The Law and the Gospel by Henry Eyster Jacobs



1. How is the Word of God divided?

Into Law and Gospel, or Command and Promise.

2. Does this distinction coincide with that between the Old and the New Testaments?

No. There is Gospel in the Old Testament, as the promise concerning Christ was made from man’s fall (Gen. 3: 15), and became fuller and clearer as the time of its fulfilment approached (see Chapter X, 1, 5). There is also Law in the New Testament, of which the Sermon on the Mount is a summary (see Chapter XIII, 9-12). But in the Old Testament, Law; in the New Testament, Gospel preponderates.

3. Where is this distinction briefly stated?

John 1:17—”The law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” 2 Cor. 3:6—”Who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit; for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”

In the former passage, the grace of the Gospel is contrasted with the inflexible rigor of the Law; and the fulfilment of the promise and the presence of the substance under the Gospel, with the types and shadows of the Law.

In the second passage, the points of contrast are: (a) Between the Law, or letter, as prescribing a course of conduct and making demands, but giving no power to obey: and the Gospel as bringing the Holy Spirit with His regenerating and renewing powers, (b) Between the Law as leading to despair, when the impossibility of meeting its demands is learned; and the Gospel as encouraging and cheering with its offer of Christ’s righteousness as our own. (c) Between the Law, as except through Christ nothing but a letter, and the Gospel, as being the fulfilment of the Law in us by the enkindling of love, (d) Between the Law as containing much that is typical and unintelligible until its true interpretation is found in the Gospel, and the Gospel as the goal of all that towards which the Law is directed.

4. What importance is attached to the distinction between Law and Gospel?

“This distinction between Law and Gospel is the highest art in Christianity, which all who boast or accept the Christian name, can or should know. For where there is a defect on this point, a Christian cannot be distinguished from a heathen or a Jew; for it is just here that the difference lies” (Luther).

The greatest care must be taken, “lest these two doctrines be mingled with one another, or out of the Gospel a law be made, whereby the merit of Christ is obscured and troubled consciences robbed of the comfort they would otherwise have” (Formula of Concord, 589).

5. What, then, is the main point of difference?

Everything in Holy Scripture that commands us to do or to give or to be something, or that forbids us to do or give, or be, is Law. Everything that asks us to receive something is Gospel. “By the Law, nothing else is meant than God’s Word and command, wherein He enjoins what we should do and leave undone, and demands our obedience. But the Gospel is that doctrine or Word of God that neither requires works of us, nor enjoins the doing of anything, but announces only the offered grace of the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. The Gospel offers God’s gifts and bids us only open the sack to receive them, while the Law gives nothing, but only takes and demands of us” (Luther).

Everything that reproves sin and threatens is Law; everything that encourages and comforts and offers the grace of God is Gospel (see Formula of Concord, 593).

“The Law shows sin; the Gospel, grace. The Law indicates the disease; the Gospel, the remedy. The Law, to use the words of Paul, is a minister of death; the Gospel, of life and peace” (Melanchthon).

Rom. 3:20—”Through the law cometh the knowledge of sin.’ Rom. 7:J—”I had not known sin except through the law.” Gal. 3:12—”The law is not of faith; but he that doeth them, shall live in them.”

6. Are the words “Law” and “Gospel” used in Holy Scripture in but one sense?

Each has various meanings. In its widest sense, Law includes all that God has revealed (Ps. 1:2). In a narrower sense, it refers to the Old Testament (John 10: 34), and particularly, the Pentateuch (Luke 24:44). In its strictest sense, as used here, it is God’s revelation of His will concerning man’s character and acts. So “Gospel,” in the widest sense, means all the doctrine taught by Christ and His Apostles (Mark 1: 1-14; 16: 15). Rut as contradistinguished from Law it designates the promise of grace through Christ, whether before His coming, or since He has come (Is. 41: 27; 52: 7: Rom. 10: 16; 1:2).

7. How has the Law been divided?

Into universal and particular. The former has been declared from the beginning, and pertains to all times and places. The latter was prescribed for temporary purposes to a particular nation. The former we know as the Moral Law; the latter is divided, according to its diverse purposes, into the Forensic and the Ceremonial.

