Lesson 9： Principles For Applying The Law And Gospel
The Two Great Truths Of The Bible
Lesson 9: Principles For Applying The Law And Gospel
A. Law And Gospel Principles
Here are some of the major principles to keep in mind as you use the two precious truths of law and gospel and apply them to people’s lives:
- Seek diligently a true, clear and deep knowledge of God’s teachings of the law and gospel, which is essential to a correct understanding of the Bible.
Question: From whom should we seek this clear understanding?
Psalm 119:18 Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law. (note: here the word “law” translates the Hebrew word “torah” which means “teaching; instruction” and is here a reference to the entire Bible (comprised of “law and gospel”.)
- Look to God the Holy Spirit for help in the important and challenging task of properly applying the law and gospel to the lives of people.
1 Corinthians 13 – If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
I can know all about the distinction between law and gospel, but if I do not have Christ’s love in me, I will not use God’s Word (the Law) to convict the impenitent sinner nor His Word (in the Gospel) to comfort the contrite. I need God’s love in me to use the law and gospel in love - to “speak the truth in love” as Ephesians 4:15 says.
- Let the law be the law (proclaim the law as the very hard news it is for people) and let the gospel be the gospel (proclaim the gospel as the very good news it is for people). Do not mix gospel elements with the law and do not mix law elements with the gospel.
2 Timothy 2:15 – Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.
The King James Version of the Bible translates “rightly dividing the word of truth” – the Greek word is represented more literally in that translation and calls to mind keeping law and gospel distinct in our teaching of God’s Word.
- Apply the law to create in people a genuine sorrow for sin (contrition), to restrain sinful behavior, and to provide guidance to Christians in how to please God.
Comment: These are what we call the three uses of the law – mirror, curb, guide
Romans 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.(Mirror)
1 Timothy 1:9-10 We also know that law is made not for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, 10 for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine (Curb)
Psalm 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. (Guide)
- Apply the gospel to create faith in Jesus Christ, to provide assurance of salvation and to supply spiritual desire and strength to live a Christian life.
2 Corinthians 2:5-7 If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you, to some extent—not to put it too severely. 6 The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient for him. 7 Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.
(Note: this is the man whom Paul instructed the congregation to rebuke because of his open and flagrant sinning – 1 Corinthians 5. He has repented. The congregation is now directed to forgive him in Christ.)
- Proclaim the law to those who are comfortable and secure in their sins and proclaim the gospel to those who are in terror and despair over their sins.
Note: This is how Nathan dealt with David – he accused him of his sin and when David was brought to repentance by this visit. (2 Samuel 12:1-13)
- In general, proclaim the law first and then the gospel to help people in their salvation and sanctification.
Comment: This is what is called the “order of salvation” which brings sinners to faith and eternal life. Consider the movement from Law to Gospel in the thoroughly doctrinal book – St. Paul’s letter to the Romans. This movement from Law to Gospel is also evident in Paul’s other epistles.
- The greatest misuse of the law and the gospel is to confuse the two teachings so that the gospel with its message of free grace and forgiveness in Jesus Christ is turned into a message that requires sinners to earn their salvation in part or entirely by their own works.
Galatians 3:1-5 You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. 2 I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? 3 Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? 4 Have you suffered so much for nothing—if it really was for nothing? 5 Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?
- Direct those who are terrified by the law to find comfort in the gospel promises and what Jesus had done to save them. Do not direct them to try to find comfort in their works, in their intentions, in their feelings, or in their prayers.
Question: What can you say to someone who is sure that he/she has sinned so much that they can’t be forgiven? (Jesus has lived and died for you. His resurrection proves that God wants you to know you are forgiven. (Romans 4:25)
- Teach that saving faith in Jesus Christ is not just the mind’s acceptance of certain truths about Jesus. Rather teach that saving faith is the heart’s reliance on Jesus and His redeeming work for deliverance from the sins that condemn a person.
Question: How does someone acquire this faith? (As a gift from God [Ephesians 2:8-9] it is God’s work in us [John 6:29])
Question: How does someone know that he/she has this faith? (Ask yourself: Do I want to be saved from my sins and from the consequences of my sins and do I trust that Jesus has paid for my sins on the cross. If so, then I can be sure I have the saving faith. The only saving faith is trust in Jesus to be my Savior from sin. The only sort of person who looks to Jesus for this salvation is the person in whom God’s Spirit has worked saving faith.)
