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Luther on the Difference between Law and Gospel

January 20, 2011

This is from Luther’s Sermon on the Distinction between Law and Gospel, as quoted in Law & Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible by C.F.W. Walther, pg. 23-24:

The difference, then, between Law and Gospel is this: The Law makes demands of things that we are to do; it insists on works that we are to perform in the service of God and our fellow human beings.  In the Gospel, however, we are summoned to a distribution of rich alms that we are to receive and take: the loving-kindness of God and eternal salvation.

Here is an easy way of illustrating the difference between the two: In offering us help and salvation as a gift and donation of God, the Gospel bids us to hold the sack open and have something given to us.  The Law, however, gives nothing.  It only takes and demands things from us.

Now, these two, giving and taking, are surely far apart.  For when something is given to me, I am not contributing anything toward that.  I only receive and take; I have something given to me.  Again, when in my profession I carry out commands, likewise when I advise and assist my fellow man, I receive nothing but give to another whom I am serving.  Thus Law and Gospel are distinguished as to their formal statements: the one promises; the other commands.  The Gospel gives and bids us to take; the Law demands and says, “This you are to do.”

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From → Theology

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