Sunday, May 5, 2013
A Scriptural Feast of Law and Gospel
There are verses in the Bible that sometimes seem to contradict each other. For example, verses that say we are saved by grace through faith alone, and then other verses which say that faith without works is dead. Of course, these are not really contradictions, though they may seem that way to us. I believe it was Normal Nagel who had some good advice about these, and why having both is helpful. He said that if you have a Christian who is in despair about his faith and Christian life, then send them to Paul and the assurance that we are saved by grace through faith alone. Jesus has done it! On the other hand, if you have a Christian who is secure in her sin, thinking that a life of faith is a life where we don’t do anything, send her to James to realize that faith is always working, living and active in good works.
I think there are other sets of verses like this. For example, we read in the Scriptures of those who once believed but have fallen away, yet also verses like in John 10 where Jesus says “no one can snatch them out of my hand.” So which is it? Well, following the above advice, for that Christian who is in despair and doubting whether they will make it to the end in faith, send them to Jesus and assure her of His promise there. On the other hand, if a Christian is secure in his faith and thinks he can sin as much as he wants, send him to those verses of warning to Christians, to beware lest we fall away in sin. Sin is dangerous.
I also think this same can be applied to the last day and the final judgment. That day, we read, all will give an account of what they have done, but it is also described as the Bridegroom coming for His Bride. So which is it? Should we be fearful of that day or look forward to it like our wedding day? Yes. For those Christians fearful because they just don’t measure up (and none of us do!), point them to the joy of the last day! Jesus is coming in great love for you! However, for those (again) who think but lightly of the life they live by faith here and now, perhaps they need to hear those words of Jesus that speak of giving an account.
All this is really nothing more than the proper application of Law and Gospel. Which often sounds easy, but as Luther knew is often very difficult. My point here is simply to point out the feast we have in the Scriptures, and that all of it is needful for us.