LAW AND GOSPEL
You can listen to the devotion here.
In the Name of the Father, and (+) of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
2 Timothy 2:15
15 Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth
Devotion from Martin Luther
This is from Luther’s Sermon on the Differentiation of Law and Gospel from 1532. This translation can be found in the magnificent resource Luther’s Family Devotions. You can purchase it here.
If I did not know that I should divide the law and gospel, then there would be no need for me to say, “Has God then given only one kind of Word, that is, the law? Hasn’t he also commanded the preaching of the gospel of grace and the forgiveness of sins?” Yes, says the conscience, if there is no faith in the promise, the law soon presses hard, “This and that is commanded you, and you have not done it, so you must pay.” In that kind of battle and in fear of death it is high time and a necessity that faith exhorts and breaks forth with all its might to tread the law out of sight and speak comfort, “O, dear law, are you the only Word of God? Isn’t the gospel the Word of God, too? Has the promise expired? Has God’s mercy ceased? Or are the two, law and gospel, or reward and grace, now mixed and cooked together so they are now one thing?” We would not want a God who can give nothing more than the law, or who knows nothing more.
So we also do not want to have the law mingled with the gospel. Therefore, let this distinction be made freely, unopposed and unhindered; so when you are squeezed by duty and justice, the gospel informs us of pure grace and gift.
Therefore, when the law condemns me: “I have done this or that; I am unrighteous and a sinner, recorded in God’s book of debts,” then I must acknowledge that it’s all true. But to what is declared after this: “Therefore you are accursed,” I must not submit, but I must be defended by strong faith and say, “According to the law, which tells me my guilt, I am surely a poor damned sinner, but I appeal from the law to the gospel. For God has given yet another Word beyond the law, that is called the gospel. This bestows his grace, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness and life to us. It also declares me free from your terror and damnation and comforts me. For all guilt is repaid through the Son of God, Jesus Christ, himself.”
Therefore, of great necessity you must learn to rightly and seriously use and apply both Words so as not to mingle one with the other.
For God has given these two sorts of Words, law and gospel, one as much as the other and each with its own purpose: The law demands perfect righteousness from every person; the gospel, that those of whom the law requires righteousness and do not have it (that is all people), are given it by grace.
Now whoever has not fulfilled the law, lying in ruins by sins and death, but turns from the law to the gospel, believes the preaching of Christ, that he is truly the Lamb of God who bears the sins of the world, who satisfies his heavenly Father, and gives eternal righteousness, life and salvation to all who believe it by pure grace. He clings solely to this preaching, calls on Christ, asks for grace and the forgiveness of sins, firmly believes (for only through faith will this great gift be held), so he has it as he believes.
This is the crucial distinction. All saving power lies in rightly dividing the two. It’s easy in preaching, or parsing words, but to use it and bring it into practice is a difficult and high art. The papists and fanatics totally ignore it. I also see in me and others who know best how to preach how difficult it is to make this distinction. The skill is common. It is easily said that the law is a different word and doctrine than the gospel, but putting this distinction into practice the art of applying it takes effort and hard work.
Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and take them to heart that, by the patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
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