The Law Always Accuses… …without Christ the Mediator! Part 1

Editor’s Note: Rev. Brian L. Kachelmeier serves as pastor of Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church in Los Alamos, NM. He is the host of the Redeemer Theological Academy radio program, a frequent guest on Issues, Etc., Old Testament teacher for the Wittenberg Academy, and author of the soon to be released book Reading Isaiah with Luther.

 

As heirs of the rich Reformation theology, we love our Latin phrases: sola scriptura (Scripture alone), sola fide (faith alone), sola gratia (grace alone), sola Christus (Christ alone), simil iustus et peccator (simultaneously justified and sinner), and lex semper accusat (the Law always accuses). However, we must be careful lest we exchange our birth right for simple bumper sticker slogans. Our Faith is not grounded in Latin phrases; rather, it is rooted in the Holy Scriptures and confessed clearly in the Book of Concord.

 

We want to be clear on the proper historical context of these Latin slogans. As those who confess the Faith of the Unaltered Augsburg Confession, we should continue to study our confessional documents to make sure that we are saying the same thing. After all, to confess is to say the same thing. We believe, teach, and confess that the Law always accuses without Christ the Mediator. In fact, we believe, teach, and confess that the Law cannot accuse or even condemn the righteous.

 

I would like to address a common misconception about the Law of God. It is as if the Law only accuses. Typically, this notion is promoted by regurgitating the Latin phrase “lex semper accusat” (the Law always accuses). To be fair, this phrase is typically set up as a warning against the danger of works-righteousness, the thought that we can justify ourselves before God by our good works. Of course, we must be careful that we do not fall into the false idea that our deeds can merit God’s favor, the forgiveness of sins, and eternal life.

 

However, as heirs of the Augsburg Confession, we should not be so easily misled. We know that the Law cannot justify. Jesus justifies. No one will be justified before God by the works of the Law. Therefore, we maintain that a person is justified by faith alone apart from the works of the Law.

 

Nevertheless, it seems to me that sometimes pastors speak as if it was their primary role to use the Law for accusing people of their sins. It is as if the pastor is sent to put everyone under the curse and condemnation of the Law. In this use, there is no difference between unrepentant unbelieving sinners (who are secure in their sins) and the repentant believing sinners (who are troubled by their sins). It is assumed that everyone is trying to misuse the Law for one’s own self-justification.

 

Yet, pastors should be reminded that they are not ministers of condemnation; they are ministers of justification. The primary role of the pastor is to proclaim that for those who are justified by faith, the law cannot accuse or condemn them (lex non potest eos accusare aut damnare). Maybe we don’t know that Latin phrase because it is too long.

 

It seems to me that it is much easier to listen to soundbites, post bumper sticker slogans, and quote radical assertions than to read the Book of Concord and speak in the language given to us for clearly confessing the Faith. However, we are heirs of the rich Reformation theology. Thus, we should rejoice in the treasure of our inheritance, namely, the Book of Concord. While the Concordia is normed by the Sacred Scriptures, the Concordia norms are clear confession with precise language. In Christ, the Law cannot accuse.

 

For our discussion on the proper use of the term “the Law always accuses,” we want to keep in mind two extremely important passages from the Bible. First, the Holy Spirit teaches us, “Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). Second, the Holy Spirit teaches us, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1).

 

Furthermore, we want to keep in mind an extremely important paragraph in the Apology on the Article of Justification. Melanchthon writes,

 

…the Law condemns all men, but Christ, because without sin He has borne the punishment of sin, and been made a victim for us, has removed that right of the Law to accuse and condemn those who believe in Him, because He Himself is the propitiation for them for whose sake we are now accounted righteous. But since they are accounted righteous, the Law cannot accuse or condemn them, even though they have not actually satisfied the Law (Triglota Apology Art. III, 58)

 

Thus, for those who are in Christ, that is, who trust in Him as their Mediator, the law cannot accuse or condemn them (lex non potest eos accusare aut damnare). When we say, “the Law always accuses” we are not stating an absolute without any qualifications. We are saying that without Christ as Mediator and faith in Him, the law always accuses. In fact, without reconciliation, justification, and regeneration, we are under sin and the Law only accuses. Thus, the phrase “the Law always accuses” is a rejection of the papal teaching on justification.

 

Likewise, the phrase, “the Law cannot accuse or condemn them” is an affirmation of the Biblical doctrine of justification. In the Apology, we are clearly confessing the righteousness of the Gospel in contradistinction to the papist teaching on justification which is merely the preaching of the righteousness of the Law without Christ the Mediator. Thus, Melanchthon is asserting that if they want to become righteous by the works of the Law, then they must understand that the Law always accuses. The Law cannot justify the guilty.

 

In a similar way, St. Paul argues the case with the baptized who want to be circumcised. In Galatia, the Judaizers were promoting the righteousness of the Law instead of the righteousness of the Gospel. Here we must make a distinction between the active achieved righteousness accomplished by works and the passive received righteousness obtained by faith.

 

By faith, we are freed from the curse and condemnation of the law. We are no longer under law, but under grace. However, if a Gentile convert wants to be enslaved to the Law like the Jews who reject Jesus as the Mediator, then they will be placed under the curse and condemnation of the Law which cannot justify.

