quotes posted above are from Lutherans who don’t think of God’s Law and Gospel strickly according to historical periods (or other categories in which the Reformed move and breathe).

Anyway, you could write this same article and simply replace the terms “Law” and “Gospel” with COMMANDS and PROMISES. The prophets of old always preached with ‘weel’ and ‘woe’… commands and promises… threats/curses and comfort/blessings… (and dare I say, Law and Gospel). And not only the prophets, but Jesus preached this way, and so on…

#11 Comment By Steve Martin On April 4, 2012 @ 5:03 pm

John Thomson,

Thanks. Those Scripture verses make it all crystal clear, now.

#12 Comment By John Dunn On April 4, 2012 @ 7:04 pm

The Law vs Gospel dichotomy is necessary for understanding justification by faith alone, apart from human works or the OC Law.

However, when this dichotomy is forced upon new covenant ethics/sanctification it severely distorts the role and ministry of the Spirit . . . who is the blessed new “law” written on the heart, given from Zion’s mountain as promised by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel and affirmed by the apostle (Rom 8:1-4, 2 Cor 3:3-11, Gal 5:16-18). New covenant ethics is not about Law engraved in stone or written with ink. To assert this is to degrade new covenant ethics/commands into a vile ministry of the flesh (Gal 3:2-3), devoid of the Spirit and faith (Gal 3:12).

The new covenant apostolic commmands are not about Law or letter. The apostles were divinely set apart as “ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor 3:6). Therefore, the apostles would never issue fleshly OC type Law commands to those *in Christ*. Their apostolic ministry of the new covenant was about advancing the ministry of the Spirit and not the faithless letter.

As such, apostolic commands are to be understood as the creative God-breathed fiat of the eschatological new creation of the Last Adam . . . whereby the law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2) actually gives conviction, impetus, power, and Christ’s resurrection life in response to the Word, working effectually in our hearts and minds to produce his fruit and cause genuine Christ-like transformation (albeit imperfectly and covered by grace).

As new covenant believers, then, we are never to mix Law into our understanding of our *in Christ* growth in sanctification. Rather we are to glory and delight ourselves in the Spirit . . . in Him who is written, not upon tablets of stone, but upon the new covenant tablets of human hearts (2 Cor 3:3). If we are led by the Spirit, we are not under the Law (Gal 5:18). We are therefore to walk abundantly in the new eschatological “law” of the new covenant age . . . the Spirit of Christ!

#13 Comment By Steve Martin On April 4, 2012 @ 8:55 pm

Thanks, John Dunn.

A few more Bible verses and I think I’ll finally get it.

I may have been wasting my time with Paul, Luther, Forde, and Nestingen.

#14 Comment By John Thomson On April 5, 2012 @ 5:33 am

Peter E

‘However, a lot of the quotes posted above are from Lutherans who don’t think of God’s Law and Gospel strictly according to historical periods’

We know. :) We are inviting Lutherans to question whether their law/gospel divide is biblical. We believe it isn’t and ends up creating confusion. We also believe that historical periods aside the definition of ‘law’ in Lutheran thought is in principle wrong; law is not merely command, it is command that has attached a promise of life or death and is accompanied by no grace to fulfil.

#15 Comment By John Dunn On April 5, 2012 @ 11:09 am

Yes John Thompson!

In that respect then, Law was an historic (old) covenant given to Israel at Sinai with strict if/then *conditions* for works obedience. The Law was given to Israel as the divine instrument by which she would recapitulate the Adamic fall and bring the whole world under the condemnation of covenant breaking/spiritual adultery.

Jesus Christ came as the incarnate embodiment of the new Israel, the faithful “firstborn son” from the dead, the “Last Adam”, who being born under the Law and crucified under the Law completely put its reign of death to an end once and for all, to those who are *in Him* by a living faith. Those *in Christ* by a living faith are no longer married to the Adamic Law as adulterous covenant breakers, but are now married to Christ the eschatological Redeemer Husband (Rom 7:1-6) and are accounted with all of his perfect “Last Adam” righteousness.

