Personally, it took me a while to understand Law and Gospel, but once I got, I got it. Using some descriptive examples, Law and Gospel can be distinguished like this.
The Law: demands everything but gives nothing.
The Gospel: demands nothing but gives everything.
The Law: shows us what godliness looks like but it cannot transform the sinner
The Gospel: is alone the power of God to salvation and transforms the sinner.
The Law: accuses and exposes our sins.
The Gospel: acquits and exonerates us of our sins.
The Law: diagnoses sinners.
The Gospel: delivers sinners.
The Law: is for those who think they’re good.
The Gospel: is for those who know they are sinners.
Understanding the difference helps to set the good news apart and allows God the work through the message of the good news. But it requires revealing the law first (which some churches either ignore or over-emphasize). I don’t know about your own church but I’ve heard some people confusing the Law by treating as if it were like the Gospel (or as if it had the power to transform a sinner from committing their wrong which the law cannot do). The law can only show us what godliness is and that we fall short of righteousness. But some people put so much faith in the law because they believe it has the power to scare people from committing wrongs and doing what’s right. Truth is that the law is incapable of doing this. Only the gospel can do this.
Maybe we should get back to the basics of teaching/preaching Law and Gospel, which has the power to transform sinners into believers. This is the authentic evangelical message of Luther, Calvin, Wesley, and Billy Graham. Law and Gospel is why great ol’ preachers of yester-years were so effective.
Have you ever treated the Law like it were the Gospel or vice versa (i.e., what I call law or gospel)? Or do you make a proper distinction between Law and Gospel?
Pastor Tullian Tchividjian (of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church) lays out these distinctions of Law and Gospel in a very simple way. This will bless and inform you. [ watch more, 40 min. ]