- Teach that faith in Jesus Christ is “saving” faith because it is God-created reliance on the Savior and not because it produces love and other positive changes in one’s life.
Notice again that God receives the glory for our salvation because He is the giver of faith (1 Corinthians 12:3 No one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit.) If we sinfully take the credit for the fact that we have this faith, we are robbing God of the glory that belongs to him.
- Teach that contrition and faith are the Spirit-created means by which a person is ready and able to receive God’s gifts of pardon and salvation and not the reason or basis on which God decides to forgive a person their sins.
God must work this sorrow in us – for our good. He makes us sad (with the law) so he can make us glad (with the gospel)
2 Corinthians 7:8-10 says 8 Even if I caused you sorrow by my letter, I do not regret it. Though I did regret it—I see that my letter hurt you, but only for a little while— 9 yet now I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. 10 Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.
Paul had scolded (rebuked) the Christians in Corinth for the way they had acted in the case of the man who was committing sexual sin (1 Corinthians 5). He had bluntly told them, “Your boasting is not good”. This rebuke hurt the Corinthian’s feelings. Paul says “” – “I made you sad”. After he sent the previous letter, he wondered, “Was I too severe when I scolded them?” For a while, Paul was concerned (uneasy) because he thought he might have been too harsh in his words. He says, “I did regret it” (past tense; imperfect; Paul was experiencing ongoing sadness→ . But now, as I write this letter (2 Corinthians) I am not regretting this any more. Note the present tense of the verb
This word, , which in the NIV is translated as “regret” is defined in my Greek dictionary as: “(feel) regret, repent”. We should not think of Paul “repenting” in the sense of recognizing that he was wrong – Paul knew that it was the right thing to point out the Corinthians’ sinning. But he did not enjoy doing it. He “regretted” it in this sense.
The usual word for “repent” is not but the word which literally means to have a change of mind. In repentance we have a change of mind first of all about sin. The law shows us that sin is a serious, damning thing. When the law convinces us of this fact, we are contrite – afraid because of our sins. The gospel works repentance in the sense that it changes our mind about Jesus. Jesus is our Savior from sin, but we do not realize this until the gospel reveals this to us and gives us faith to accept this truth.
I no longer regret it, Paul wrote, because I see that my words with which I rebuked you for your sinning worked contrition [godly sorrow] – and that is a good thing. Your contrition [godly sorrow] resulted in repentance – and a return to the gospel for God’s forgiveness. Now you are prepared to do the right thing in this matter and do it as a fruit of faith (and not just because you want me to be quiet or stop pointing out your sins to you).
Think of a parent who has to spank their child because the child insists on doing something dangerous – like running toward a busy street where the traffic is dangerous. Or because the child insists on reaching for a sharp knife or a hot stove. Spanking the child’s hand or bottom is not something a parent enjoys doing, but the parent must do it so that the child learns that they are doing something dangerous.
Likewise, all sin is dangerous. When Paul saw the Corinthians doing what was sinful by tolerating the man who was living with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5), he scolded them. He did not enjoy scolding them, he “regretted” it, it made him sad to do it. But now that they had repented, he was so happy [nun cairw] that he had followed the Spirit’s prompting to write as he did. He saw once again the benefit of using the law to point out sin so sinners can repent, be forgiven, and do the right thing. He points out here in 2 Corinthians (chapter 2) that they were now eager to correct things in their congregation.
- Teach that saving faith is something God creates in a person’s heart through the gospel and not something a person creates or helps to create for himself/herself.
Romans 1:16: I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.
Romans 10:17 Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ. Note: “the word of Christ” is the gospel as distinct from the law.
- Teach that saving faith is a necessary Spirit-created means by which we receive and possess the forgiveness of sins and not a meriting condition by which we earn or deserve forgiveness.
Romans 5:1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….
Romans 11:6 And if by grace, then it is no longer by works; if it were, grace would no longer be grace.
Comment: We are saved “through faith” not “because of faith” – the apostle Paul is always careful to make this clear, that we are not saved “because of” our faith but “through our faith.” See Romans 3:30 in the Greek.
- Do not equate saving faith in Jesus Christ with progress a person makes in improving his/her outward behavior such as getting rid of certain vices or doing good things.
This confuses justification and sanctification.
→Justification through faith (Romans 5:1) is complete and instantaneous.
→Sanctification is the product of faith; it flows from justification through faith and is always partial and incomplete – in this life.
