For many, the Bible is a paradox, a seemingly contradictory statement which says God loves us but we better be good or else! It is often looked upon as a book that tells us what we should do if we don't want to go to hell or what we must do to go to heaven. That's sad.
To correctly understand the message of the Bible, you must understand a fundamental Bible Basic, namely the distinction between the Law and the Gospel and the purpose of each. This distinction is unique to Lutheran Theology.
The Bible divides into two main parts: the Old Testament (39 books) and the New Testament (27 books). More importantly, the message of the Bible divides into two main teachings. The two main teachings of the Bible are: Law & Gospel. The Law makes us aware of our sin while the Gospel reveals how God has saved us through the work of Jesus Christ alone.
What is the Law?
wGod’s Law tells us what we should do or should not do. The Ten Commandments are a good
example of God’s Law. Confer Exodus 20:1-17.
wGod is love and the Law is a reflection of God’s character.
1 John 4:16 God is love.
Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?” Jesus replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind." This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ƒn All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
It’s important to note the Law demands perfect love from us to ñ God.
wThe Law demands perfect righteousness in our life, as perfect as God himself.
Leviticus 19:2 Be holy because I, the LORD your God, am holy.
Matthew 22:36-40 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Matthew 5:48 Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
It is important that we do not lower the standard of God’s law and its requirement of perfection. If God only expects the best we can do, then we are able to do it and earn our way to heaven. If God expects perfection, as He says He does, then we are in trouble and become aware of our need in sin. And that is the purpose of the Law:
What is the primary purpose of the Law?
wThe purpose of the Law is not to make us righteous people. That cannot be done. The primary
purpose of the Law is to show us our sin and our need for a Savior.
Romans 3:10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one;
Romans 3:20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in (God’s) sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.
Romans 3:23 There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
Romans 7:7 Indeed I would not have known what sin was except through the law.
wThe Law shows our sin and announces the curse that comes upon the sinner.
Galatians 3:10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
Romans 6:23 For the wages of sin is death
Ezekiel 18:20 The soul who sins is the one who will die.
Romans 5:12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned—
wThe Law shows our need in sin so we will look to God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
Romans 5:20 The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more.
Galatians 3:22 But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
Galatians 3:24 So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.
What is the Gospel?
The term “Gospel” is a contracted word from the archaic English “good spell” or “good spiel” which means “good news”. The original Greek Bible word is ÅõáíãÝëëéïí. When transferred into English letters it would read EVANGEL. When translated into English it means “Good News”. The Christmas angel used this word to announce the birth of Jesus to the shepherds.
Luke 2:10,11 “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.”
You will notice that the Gospel is always Good News about Jesus as our Savior. God’s love is packaged; it is in the person of Jesus Christ for us.
wThe Gospel tells us what God has done for us.
wGod is love and the Gospel reveals that love to us in the person of Jesus Christ.
John 3:16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Romans 5:8 God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
It’s important to note the Gospel shows love from God ò to us.
wThe Gospel reveals and conveys perfect righteousness from God to us.
Romans 3:21,22 But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.
Romans 1:17 For in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.”
Remember when we said it was important not to lower the standard of God’s law and its requirement of perfection. We constantly think we must, but the truth is that the requirement of perfection is given to you as God’s gift of love in Jesus Christ. Look at the two previous passages again and notice that “righteousness from God” is given to us through the perfection of Jesus in our place. That is the purpose of the Gospel.
What is the purpose of the Gospel?
wThe Purpose of the Gospel is to reveal and convey to you the gift of eternal life through the atoning work of Jesus Christ. (To “atone” means “to pay, to make right”).
1 John 2:2 Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.
1 John 4:10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. Notice that it is not our love to God (Law), but His love to us in Jesus (Gospel).
John 20:31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
How do Law and Gospel fit together?
For many the Bible remains a paradox, a seemingly contradictory message of both God’s despisal of our sin and His undeserved love for us. This is the message of Law and Gospel in Holy Scripture. When you look closely at the cross of Christ, you see the only place that both Law and Gospel fit together. Jesus is the focal point of all God’s Word.
When you look at the cross, do you see God’s Law with its stinging condemnation, or do you see God’s Gospel with its promise of grace and love? Answer: You see both fulfilled in the person of Jesus. You see Jesus bear your sin in His body, the curse of death and hell which was deserved by all as Jesus fulfills the Law of Love for you which is demanded by God (the Law). You see Jesus, the perfectly righteous One offer His righteousness to God for you so you have the blessings of life and heaven even though it was undeserved on your part. It is a love freely given for you – for all (Gospel).
We hope that this Bible Basic helps. The Bible is not a rule book. If viewed as such it becomes frustrating on our part to try to do what we are unable to do. It just makes us feel guilty and we don’t like that, that’s why many run away from God. The purpose of the Law is to show you your sin so that you will pay attention to the revelation of the Gospel. The Gospel shows you your Savior.
Have any questions? Contact our pastor by email at EdwardZell@comcast.net or phone (734) 971-0560. Our Pastor loves to share the message you just read and make it as clear as possible for you.