All tagged Law and Gospel
[Our] stories are decidedly unserious when viewed through the lens of the seriousness of God’s affairs. Jesus put the matter succinctly: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” (Mark 8:36). Human affairs are not serious in and of themselves. Rather, they are consequential because they garner meaning and significance within the overarching story of God and man.
Where contrition is evident, the conscience has already been prodded, piqued, finally terrified. More Law only serves to confirm the lie this person is already at risk of believing: that the last work of the conscience is also God’s last word. But God’s last word is the word of absolution, not the confirmation of the conscience’s testimony, but now its contradiction.
The Christian sermon is Gospel preaching. We only preach the Gospel. Only the Gospel is the sermon, notwithstanding necessary admonishments of law and requisite exhortations toward sanctification. The verb has content - Gospel - or else the verb preach does not apply and, for that matter, neither does the noun “sermon”. Something else is happening, call it what you may, but it is not a sermon and one has not preached.
And so, when you preach the Law, you are also instructing the conscience and thereby forming it. For some of your hearers, this will result in activating their consciences, making them more sensitive, so they become more aware of their sin and more urgently seek the Gospel. For others, it is a re-instruction.
The preached word ensured the work of the Holy Spirit, so long as it was the written word of the Gospel that was being preached. Gospel preaching was the one domain in which we could be assured of the convicting, saving, and sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit.
[Separating] the Law from the conscience is not just bad because it makes the Law ineffective. If the Law and the conscience are not brought together, it also means leaving the conscience unaddressed and unassuaged when the Gospel is preached.
The task of preaching can be thought of as entering a battle with the Devil. This approach ought to benefit both the preacher and the hearer at a few decisive points..
No doubt a few preachers cringe at the thought of “C and E” (Christmas and Easter) Christians showing up for Christmas Eve Services. For many, these fair-weather parishioners come across like neighbors who want to borrow a hedge-trimmer, but never intend to return it. They are akin to free-riders who donate nothing to the community. I must confess, when I preach on Christmas or Easter I do not share this sentiment held by some of my peers.
The whole Reformation, and reason for Lutheran theology at all, is to improve preaching. Make preaching great again! Why? Preaching is hard, and the temptations are great for abandoning what Christ wants you to say.
It is painful to listen to a pastor try to find some Good News in Jesus’ words about the camel and the eye of the needle (John 15:24) or the perfection of your heavenly Father (Matthew 5:48). Worse is when a brother gives up searching and just preaches a life of perfect love and goes back to his chancel bench since, “…that’s what the text says.” Whenever I hear the first I give thanks, despite the pain, for Law-and-Gospel homiletics classes because I know what it is like to hear the second and those scare me.