 

Thus, the Apostle warns the baptized saying,

 

“For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.” (Galatians 3:10–14)

 

Take note, Melanchthon will use the same idea in the Apology on Justification. Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the Law and we receive the Holy Spirit through faith. The issue at hand is not the ritual of circumcision; instead, the problem is trying to obtain an active achieved righteousness according to the Law apart from the righteousness of the Gospel. Thus, Paul will double down on his warning and declare,

 

“Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:2–4)

 

Such a person is no longer under grace; rather, he has placed himself under the law, under the curse, under sin, and under condemnation. It is as if Paul was saying, “If you want to be justified by the Law, then give it a try. However, the Law always accuses, and it cannot justify.” So that the baptized are clear on the article of Justification, Paul writes,

 

“yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16)

 

In Paul’s letter to the baptized in Rome, he notes that “all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law” (Romans 2:12). The Law cannot justify the guilty. And again, he writes,

 

“Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.” (Romans 3:19–20)

 

However, those who have been justified by faith are no longer under the law, but under grace. In other words, they are no longer under the curse and condemnation of the Law. Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:1–2). To have access to the Father through the Son, is to have Christ as one’s Mediator with God.

 

He alone merits reconciliation and the forgiveness of sins. Thus, with Christ as one’s Mediator, Paul can say, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.” (Romans 8:1–2). With Christ as our Mediator, we have the gift of the remission of sins and the renewal of the Holy Spirit by faith alone. Therefore, the law cannot accuse or condemn us.

 

In Part 2 of our conversation, we will look at the context of the Latin phrase “lex semper accusat” (the Law always accuses) in the Book of Concord.


Comments

The Law Always Accuses… …without Christ the Mediator! Part 1 — 31 Comments

  1. Thank you for this well-clarified explanation. I look forward to the other parts. The rush to say that the “law always accuses” is also sometimes why Lutherans are accused of being against good works. The danger of this theology (the law always accuses) is that there then becomes no reason whatsoever to mortify the flesh, and strive to do the good works taught in the Ten Commandments for our vocations as husband, wife, mother, son, daughter, etc. But as you have so well pointed out, the law cannot justify the guilty…and it the law cannot accuse those in Christ.

  2. How about the thought that the only way that the Law doesn’t accuse anymore is because it is dead? The nature of the Law is such that if it is alive, then it is going to accuse. But if it is dead, how can it accuse anymore? The criminal who has died for his trespasses is justified by the Law. The law is done everything that it can do. You can’t kill him again. He can only die once. So what relation does the dead person have to the Law? It is something that is passed and passing away. It’s in the rear view mirror. It is the ministry of death. It is not eternal.

    However, the word “Law” can have several different meanings. If the word “Law” is speaking about the will of God and the way that he has brought about order out of chaos and nothing, then this is eternal. But understanding God’s will (for real) is always something that can only be seen in a mirror dimly. It is far off and hard for us fallen sinners to conceptualize. We don’t know of a will of God that is totally unopposed by our own will. Adam and Eve had that experience before they fell into sin, but afterwards, they and their children will not know what it means to love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, strength, and mind, and to love our neighbor as ourselves until they have not only spiritually died together with Christ by baptism, but also physically died. That is the only way to stop the opposition totally and completely. Those who are left at the coming of the Lord will be changed in an instant, because it is not possible for us to see God as we are and live. We must die and be resurrected.

    So it is hard for me to see how the Law can stop [always] accusing without it being dead in Christ (because it worked upon him and punished him) and when it is finally dead in us (because we have died and it can no longer harass us). Nevertheless, the message of the Gospel is that although we die with our bodies because the Law demands its pound of flesh, yet shall we live because Christ has triumphed. No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor has it entered into the heart of Man, the goodness life without the galling Law. We give answer to it while we live in this life by faith in Christ and tell it to drop its accusation. But insofar as we are still alive and living in this world, ruled by the devil, it rides us and goads us, even while we believe in Christ. We groan to be liberated from this body of death.

    Again, the only way I can understand the Law not always accusing us is by death. This is not God’s fault or the Law’s fault. It is the nature of the sin that opposes it. A Law (used in the Pauline sense) that doesn’t always accuse us is a nice idea. I wish there were such a thing. But it is an impossible dream. It exists in words only and is a figment of the imagination–like the freedom of the will. The Law can only cease its accusation when it has carried out its ministrations in death.

  3. @Michael Holmen #2

    Michael, this is an interesting idea, but I’m not exactly following you with the notion that the Law is dead. Could you begin with a passage from Paul which teaches us about the Law being dead? Maybe I am just misunderstanding you.

    When I am referring to the Law in this post, I am using the understanding of Melanchthon in the Apology, in which he states, “By “law” in this discussion we mean the commandments of the Decalogue, wherever they appear in the Scriptures.”

    Furthermore, the definition of “justify” that I am using is in the Hebrew manner of speaking. Thus, to justify means to absolve from guilt, to pardon, and to acquit. The Law cannot justify the sinner. When a criminal is put to death for his trespasses, he is not justified. He is condemned.

