The Synopsis Of Purer Theology On The Law And The Gospel

While it is from the Law (about which we disputed above) that we come to know the contagion and defect of our spiritual illness, that is, of sin, it is from the Gospel that we learn the remedy for it.

…In the sacred writings the most prominent meaning of the word “Gospel” is the very blessed and highly welcome message about the salvific coming of our Redeemer Jesus Christ. They sometimes use the word in the general sense, and other times with special meaning.

When taken in a specific way, limited to presenting Christ, it means firstly the account of Christ manifested in the flesh, as in Mark 12.

Secondly, the word is used for the joyful teaching and preaching of the reconciliation of sinful people with God through the free remission of sins obtained for them by the expiatory death of Christ. It is offered to one and all without restriction; it is revealed to the poor in spirit and to then little children, and actually applied individually to those who believe, for their salvation and the revelation of God’s mercy and accompanying justice , for his eternal praise (1 Corinthians 9:14, 15 etc).

…The proper substance of the Gospel is Christ ‘in the flesh,’ or the incarnate Christ. For the Gospel is entirely occupied with telling about his redeeming work, his satisfaction for our sins, and his other benefits.

…The destruction of unbelievers, however, is not a goal of the Gospel; that is an unconnected outcome from elsewhere, from their sins. For in the Gospel God declares that he takes no delight in the destruction of any sinner, but he delights in transferring everyone to salvation through repentance and faith from the power of darkness into the kingdom of his beloved Son, Jesus Christ.

…And furthermore, the Gospel sometimes receives the distinguishing title of Law, because it also contains its own commands, promises, and warnings.

There are two commands in the Gospel; one is the command of repentance, the other of faith in Jesus Christ; Mark 1:15: “Repent and believe the Gospel.”

To the former belong the New Testament appeals, both legal and evangelical. To the latter demand the evangelical appeals are applied above all.

But those that are found in Matthew 5, John 13, and elsewhere, are not new commandments of the Gospel in the proper sense of the word Gospel, as if added to the presents of the moral law and more precise than these. Rather they are the same commandments which Moses had deli red to God’s people, and which Christ repeated and cleansed of the Pharisees’ corrupting influences, and which were restored to their former splendor by authentic interpretation.

Therefore the Scholastics and the Jesuits go astray when they claim that christ gave a new law, and that his commandment s are by far more perfect, surpassing, and severe than those of Moses…..

…To be sure, the things that are commanded in the Gospel and the Law are in agreement as they prescribe for us the same rule of life, namely, that we live soberly, as befits us, in pious devotion towards God and justly towards our neighbor (Titus 2:12). Nevertheless, they differ from each other in this, that the Law stirs up the man guilty of sin to despise it, but the Gospel with its encouragements to faith and repentance, leads the same man to Christ his Redeemer.

The promises of the Gospel are especially about these two things: 1) the justification in the presence of God through faith; 2) the inheritance of eternal life (Romans 1:17; 1 John 2:25).

Although the Law holds forth the promise of eternal life to those who obey God no less than the Gospel does (Matthew 19:16), the latter differs from the former in that while the Law promises eternal life to each and every man on the condition of one’s own perfect righteousness, the Gospel does so on the condition of an alien righteousness, namely of Christ, and applied through faith.

The threats of the Gospel concern the condemnation of unbelievers who do not obey Christ in the presence of God, and the punishment of eternal death (John 3:18, 36; Hebrews 2:2, 3).

The foremost use of the Gospel is to show that Christ is the goal of the Law unto the righteousness of everyone who believes (Romans 10:4). The other uses of the law can be learned from the goals and effects that we have pointed out above.

Johannes Polyander, Presiding and Petrus Jacobi Doornick, responding “On The Gospel” (Disputation 22) in Synopsis of a Purer Theology, ed. Dolf te Veld, trans. Reimer Faber (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 557, 559, 563, 565, 567, 573


    Post authored by:

  • R. Scott Clark
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    R.Scott Clark is the President of the Heidelberg Reformation Association, the author and editor of, and contributor to several books and the author of many articles. He has taught church history and historical theology since 1997 at Westminster Seminary California. He has also taught at Wheaton College, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Concordia University. He has hosted the Heidelblog since 2007.

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