Therefore, the new covenant and its body of Spirit-empowered ethics does not inhabit the same old covenant realm of Adamic Law. Ever. To return to Law as a Christian, is to return to the former husband whose relationship has been decisively severed in the death of Christ, thus making those who do so adulterers. If Romans 7:1-6 is true we cannot serve two covenantal husbands (Christ and Law)at the same time. Rather, we were completely delivered from the Adamic Old Covenant husband (Law) in order that we may serve “Last Adamic” new covenant Husband (Christ), who is the incarnate embodiment of the New Covenant – Isa 42:6, Isa 49:8. We now serve our new covenantal Husband in the new way of the Spirit and not the old way of the written code.

Only when the Scripture is allowed to speak for itself as an unfolding redemptive narrative, whereby the Old Covenant paradigms/shaddows give way to the eschatological New Covenant realities, will these truths be readily seen. The Bible is not simply an unabridged version of our favourite systematic theology, in which we force our artificial grids upon the entire historical landscape in a sweeping, monochromatic fashion (e.g. covenant of works-grace, Law vs Gospel, etc). Rather, Scripture must be allowed to speak to us in its progressively unfolding narrative of Redemtive types, shaddows, paradigms, and corresponding eschatological fulfillments all found in Christ.

#16 Comment By jeremiah On April 5, 2012 @ 11:13 pm

How can a series of posts about the law and gospel be void of bringing in the law of the Spirit, the law of liberty, or the law of Christ?

thanks John Dunn and John Thompson for your contributions.

#17 Comment By Michial On April 7, 2012 @ 8:52 pm

Those who try and resist what is going on here is just an exercise in futility. Tullian is merely echoing the truth of the gospel in its context in redemptive history. First, second or third uses of the law are historical definitions alone not “always” helpful in isolation from each other. To retain the third use is not to seek to merit anything but is actually healthy, and biblically keeps our eyes on Christ our whole christian life. I think the broad distinctions and divisions in the uses of the law theologians have made up fall short of the biblical datum, as though there were three functions separating independent of each other, when in reality they all are operating together at the same time.

The Holy Spirit through inspired writers says the law is good and holy. He also says the law entered not to abrogate the promise of grace but show our need of it. Paul, only in addressing the Judaizer’s erroneous use of the law, stresses the fact we are not to seek justification by the law. The law was never intended to teach us justification by it, but only to teach the righteousness of God and that we cannot attain it through the law. The moral law as retained in our reformed confessions, and classified as the third use, still shows us what God requires, what His righteousness is, what is good and holy and right. It continually reminds us that Gods standards have not changed just because we are in Christ.

God demands perfect sanctification, not a little bit better each year stuff. Gods qualifications have not changed. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. What has changed is our legal and positional standing from being outside of Christ to being IN CHRIST. Though we cannot keep the law in its third use, it is to drive us back to our position, in Christ, the one who kept the law perfectly, actively for us: and because we are in Christ our sin is not imputed to us because it was imputed to Christ; and because we are in Christ his law keeping is imputed to us. To say we don’t need the third use of the law, the moral law of God, as similar to saying we don’t need to live in light of the attributes of Gods character.

The third use is there to rebuke every inclination of self righteousness that continually wants to rear its ugly head. And if we are anything alike it rears its head every day, several dozen times a day. So while Lutherans and reformed may not distinguish and call it a third use or not is irrelevant for the law is working all functions at the same time. That is why Walther and Pless and Tullian and Paul, and ultimately the Holy SPirit, utilize a law gospel distinction in the biblical datum of the NT.

We must distinguish imperatives and indicatives, commands and promises, and law and gospel. To not do so is to make gospel law and law gospel, and create an even worse Judaizer, a “Gospelpluser” Gospel plus whatever, law or new testament commands(whatever one wants to call them) At the end of the day we all agree the imperatives in the NT for the saints are there, but hopefully we all agree we can never perfectly keep them, and must find our peace inChrist, the one who has kept them for us. I thank God for Tullian. His theology is the best of both worlds. I looked into this stuff kicking and screaming and almost went LCMS, but could not find biblical justification for its view of baptism and apostasy from true faith. I am so glad this emphasis can be found while retaining the biblical views of election and perseverance-ultimate doctrines of unbreakable gospel grace. Thanks Tullian. Happy Easter

#18 Comment By John Dunn On April 9, 2012 @ 9:45 am


You wrote: “The law was never intended to teach us justification by it, but only to teach the righteousness of God and that we cannot attain it through the law. The moral law as retained in our reformed confessions, and classified as the third use, still shows us what God requires, what His righteousness is, what is good and holy and right. It continually reminds us that Gods standards have not changed just because we are in Christ.”