  4. Chemnitz, M., & Preus, J. A. O. (1989). Loci Theologici . St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House

    Page 339:

    “Luther in a very learned way sought the foundations of this doctrine in the Epistle to the Galatians, and divided the use of the Law into one aspect which was civil and one which was theological. Likewise in Galatians 5 there is one use of the Law in justification and another for those who have been justified. From this Luther constructed the threefold division of the uses of the Law. We must note the passages in Scripture in which the foundations of this doctrine are located. In regard to the civil law, Paul speaks very clearly in 1 Tim. 1:8–9; Rom. 2:1; Gal. 3:19. Regarding the second use, Paul instructs us in Rom. 3:20; 5:20; 7:7; Gal. 3:24. That there is a use for the Law even among the regenerate he teaches clearly in Rom. 13:8 and Gal. 5:14; cf. Jer. 31:33 and Psalm 119.”

    Page 440:

    “Therefore we must preserve the “form of sound words,” 2 Tim. 1:13, which must serve “that the church may be edified,” 1 Cor. 14:5. It is a true and correct statement of Pauline theology that the regenerate are not under the Law. But it absolutely does not follow from this that therefore the Law is not useful for the regenerate. We must explain in what way they are not under the Law, namely for justification, accusation, condemnation, compulsion, perfect obedience. But there is a second proposition, namely that the Law does have a certain use in the case of the regenerate. For Paul says in Gal. 5:13–14, “You have been called unto liberty; but do not use your liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love by the Spirit serve one another.” He adds the definite rule of love, according to which the Spirit renews and leads the believers: “For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ ” He says the same thing in Rom. 13:8 and 8:4, “In those who walk according to the Spirit the righteousness or requirement of the Law is fulfilled.” The apostles everywhere preach about the new obedience of the regenerate and clearly seek the description of this new obedience in the Decalog. Christ also in John 13:34 says, “This is My commandment that you love one another.”

    “Therefore it is the true and correct “form of sound words” that there is a use for the Law in the regenerate. It is threefold: (1) It pertains to doctrine and obedience that the regenerate should know, as they perform their worship, what kind of works are pleasing to God, so that they do not devise new forms of worship without the Word and may learn that it is the will of God that they make a beginning in obeying the commandments of the Decalog. (2) It is important that they know that this norm of the Law shows the imperfection and uncleanness which still clings to their good works, for otherwise they might easily fall into Phariseeism. (3) Because in this life the renewal of the Spirit does not wholly take away our old nature, but at the same time the old and the new man remain (the outward and the inner man), therefore there is a use for the Law in the regenerate that it may contend against and coerce their old man; and the beginnings of the new obedience are weak and are not supported by our whole spirit and mind. But Rom. 7:25 shows that “with the mind I serve the law of God but with the flesh the law of sin”; and again, vv. 22–23, “I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see another law ….” Therefore these weak beginnings must not only be encouraged by the earnest entreaties of the Gospel, but also fostered by the precepts, exhortations, warnings, and promises of the Law. For we experience that the new obedience is not so voluntary a thing as a good tree which brings forth its new fruit without any command or exhortation. How much David as a regenerate man attributed to meditation on the doctrine of the Law is seen in Psalm 119, where the word “Law” involves the complete teaching of the Word of God, both Law and Gospel.”

  5. I’d like to emphasize two sentences above:

    “We must explain in what way they [the regenerate] are not under the Law, namely for justification, ***accusation***, condemnation, compulsion, perfect obedience. But there is a second proposition, namely that the Law does have a certain use in the case of the regenerate.”

  6. And, even the “body of death” reference of Paul might refer to something that illustrates the relationship of the old Adam to the regenerate man:

    “If youʼve ever read The Aeneid by the first century Roman poet Virgil youʼve come across this gruesome passage:

    “The living and the dead at his command,
    Were coupled, face to face, and hand to hand,
    Till, chokʼd with stench, in loathʼd embraces tied,
    The lingʼring wretches pinʼd away and died.1

    “It is a description of a form of torture in which they fastened a dead body to the victim, tying shoulder to shoulder, face to face, thigh to thigh, arm to arm . According to another source, Cicero cites from Aristotle… the torture [was] inflicted by… Etruscan pirates.2

    “The gruesome details of the pirate-punishment are given in an essay by Jacques Brunschwig.3 A living man or woman was tied to a rotting corpse, face to face, mouth to mouth, limb to limb, with an obsessive exactitude in which each part of the body corresponded with its matching putrefying counterpart. Shackled to their rotting double, the man or woman was left to decay. To avoid the starvation of the victim and to ensure the rotting bonds between the living and the dead were fully established, the Etruscan [pirates] continued to feed the victim appropriately. Only once the superficial difference between the corpse and the living body started to rot away through the agency of worms, which bridged the two bodies, establishing a differential continuity between them, did the Etruscans stop feeding the living. Once both the living and the dead had turned black through putrefaction, the Etruscans deemed it appropriate to unshackle the bodies, by now combined together…4

    “There are historical reports of this form of torture lasting into the sixteenth century. The Aeneid by Virgil was written in the late first century BC. The Etruscans had been around for a long time before the first century.

