Law & Gospel - Why Study Law & Gospel? - Approach to Studying Law & Gospel

PsalmStudy ™ - Various Bible Topics - Law and Gospel

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torah-scroll-love-statementsThe Law discovers the disease.  The Gospel gives the remedy. - Martin Luther  

(Quoted at Martin Luther Quotes, ed. Thomas George,   Accessed August 19, 2015,

Jesus said:  Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.  For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. (Matthew 5:17-18/ESV)

Law and Gospel      An Updated Biblography for Studying Law and Gospel  [February 2019]

Why Study Law and Gospel?

We have at least four reasons for studying Law and Gospel.

First, Law and Gospel are topics of systematic theology, and the two major purposes of studying theology are to learn about salvation and the faith we are to have in it, and to grow in knowledge and understanding of God.  Here are some passages from the Bible that help give us our understanding of why we study Law and Gospel.

Second, studying Scripture in terms of the Law and the Gospel gives us a basis for translating what we learn into practical applications in our lives.  We are not to treat this as only an intellectual pursuit.  Our challenge as we discuss this topic and learn more about our faith is to exercise caution both of avoiding intellectual pursuit for its own sake and remaining humble in asking God to help us understand what we learn and how to apply it in our lives.  Here are a couple of examples of what the Bible tells us about that.

Third, studying Scripture in terms of the Law and the Gospel is the only way to make sense of God's Word, especially those paradoxes that some would call contradictions --
    Comparing Holy Scripture with other writings, we observe that no book is apparently so full of contradictions as the Bible, and that, not only in minor points, but in the principal matter, in the doctrine how we may come to God and be saved. In one place the Bible offers forgiveness to all sinners; in another place forgiveness of sins is withheld from all sinners.  In one passage a free offer of life everlasting is made to all men; in another, men are directed to do something themselves towards being saved.  This riddle is solved when we reflect that there are in the Scriptures two entirely different doctrines, the doctrine of the Law and the doctrine of the Gospel!.[See Note 1]..

Fourth, without approaching Scripture looking for both Law and Gospel, the Word of God remains a closed book. --
    Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguishes from each other the Law and the Gospel.  The Law is the Word of God that commands us to do what is right according to God's standards.  The Gospel reveals the actions of God alone to save us who are dead in our sins. [See Note 2.] Stephen P. Mueller, Editor, Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2005) p. 56.
    Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit.  For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6/ESV)
     And you were dead in the trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1/ESV)

Our Purpose

We have a five-fold purpose in studying the Law and the Gospel --

Our Approach to Studying Law and Gospel

As Christians we cannot understand what the Law and Gospel mean for us until we understand why we have them in the first place.  God gave us His Holy Word for our benefit.  He gave our first parents only one commandment (Genesis 2:16-17) thereby instructing them on what to do and not do.  (God's Law enlightens!)  When our first parents disobeyed God's commandment (Genesis 3:6-7) they put themselves before God in importance and discovered their newly acquired sinfulness.  (God's Law reveals sinfulness!)  They needed something more to curb their future behavior to keep them from sin.  The Bible does not tell us when God gave additional commandments before Moses, but we see in Genesis and Job that there must have been Divine Law of some sort.  (God's Law curbs evil!)  Examples of this are that Noah, Job, and Job's friends knew the distinction between clean and unclean animals and they offered burnt sacrifices to God (Genesis 7:2; Genesis 8:20; Job 1:5; Job 42:7-9).


Note 1: C.F.W. Walther, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, William H.T. Dau ed., Christian Tiews trans. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1929) p. 14.  Free download available at

Note 2: C.F.W. Walther, Thesis II, The Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel, William H.T. Dau ed., Christian Tiews trans. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1929) pp. 8, 32, 56.

Martin Luther, Lectures on Galatians, Luther's Works, American Edition, Volume 26, Jaroslav Pelikan and Helmut T. Lehman, ed. (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1959, 1987) p. 115.

John Calvin, Chapter 9 Christ, Though Known To The Jews Under The Law, Yet Only Manifested Under The Gospel, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Book II, Henry Beveridge, trans. (Grand Rapids, MI: Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 1845) p. 344. Free downoad available at

Stephen P. Mueller, Editor, Called to Believe, Teach, and Confess (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock, 2005) p. 56.

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