8. What is the Moral Law?

God’s declaration concerning what He would have man be, do or omit to do. “Divine doctrine, wherein the true and unmistakable will of God is revealed, as to how man ought to be, in his nature, thoughts, words and works, in order to be pleasing and acceptable to God.” “Divine doctrine teaching what is right and pleasing to God, and reproving everything that is sin and contrary to God’s will” (see Chapter VIII, 2-4).

9. How has the Moral Law been distinguished?

Into Natural and Revealed. The former designates the original knowledge of God’s will impressed upon man’s nature when created, and constituting one of the features of the Image of God (Eph. 4:24; Col. 3:10). (See Chapter VII, 27, 28.) While, by the Pall, this knowledge was largely lost and greatly corrupted and perverted, some traces of it still remain. Conscience, or the power to discriminate between right and wrong belongs to some extent to all men. “Human reason naturally understands in some way the law” (Apology, 85).

Rom. 2:14, 15—”For when the Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these not having the law, are the law unto themselves, in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them.”

10. What is the office of the Natural Law?

To stimulate men to seek after God (Acts 17: 27), and when they fail to respond to convict them of sin (Rom. 1:20).

11. What shows its feebleness in man’s fallen estate?

Its merely superficial effects.  The knowledge of the extent of the inner corruption of the heart is learned only from the revealed law.

Rom. 7:7—”I have not known sin except through the law” (i. c. the revealed Moral Law); “for I had not known coveting except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” v. 8—”For apart from the law sin is dead.” The connection shows that the meaning is, that unless the Revealed Moral Law be known, the knowledge of sin is so weak that it may be accounted dead.

12. What is the Revealed Moral Law?

The declarations of God’s will repeatedly given to man since the Fall, and formally promulgated through Moses on Mt. Sinai, concerning matters of universal and permanent obligation.

13. Where is it summarized?

In general, in the Ten Commandments, and still further by Christ in Matt. 22 : 37-40:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And a second like unto it, is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments the whole law hangeth and the prophets.”

14. Where are the Ten Commandments repeated?

In Matt. 19: 18, 19; Mark 10: 19; Luke 18:20; Rom. 13:9.

15. Where is their meaning fully explained and applied?

In the Sermon on the Mount.

16. How can the perpetual obligation of particular precepts be determined, and their place in the Moral Law established?

Any precept of the Old Testament sanctioned by the express words of Christ or any of the inspired writers of the New Testament, belongs most clearly to the Moral Law.

17. Can we say that everything in the Ten Commandments as reported in Ex. 20 belongs to the Moral Law?

In the promise of the Fourth Commandment, the particular blessing was local and national. St. Paul, accordingly, shows in Eph. 6: 3, that there was a generic blessing, which lifted the promise to a higher level and gave it a vaster range. So the Third Commandment, concerning the Sabbath, contains a ceremonial element, which our Catechism, following St. Paul in Col. 2:16, traces to a generic command of universal obligation concerning the preaching and hearing of God’s Word, and of a cessation of labor for that purpose.

18. Is the Moral Law a code of co-ordinate and parallel precepts?

It is an organic whole, reducible first to two, and at last to one commandment, that of supreme love to God (Matt. 22: 37-40; Luke 10: 27).

19. What is its sphere?

It includes all the acts and states and relations of men. But it lays chief stress upon the inner life, the thoughts and intents of the heart (Matt. 5:22, 28), and summarizes all its demands in the one word “love.”

20. What obedience does the Moral Law demand?

That which is the most perfect and complete:

(a) As to the source of the acts. As above seen they must proceed from entire and completely self-surrendering and self-forgetting love, and be wrought by man’s undivided powers.

(b) As to the details of the acts. The failure of the least particular vitiates the whole. A chain is no stronger than its weakest link.

Deut. 27:26—”Cursed be he that confirmeth not the words of this law to do them.” Gal. 3:10—”Cursed is he that continueth not in all things written in the book of the law, to do them.” James 2:10—”For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet shall stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.”

(c) As to perseverance. Even if perfection were attainable for a time, it is valueless unless maintained to the end.

Ez. 18:24—”When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness. and committeth iniquity, and doeth according to all the abominations that the wicked man doeth, shall he live? None of his righteous deeds that he hath done shall be remembered; in his trespass that he hath trespassed, and in his sin that he hath sinned, in them shall he die.”

21. What is the result?

Man, because of his depraved and enfeebled nature, being unable to meet these demands, the Law which has been given for eternal life, becomes accidentally the occasion for eternal death. .

