Thesis I of Walther’s Law and Gospel in Laymen’s Terms:
The whole Bible can be separated into two easy categories, they are Law and Gospel. Think of these categories as two sides of the same coin. The Law tells us what we are to “do.” On the other side of the coin, the Gospel tells us what God has already “done.” God’s Law words make demands of us and God’s Gospel words deliver promises to us.
Because both of these categories are two sides of the same coin, we need to keep in mind that God’s demanding words and God’s promise words are found throughout the whole Bible, in both the Old and New Testament. Please don’t make the mistake of believing that the Old Testament is one side of the coin (i.e. Law) and that the New Testament is the other side of the coin (i.e. Gospel). Also, please don’t make the mistake of believing that the Law is from man and the Gospel is from God. No, they both come from God, they are both equally necessary for our salvation and they are both found throughout the Old and New Testament.
The demanding words of Law are placed upon our conscience, printed in scripture and most clearly seen in their inscription upon stone, the 10 commandments. These words of demand tell us what we are to do, the effects of this are threefold:
- These demands end up curbing our external behavior
- These demands threaten and expose our spiritual endeavors, reveal our hidden sins and drives us to remorse.
- These demands give us instruction and enlighten us to what God’s will is.
The promising words of Gospel on the other side of the coin are not written upon our conscience nor found with the realm of our reason. The Gospel is an external message that comes from God in the Bible and is most clearly seen in the person of Jesus, namely His life, death and resurrection. The Word of promise tells us what God has done, gives us comfort, points us to Christ, forgives our sin and drives us to assurance.
Oh, and one more thing. Please be careful that you don’t fall into error believing that the Law is “bad” and the Gospel is “good.” The Law is not like the unlucky “tails” side of a coin and the Gospel is not like the “lucky” heads side of the coin either. No, they are both “good,” for they both have the final goal of your salvation! The Law prepares you and me for the Gospel. Law without Gospel leads to despair whereas without the Law the Gospel doesn’t make sense.
The demanding words of scripture say “do” and the promise words of scripture say “done.” Two sides of the same coin, both very good and necessary.