Soteriology

Law and Gospel: Seeing the Narrow Contrast

We’ve looked at the law and gospel in terms of “the big picture” and determined that they are interrelated and inseparable concepts (see Part 1). But is it ever appropriate to distinguish law from gospel? In other words, do the biblical writers ever contrast law with gospel? The answer is “Yes.” In fact, such a contrast is vital. In this second part of our study, we’ll consider the important distinction between law and gospel when these terms and concepts are used and defined in a more restrictive sense.

Law and Gospel: The Narrow Contrast

Let’s return to Dr. Horton’s definition I cited in the first part of our study: “Everything in the Bible that reveals God’s moral expectations is law and everything in the Bible that reveals God’s saving purposes and acts is gospel.”1 Horton’s distinction is not novel. Martin Luther made this distinction during the Protestant Reformation:

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“The idea of faith in Free Grace theology emphasizes facts and information (the intellect) and de-emphasizes the decision and trust aspects of faith (assent, will and trust).”

"...free grace theology eliminates the call to repentance over sin. It wrongly teaches that salvation by faith alone means that repentance is not part of the saving response to the gospel. Yet the Scriptures are clear that true saving faith is repentant faith." - Matt Postiff

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Jesus Didn’t Die on the Cross for Our Sins?

According to one writer at Beliefnet, Jesus didn’t die on the Cross for our Sins. She further added under the title of her articles that, “The idea Jesus ‘paid the price’ isn’t found in the Bible.”

The Beliefnet piece came across my path on a twitter feed. But it isn’t the first time I’ve seen this sentiment expressed in this way. The idea has been espoused by a number of Christians who often are self-proclaimed progressives. The author takes issue with the doctrine of Penal Substitutionary Atonement. She claims that,

This theology was not part of Christian doctrine for the first 1,600 years after Jesus was crucified. The idea was originated and developed by human beings who were having trouble understanding what the Bible teaches about how Jesus Christ saved humanity. They worked with what they could to better understand Jesus’ teachings, but missed the mark. This lead [sic] to a creation of a belief that wasn’t really based on the Bible.

She says that Christians typically – when asked – will say that Christ died on the cross to “pay for our sins.” The quotation marks reflect her disagreement with this. Her assertion is that the teaching has become widely taught and deep-rooted; stated as fact, but not found in the Bible.

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Sanctification: Different From Justification

"The saint is justified the moment they trust in Christ; God works immediately and fully. The saint progresses in sanctification through a lifetime of walking as the Lord continues to work. But all of it from start to finish is a work of God grounded in Christ and carried out through the Holy Spirit." - Tim Bertolet

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