    “The apostle Paul, well-read and well-traveled, would have been familiar with this practice of the body of death as a literal torture carried out upon persons.”
    __________________________

    1 Virgil, The Aeneid, VIII 483-88

    2 For more details on Aristotle and the fragment on the psyche see A.P. Bos, The
    Soul and its Instrumental Body: A Reinterpretation of Aristotleʼs Philosophy of Living Nature, (Leiden: Brill, 2003)

    3 Aristote et les pirates tyrrhéniens, 1963

    4 for more information see https://www.urbanomic.com/chapter/collapse-iv-reza-negarestani-the-corpse-bride/

    Source: http://media.calvaryhanford.com/romans/when-in-romans/20thecorpsebrideofchrist.pdf

  7. @Erich Heidenreich #5

    Nice! As repentant baptized believers (the regenerate) we are not the under Law, but under grace. To be under the Law is to be under the curse and the condemnation of the Law. To be under grace is to be freed from the curse and condemnation of the Law. However, we are not without the Law in this life. We are beginning to walk “in” the Law. Good theology is found in the proper distinction of prepositions.

  8. @Rev. Brian Kachelmeier #3

    Brian, you’ve made me reexamine the passages that I had in mind while I was writing the above post. I was thinking of Galatians 2:19-21, 2 Corinthians 3, and Romans 6-7. I misspoke when I spoke of the Law being dead. None of those passages speak about the Law as being dead. They all speak about me being dead. That is very important. The Law is still in force. But I have been judged by it and punished in the Lord Jesus Christ. I have died together with him. It can’t keep killing him over and over again. When the Law has executed someone, that’s it. It’s done all that it can do. So, in a sense, it is dead to me, but more importantly, I am dead to it. It can’t kill me all over again. I’d dead, remember? It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.

    There is an awful delusion, and it is by no means uncommon, that I can be alive with the Law. But this is a sin against the Gospel. It is a falsification of the Law: in the day that you sin, you will surely die. It’s saying, “I won’t surely die.” It is true “antinomianism.” The only answer to the curse pronounced together with the good and holy Law of God is the one who became a curse for us, redeeming us from the curse. We even participate in that curse in Jesus’s death. Only through death, can we have life. To say that there can be life with that Law is to believe in something that is impossible. We must convince ourselves that we are dead in Christ. That’s hard. Reason rebels against it. But God’s Word says that you are dead. So count yourself as dead. There is no hope of goodness in you. But you are alive to God in Christ Jesus.

    So I’m really glad that you pointed out to me the error in what I said, when I said the Law ceases its accusation when it dies. It didn’t die. I died. But now the Law cannot accuse anymore, because I have died. If I try to live apart from the death of Christ, then I am making the death of Christ to no purpose. It is important that we do not slip the Law back in a way towards life even as a Christian. This is precisely what was going on in Galatia. They weren’t reverting to Judaism. They were hoping that there might be some goodness in us after all and that I can bank on that. The Law always accuses, except for those it has already killed. When we believe that we are dead, then we are in good stead. When we believe that we aren’t that bad after all (even with all our progress in sanctification), then we are denying Christ, and been tricked by the devil all over again.

    As far as what I said about the criminal who has died has been justified by the Law, I again misspoke. Romans 6:7 says, “For one who has died has been justified from sin.” I should actually look this stuff up before I start gassing off about it, I guess.

    So thank you for your kind response. Your bewilderment at what I said was completely justified. I did not speak well. Yet, it has been a blessing to me, to have been set straight by reexamining the passages.

  9. “Good works follow such faith, renewal, and forgiveness of sin, and whatever in these works is still sinful or imperfect should not even be counted as sin or imperfection, precisely for the sake of this same Christ. Instead, the human creature should be called and should be completely righteous and holy—according to both the person and his or her works—by the pure grace and mercy that have been poured and spread over us in Christ. Therefore we cannot boast about the great merit of our works, where they are viewed apart from grace and mercy. Rather, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” [I Cor. 1:31, 2 Cor. 10:17]. That is, if one has a gracious God, then everything is good.”

    [The Smalcald Articles: Part III: Article 13]

  10. Again, regarding that possible “body of death” reference, here is a quote from Cicero in Hortensius [35 BC]:

    “Aristotle says, that we are punished much as those were who once upon a time, when they had fallen into the hands of Etruscan robbers, were slain with elaborate cruelty; their bodies, the living [corpora viva] with the dead, were bound so exactly as possible one against another: so our souls, tied together with our bodies as the living fixed upon the dead.”

    That certainly fits as an analogy of the simul, even if this is not what St. Paul had in mind. It is interesting that St. Augustine writes of this work in his Confessions:

    “In the ordinary course of study, I lighted upon a certain book of Cicero, whose language, though not his heart, almost all admire. This book of his contains an exhortation to philosophy, and is called Hortensius. This book, in truth, changed my affections, and turned my prayers to Thyself, O Lord, and made me have other hopes and desires. Worthless suddenly became every vain hope to me; and, with an incredible warmth of heart, I yearned for an immortality of wisdom, and began now to arise that I might return to Thee. Not, then, to improve my language—which I appeared to be purchasing with my mother’s means, in that my nineteenth year, my father having died two years before—not to improve my language did I have recourse to that book; nor did it persuade me by its style, but its matter.”

  11. If the law was still “always accusing” after conversion, we could not have the “good conscience” we are promised through baptism. I know people who are virtually paralyzed by the teaching that the law still is always accusing them, even though they know they are forgiven.

    “Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as the covenant of a good conscience with God.”

