More and More on Law and Grace
A lot seems to keep being written around the web about law and grace, the law-gospel distinction, justification and sanctification, legalism and antinomianism, and so on. It’s something that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, not only because of my personal reading (some of which I hope to finally finish on some long plane flights coming up), but also because we’ve been talking about it in Sunday School and in last week’s sermon. Here’s some snippets around the web, along with some classic quotes from the Westminster Confession that I find incredibly helpful (sometimes it feels like we’re thinking that we’ve come up with incredibly new insights, or we’re having debates that have never been had, but then this 300+ year old document shows up again).
Mike Horton’s Series on Antinomianism and Sanctification
This is a series that I have found, for the most part, to be helpful. It’s certainly worth the time to read for the background information and the clear articulation of the 1st use of the law and the 3rd use of the law in church confessions. His plea in part 3 to not serve factions or choose groups was also encouraging, as it does seem that this whole discussion has gone in that way too often.
It appears that there is more to come. I honest think it would be really helpful to have guys like Mike Horton, Tullian Tchividjian, Kevin DeYoung, Richard Phillips, Harry Reeder, and Ligon Duncan get together and video a discussion about all of this. It seems like so often they are saying similar (if not the same) things, and yet they are emphasizing different aspects. Unfortunately, then, it seems like people hear various things from some of them, seize on them as the be-all and end-all of the discussion, and then it all gets blown out of proportion.
Tullian Tchividjian’s Series on Law and Gospel
This is a new series that he started today, so there’s only one part up so far:
I will be following this one with some interest, though I wonder if there’s a bit of overstatement here in this first one:
This [the law-gospel distinction] may seem like a distinction that would fascinate only the theologian or linguist. But, believe it or not, every ounce of confusion regarding justification, sanctification, the human condition, God’s grace, how God relates to us, the nature of the Christian life, and so on, is due to our failure to properly distinguish between the law and the gospel.
Can it all be reduced to that? I’ll be interested to read the rest of the series to see how he defends that. I affirm the law-gospel distinction, but that seems like it could be an overstatement.
Ligon Duncan’s Highlights from Walter Marshall’s The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification
Some Quotes from the Confession
WCF XIII on Sanctification
I. They, who are once effectually called, and regenerated, having a new heart, and a new spirit created in them, are further sanctified, really and personally, through the virtue of Christ’s death and resurrection, by His Word and Spirit dwelling in them: the dominion of the whole body of sin is destroyed, and the several lusts thereof are more and more weakened and mortified; and they more and more quickened and strengthened in all saving graces, to the practice of true holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.
II. This sanctification is throughout, in the whole man; yet imperfect in this life, there abiding still some remnants of corruption in every part; whence arises a continual and irreconcilable war, the flesh lusting against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh.
III. In which war, although the remaining corruption, for a time, may much prevail; yet, through the continual supply of strength from the sanctifying Spirit of Christ, the regenerate part does overcome; and so, the saints grow in grace, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.
WCF XIV on Good Works
VI. Notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in Him; not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreproveable in God’s sight; but that He, looking upon them in His Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.
WCF XIX on The Law of God
VI. Although true believers be not under the law, as a covenant of works, to be thereby justified, or condemned; yet is it of great use to them, as well as to others; in that, as a rule of life informing them of the will of God, and their duty, it directs and binds them to walk accordingly; discovering also the sinful pollutions of their nature, hearts and lives; so as, examining themselves thereby, they may come to further conviction of, humiliation for, and hatred against sin, together with a clearer sight of the need they have of Christ, and the perfection of His obedience. It is likewise of use to the regenerate, to restrain their corruptions, in that it forbids sin: and the threatenings of it serve to show what even their sins deserve; and what afflictions, in this life, they may expect for them, although freed from the curse thereof threatened in the law. The promises of it, in like manner, show them God’s approbation of obedience,and what blessings they may expect upon the performance thereof: although not as due to them by the law as a covenant of works. So as, a man’s doing good, and refraining from evil, because the law encourages to the one and deters from the other, is no evidence of his being under the law: and not under grace.
VII. Neither are the forementioned uses of the law contrary to the grace of the Gospel, but do sweetly comply with it; the Spirit of Christ subduing and enabling the will of man to do that freely, and cheerfully, which the will of God, revealed in the law, requires to be done.
Perhaps if we knew the Confession (and the Scriptures of which they are a summary), we would have, if not all the answers, at least a better starting point for the discussion. Of course, that is not to say that these authors above don’t know the Confession well. I am quite certain they could run confessional circles around me. It just seems that in our discussions, we don’t always approach it with what we confess to believe in mind.