Rom. 7:10—”The commandment which was unto lite, this I found to be unto death.” v. 12—”So that the law is holy and righteous and good…. but sin, that it might be shown to be sin, by working death to me through that which is good.”

The Epistle to the Romans opens with a long argument, showing the inability both of the Gentiles by the Natural, and of the Jews by the Revealed Law to attain justification before God.

Rom. 3:20—”By the works of the law, shall no flesh be justified; for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”

22. If the Law, therefore, cannot justify, is it not useless?

“As the argument is invalid, ‘Money does not justify, therefore it is useless’; ‘the eyes do not justify, therefore they should be torn out’; ‘the hands do not justify, therefore they must be amputated’; so, too, the argument is equally fallacious that the Law is useless, because it does not justify. We should ascribe to everything its proper office and use. In denying that it justifies, we do not destroy or condemn the Law” (Luther).

Another illustration of Luther is that the Law is food which the organs of the invalid, enfeebled by sin cannot digest.

23. What, then, is the use of the haw?

It has a three-fold use:

(a) Political. By its threats of punishment, it checks the violence of godless men, and protects society against external acts of crime. It is of this use that 1 Tim. 1:9 sq. speaks:

“The law is not made tor a righteous man, but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinners, tor the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for fornicators,” etc.

(b) Elenchtical. As it convicts or convinces of sin.

Rom. 3:2o—”Through the law, cometh the knowledge ot sin.”

This it does by bringing evidence not attainable by the light of nature, and by showing that what is chiefly significant is that, beneath the act, there is such a desperate state of sin. The Law is not only the standard, by which sins are discerned, but the light which displays them in all their heinousness and enormity. It does more than instruct concerning sin; the Holy Spirit uses it as a means to condemn and terrify on account of sin.

Rom. 4:15—”For the law worketh wrath.” John 16:8—”He will convict the world of sin. and of righteousness and of judgment.”

Thus the law indirectly leads or forces men to Christ (Gal. 3:24). This indirect office has been separated from the elenchtical use by our later Lutheran theologians and called the pedagogical.

24. Before proceeding to the third or didactic use, state whether the consideration of the sufferings of Christ, as an exhibition of God’s anger against sin, does not belong to the elenchtical use of the law, rather than to the Gospel.

The consideration of the sufferings of Christ has a double effect. They reveal, as nowhere else, the guilt of sin, and they testify to the love of God for sinners. The former belongs to the elenchtical use of the law ; the latter to the Gospel. See Formula of Concord, 591:

“What more forcible declaration of God’s wrath against sin is there, than the suffering and death of Christ His Son? But as long as this all preaches God’s wrath and terrifies men, it is still properly the preaching neither of the Gospel, nor of Christ, but of Moses and the Law against the impenitent. For the Gospel and Christ were never provided in order to terrify and condemn, but in order to comfort and cheer those who are terrified and timid.”

25. What, then, is the didactic or third use?

As a guide and standard for the regenerate. “The Holy Ghost teaches the regenerate, in the Ten Commandments, in what good works ‘God hath before ordained that they should walk’ (Eph. 2: 10)” (Formula of Concord, 597).

26. But why is this necessary, when the regenerate have the Holy Spirit who constantly impels them to do God’s will?

Because of their corrupt nature which is only partially renewed, they can never trust their own impulses, but must constantly test them by God’s law. in order to determine what is of God and what is of the flesh.

27. What is necessary for fulfilling the duty of a true Christian pastor in preaching the Law?

That all of these uses of the Law be constantly urged, and that none of their requirements be abated. The hearts of men are receptive to the Gospel only to the extent that they have been enlightened by the Law.

Matt. 5:6—”Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled.”

Great danger is always imminent lest the demands of the Law be relaxed in accommodation to the weaknesses of men, and lest, in commending purely external morality and urging its demands, its insufficiency for justification, and the deeper righteousness of the heart be overlooked.

28. What were the Forensic and the Ceremonial Law?

The Forensic Law was the code of the Israelitic State;

the Ceremonial, the ritual of the Israelitic Church.