    “You are not saved by washing the dirt from the flesh in order that the body may be clean, as the Jews did. Such cleanliness no longer has any validity, but there must be “the covenant of a good conscience with God”; that is, you must feel in yourself a good and cheerful conscience—a conscience that is in league with God and can say: ‘He gave me this promise. He will keep it, for He cannot lie.'” [LW 30:116]

    “For whoever fights with a good and well-instructed conscience can also fight well. This is especially true since a good conscience fills a man’s heart with courage and boldness. And if the heart is bold and courageous, the fist is more powerful, a man and even his horse are more energetic, everything turns out better, and every happening and deed contributes to the victory which God then gives. On the other hand, a timid and insecure conscience makes the heart fearful. It cannot possibly be otherwise: a bad conscience can only make men cowardly and fearful.” [LW 46:93 Whether Soldiers, Too, Can Be Saved]

    “As Psalm 76:2 testifies, His abode has been established in peace. Therefore God moves and rides in His Christians as in a comfortable, covered wagon, and they travel together from this life into life eternal. For the wagon is not stationary, which means that the Christians increase daily in spiritual stature, always possessing the peace of a good conscience.” [LW 13:20]

  12. Back to that long quote from Chemnitz, my understanding is that the first and second uses of the law are not for the regenerate. The third use is for the regenerate and is threefold, and includes functions that correspond to (replace) the first and second uses for the regenerate.

    1) To teach us what kind of works are pleasing to God so that we can make a beginning in obeying the commandments of the Decalog. (This is what some think the 3rd use only consists of.)

    2) To keep us mindful of the imperfection and uncleanness which still clings to our good works, so we do not fall into Phariseeism. (This corresponds to and replaces the second use for the regenerate to show us our sin, yet it has lost its accusing/condemning aspect.)

    3) To contend against and coerce their old man through the precepts, exhortations, warnings, and promises of the Law. (This corresponds to the 1st use as a “curb” for our old Adam.)

  13. Reading the Formula on the three uses of the law through the lens of Chemnitz’s Locus on the same, it certainly seems the Formula says the same thing:

    “The law of God is used (1) to maintain external discipline and respectability against dissolute, disobedient people and (2) to bring such people to a recognition of their sins. (3) It is also used when those who have been born anew through God’s Spirit, converted to the Lord, and had the veil of Moses removed for them live and walk in the law. A dispute arose among a few theologians over this third and final use of the law.”
    [SD VI:1]

    Note that the first (curb) use is against “dissolute, disobedient people” (not a description of the regenerate). The second (accusing/condemning) use is against “such people” [solches die Menschen] as were mentioned in the first use, hopefully leading to their justification. The third “final” use describes the use of the law after conversion, and is then described in the threefold manner repeated by Chemnitz in his Locus on the same. Here are the three aspects of the threefold third use for the regenerate according to Article VI of the Formula:

    1) “Although the truly believing are verily moved by God’s Spirit, and thus, according to the inner man, do God’s will from a free spirit, yet it is just the Holy Ghost who uses the written law for instruction with them, by which the truly believing also learn to serve God, not according to their own thoughts, but according to His written Law and Word, which is a sure rule and standard of a godly life and walk, how to order it in accordance with the eternal and immutable will of God.” ¶3

    2) “So, too, the doctrine of the Law, in and with [the exercise of] the good works of believers, is necessary for the reason that otherwise man can easily imagine that his work and life are entirely pure and perfect. But the Law of God prescribes to believers good works in this way, that it shows and indicates at the same time, as in a mirror, that in this life they are still imperfect and impure in us, so that we must say with the beloved Paul, 1 Cor. 4:4: I know nothing by myself; yet am I not hereby justified. Thus Paul, when exhorting the regenerate to good works, presents to them expressly the Ten Commandments, Rom. 13:9; and that his good works are imperfect and impure he recognizes from the Law, Rom. 7:7ff ; and David declares Ps. 119:32: Viam mandatorum tuorum cucurri, I will run the way of Thy commandments; but enter not into judgment with Thy servant, for in Thy sight shall no man living be justified, Ps. 143:2.” ¶21

    3) “For the old Adam, as an intractable, refractory ass, is still a part of them, which must be coerced to the obedience of Christ, not only by the teaching, admonition, force and threatening of the Law, but also oftentimes by the club of punishments and troubles…” ¶24

    Notice that the word “accusation” is not used here against even the old Adam part of the regenerate. If one is accused, that one is guilty, and the one who is guilty is eo ipso condemned. But the law has lost its ability to accuse and condemn for those in Christ. The Holy Spirit enlivens us through the Gospel to use the law against our old Adam that clings to us to contend against and coerce him with “teaching, admonition, force, threats, punishments and troubles”.

  14. What Pastor Kachelmeir proposes in effect denies original sin. The Baptist come to the same conclusion regarding these verses and this should give Lutherans pause. The Scriptures are clear that even in the regenerate sin still resides (1 John 1:8-9). Furthermore, the Law of God still has its theological use because we still sin. It is not possible to separate the functions of God’s Law, so when one preaches with the intent of the 3rd use, the 2nd use remains for all those troubled by their sins. We know that the Law does not give us the ability to do good, but only the Gospel (John 6:68). It seems a re-read of the entire Article VI of the SD FC is in order.

    [18] But since believers are not completely renewed in this world, but the old Adam clings to them even to the grave, there also remains in them the struggle between the spirit and the flesh….moreover because so far as they have been born anew according to the inner man, they do what is pleasing to God, not by coercion of the Law, but by the renewing of the Holy Ghost, voluntarily and spontaneously from their hearts; however, they maintain nevertheless a constant struggle against the old Adam.”