Only in heaven will we be completely free of sin and no longer struggle against sin.
Faith (justification) and works (sanctification) can be distinguished and must be distinguished, but they cannot be divorced. We are saved by faith alone, but faith is never alone.
Break taken May 9; resume May 16
- Proclaim all sins to be serious violations of God’s will and deserving of His eternal punishment and not just minor offenses.
Matthew 5:19-20 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
The Pharisees majored in the minors. They emphasized outward behavior while they ignored what was going on in the inside. They were whitewashed tombs. They went further. They changed the laws to make them easier for themselves (e.g., “corban” – a gift to the temple exempted them from having to honor their parents in their old age.)
There was a question about the words “least in the kingdom of heaven” which Jesus uses here in Matthew 5:19.
In Matthew 11:11 the NIV reads: “I tell you the truth: Among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet he who is least in the kingdom of heaven [ὁ δὲ μικρότερος ἐν τῃ̂ βασιλείᾳ τω̂ν οὐρανω̂ν] is greater than he.”
Here is my understanding of these words: Those who are “least in the kingdom of heaven” here refers to people like us, who did not receive such a great calling as God gave to John. We are simple, ordinary believers (if, indeed, we may call any believer “ordinary”!). John was predicted by the prophets. Malachi and Isaiah wrote about him. And so John was greater than we; he was greater than all the previous prophets. Nevertheless, John would not live to see the things he announced to Israel. John would die in prison before Jesus would die on the cross and rise again to fulfill the prophecies. John did not live to see what you and I have witnessed. We, who are less than John in calling, are greater than John in this, that we have lived to see the New Testament age. Here, “the kingdom of heaven” refers to the Church – the believers like us – who are living in the New Testament era.
In the passage from Matthew chapter 5 Jesus says: Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, [ἐλάχιστος κληθήσεται ἐν τῃ̂ βασιλείᾳ τω̂ν οὐρανω̂ν] but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven [μέγας κληθήσεται ἐν τῃ̂ βασιλείᾳ τω̂ν οὐρανω̂ν].
Two different words are translated as “least” μικρότερος and ἐλάχιστος . Not only are the Greek words different, but we have an entirely different context. Matthew 5:19 is a pure law statement.
Statement 16 of lesson 9 says: Proclaim all sins to be serious violations of God’s will and deserving of His eternal punishment and not just minor offenses.
This is what Jesus is doing here in Matthew 5:19. He is warning us that there is no sin which is not serious. Because of every sin we commit, we deserve to die and go to hell forever.
Rather than thinking of Matthew 11:11 where Jesus uses the word μικρότερος , to help us understand Matthew 5:19 we do better to think of Jesus’ words in Matthew 19:30 and Matthew 20:16→
“But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first. [Πολλοὶ δὲ ἔσονται πρω̂τοι ἔσχατοι καὶ ἔσχατοι πρω̂τοι.]
“So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” [Οὕτως ἔσονται οἱ ἔσχατοι πρω̂τοι καὶ οἱ πρω̂τοι ἔσχατοι.]
Here Jesus refers to people who were in the kingdom of God (the “first”) but ended up outside the kingdom (the “last”) because of their unbelief. They were cut off as Paul says in Romans 11:11ff. Jesus is speaking of the unbelievers in Israel.
He then refers to those who were “last” – that is, outside the kingdom, the Gentiles, but who through the call of the Gospel would be “first”, members of the kingdom and heirs of eternal life. (Think again of Romans 11).
Jesus is speaking the same thing when he speaks of the “least in the kingdom of heaven” in Matthew 5:19. Here, in Matthew 5:19, the “least” are those who are outside the kingdom. Their sin has placed them there. Even those sins which people call “small” are still damnable.
But we need not remain outside the kingdom of heaven. The gospel restores us. The next words (verse 20) point to this fact:
“But whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”
Those who practice and teach these commands are believers whose faith is prompting a love for the law and an obedience of the law. To be “called” something, in the Hebrew way of speaking, is to “be” something. Think of Gabriel’s words to Mary in Luke 1:35 – he “will be called the Son of the Most High” – because he “is” the Son of the Most High. [This agrees with Genesis 2 where we read that Adam named the animals, describing them with their names he gave them. “Whatever the man called each living creature, that was its name” – he called them what they were.]
