Tullian Tchividjian serves as our guest blogger again today. Below is a segment from the final installment in this four-part series on Law and Gospel. In post three, he said, “The Gospel is not a recipe for self-improvement. It is that word of God that declares sins to be forgiven for the sake of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. It is all about Christ and what He has done for us.” That’s a good set up for the idea that “Jesus met all of God’s perfect conditions on our behalf so that our relationship with God could be unconditional.” In other words, Jeus fulfilled the covenant of works/the law (the conditions) so that we could now God’s unconditional favor via the covenant of grace/the promise.
As Christians, we still need to hear both the law and the gospel. We need to hear the law because we are all, even after we’re saved, prone to wander in a “I can do it” direction. The law, said Luther, is a divinely sent Hercules to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness-a monster that continues to harass the Redeemed. The law shows non-Christians and Christians the same thing: how we can’t cut it on our own and how much we both need Jesus. Sinners need constant reminders that our best is never good enough and that “there is something to be pardoned even in our best works.” We need the law to strip us of our fig leaves. We need the law to freshly reveal to us that we’re a lot worse off than we think we are and that we never outgrow our need for the cleansing blood of Christ.
Regardless of how well I think I’m doing in the sanctification project or how much progress I think I’ve made since I first became a Christian, like Paul in Romans 7, when God’s perfect law becomes the standard and not “how much I’ve improved over the years”, I realize that I’m a lot worse than I fancy myself to be. Whatever I think my greatest vice is, God’s law shows me that my situation is much graver: if I think it’s anger, the law shows me that it’s actually murder; if I think it’s lust, the law shows me that it’s actually adultery; if I think it’s impatience, the law shows me that it’s actually idolatry (read Matthew 5:17-48). No matter how decent I think I’m becoming, when I’m graciously confronted by God’s law, I can’t help but cry out, “Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death” (Romans 7:24). The law alone shows us how desperate we are for outside help. In other words, we need the law to remind us everyday just how much we need the gospel everyday.
And then once we are re-crushed by the law, we need to be reminded that “Jesus paid it all.” Even in the life of the Christian, the law continues to drive us back to Christ-to that man’s cross, to that man’s blood, to that man’s righteousness. The gospel announces to failing, forgetful people that Jesus came to do for sinners what sinners could never do for themselves. The law demands that we do it all; the gospel declares that Jesus [did] it all… The gospel declares that Jesus came, not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it–that Jesus met all of God’s perfect conditions on our behalf so that our relationship with God could be unconditional.
Thanks, Tullian. As you state in your final post, there is MUCH more that could be (and needs to be) said, especially with regard to how this law and gospel distinction relates not only to justification, but also to sanctification. But this is a good start.