29. How were they related to the Moral Law?

They are applications of the Moral Law to the temporary circumstances and conditions of the Jewish people. The Ceremonial Law provided for a series of exercises of the First Table of the Law, by defining the rites of worship and its circumstances. The Forensic Law provided for a series of exercises of the Second Table, by prescribing rules of conduct in respect to man’s social and civil relations. In the theocracy, everything was determined by direct and minute prescription. In the educational process, whereby God was training for Himself a people, at first nothing whatever was left to human freedom or man’s enlightened conscience. The period was one which had not received the endowment of the Spirit in His fulness. (See Chapter XVI, 4.)

30. How did the Forensic and Ceremonial Laws differ from the Moral?

(a) In mode of revelation. The Moral was implanted in man’s nature, at his creation; and on Sinai was only republished, whereas the Forensic and Ceremonial were given only through Moses.

(b) In obligation. The Moral Law is universal; the Forensic and Ceremonial Laws were obligatory only as long as the Israelitic State stood, and even then only upon Jews.

(c) In duration. The Moral Law is perpetual; since it is the declaration of God’s eternal will. But, as the Epistle to the Hebrews shows in a long argument, the Forensic and Ceremonial are limited in duration.

(d) In purpose. The object of the Forensic and Ceremonial Laws was to keep Israel separate from other nations, that through it God’s purposes for the race might be prepared. The Moral Law was to direct the experience and destiny of people of all nations and times, not only within, but beyond and above the limits of Israel.

31. How do you prove the abrogation of the Forensic Law?

The destruction of the Jewish State renders its administration an impossibility. Obedience to the rulers of other governments is commanded (Rom. 13: 1, 5; 1 Peter 2: 13 sq.). Citizenship in other States is approved (Acts 22:25; 25:10).

32. What were the contents of the Ceremonial Law?

Regulations concerning:

(a) Sacred persons—the high priest, the priests, Levites, Nazarites, etc., and prescriptions concerning personal matters, as food and drink, clothing and other matters pertaining to the individual or domestic life.

(b) Sacred things—the furniture, vessels and utensils for public worship, and the sacrifices and sacraments of the Old Testament.

A sacrifice is a sacred action, in which an object is offered to God through a prescribed ceremony, as an acknowledgment of the guilt of sin (Heb. 10:3), and a testimony to the complete and perfect sacrifice which God was hereafter to provide.

(c) Sacred times—the Sabbath, the Feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement, the Feast of Tabernacles, the Feast of Pentecost, the Sabbatical Year, the Feast of Jubilee.

(d) Sacred places—the Holy City, the Tabernacle, the Temple. In these buildings, each of its three divisions, the Court, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies, had its peculiar significance.

33. What was the chief object of the Ceremonial Law?

To foreshadow the blessings to be procured and offered through Christ.

Col. 2:16, 17—”Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of a feast day, or of a new moon, or a sabbath day: which are a shadow of the things to come; but the body is Christ’s.”

34. How is the abrogation of the Ceremonial Law proved?

(a) From the argument of the Epistle to the Hebrews concerning Melchisedek.

Heb. 7:12—”For the priesthood being changed, there is made ot necessity a change also of the law.”

(b) From its argument concerning the temporary character of the first tabernacle.

Heb. 9:9—”Wrhich is a figure for the time present.” v. 12—”But Christ having come through the greater and more perfect tabernacle.”

(c) From the proceedings of the council at Jerusalem, the first synod of the Christian Church (Acts 15: 1 sqq.).

(d) From Peter’s vision (Acts 10: 11).

(e) From Paul’s rebuke of Peter (Gal. 2: 14-16), and of the Galatians, who insisted on the permanence of ceremonial ordinances.

Gal. 4:10, 11—”Ye observe days and months and seasons and years. 1 am afraid of you, lest by any means 1 have bestowed labor upon you in vain.” 5:2—”If ye receive circumcision, Christ shall profit you nothing.”

(f) When the body comes, its shadow disappears; the type yields to the antitype (Heb. 10: I; Col. 2: 17).

35. How is “Gospel” to be defined when contrasted with “Law”?

The promise of the gratuitous forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake. (See above, 6.)

In the New Testament the verb “euaggelizein” occurs fifty-six, and the noun “euaggelion,” seventy-two times, In the Gospels and Acts, the reference is simply to “good tidings.” In Luke 16: 16, the contrast with “Law” first appears. In the Epistles the restriction to the specific good tidings brought by Christ becomes very marked, as in Gal. 1: 8; Rom. 1: 16. A study of the passages in the Gospels, in the light of the use of the word in the Epistles, shows that the same specific meaning belongs also there.