Be reminded that your Reformed confessions were the product of mere men during a deeply political period of church history. The church and the civil magistrate were one entity. Therefore it is no suprise that the theology of the time would imbibe an artificial “third use” of the Law to bind men’s consciences. The church-civil government needed to control the masses through Law and fear.

However, the Scriptures assert that the Law no longer teaches us the righteousness of God, only Christ does. Jesus Christ is the eschatological end of the Law’s typological shadow (Rom 10:4). Christ is the perfect and incarnate embodiment of all God’s righteousness (1 Cor 1:30). The righteousness of God is now revealed completely APART from the Law (Rom 3:21) to those who beleive. If you want to know what God’s righteousness looks like gaze at Christ, his person, his work, his words, NOT the Law.

Why gaze at the typological shaddow when you have been given the fulfillment, the Substance (Col 2:17, Heb 8:5, Heb 10:1).

God’s demand for our perfect sanctification is already complete in Christ (1 Cor 6:11, Heb 10:14). Nevertheless, in the “not yet” we are growing up into the perfection that we already are *in Him* . . . being transformed into the same Image from one degree of glory to another, for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Cor 3:18). We are to be filled with the fruit of Christ’s righteousness (Phil 1:11), a fruit that is only produced by the Spirit (Gal 5:22).

Therefore, our Gospel sanctification has nothing to do with Judaizing works when we are being perfected by the Spirit of Christ (Gal 3:3). It is the Spirit who produces Christ’s powerful resurrection life in us. He is the life-giving Sap which unites us branches to the Vine and produces good works of faith in us and through us (John 15:4-5). It is when we return to any aspect of the old covenant Law for life or daily living (circumcision, legal code, outward observance) that we are judged as having adulterated the Gospel (Gal 1:6-9).

Therefore, flee from the Law as a “third use” standard of righteousness, life, or good works. Cling only to Christ, the substance, the fulfillment, the true Righteousness of God.

We are completely dead to the Law: Rom 7:4-6, Rom 8:2, Gal 2:19, Gal 5:18, Eph 2:15-16, Col 2:14.

The Law has been abolished and brought to an end by being fulfilled in Christ: Rom 10:4, 2 Cor 3:7-13, Eph 2:15, Heb 7:18-19, Heb 8:13.

For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery! (Gal 5:1)

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[...] for even more thoughts along these lines, here’s part of a series on Law and Gospel. Parts 3 and 4 have been the best so far, in my opinion} Like this:LikeBe the first to like this [...]

#20 Comment By Paula On June 14, 2012 @ 12:38 pm

SO many errors arise from improperly understanding these two words. I am so thankful God in his grace took me off the Christian hamster wheel, through the teaching of men like pastor Tullian and others. THANK YOU for this series. Keep on rightly dividing.

PS our youth group went through Pless’s book a bit ago, too, my daughter said it was great!

#21 Pingback By Jesus: Not a Part of Your Complete Breakfast « De Profundis Clamavi ad Te, Domine On December 4, 2012 @ 6:28 pm

[...] [5] [here he cites a book by John Pless, one of my professors at seminary] [...]

Article printed from Tullian Tchividjian: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian

URL to article: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/04/03/law-and-gospel-part-3/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/files/2012/04/I_fought_the_law.jpg

[2] Handling the Word of Truth: Law and Gospel in the Church Today: http://www.amazon.com/Handling-The-Word-Of-Truth/dp/0758600208/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1332938904&sr=1-1

[3] first three: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/03/28/law-and-gospel-part-2/

[4] Image: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/files/2012/04/585863-L4.jpg

[5] : http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tullian/2012/04/03/law-and-gospel-part-3/