A Laymen’s Commentary on the Smalcald Articles: The Gospel

Part III, Article IV. Of the Gospel.

We will now return to the Gospel, which not merely in one way gives us counsel and aid against sin; for God is superabundantly rich [and liberal] in His grace [and goodness]. First, through the spoken Word by which the forgiveness of sins is preached [He commands to be preached] in the whole world; which is the peculiar office of the Gospel. Secondly, through Baptism. Thirdly, through the holy Sacrament of the Altar. Fourthly, through the power of the keys, and also through the mutual conversation and consolation of brethren, Matt. 18:20: Where two or three are gathered together, etc.

The Gospel (i.e. good news) is the promise of the forgiveness of sins for Christ’s sake.  It is Justification for you. The answering of the condemnation of the Law and declaring you not guilty and a child of God. That Christ indeed is risen, and we too shall rise. It naturally follows after Repentance.  After all without the Gospel, Repentance has no answer and is meaningless.

God is so gracious that the Gospel is given not just in one way but through many means:

  1. First through the spoken Word, that is the preaching of the Gospel and declaration of the forgiveness of sins.  The preaching office is the particular office of the Gospel.  This is the office of the pastor (Luke 24:36-49).
  2. Second we have Holy Baptism (which we will discuss next).
  3. Third we have Holy Communion (which we will discuss after that).
  4. Fourth we have the Power of the Keys (which will discuss after those two).
  5. Finally, we also have our discussion and interaction between fellow Christians.  All who are Christians can declare and confess the Gospel. Thus we should in our daily conversation with other Christians continually forgive sins, confess Christ, and talk about Scripture (Matthew 18, Romans 1:1-17).

Those who are in distress should be directed to the Gospel and these gifts. Those who are haughty should have the Law brought to mind.  Our whole life is this back and forth between Law and Gospel. For the ultimate discussion of this see C. F. W. Walther’s epic work “The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel”.

1 The Gospel shows the Father’s grace,
Who sent His Son to save our race,
Proclaims how Jesus lived and died
That we might thus be justified.

2 It sets the Lamb before our eyes,
Who made the atoning sacrifice,
And calls the souls with guilt oppressed
To come and find eternal rest.

3 It brings the Savior’s righteousness
To robe our souls in royal dress;
From all our guilt it brings release
And gives the troubled conscience peace.

4 It is the pow’r of God to save
From sin and Satan and the grave;
It works the faith which firmly clings
To all the treasures which it brings.

5 It bears to all the tidings glad
And bids their hearts no more be sad;
The weary, burdened souls it cheers
And banishes their guilty fears.

6 May we in faith its message learn
Nor thanklessly its blessings spurn;
May we in faith its truth confess
And praise the Lord, our righteousness.

(LSB 580)

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