“It is the complex of the promises which are grateful, joyful and salutary to sinful men, a summary of which is found in John 3: 16” (Baier).

36. How does the Gospel regard Christ?

Solely in His Mediatorial Office, with its Priestly functions as the very center.

37. Can any doctrine concerning the goodness or the Fatherhood of God, which is not based upon a clear confession of the divinity and priestly work of Christ be termed “Gospel”?

In answer to some modern theologians who have had a wide hearing and who claim that the Gospel is not doctrine concerning Jesus Christ, but only concerning God the Father, we turn to Paul.

Rom. 1:1-4—”The Gospel of God, concerning his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord,” etc

38. May it not be regarded a new law, offering salvation upon easier terms than were given by the former law?

Law and Gospel differ not in degree, but in kind. The Gospel offers an entirely different righteousness from that which is attainable by the Law (Rom. 1: 17; 3: 21).

39. How do they differ?

(a) In revelation. The Law partially by Nature (Rom. 2:15); the Gospel only through Christ (John 1:18; Rom. 16:26; Col. 1:26; Eph. 3:9; Matt. 11:25-27).

(b) In subject matter. The Law is doctrine concerning works, prescribing what we ought to be, to do, or to omit to do (Ex. 20) ; the Gospel is doctrine concerning faith (Rom. 1:17) offering Christ and bringing the Holy Spirit.

(c) In form. The promises of the Law are conditional, requiring perfect obedience (Lev. 18:5); those of the Gospel are gratuitous (Rom. 3:23-25; 4:4, 5).

(d) In effect. The Law accuses, terrifies, works wrath (Rom. 3:20; 4:20); the Gospel consoles. The Law makes known the disease; the Gospel brings the physician and the remedy (Rom. 1 : 16). (See also above, 3, 5.)

40. In what do they coincide?

Both are heavenly doctrine divinely revealed. Of both God is author. Of both the purpose is salvation, the inadequacy of the law being attributable to no inherent weakness, but to man’s inability, in his enfeebled state, to fulfil its requirements (Rom. 8:3; 7:12, 13). Both are universal; the Law announces a universal obligation: the other tenders a universal promise.  Both are of perpetual validity; the Law (Matt. 5:18); the Gospel (Matt. 28: 19 sq.; Rev. 14:6).

They harmoniously unite and co-operate, when the Law demands complete obedience, and the Gospel declares that this complete obedience has been rendered for us by Christ.

Rom. 3:31—”Do we then make the law of none effect through faith? nay, we establish the law.”

In Illumination, the Law shows the need of faith; in Regeneration, the Gospel brings faith. In the Renewal, the Law indicates the works that please God; while the Gospel brings the true motives and the strength to do these works (2 Cor. 5: 14, 15).

<a href=””&gt; Chapter XXV – The Law and the Gospel from A Summary of the Christian Faith by Henry Eyster Jacobs, 1905</a>

Related articles

The Threefold Use of the Law – Louis Berkhof

The Threefold Use of the Law
1. A usus politicus or civilis. The law serves the purpose of restraining sin and promoting righteousness. Considered from this point of view, the law presupposes sin and is necessary on account of sin. It serves the purpose of God’s common grace in the world at large. This means that from this point of view it cannot be regarded a means of grace in the technical sense of the word.

2. A usus elenchticus or pedagogicus. In this capacity the law serves the purpose of bringing man under conviction of sin, and of making him conscious of his inability to meet the demands of the law. In that way the law becomes his tutor to lead him unto Christ, and thus becomes subservient to God’s gracious purpose of redemption.

3. A usus didacticus or normativus. This is the so-called tertius usus legis, the third use of the law. The law is a rule of life for believers, reminding them of their duties and leading them in the way of life and salvation. This third use of the law is denied by the Antinomians.

Berkhof, Systematic Theology, pp. 614-615


The Authority and Inspiration of the Scriptures – Warfield

The following short essay was originally published in the Westminster Teacher, September 1889. The electronic edition of this article was scanned and edited by Shane Rosenthal for Reformation Ink. It is in the public domain and may be freely copied and distributed.

