Luther On The Role Of The Law In Salvation

It follows, therefore, that the Law with its function does contribute to justification—not because it justifies, but because it impels one to the promise of grace and makes it sweet and desirable. Therefore we do not abolish the Law; but we show its true function and use, namely, that it is a most useful servant impelling us to Christ. After the Law has humbled, terrified, and completely crushed you, so that you are on the brink of despair, then see to it that you know how to use the Law correctly; for its function and use is not only to disclose the sin and wrath of God but also to drive us to Christ. None but the Holy Spirit is intent on this use of the Law or preaches the Gospel, because nothing but the Gospel says that God is present with those who are contrite in heart (Is. 57:15). Therefore if you have been crushed by that hammer, do not use your contrition wrongly by burdening yourself with even more laws. Listen to Christ when He says (Matt. 11:28): “Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” When the Law drives you this way, so that you despair of everything that is your own and seek help and solace from Christ, then it is being used correctly; and so, through the Gospel, it serves the cause of justification. This is the best and most perfect use of the Law.

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), 315–316.


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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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