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Jesus accused the Pharisees of laying heavy loads on people's shoulders (Matthew 23:4). We are often guilty of doing the same thing to ourselves and to others. We tend to read the Bible and only see God's Law instead of His two-fold message of Law and Gospel. This misreading is a serious and even potentially fatal, spiritual misunderstanding that can lead someone to despair and hell. The Good News is that Jesus and the apostles show us how to read and understand God's Word by pointing out God's two ways of working with people: with His Word of demands, and also with the Good News of His saving Gospel.
1. Read Jesus' remarks to the Pharisees in Mark 7:10 - 13 and to the Sadducees in Mark 12:24. Is misunderstanding Scripture a new problem?
2. According to Jesus' words in Luke 24:25 - 27 and John 5:39 - 40, why do people misunderstand and misapply Scripture?
3. Before ascending into heaven, Jesus explained to His disciples how they should understand Scripture and apply it in daily life. Read Luke 24:45 - 47. According to verse 47, what two things should be proclaimed from the Scripture in Jesus' name?
The Law Demands a Perfect Life
4. Read Romans 3:20; 7:7; and 2 Timothy 2:25. What does God use to bring us to repentance?
5. What is the Law, according to Matthew 22:37 - 40? What does the Law teach, according to Romans 2:18?
6. Now read James 2:10. Does God simply ask us to do our best in keeping the Law or does He require more?
7. Based on Romans 1:18 - 20 and 2:14 - 15, how has God made His Law known?
8. If all people know about God's Law, then why don't people follow God's Law? See Genesis 6:5.
9. Can the Law make us righteous and save us from our sins? See Romans 3:20.
10. If the Law cannot save us, how does it help us? Read Galatians 3:22 - 24.
The Gospel Gives Life
11. If the Law condemns us for our sins, how does God grant us forgiveness of sins and salvation? Read Acts 2:38 and 13:32 - 33, 38 - 39.
12. Read Romans 1:16. What is this message of salvation called?
13. How do we receive the blessings of the Gospel according to Romans 10:8 - 10, 14 - 15 and Titus 3:4 - 7?
14. If the message of salvation came through Jesus Christ, how did God save people from their sins before Christ was born (such as the people of the Old Testament)? Read Hebrews 11:1 - 2.
Distinguishing Law and Gospel
15. Sometimes people speak of the first five books of the Old Testament (Genesis through Deuteronomy) as the "Law of Moses" and the first four books of the New Testament (Matthew through John) as the "gospels." Do the books called the "Law of Moses" proclaim only the Law and the books called the "gospels" proclaim only the Gospel? To find out, read Deuteronomy 4:31 from the "Law of Moses" and Matthew 3:7 - 8 in the "Gospel according to St. Matthew."
16. Read Psalm 119:142; Romans 2:20; 7:12; Galatians 1:11 - 12; Ephesians 1:13; and 1 Peter 1:25. How are the Law and the Gospel alike?
17. Now read Romans 1:16; 3:19; 5:20; 7:5; 8:3; and Colossians 1:13 - 14. How are Law and Gospel different?
18. Read Deuteronomy 28:58 - 59; Romans 2:14 - 15; 3:20; 7:7. How does God use the Law in people's lives?
19. According to Isaiah 12:1 - 6; 2 Corinthians 1:3 - 4; and 2 Timothy 1:10, how does God use the Gospel in people's lives?
20. Read Romans 5:1; 8:1; and 1 John 5:11 - 13. How does understanding this difference between Law and Gospel personally affect a person's life?
Law and Gospel in the Christian Life
21. Read Matthew 12:1 - 13; Galatians 3:23 - 24; Colossians 2:16 - 17; and Hebrews 10:1. Do all the laws of the Old Testament still apply to Christians?
22. Now read 1 John 1:8 - 10 and Revelation 3:19. Can a Christian ever outgrow the Law as summarized in the Ten Commandments?
23. Based on Romans 6:14 and 7:6, does a person see the Law differently once he believes the Gospel of forgiveness?
24. Read Matthew 18:15 - 18; Galatians 6:1; and James 5:19 - 20. Should a Christian use Law and Gospel in dealing with other people?
