Law and Gospel
“In the third place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when the Gospel is preached first and then the Law; sanctification first and then justification; faith first and then repentance; good works first and then grace.”The Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel, Theses VII; C.F.W. Walther
Someone recently said to me, “The problem with the Missouri Synod is that they use the law and then they love.” Yes, this is true. So, what’s the problem? God’s law always comes first. The law is given by God to make us aware of our need for His gospel. When there is no law, there is no need for grace and we become our own redeemer, subjectively judging our behavior by our standards. But the law is God’s gift to reveal to us what His standard looks like. It looks like perfection. Anything less is excluded from His presence but He deeply desires that we live in unity with Him.
So, His Holy Spirit enters as the teacher to properly distinguish the law, which condemns, from the Gospel, which pardons. To confuse these two is peril to the disciple’s fulfillment of God’s plan. God knows that our nature is to want to believe that we are good enough, have done enough, have paid enough to be considered a good person. But the truth is, as we confess, “I am a poor miserable sinner.” Simply because one is baptized and tries hard means nothing because our work always fall short of God’s standard.
When misguided souls believe that this distinction is not necessary then they are deluded by their sin and more than ever need to hear the law to move them to receive the gospel of forgiveness and restoration. Our responsibility as their neighbor formed from the font of grace is to proclaim the law, to point them to see their sin, to admonish their error so they may be restored. After all it is the most loving thing to do.
Thank God, we in the Missouri Synod remain faithful to the Scriptures and the Lutheran Confessions that we might be light bearers among the darkness and help the erring among us to see the grace of God in its purity.