Christianity is often called a book-religion. It would be more exact to say that it is a religion which has a book. Its foundations are laid in apostles and prophets, upon which its courses are built up in the sanctified lives of men; but Christ Jesus alone is its chief cornerstone. He is its only basis; he, its only head; and he alone has authority in his Church. But he has chosen to found his Church not directly by his own hands, speaking the word of God, say for instance, in thunder-tones from heaven; but through the instrumentality of a body of apostles, chosen and trained by himself, endowed with gifts and graces from the Holy Ghost, and sent forth into the world as his authoritative agents for proclaiming a gospel which he placed within their lips and which is none the less his authoritative word, that it is through them that he speaks it. It is because the apostles were Christ’s representatives, that what they did and said and wrote as such, comes to us with divine authority. The authority of the Scriptures thus rests on the simple fact that God’s authoritative agents in founding the Church gave them as authoritative to the Church which they founded. All the authority of the apostles stands behind the Scriptures, and all the authority of Christ behind the apostles. The Scriptures are simply the law-code which the law-givers of the Church gave it.

If, then, the apostles were appointed by Christ to act for him and in his name and authority in founding the Church—and this no-one can doubt; and if the apostles gave the Scriptures to the Church in prosecution of this commission—and this admits of as little doubt; the whole question of the authority of the Scriptures is determined. It will be observed that their authority does not rest exactly on apostolic authorship. The point is not that the apostles wrote these books (though most of the New Testament books were written by apostles), but that they imposed them on the Church as authoritative expositions of its divinely appointed faith and practice. Still less does the authority of the Scriptures rest on the authority of the Church. The Church may bear witness to what she received from the apostles as law, but this is not giving authority to that law but humbly recognizing the authority which rightfully belongs to it whether the Church recognizes it or not. The puzzle which some people fall into here is something like mistaking the relative “authority” of the guide-post and the road; the guide-post may point us to the right road but it does not give its rightness to the road. It has not “determined” the road—it is the road that has “determined” the guide-post; and unless the road goes of itself to its destination the guide-post has no power to determine its direction. So the Church does not “determine” the Scriptures, but the Scriptures the Church. Nor does it avail to say in opposition that the Church existed before the Scriptures and therefore cannot depend on them. The point is, whether the Scriptures are a product of the Church, or rather of the authority which founded the Church. The Church certainly did not exist before the authority which Christ gave the apostles to found it, in virtue of which they have imposed the Scriptures on it as law.

Apostolicity thus determines the authority of Scripture; and any book or body of books which were given to the Church by the apostles as law must always remain of divine authority in the Church. That the apostles thus gave the Church the whole Old Testament, which they had themselves received from their fathers as God’s word written, admits of no doubt, and is not doubted. That they gradually added to this body of old law an additional body of new law is equally patent. In part this is determined directly by their own extant testimony. Thus Peter places Paul’s Epistles beside the Scriptures of the Old Testament as equally with them law to Christians (2 Pet 3:16); and thus Paul places Luke’s Gospel alongside of Deuteronomy (1 Tim 5:18). Thus, too, all write with authority (1 Cor 14:37; 2 Cor 10:8; 2 Thess 2:15; 3:6-14)—with an authority which is above that of angels (Gal 1:7, 8), and the immediate recognition of which is the test of the possession of the Holy Ghost (1 Cor 14:37; 2 Thess 3:6-14). In part it is left to be determined indirectly from the testimony of the early Church; it being no far cry from the undoubting universal acceptance of a book as authoritative by the Church of the apostolic age, to the apostolic gift of it as authoritative to that Church. But by one way or another it is easily shown that all the books which now constitute our Bible, and which Christians, from that day to this, have loyally treated as their divinely prescribed book of law, no more and no fewer, were thus imposed on the Church as its divinely authoritative rule of faith and practice.