25. How does our heavenly Father's example of working through Law and Gospel provide practical help for parents in dealing with their children? Read Hebrews 12:5 - 13.
When you read the Bible, take note of how God works with people, how He calls them to repentance through the Law, and how He grants them forgiveness through the Gospel. God will work in your life in these same two ways, which have been His ways with man from the beginning!
Understanding the difference between Law and Gospel will change your life both now and eternally. The Law will help you to see clearly God's purpose for your life. And when you fail to follow God's Law, the Gospel will assure you of God's forgiveness. It will strengthen you to live the new life in Christ, free from all condemnation.
Law and Gospel will also provide practical help for working with other people. By understanding how God works with you through Law and Gospel, you will be strengthened to work with others in these same two ways: leading them to repentance through the Law and encouraging them through the Gospel. Parents will find this especially helpful in working with their children.
In view of these benefits, diligently read God's Word each day. Pray with anticipation, "Make me know Your ways, O Lord" (Psalm 25:4). Your loving heavenly Father will not fail to bless you and keep you. Through Law and Gospel, He will give you peace.
1. No. People have misunderstood and misapplied God's Word from the beginning. This confusion started in the Garden of Eden when the devil tempted Adam and Eve to disobey God's command and to doubt His promises (Genesis 3:1 - 7).
2. Like the disciples that Jesus spoke to in Luke 24, we are "foolish and slow of heart" until we learn whom the Scripture is about: Jesus. For those who reject Jesus as the Savior, the Scripture will always be a closed book (2 Corinthians 3:14 - 15). They will never understand God's message of salvation.
3. "Repentance" and "forgiveness of sins" should be proclaimed in Jesus' name (Acts 2:37 - 39). Jesus Himself preached this way, saying, "Repent and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:14 - 15).
4. Out of loving kindness, God uses the rebuke of the Law to show us our sin (Romans 2:4) and to drive us to repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8 - 10).
5. The Law is God's holy will and purpose for our lives. In the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1 - 17) and other commandments of the Bible (Romans 13:10; Galatians 5:14), the Law teaches that we must love God and our neighbor.
6. The Law requires our perfect obedience (Matthew 5:48). But because of sin, we do not obey God's Law as we should (1 John 3:4). Breaking a commandment of the Law is like throwing a rock through a window. Although the rock only hits one part of the glass, the whole window shatters. That is what happens when you break one commandment of the Law - the whole Law shatters and you "become guilty of all."
7. When God first created mankind, He wrote His Law into man's heart. This Law has been passed on from generation to generation; therefore, all people have received knowledge of God's Law.
8. When Adam and Eve fell into sin, their sin corrupted the truth of the Law that God had written in their hearts. Even when they wanted to do the right thing, their corrupt desires led them back to sin (Romans 7:14 - 15), the condition of all people. Since God wanted to make His will for mankind clear again, He revealed the Law through Moses (John 1:17).
9. Never! The Law only has power to point out and condemn sin (Hebrews 7:18 - 19); it cannot remove sin. It cannot "fix" man's corrupt desires (Romans 7:19 - 24).
10. God gave the Law so that we might see our desperately sinful condition and our need for salvation. But He did not leave us with this fearful knowledge alone. God also has proclaimed the comforting promise of the Gospel (Galatians 3:23 - 24).
11. God grants us forgiveness of sins and salvation through Baptism and the message about His Son, Jesus Christ (Acts 5:31; Ephesians 1:7; 4:32; Colossians 1:14; 3:13).
12. It is called the "Gospel," which literally means "Good News." The Gospel is the message that through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, God has won forgiveness and eternal salvation for us (1 Corinthians 15:1 - 4; 2 Timothy 1:10).
13. Through Baptism ("the washing of regeneration") and the message of the Gospel, the Holy Spirit brings us to faith so that we receive all that God promises through His Son, Jesus Christ (Romans 10:17; Ephesians 1:13).
