The Law and the Gospel; are they a contradiction? Is it two ways of looking at the same thing? Is it necessary to distinguish between them? Is it possible to hold both of them in harmony with one another? These questions represent the views of many different groups who lay claim to the title Christian. But what is the proper view on this age old dilemma?
This was a fundamental point for the Reformation. Martin Luther took a very hard stance on dividing the one from the other. Later John Calvin would see less of a dichotomy but would hold very important distinctions in the relationship of these two Biblical truths. In our time many don’t even take the time to examine them. Many modern “dispensational” Believers disregard the Law entirely, assigning it to Israel alone. The Law of God is very important to us even as Redeemed followers of Jesus Christ. He is the “end of the Law for righteousness for everyone who believes.” yet He does not make our knowledge of it any less pressing by this. The Moral Law is a reflection of the very Nature of God. It is also a part of those who have been made in His image. The Law is engraved upon our hearts (Romans 2:15) even as fallen men.
First we must understand the Law, what it is and why it was given. We must even make distinctions within the Law as to its Moral, Ceremonial and Civil aspects and see how each of these is applied to God’s redeemed people and also to those who are outside of His covenant. We must see how they relate to the Gospel and God’s eternal plan of Redemption for the families of the earth who are outside the covenant community of the nation of Israel.
The Bible deals clearly with all of these aspects. Theodore Beza tells us, “We divide this Word into two principal parts or kinds: the one is
called the ‘Law,’ the other the ‘Gospel.’ For all the rest can be
gathered under the one or other of these two headings.” The Law “is
written by nature in our hearts,” while “What we call the Gospel (Good
News) is a doctrine which is not at all in us by nature, but which is
revealed from Heaven (Mt. 16:17; John 1:13).” The Law leads us to Christ
in the Gospel by condemning us and causing us to despair of our own
“righteousness.” “Ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel,”
Beza wrote, “is one of the principal sources of the abuses which
corrupted and still corrupt Christianity.” (The Christian Faith, trans. by James
Clark (Focus Christian Ministries Trust, 1992), 40-1. Published first at
Geneva in 1558 as the Confession de foi du chretien.)
This is where many depart from the orthodox teachings of Christianity and and up in legalism or antinomianism (living without regard to law). In our monthly mens Bible study we examined this topic in our February meeting. I chose this topic because it is fundamental to getting our Christian faith right. Paul deals with the topic in Romans very extensively and also in Galatians where it is the main focus of the entire letter. In Acts 15 it is an issue that brings first great confusion and dissension and then great clarity and freedom to Believers. And so we examined all of this and more in our study.
I pray that you find it helpful and I encourage you to click on the link below and listen to the audio of the lesson!