Now it goes, of course, without saying, that the apostles were not given this supreme authority as legislators to the Church without preparation for their high functions, without previous instruction in the mind of Christ, without safeguards thrown about them in the prosecution of their task, without the accompanying guidance of the Holy Spirit. And nothing is more noticeable in the writings which they have given the Church than the claim which they pervasively make that in giving them they are acting only as the agents of Christ, and that those who wrote them wrote in the Spirit of Christ. What Paul writes he represents to be “the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor 14:37), which he therefore transmits in the name of the Lord (2 Thess 3:6); and the gospel that Peter preached was proclaimed in the Holy Ghost (1 Pet 1:12). Every Scripture of the Old Testament is inspired by God (2 Tim 3:16), and the New Testament is equally Scripture with the Old (1 Tim 5:18); all prophecy of Scripture came from men who spake from God, being moved by the Holy Ghost ( 2 Pet 1:20) and Paul’s Epistles differ from these older writings only in being “other”; that is, newer Scriptures of like kind (2 Pet 3:16). When we consider the promises of supernatural guidance which Christ made to his apostles (Matt. 10:19, 20; Mark 13:11; Luke 21:14; John 14 and 16), in connection with their claim to speak with divine authority even when writing (1 Cor 14:37; 2 Thess 3:6), and their conjunction of their writings with the Old Testament Scriptures as equally divine with them, we cannot fail to perceive that the apostles claim to be attended in their work of giving law to God’s Church by prevailing superintending grace from the Holy Spirit. This is what is called inspiration. It does not set aside the human authorship of the books. But it puts behind the human also a divine authorship. It ascribes to the authors such an attending influence of the Spirit in the process of writing, that the words they set down become also the words of God; and the resultant writing is made not merely the expression of Paul’s or John’s or Peter’s will for the churches, but the expression of God’s will. In receiving these books from the apostles as law, therefore, the Church has always received them not only as books given by God’s agents, but as books so given by God through those agents that every word of them is God’s word.

Let it be observed that the proof of the authority of the Scriptures does not rest on a previous proof of their inspiration. Even an uninspired law is law. But when inspiration has once been shown to be fact, it comes mightily to the reinforcement of their authority. God speaks to us now, in Scripture, not only mediately through his representatives, but directly through the Scriptures themselves as his inspired word. The Scriptures thus become the crystalization of God’s authoritative will. We will not say that Christianity might not have been founded and propagated and preserved without inspired writings or even without any written embodiment of the authoritative apostolic teaching. Wherever Christ is known through whatever means, there is Christianity, and men may hear and believe and be saved. But God has caused his grace to abound to us in that he not only published redemption through Christ in the world, but gave this preachment authoritative expression through the apostles, and fixed it with infallible trustworthiness in his inspired word. Thus in every age God speaks directly to every Christian heart, and gives us abounding safety to our feet and divine security to our souls. And thus, instead of a mere record of a revelation given in the past, we have the ever-living word of God; instead of a mere tradition however guarded, we have what we have all learned to call in a unique sense “the Scriptures”.


What is Faith? by J. Gresham Machen

At no point does the issue in the modern religious world appear in more characteristic fashion than just here. Many persons hold up their hands in amazement at our assertion that Jesus was not a Christian, while we in turn regard it as the very height of blasphemy to say that He was a Christian. “Christianity,” to us, is a way of getting rid of sin; and therefore to say that Jesus was a Christian would be to deny His holiness.

“But,” it is said, “do you mean to tell us that if a man lives a life like the life of Jesus but rejects the doctrine of the redeeming work of Christ in His death and resurrection, he is not a Christian?” The question, in one form or another, is often asked; but the answer is very simple.  Of course if a man really lives a life like the life of Jesus, all is well; such a man is indeed not a Christian, but he is something better than a Christian- he is a being who has never lost his high estate of sonship with God. But our trouble is that our lives, to say nothing of the lives of these who so confidently appeal to their own similarity to Jesus, do not seem to be like the life of Jesus. Unlike Jesus, we are sinners, and hence, unlike Him, we become Christians; we are sinners, and hence we accept with thankfulness the re-deeming love of the Lord Jesus Christ, who had pity on us and made us right with God, through no merit of our own, by His atoning death.

That certainly does not mean that the example of Jesus is not important to the Christian; on the contrary, it is the daily guide of His life, without which he would be like a ship without a rudder on an uncharted sea.  But the example of Jesus is useful to the Christian not prior to redemption, but subsequent to it.

Walther on Salvation through Christ Alone

Luke 10, 26 ff. Christ meets the question of the self-righteous scribe with the counter-question: What is written in the Law? How readest thou? The scribe answers correctly: Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself. And now Christ says to him: This do, and thou shalt live. The Lord, on this occasion, testified that, if salvation is to come by way of the Law, only he who fulfils the Law can obtain it. (By the way, we are not to think that to those who do the will of God, salvation must come as a reward of their merit. By no means; their salvation, too, would be owing to the goodness of God.) But to return to our discussion, the aforementioned condition which is attached to the Law hurls us into despair.