14. Believers before Christ trusted in the promise that the Savior would come. St. Paul explains that God "preached the Gospel beforehand" in the Old Testament (Galatians 3:8) and called Abraham and others to faith in Christ. When the Old Testament gives promises of God's mercy and a coming Deliverer, this promise is also the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Genesis 3:15; Deuteronomy 18:18 - 19; Isaiah 9:6 - 7; 11:1 - 5; 53:5 - 11; 59:20; Micah 5:2 - 5a).
15. As these examples show, the Gospel's comforting message can be found in the books called the "Law of Moses" and the Law's rebuke can be found in the books called the "gospels." Both Law and Gospel are found throughout Scripture as the two ways God works with man. When "Law" or "Gospel" is used to describe certain books of the Bible, these words are used in a broader sense to describe God's Word in general. However, "Law" usually means God's commands and "Gospel" usually means the Good News of salvation through Jesus.
16. Both Law and Gospel are God's Word and truth.
17. Law and Gospel differ in a number of ways, but chiefly 1) the Law proclaims that God condemns us for our sin and 2) the Gospel proclaims that God forgives our sin and saves us.
18. Though God put the Law in people's hearts to keep order in society, the most important use of the Law is to reveal and condemn our sin - to drive us to repentance, preparing us for the Gospel. He "wounds" us through the Law so that He might "heal' us through the Gospel (Deuteronomy 32:39).
19. God uses the Gospel to comfort those who sorrow over their sins, to assure them of His mercy through Jesus, and to grant them eternal life (Jeremiah 30:14 - 15, 17).
20. When you understand that God condemns your sins, God drives you to repentance through the Law. But then, because God promises forgiveness through Christ, the Gospel will assure you of salvation and fill you with peace, hope, and faith (Romans 16:25; Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 3:2). A person who lacks this clear understanding of Law and Gospel will always doubt whether God has forgiven him. But when God works in your life through Law and Gospel, He leads you to genuine peace! (Romans 5:1).
21. No. God gave the Law in the Old Testament to prepare for the coming of Christ. The Old Testament's ceremonies and civil laws (Sabbaths, sacrifices, circumcision, food restrictions, etc.) were given specifically to help the people of Israel, to distinguish them from the complete lawlessness of the other nations. But the heart of the Law - love for God and mankind as described in the Ten Commandments - has always applied to all people.
22. Not in this life. As long as you sin, you will need the instruction and rebuke of the Law (Psalm 94: 12; Romans 7:14 - 15, 24). Notice that the message of repentance is addressed to Christians in Revelation 3. Only when Christ takes you to the perfection of heaven will you no longer need the Law's reproof (Revelation 21:3 - 5).
23. Yes. Those who are not in Christ are constantly under the Law's threats and condemnation (Romans 3: 10 - 20). That is why so many religions and philosophies are nothing but rules and fear - they do not know the Gospel. While the Law still instructs a Christian and daily leads him to repentance, the apostle Paul teaches that a Christian is not dominated by the Law (Romans 10:4). Rather, a Christian lives by the Gospel, empowered and guided by the Holy Spirit through Baptism and the Word of God (Romans 6:4; 8:1 - 4; Galatians 3:23 - 27; 5:18 - 24; 2 Timothy 1:10). In other words, a Christian should not keep the Law to earn God's favor. Instead, a Christian should keep the Law to give thanks to God for the new life in Christ.
24. Yes! Christians should deal with one another on the basis of Law and Gospel, repentance and forgiveness (Luke 17:3 - 4; 2 Corinthians 7:8 - 10; 2 Thessalonians 3: 14 - 15). While it may be difficult to talk with someone about his sins or to confess your own sins, repentance and forgiveness is the only way to keep lasting peace among God's people.
25. God's two ways of working with people through Law and Gospel help us understand how to deal with our children. Just as God disciplines and chastises us by showing us where we have gone wrong, faithful parents show their children where they have gone wrong and lead the children to sorrow for their errors (Ephesians 6:1 - 4). However, just as God grants us comfort and peace after leading us to repentance, faithful parents will comfort their repentant children and assure them of love and forgiveness (Parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke 15:11 - 32; Colossians 3:20 - 21).
Excerpted from Good News magazine. You can receive Good News by calling 1-800-778-1132.
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