Have you ever wondered why the Christian life can be joyless, ineffective and lacking in meaning? It might be that Law and Gospel is missing from the pulpit. When Law passes for Gospel, and Gospel passes for Law, it begins to sound more like “Law or Gospel” rather than “Law and Gospel”. As a result, you get a wishy-washy kind of preaching that even infrequent church goers might be able to unconsciously or subtly pick up. They will exit church the same way they walked in–unchanged, and so they don’t come back.
I love what Michael Horton (a Reformed evangelical theologian whom I respect) speaks about the state of “Law and Gospel” in today’s preaching.
Luther made this hermeneutic central, but both traditions of the Protestant Reformation jointly affirm this key distinction. In much of medieval preaching, the Law and Gospel were so confused that the “Good News” seemed to be that Jesus was a “kinder, gentler Moses,” who softened the Law into easier exhortations, such as loving God and neighbor from the heart. The Reformers saw Rome as teaching that the Gospel was simply an easier “law” than that of the Old Testament; that instead of following a lot of rules, God expects only love and heartfelt surrender. …Full article here (from The Resurgence)
Most Christians haven’t heard of “Law and Gospel” as much as “law” and “gospel”. These are two different things. Christians who want to learn how to live out their Christian lives in the joy of the Lord need to hear the Word properly distinguished in the preaching of Law and Gospel. If Christians want to be theologically grounded, a steady diet of “Law and Gospel” is an important part of one’s spiritual diet. It is food for the soul; it can be transformational and bring joy into one’s walk in the Christian faith.
In my personal discovery of how “Law and Gospel” connects with the preaching of the Word, I have had to redefine my understanding of Law and Gospel and how it is practiced. What I learned in seminary didn’t align with much of the preaching I heard–even in some Lutheran churches. This profound the0logy has, some how, gone missing in many churches today.
Note: For pastors, this may be a good book to pick up from a solid Lutheran perspective: Law and Gospel: How to Read and Apply the Bible by C. F. W. Walther, Concordia Publishing House, 2010. 592 pp.