    Good works flow spontaneously from the Christian, yet the Law is still exhorted on Christians too. It seems that the problem is that the Legalist Lutherans cannot reconcile that the Gospel ultimately produces good works not the exhortation of the Law with the fact that the 3rd use may be preached, but not apart from the Gospel. I speak for many that are tired of the vilification of those who do not want to become legalist and lose the sweet Gospel based upon caricatures. Not only is this sinful, but illogical.

  15. @Joachim #16

    Joachim, that it is a pretty harsh claim that my proposal “in effect denies original sin.” No where have I claimed that in the regenerate sin does not still reside. Instead, I maintain that with Christ as our Mediator by faith, our sin is not counted against us.

    Furthermore, it seems that you are lumping me with the “Legalist Lutherans.” Could you elaborate on that title? Are you saying that I am being sinful and illogical? Like you, I do not want to become a legalist and lose the sweet Gospel.

    It is true that a re-reading of SD Article VI is in order. I would invite you to re-read it with me.

    Here is a paragraph that is helpful for our discussion:

    5] For although the Law is not made for a righteous man, as the apostle testifies 1 Tim. 1:9, but for the unrighteous, yet this is not to be understood in the bare meaning, that the justified are to live without law. For the Law of God has been written in their heart, and also to the first man immediately after his creation a law was given according to which he was to conduct himself. But the meaning of St. Paul is that the Law cannot burden with its curse those who have been reconciled to God through Christ; nor must it vex the regenerate with its coercion, because they have pleasure in God’s Law after the inner man.

    What is confessed about the Third Use of the Law here is no different than what I have proposed. The Law cannot burden the reconciled, justified, and regenerate believer with its curse. With faith in the Mediator, the Law cannot curse us.

    Furthermore, in SD Article VI, we teach:

    22] But how and why the good works of believers, although in this life they are imperfect and impure because of sin in the flesh, are nevertheless acceptable and well-pleasing to God, is not taught by the Law, which requires an altogether perfect, pure obedience if it is to please God. But the Gospel teaches that our spiritual offerings are acceptable to God through faith for Christ’s sake, 1 Pet. 2:5; Heb. 11:4ff. 23] In this way Christians are not under the Law, but under grace, because by faith in Christ the persons are freed from the curse and condemnation of the Law…

    Again, what I am “proposing” is no different than what we confess in SD VI. For those justified and regenerated by faith, we have been freed from the curse and condemnation of the Law. For those who believe in Christ as our Mediator, the Law cannot curse or condemn us. In SD Article VI we want to make a clear distinction between being under the Law and walking in the Law as a believer (those who are under grace). When you re-read it, look for that distinction.

    Not only should we re-read SD VI, but more importantly, we should re-read the Apology on Justification which states,

    …the Law condemns all men, but Christ, because without sin He has borne the punishment of sin, and been made a victim for us, has removed that right of the Law to accuse and condemn those who believe in Him, because He Himself is the propitiation for them for whose sake we are now accounted righteous. But since they are accounted righteous, the Law cannot accuse or condemn them, even though they have not actually satisfied the Law (Triglota Apology Art. III, 58 —NOTE: Tappert Art. IV, 179)

    How is it that Melanchthon is denying original sin?

  16. @Rev. Brian Kachelmeier #17

    I failed to include paragraph 4 in SD Article VI which states,

    4] For the explanation and final settlement of this dissent we unanimously believe, teach, and confess that although the truly believing and truly converted to God and justified Christians are liberated and made free from the curse of the Law, yet they should daily exercise themselves in the Law of the Lord, as it is written, Ps. 1:2;119:1: Blessed is the man whose delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law doth he meditate day and night. For the Law is a mirror in which the will of God, and what pleases Him, are exactly portrayed, and which should [therefore] be constantly held up to the believers and be diligently urged upon them without ceasing.

    Note that those who are justified by faith are “liberated and made free from the curse of the Law.”

  17. @Rev. Brian Kachelmeier #18
    Dear Rev. Kachelmeier:
    You had me at the two paragraphs beginning with the words, “Nevertheless, it seems to me that sometimes pastors speak as if it was their primary role to use the Law for accusing people of their sins.” As a layperson, I have been troubled by this phenomenon for many years. It is as if too many pastors believe that everyone is sinning so that grace might abound. I am somewhat disappointed that I saw no comments on this topic.
    You are so right when you write “the Law cannot justify. Jesus justifies.” In reality, the Law cannot even condemn or accuse. The Law is simply an oral or written record of the Will of God. This is the meaning of the Hebrew word “Torah.” He is the author of it, and He may accuse or condemn based on it, Romans 3:19, “…so that every mouth may be silenced, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.”
    Others accuse, based on the Law of God. Satan does, as does our own conscience, as well as those pastors mentioned above.
    This is why I rejoice in the wonderful words of Michael Holmen, “When the Law has executed someone, that’s it. It’s done all that it can do. So, in a sense, it is dead to me, but more importantly, I am dead to it. It can’t kill me all over again. I’m dead, remember? It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” which are supported by St. Paul’s rhapsody in Romans 8:33, “It is God Who justifies. Who is to condemn?”
    But when your refer to the exhortation to exercise oneself in the Law of the Lord, and cite Psalm 1:2 and 119:1, there is a little problem. In both cases the Hebrew uses the word בְּתֹורַ֥ת, which is derived from the word “Torah”. Neither this word, nor any other in the Bible conforms to the Lutheran definition of “Law.” “Torah” includes both Law and Gospel, making the exercise appreciably more delightful.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  18. @Rev. Brian Kachelmeier #17

