The Intersection of Law and Gospel

Condemnation came to all men (Jn 3:18; Rom 3:16), through one act by one man, Adam (Rom 5:12), the federal head of all humanity. Therefore, the Law of God was not given to us to condemn us. Sin was present from Adam to Moses, and death came to all because of sin (Rom 3:23; 5:12).

Just as sin entered into the world of men through Adam, so the Law entered in by the side of sin. The Law served as a spur to sin, and thus, sins did and do abound (Rom 5:20).

Many have believed that the Law was given by God, as a requirement for salvation. They have always suggested that the requirement means that man has an ability to keep the Law. When it becomes apparent that no one is keeping the full standard of the Law, speculations abound that God must judge men on a curve. Stated another way, God must see one’s earnest attempt to keep the Law, and surely, He must accept everyone’s best effort at obedience. This is not true.

The Law actually serves to give us the knowledge of sin (Gal 3:20). Before the Law was given, men sinned, but they did not have a definition of sin. Moses was given a Law code for morality, civility, and ceremonial worship. The Law was written down and could be referenced by all, through all generations.

As the Law exposed sin for what it is, its breadth and depth was immense. Sin was far more tragic than men realized, until its exposure by the Law. Sin was a driving force in their very nature (Eph 2:3). Sin was ruling over them (Rom 5:21). It was deceiving them, even as the serpent had deceived Eve (Gen 3).

Stop for a moment and consider the volume of public discourse on sin, today. It is minuscule. Even in churches, the main thrust of the message is not, “You have a serious sin problem, and we have the solution.” When sinners are incessantly told they are loved just as they are, and God just wants to be their friend, then conviction of sin and calls for repentance are improbable.

We must hear the Law for conviction of sin to be a possibility. Jesus told the Jews, “It is Moses who accuses you (Jn 5:45).” What does the Law of Moses charge us with? We have grossly offended a holy God. This offense can be blatant displays of rebellion, or more subtle, insidious machinations of a prideful heart (1 Jn 3:4).

There is nothing more prideful than thinking oneself to be good, when God has sent his only begotten Son into the world to die on a cruel cross (Jn 3:16; Heb 12:2). His purpose was to shed His precious blood (Heb 9:22; 1 Pet 1:19) so sins might be paid for and one’s debt of sin forgiven (Col 2:14). Thus, it is heinous for anyone to claim for himself a higher moral position. The Law not only exposes sin, it exposes all men as evil sinners (Gen 6:5; Rom 3:23). It is most humbling to see one’s need for the blood of Christ.

When preachers resort to psychology or entertainment to make sinners feel good about themselves and their human potential, they serve Satan. When preachers tell the people the Law, they reveal the holiness of God and the sinfulness of sin in man.

The benefit of Law preaching is the early confrontation between God and every man who hears of his criminality and enmity against God (Rom 8:7). One might even say it is God’s grace that He reveals His Law, to tell you how awful you are in reality. Of course, it takes grace for one to actually believe God’s report. The danger looms when the legalist does not include the Gospel, however. Remember, preaching Law without Gospel will only harden peoples’ hearts against God. Like a hard taskmaster or rigid school master, the Law will be despised and spurned when preached in isolation from the Gospel.

What needs to be explained is what God has done to maintain the Law and secure righteousness without our perfect compliance. Jesus Christ perfectly complied and fulfilled every obligation of the Law’s requirement for righteousness (Mt 5:17; Rom 10:4). Jesus’ accomplishment will mean nothing to the criminal lawbreaker. In fact, he will only envy Jesus’ success, when he realizes his own failure. This will incite hatred for Jesus (Jn 7:7; 15:18–25), and the desire to kill His impeccable reputation.

Only when Jesus is presented as one’s advocate before the bar of God, His Father, can the heart melt into gratitude (1 Jn 2:1). Everything Jesus does for His people is self-less. He suffers and sacrifices for them (2 Cor 5:21), and even represents them on the day of judgment, which is called, “Good Friday.” He gives good gifts to His beloved bride, whom He loves (Eph 4:8; 5:25).

Once the preacher’s exposition of the Law has reached its apex, and the sinner has been brought to conviction (Jn 16:8), by knowing the love and work of Christ on her behalf (Rom 5:8), then the tandem labors of Law and Gospel have served the purpose of God. This purpose is to show all men everywhere that Jesus Christ is the only Savior of sinners (Titus 1:3; 2:13; 3:6). The Law is just, holy, and good; but only Jesus saves (Mt 1:21; Lk 19:10).

It is a disservice, if not a deception, for men in pulpits to ignore the demands of the whole Law of God. It is also a disservice and deception for the man in the pulpit to preach the Law apart from the message of grace.

Our God is righteous, and He is also gracious. He puts demands upon sinful rebels, who are obligated, yet unable to meet His demands, even if they wanted to. When the grace of God is preached, then the Law is understood aright. The redeemed will speak of their total depravity, God’s holiness, and His amazing grace toward them.

God Himself has met the demands of the Law of righteousness. He tells men that He is pleased with the person and work of His only begotten Son. He informs them that He has chosen, by His own free will, to have mercy upon whom He wills (Rom 9:15–16). His mercy is to apply the benefit of Christ’s perfect work to the objects of His mercy (Rom 9:23), His holy nation (1 Pet 2:9), by giving them the gift of His Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38; 10:45; Rom 5:5; 2 Cor 5:5).

This is the Law of God and the salvation of God, put into harmony for the elect, redeemed of God. These know the love of God because He has revealed to them all that He has done for their salvation, and they, of course, believe Him.

David Norczyk

Spokane Valley, Washington

June 6, 2022

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David Norczyk

Some random theologian out West somewhere, Christian writer, preacher