On a certain occasion, when the Lord wished to instruct the disciples as to what they must preach, He said: Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. Mark 16, 15. 16. This shows that no condition whatever is attached to the Gospel; it is a promise of grace.

Heidelberg Catechism on Gospel – questions 1, 21, 60

1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?

That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death, am not my own, but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ, who with His precious blood has fully satisfied for all my sins, and redeemed me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.  Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.

21. What is true faith?

True faith is not only a sure knowledge whereby I hold for truth all that God has revealed to us in His Word, but also a hearty trust, which the Holy Spirit works in me by the Gospel, that not only to others, but to me also, forgiveness of sins, everlasting righteousness, and salvation are freely given by God, merely of grace, only for the sake of Christ’s merits.

60. How are you righteous before God?

Only by true faith in Jesus Christ: that is, although my conscience accuses me, that I have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and am still prone always to all evil; yet God, without any merit of mine, of mere grace, grants and imputes to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if I had never committed nor had any sins, and had myself accomplished all the obedience which Christ has fulfilled for me; if only I accept such benefit with a believing heart.

Heidelberg Catechism on Law – questions 94, 4, 5

94. What does God require in the first Commandment?

That, on peril of my soul’s salvation, I avoid and flee all idolatry, sorcery, enchantments, invocation of saints or of other creatures; and that I rightly acknowledge the only true God, trust in Him alone, with all humility and patience expect all good from Him only, and love, fear, and honor Him with my whole heart; so as rather to renounce all creatures than to do the least thing against His will.

4. What does the Law of God require of us?

Christ teaches us in sum, Matthew 22: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.  This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

5. Can you keep all this perfectly?

No, for I am prone by nature to hate God and my neighbor.

A Biblical Case for Natural Law by David Van Drunen

Biblical morality is characterized by an indicative-imperative structure. That is, all of its imperatives (moral commands) are proceeded by and grounded in indicatives (statements of fact), either explicitly or implicitly. The most important indicative that grounds the imperatives in Scripture is that the recipients of Scripture are the covenant people, that is,  members of the community of the covenant of grace.  The Old Testament Scriptures were not given to the world at large but to the people of Israel, God’s covenant people of old.  “He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel.  He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws” (Ps. 147:19-20).  Neither were the New Testament Scriptures given to the world at large but to the church, the new covenant people.  p. 39  David Van Drunen, A Biblical Case for Natural Law (Grand Rapids : Acton Institute, no date)

The Atoning Death of Christ – Christianity & Liberalism: Machen

The atoning death of Christ, and that alone, has presented sinners as righteous in God’s sight; the Lord Jesus has paid the full penalty of their sins, and clothed them with His perfect righteousness before the judgment seat of God. But Christ has done for Christians even far more than that. He has given to them not only a new and right relation to God, but a new life in God’s presence for evermore. He has saved them from the power as well as from the guilt of sin. The New Testament does not end with the death of Christ; it does not end with the triumphant words of Jesus on the Cross, “It is finished.” The death was followed by the resurrection, and the resurrection like the death was for our sakes.  Jesus rose from the dead into a new life of glory and power, and into that life He brings those for whom He died. The Christian, on the basis of Christ’s redeeming work, not only has died unto sin, but also lives unto God.  Christianity & Liberalism by J. Gresham Machen, p. 114 book, p. 90 pdf below.

Click to access machen_liberalism.pdf

Revelation and Inspiration – B.B. Warfield

“The Church, then, has held from the beginning that the Bible is the Word of God in such a sense that its word, though written by men and bearing indelibly impressed upon them the marks of their human origin, were written, nevertheless, under such an influence of the Holy Ghost as to be also the words of God, the adequate expression of His mind and will. It has always recognized that this conception of co-authorship implies that the Spirit’s superintendence extends to the choice of the words by the human authors (verbal inspiration), and preserves its product from everything inconsistent with a divine authorship – thus securing, among other things, that entire truthfulness which is everywhere presupposed in and asserted for Scripture by the Biblical writers (inerrancy). Whatever minor variations may now and again have entered into the mode of statement, this has always been the core of the Church doctrine of inspiration.” B.B. Warfield Revelation and Inspiration p. 173