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Distinction between Law and Gospel: Its practical uses in the Theology and Ethics...
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Distinction between Law and Gospel: Its practical uses in the Theology and Ethics
Paper for the seminar in Reformation Day 2006 in the Lutheran Seminary,
Prof.Dr. Sohn, Kyoo-Tae
 The problem of the distinction between law and gospel in the theology of Martin Luther was described and refined in his article on the Antinomians 1539, in which the controversies around the use of the law and gospel among the Protestant groups. But this problem of the relation between law and gospel was already investigated and discussed in his biblical studies, specially in the exegetic works on Galatians 1519, 1525 and 1535. In this sense the problem of the distinction between law and gospel was the red thread, which goes through the development of Luther's theological thinking and his ethical interpretation. :namespace prefix = o />
According to Luther the word of God was and is spoken in two forms; imperative and indicative(Anspruch und Zuspruch). Therefor He speaks to us always in two ways; in law and gospel. Luther joins law and gospel together, even though in themselves they are as far apart as possible. In this sense law and gospel are for and against each other(füreinander und gegeneinander). Therefore they are properly distinguished in use, specially in preaching and teaching the word of God. If the word of God, law and gospel were not properly distinguished, law and gospel could be separated or confused each other.
The distinction between law and gospel as one of the higher, highest skill in the Christianity in Luther and the Reformation, that is connected with the teaching of righteousness and the principle of the Biblical interpretation. Together with these it stands directly connection with the decisive problem toward the right proclamation in the preaching, education and pastoral care in the congregation. For Luther the distinction between law and gospel is important not only for defence against the scholastic way of making gospel into law from the Christ-legislator, but also against the antinomians, who were trying to preach gospel without law.
From the presentation of Prof. Nestingen I have learned much about the historical formation of the relation between law and gospel in the Middle Age, specially in the thought of Augustin and Scholastic scholars. The dogmatic problem that with formula law and gospel generally set, shows us in its history of dogmas the important efforts to solve the problem of order of succession in the Heilsgeschichte and individual way to salvation in it. The problem raised with the distinction between law and gospel again can be categorized as follows; syntheses, diastase and dialectic. Here I do not want to discuss this problem again in the historical aspects and confront with the theological presentation of Prof. Nestingen. In connection with the relation(distinction) between law and gospel I want to present problems briefly, which I was confronted in the protestant churches and theology in Korea today.
Firstly, In the preaching word of God, law and gospel is not distinguished properly. Since 1970 there was a great revival movement almost all denominations in Korea. It was inspired and motivated by the Pentecostal church, which has succeed in growth of the church in short time. In order to get the more members of church, the invited pastors or evangelists in the revival meetings in each individual congregation preached only and mainly the indicative aspects of the word of God.
Now in the preaching in the Protestant church in Korea was not spoken the Word of God in proper function of the law, "which is to make guilty, to humble us, to kill us, to lead us down to hell, and to take everything away from us."(Luther). In the preaching of pastor in the Korean churches is now disappeared the imperative voice of the Word of God totally. They preach only the word of blessing of God without imperative mood, that is law. This destroys not only the totality of the Word of God, but also way of Christian life.
The Gospel was abused by those who imagine that men are justified by themselves without Anfectung and responsibility in church and daily life. They made the Grace of God cheap grace(D. Bonhoeffer). Grace without work is the cheap grace.
Secondly, In education in family life and church the imperative and indicative mood are not properly distinguished. To educate the children in right way it is necessary to give them carrot and stick. For many years in Korea and now China the growth of the population was big problem, so that the birthcontrol program was forced by the government. So now there are one or two children in one family. So they are grown like price or princess, therefore they overprotected by parents. They are grown up only with carrot without proper discipline and control. There is only Zuspruch, no Anspruch in education. They are like automobile without brake. They have no self-control mechanism, no consciousness of duty and responsibility in family and society. Now we have many young men like kangaroos, which want to be protected by the old.
Thirdly, At the same time we are now living in the capitalistic society, competitive society, where the law(imperative mode) is misused by those who imagine that men are justified by the work(Leistung) without grace. Here we find that the relation between law and gospel is not only theological problem which has something to do with the righteousness, personal salvation of the Christian life. It is to do with the social-political dimension in our capitalistic world, where men can not be justified by grace of the gospel, only justified by law.
Luther says so; "We are justified solely by faith in Christ, without works, and the Holy Spirit ist granted solely by hearing the message of the Gospel with faith, not by the message of the Law or by the works of the Law." It is clear that we are not saved in the capitalistic world, where men were only justified by the works(Leistungen) without gospel, grace, which does not demand, but grant freely through the Holy Spirit. The Gospel brings the Holy Spirit, which teaches what we ought to receive from Christ and from one another. We are justified by faith, which gives us the life through the Holy Spirit, which grant us love and grace.
There was a landowner who hires labourers for his vineyard four times one day from early morning to an hour before sunset. When evening fell, he gave them their pay unexpected same wage beginning with those who came last and ending with the first. These first-comers grumbled; "These late-comers have done only one hour's work, you have put them on at level with us, who have seated the whole day long in the blazing sun!" The landowner says, "I choose to pay the last man the same as you. I am free to do what I like with my own money. Thus will the last be first, and the first last."(Mt. 20:15-16).
The landowner paid not according to the works, but according to his own freedom, his grace. The kingdom of God, which is proclaimed by Jesus Christ, is the world where men are not justified by the law(works), but the grace of Gospel, which is given by the Holy Spirit.
October 2006. Reformation Day



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