    Pastor Kachelmeier,

    One must recall that the Christian still must subdue the Old Adam daily as the SC and LC (e.g. the explanation on the Six Petition in the Lord’s Prayer) explain. The Law does condemn us still because we constantly need to be reconverted due to the struggle with the flesh. Yet those who believe in Christ are imputed righteous not infused as the implication of your thoughts. It essentially is the idea that simul iustus et peccator- we are just and a sinner at the same time. The issue with the Legalist Lutherans is the idea that the Third Use should be preached separately from the Gospel as if we can put the Gospel in the rear-view mirror, which the Baptists and Methodists do. This is a most grievous error since only the Spirit through the Gospel can convert and sustain us and is the only source of good works. In sanctification, we do not produce good works by ourselves, but it is the Spirit who assists us. While you have not denied that good works organic spring from the Christian here, many have, which denies the article cited and I quote from above. The issue is the futile attempt at trying to reconcile that good works automatically result from the forgiveness of sins and the continue exhortation of the Christian as the FC SD teaches. Both can be true!

    Melanchthon does not deny original sin in the Apology, that’s not the issue being discussed but Justification. In Christ, the Law does not condemn. The key part is the preposition. However, as long as we live in this place of sorrow the Law does due to the continued clinging of the flesh. This is most obvious in that Christians die even though they are no longer condemned (I am assuming you aren’t saying all who have died are not Christian). Death is the last work of the Law. Again this is a distinction between imputed righteousness and original righteousness. We no longer have the original righteousness as Adam and Eve had, but have the appropriated righteousness in Christ. Why does Paul call our body a body of death if according to the flesh we were made righteous in it (Romans 7:24-25)? It is the forensic act that makes us no longer condemned in Christ not a new body.

    Note that later on Melanchthon did deny Original Sin. Where even Calvin condemned him for his emphasis on the will in conversion.

    The problem is that you and others are emphasizing only one aspect of the Christian life at the expense of the other, which is more dangerous because being a good Christian while desirable does not keep one in heaven, rather it is faith in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. The entire Divine Service is revolves around this fact (the forgiveness of sins in Christ), and thus the gospel should be prevalent since it and it only can impart eternal life.

  19. Christians are no longer “under” the law. We now walk “in” the law. For the Christian, the mirror of the law does not accuse/condemn us, but rather it works repentance. It shows us our sin. If that is all people mean by the law “accusing” us, then They are thinking right. They’re just not using the sound pattern of words taught in Scripture and the Confessions.

    Repentance includes faith. We Christians have contrition and sorrow over the sins we commit, but we know that Christ has atoned for them and imputed His righteousness to us, so “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ.”

    All our sins are forgiven before we ask. That is the objective truth our faith receives. Yet, just as a husband who loves his wife doesn’t just have it as a thought in his head but delivers that love to her with words and kisses, God showers us with His forgiveness in Word and sacrament.

    Yes, the old Adam still clings to us. We contend with Him through the third use of the law. As the Formula states regarding this third and final use of the law, the old Adam “must be coerced to the obedience of Christ, not only by the teaching, admonition, force and threatening of the Law, but also oftentimes by the club of punishments and troubles…” ¶24

    Notice the words “accuse” and “condemn” are not employed here. The law has lost that function in the regenerate, for we are no longer accused or condemned by the law. The accuser of Christians is none other than Satan himself. See Rev. 12:10.

    If the old Adam is accused by the law, yet the redeemed “saint” part of us is not accused at the same time, then the conscience of the Christian is either confused or somehow divided because the law does and does not accuse the same person at the same time. I am, indeed, saint and sinner at the same time, yet I am not two people but one person, with one conscience.

    My conscience is sorrowful and contrite over my sins, but my conscience is not accused or condemned because I now live a life of repentance, which has faith that the law has lost those functions for the sake of Christ. Baptism gave me a good, clear conscience.

    If I were to consider myself and my sin, per se, without Christ, then the Law would accuse me. But I do not consider my sin without Christ.

    I (old Adam included) have Christ with me always. The law can, therefore, never accuse me. I do, however, use it to club the old Adam over the head. I do not need accusation or condemnation because I delight in God’s law and it makes me sorrowful when the old Adam gets the best of me. There is a war going on between me and my old Adam, and the third use of the law gives me everything I need to fight him.

    Satan is the only one who accuses me, because he wants to make me lose the freedom Christ won from me – freedom from the curse of the law. Whenever Satan accuses me, holding up my sins in front of my eyes, I tell Satan where he can stick his stinking accusations.

