Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Dr. R. C. Sproul: 2010 Christless Christianity Conference

   One of the greatest reasons for the spiritual decline of the church throughout her history is the improper  understanding of "law" and "gospel."  Israel largely missed it in OT days, the Jewish leaders got it wrong in the days of Jesus' ministry, and it was the confusion of law and gospel that led Paul to write his first chronological epistle to the church in Galatia (a must read/re-read when considering our subject).  The aberrant Judaizers of Paul's day tried to add to Christ's fulfillment of the law by insisting that faith in Jesus and adherence to the Mosaic Law were both necessary for justification.  Paul's scathing rebuke of both the Judaizers and their followers was necessary in his day because a confusion of law and gospel calls into question the sufficiency and efficacy of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection (obviously no small matter . . . see Gal. 1:6-10)!  Church history proves over and over again the distinctions of law and gospel are easily missed.  Consider the words of Charles Spurgeon as he watched the church in his day give way to moralism in the 1887 "Down-grade controversy":
There is no point on which men make greater mistakes than on the relation which exists between the law and the gospel.  Some men put the law instead of the gospel; others put gospel instead of the law.  A certain class maintains that the law and the gospel are mixed . . . these men understand not the truth and are false teachers (Charles Spurgeon, New Park Street Pulpit, vol. 1.  Pilgrim Publications, 1975. p. 285.).
Michael Horton sees the distinction of law and gospel partially as follows:
Any form of doing the gospel is a confusion of categories.  The law tells us what to do; the gospel tells us what God has done for us in Christ.  When it comes to the question about how we relate to God, doing is the wrong answer.  Paul explains, "Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.  And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness" (Rom. 4:4-5).  It is not just some deeds on our part that are excluded here, but our works of any kind . . . "but if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works; otherwise grace would no longer be grace" (Rom. 11:6).  (Michael Horton, Christless Christianity: The Alternative Gospel of the American Church. BakerBooks, 2008. p. 124).  Underline mine.
    This is an immense subject indeed, but a basic understanding of law and gospel is necessary to understand how all men are related to God.  We are either standing on the hope of some form of conformity to law and rightly condemned.  Or the law has killed us and we are justified through faith in the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Christ fulfilled the law in his sinless life and paid the penalty of our sin debt with his precious blood on the Cross.  Christ was then raised for our justification.  Whose righteousness are you clothed in?  Does your church preach good advice as the means to relate to God or does she herald the good news that Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law on our behalf?

   Since the fall of Adam in Genesis 3, there is only one Man, whom Paul calls the 2nd or last Adam, who has fulfilled the law to the "jot and tittle" (Matt. 5:17).  The imperatives of the law and our corresponding sins are meant to drive us to Calvary where "Christ became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21).  What love, what grace, what a Savior!!  Can you see law and gospel in the lyrics of Amazing Grace?
'Twas grace that taught my heart to fear,
And grace my fears reliev'd; 
How precious did that grace appear, 
The hour I first believ'd!  
     There will be much more on this subject as we go.  For now, let's get direction from the Word as R. C. teaches the account of the "Rich Young Ruler" and Jesus from Mark 10:17-22.

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