Luther On The Pedagogical Use Of The Law

But the true use of the Law is this, that I know that by the Law I am being brought to an acknowledgement of sin and am being humbled, so that I may come to Christ and be justified by faith. But faith is neither a Law nor a work; it is a sure confidence that takes hold of Christ, who “is the end of the Law” (Rom. 10:4). How? Not by abrogating the old Law and passing a new one or by being a judge who needs to be appeased by works, as the papists taught. But He “is the end of the Law, that everyone who has faith may be justified”; that is, everyone who believes in Christ is righteous, and the Law cannot accuse him. This is the true power and the true use of the Law. Therefore the Law is good, holy, useful, and necessary, so long as one uses it in a legitimate way. Its civic use is good and necessary, but its theological use is the most important and the highest. But the Law is abused, first, by hypocrites who attribute to it the power to justify, and, secondly, by men of despair who do not know that the Law is a custodian until Christ comes, that is, that the Law humbles us, not to harm us but to save us. For God wounds in order to heal; He kills in order to make alive. Emphasis added.

Martin Luther | Luther’s Works, Vol. 26: Lectures on Galatians, 1535, Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald, and Helmut T. Lehmann, vol. 26 (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999), 348.


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  • Tony Phelps
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    Tony grew up in Rhode Island. He was educated at BA (University of Rhode Island) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He worked in the insurance industry for ten years. He planted a PCA church in Wakefield, RI where he served for eleven years. In 2015–18 he pastored Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Colorado Springs. He is currently pastor of Living Hope (OPC). Tony is married to Donna and together they have three children.

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One comment

  1. That is such a great quote from Luther. To seek to by justified by obeying the Law is an abuse of the Law. The Law shows us our sin and misery in our inability to measure up to its demands. Only the Gospel, of Christ’s perfect obedience credited to us, through faith, can justify us before God. Yet throughout the history of Christianity this principle, which is called the article of the standing or falling of the church, has been and continues to be the stumbling stone for many who fail to understand it.

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