  20. @Erich Heidenreich #22

    “All our sins are forgiven before we ask. That is the objective truth our faith receives. Yet, just as a husband who loves his wife doesn’t just have it as a thought in his head but delivers that love to her with words and kisses, God showers us with His forgiveness in Word and sacrament.”
    I am sure you are right about God forgiving our sins before we ask. However, once they are forgiven and forgotten (Jeremiah 31:34, “…for I will forgive their iniquity and remember their sin no more.) does God then, having forgotten our sins, forgive them again and again? Luther’s belief that God forgives our sin in the Sacrament of the Altar is clearly a holdover from his Roman Catholic days. It cannot be shown from Scripture.
    Maybe you meant the our merciful Father assures us of the forgiveness of our sins through Word and Sacrament? Because that He does indeed, richly and overwhelmingly.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  21. No. While our sins are objectively already forgiven, that forgiveness is applied to us subjectively through Word and Sacrament. Word and Sacrament actually are the means of grace through which God showers us with His forgiveness. The objective truth must be received through faith to be applied to the sinner. As often as our sins burden us, God’s means of grace are there to deliver the comfort of His forgiveness. Can you get too much forgiveness?

    By the way, George, do you claim to be Lutheran?

  22. @Erich Heidenreich #24

    “While our sins are objectively already forgiven, that forgiveness is applied to us subjectively through Word and Sacrament.” So then all of our sins are clearly not forgiven before we ask, as you wrote earlier. Here I should reasonably stop all discussion on the subject, because you are denying your primary assumption. As to the “objective” and “subjective” forgiveness, I would like to see some support from Scripture. What happens if you get killed on your way to church, before the objective forgiveness has become subjective?
    “As often as our sins burden us, God’s means of grace are there to deliver the comfort of His forgiveness.” Yes, “the comfort” of His forgiveness, but the forgiveness itself takes place before we ask, as you wrote above, but about which you do not appear certain now. Quite often our sins, which have been forgiven, still trouble us years later. But we do not receive “new forgiveness.” We receive assurance from God’s Word and Sacrament that our sins are indeed forgiven, and that God continues to love us.
    “Can you get too much forgiveness?” No, you cannot. But not because you can never get enough forgiveness, but because forgiveness is an act of the will of God. If it can be quantified, it is only in that each sin is forgiven. It is not a substance that is somehow infused into us in various quantities.
    Erich, if you had asked me if I am a Lutheran, I would have answered you. But I choose not to respond to a question that is posed in a rude, ill-mannered way.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  23. George, I’m sorry you took my question as rude. What you have been saying is clearly inconsistent with the doctrine of Lutheranism as confessed in the Book of Concord, so I was wondering if I am talking with someone who claims to be Lutheran. It would change the way I would respond to your false accusations. You obviously have not been able to understand what others in this discussion are saying, so I am trying to figure out why so that I can explain it in a way you would hopefully understand.

  24. @Erich Heidenreich #26

    “What you have been saying is clearly inconsistent with the doctrine of Lutheranism as confessed in the Book of Concord,” It would be helpful if you did not make generalizations, which give the impression that everything I say is contrary to the teaching of the Book of Concord. In this particular series of postings, the only thing I have said that is not taught by the Book of Concord, is that we do not receive forgiveness when we partake of the Sacrament of the Altar. If you are referring to other postings, then it would behoove you to mention specifics.
    What are your qualifications for expounding the pure doctrine of the Church?
    I was baptized in the Lutheran Church of Estonia over 81 years ago – a church, by the way, not affected by the Prussian Union. I was confirmed in the LCMS. I went to two institutions of higher learning in the LCMS.
    I have been a member of 5 LCMS congregations, and 3 ELCA congregations; none asked me to leave. I joined one ELCA congregation because the pastors at the LCMS congregation I wanted to join, believed that there was no difference between the Baptism of John and the Baptism of the New Covenant.
    Now, if you want this discussion to continue, please abandon the ad hominem approach and address the specifics of the matter.
    Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  25. Well, if you were confirmed, then you have broken your confirmation vow because you admit you do not believe you receive the forgiveness of sins when you partake of the Lord’s Supper. This is basic Small Catechism stuff! So, what else in The teachings of the Evangelical Lutheran Church do you disagree with, and how am I to argue with you about what is the true Lutheran doctrine if you do not subscribe to it fully? There is no purpose in continuing this dialogue.

  26. @Erich Heidenreich #28

    Erich, the quality of your argumentation is clearly shown by the sentence, “..how am I to argue with you about what is true Lutheran doctrine if you do not subscribe to it fully?”
    First, I do not recognize you as an authority on true Lutheran doctrine. Secondly, do I have to believe it fully before we can argue about it? Apparently the absurdity of your words does not bother you.
    Nevertheless, Vale, Peace and Joy!
    George A. Marquart

  27. I do not claim to be an authority on Lutheran Doctrine, and I never implied that I am. The Book of Concord is. The statements you have been making make it clear that you do not hold the same first principles as I do, let alone understand what others words mean in this discussion of Lutheran doctrine, so there would have to be much defining of terms and identifying of important premises, etc. before we could effectively argue about Lutheran doctrine and have any chance of reaching the same conclusion. I am not an authority, so that conclusion may very well be different than what I have been saying. I very well could be wrong. However, I don’t trust you to be the one to convince me.

    I am not interested in wasting my time arguing it with someone who rejects teachings in the Lutheran Confessions to begin with. I don’t understand your purpose here. This forum is meant for Confessional Lutherans, and that is why I am here. All you have contributed to this discussion is false accusations, false doctrine, and misunderstandings of what others have said. In order to argue about something you have to at least understand what your opponent is saying.

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