To be “called great in the kingdom of heaven” therefore, means, to BE great in the kingdom of heaven. That is, to be in the kingdom of heaven. Those who are in the kingdom of heaven are those whose righteousness exceeds that of the Pharisees:
20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
Remember that the Pharisees found their righteousness in their works. However, the believer finds his/her righteousness in Jesus – Jeremiah 23:6 says that he is “the Lord our righteousness.” God made him who had no sin to be sin for him so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).
- Treat believers in Christ as people who are ruled by a believing, spiritual nature that trusts God and loves to do His will and who are also burdened with a defiant, sinful nature that fights against God and the holy beliefs and desires of the spiritual nature.
Matthew 7:1 “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. 2 For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. 3 “Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother’s eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? 4 How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? 5 You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from yourbrother’s eye.
Galatians 6:1 Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted.
- Teach that good works are the expected, proper fruit of a true faith in Jesus Christ and are not optional and unnecessary for Christians.
2 Corinthians 8:8-9 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
2 Peter 1:5-9 5 For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; 6 and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; 7 and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, love. 8 For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
- Be careful to distinguish between critical spiritual conditions such as the difference between a person with weak faith in Christ and a person with no faith in Christ, between the good works of a Christian and the outward morality of a non-Christian, between godly sorrow for sins (contrition) and worldly sorrow for sins (unbelieving regret).
COMMENT: This distinction IS NOT something we can make directly – as God is able and at times gave the ability to his people (Acts 5 – Peter was able to discern Ananias and Sapphira’s hypocrisy).
But we can certainly examine our own heart2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
Then, in counseling with someone, we will help that person to distinguish between weak faith and unbelief; between good works done for people and those done for God →Matthew 6:5 “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. 6 But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.
- Regard and administer the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion as forms of the gospel that God uses to create and preserve saving faith in Christ and to strengthen Christians to live a sanctified life. Do not rob them of their gospel content and turn them into mere empty symbols or acts of obedience.
The Reformed Church speaks of the sacraments as “ordinances and not means of salvation”. Such false teaching turns gospel into law. Instead of seeing the sacraments as the means by which God approaches us to bring us salvation, this false teaching makes the sacraments the means by which people come to God with their obedience (“obeying” the “command” to be baptized; “doing” the supper “in remembrance” of Jesus).
- Remember that Christians, because of their sinful natures, still need the law applied to their lives so they can continue to repent of their sins, be warned against falling away from faith in Christ and receive guidance to know how to live a God-pleasing life.
Read through Romans 7 to see how the Christian struggles with the sinful nature – but struggles to victory by remembering that in Jesus we have deliverance/salvation from the body of death.
→Romans 7:24, 25 What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God—through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in the sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.
- Teach that a person’s salvation depends entirely on the perfect sacrifice and merits of Jesus Christ and does not depend in any way on a person’s own efforts and works.
Romans 9:16 It does not, therefore, depend on man’s desire or effort, but on God’s mercy.
- Use the gospel to provide Christians with the spiritual desire and strength to keep the law and produce the good works God desires of them in their sanctified live. Avoid religious legalism and religious moralism, which use the law as motivation for good works for Christians.
2 Corinthians 8:8,9 I am not commanding you, but I want to test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others. 9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich.
Romans 12:1-2 Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship. 2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
- Do not turn the gospel of God’s saving love in Christ for all into the false teaching of universalism, which asserts that God will save everyone apart from contrition and faith in Jesus.
Mark 16:15,16 He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.
The above passage makes it clear that the gospel is for all people – so that it might be proclaimed to all people so that by it they may believe and be saved. However, those who do not believe will be condemned.
Romans 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
The translation “by faith from first to last” is a loose paraphrase of the Greek. Literally Paul wrote: “from faith to faith”. These words are best interpreted thus: “the gospel proclaims that we are saved [not by works but] “from faith” and the gospel is proclaimed for the purpose of bringing the unbeliever “to faith”.
Luke 24:46,47 He told them, “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.
- Make sure that the gospel is the prominent teaching in your ministry to people’s souls. Use the law properly as God intends in service of the gospel. Preach both of these precious teachings in a spirit of love.
2 Timothy 4:5 But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.
Notice how the focus of the ministry is to be an evangelist. Not merely to preach the law and be done with it; but to preach the law so that we can preach the gospel – the good news, the evangel (Mark 16:15 – see above).
最后更新于 2012年9月04日 星期二 08:17
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