Brakel on Law and Gospel

Thanks to Shane for this!

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  1. We need to be careful so that we emphasize what Scripture states as the continuing danger of the Law to Christians, including the moral law, the 10 commandments. What specifically concerns me is the following statement. The purpose of the Law is “given to the church as a rule of life and as the standard of holiness.”

    I think that foregoing statement, at least standing by itself without the emphasis of the continuing danger of the Law to Christians, is misleading and dangerous. The rule of life is not the Law, rather, the rule of life is Christ. The standard of holiness is not the Law; rather, the standard of holiness is Christ. Regarding the purpose of the Law, Scripture states: “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” Galatians 3:24-25.

    Here is what the Heidelberg Catechism states:
    “115. Why then does God so strictly enjoin the Ten Commandments upon us, since in this life no one can keep them?

    First, that as long as we live we may learn more and more to know our sinful nature, [1] and so the more earnestly seek forgiveness of sins and righteousness in Christ; [2] second, that without ceasing we diligently ask God for the grace of the Holy Spirit, that we be renewed more and more after the image of God, until we attain the goal of perfection after this life.”

    Does this Heidelberg Catechism sound more like the Law is “given to the church as a rule of life and as the standard of holiness”? Or, does this this Heidelberg Catechism sound more like “the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith”?

    Galatians is full of warnings as to the danger of the Law to Christians.

    From the pledge of allegiance of Galatians 2:19-21: “For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. “I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.”

    Through the quest of perfection of Galatians 3:3-5: “Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain–if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”

    Through the warnings and curses of Galatians 3:10-13: “For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.” Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, “THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.” However, the Law is not of faith; on the contrary, “HE WHO PRACTICES THEM SHALL LIVE BY THEM.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us–for it is written, “CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE”–”

    Through the study of historical supremacy of the promise over the Law as written in Galatians 3:17: “What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.”

    Through the inadequacy of the Law of Galatians 3:21: “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.”

    Through the analogy of the Law as our temporary tutor and the fact of our “graduation” to Christ of Galatians 3:24-25: “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.”

    Through the allegory of the bondage of the Law versus the freedom through the promise written in Galatians 4:21: “Tell me, you who want to be under law, do you not listen to the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the bondwoman and one by the free woman. But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. This is allegorically speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother.”

    Through the ultimate warning of being severed from Christ written in Galatians 5:4: “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.”

    Through the preemption by the Spirit of Galatians 5:18: “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.”

    Finally, to the fruit of the Spirit of Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

    In conclusion, even in my devotion today as I read through Scripture in its order, the devotion contained: ” … for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” 2 Corinthians 3:6.

  2. Bill,

    Aren’t you forgetting to distinguish between the pedagogical and normative uses of the law?

    Don’t forget that the catechism has a third part largely devoted to the law as the standard of holiness for the Christian!

    I think Brakel is on firm ground here.

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