Law And Gospel

By Shawn Tomlin

    Have you ever left church fully convinced that you were doomed, destined for hell? Perhaps you walked out of church fully convinced that you had no need to worry about your sin anymore because you are a Christian. These two scenarios happen a lot, neither are good, and the thing they both lack is a proper distinction between Law and Gospel.

“The Law is for the proud, the Gospel is for the brokenhearted.”

-Martin Luther

Let’s first define the terms Law and Gospel. When I say Law, I mean the parts of scripture that show us our sin and convict us. We are guilty as charged. We should, as believers, feel crushed when we hear the Law. It should leave us brokenhearted. The Gospel is the good news of Christ, that we receive His righteousness and He takes our sin, nails it to the Cross, atones for it with His blood, and we are made new in having faith in that. Martin Luther said, “The Law is for the proud, the Gospel is for the brokenhearted.”

    When we receive nothing but Law in a sermon, it can leave you crushed, broken, and feeling devastated. When you receive only Gospel, we tend to feel as if our sin doesn’t matter, like God doesn’t care now since we are believers. Either way, great damage is dealt to those listening to sermons like these. A person should always hear both Law and Gospel. We need to remember that.

    In the beginning of Acts, Peter preached a sermon to those in Jerusalem. He crushed them with the Law. Acts 2:37 says, “Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, ‘Brethren, what shall we do?’” That right there is how the Law works, it crushes and leaves you brokenhearted. Romans 3:20 says, “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” The Law does not have the power to save us on our own but it points to someone who can.

    Peter responds to the crushed crowds by saying in Acts 2:38, “Repent and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” If we are first crushed by the Law, the Gospel must be the response. The Law shows us our sin and points us to Christ. That sin will be forgiven if repentant faith in Christ is our response in being broken by the Law and comforted by the Gospel.

“The LORD bless you, and keep you;

The LORD make His face shine on you,

And be gracious to you;

The LORD lift up His countenance on you,

And give you peace.”

Lee Jones