The Doctrine of the Law
In my last Tidings of Hope, you read about how doctrine is relevant to our Christian lives, how it is the basis for our blessed unity, and how it prepares us for the proper reception of Communion. These reasons are in addition to the important facts that biblical doctrine is true and that correct doctrine actually saves and comforts us. Therefore, let us consider doctrine as it is taught in Luther’s Small Catechism.
The Catechism starts with the Law as summed up in the 10 Commandments. The moral Law of God depicts the holiness of God, and like the holiness of God, it does not change. We do not decide what is right and holy, God does. With the 10 Commandments, God relates to us what is holy and what His demands of us are.
Are the 10 Commandments relevant to us? Well, we are to live according to the Law in every moment of our lives, and in everything we do in life. At the same time, every thought, every decision, every word or deed, every single second of your life is under the scrutiny of the Law. The Law judges us of falling short of holiness. The Law condemns us as guilty sinners. That’s pretty relevant.
Our default thinking is that we can ascend to God through our keeping of the Law. Without a regular hearing of the Law, it so easily happens that we switch back into default mode thinking that we can save ourselves. But the Law reminds us that the way of salvation is not through the Law. The Law only condemns. The Law must lead us to repentance of our sins, for without repentance there is no faith, no forgiveness, and no salvation. Scripture says, “For by the works of the Law no human being will be justified in [God’s] sight, since through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).
So, first, it is important for us to know the 10 Commandments so that we recognize our sins, our inability to save ourselves, and our need for repentance.
Secondly, it is important for us to know the Law as the guide for our Christian lives. As God’s redeemed people, forgiven of our sins, and restored to the image of God in Christ, we love what is good and holy! And the Law is holy. It guides us so that we know how to live, think, speak and make decisions in a way that is holy and glorifies God. It is our good pleasure to do the Law.
Lastly, it is important for us to consider the Law before receiving the Lord’s Supper so that we may partake of it with repentant hearts. A person who is impenitent chooses sin over Christ’s forgiveness. And therefore, since the Supper is given for the forgiveness of sins, he despises the body and blood of Christ. This is a wicked sin. So definitely, a serious consideration of the Law and sincere repentance is necessary for the proper reception of the Supper. But he who hears the law and who approaches the altar with repentant hearts has the certainty that the body and blood of Christ gives him the full forgiveness of sins, the fullness of life in God, and eternal salvation.
I was going to talk about the first table of the Law, but it looks like I ran out of room. But I can’t end this article that is so heavy on the Law with so little gospel.
The gospel, or good news, is that Christ came into the world for us who are condemned by the Law. He is our substitute, keeping the Law in our place, achieving for us a righteousness that saves. He suffered the condemnation of the Law on the cross in our place, so that all our sins are washed away by His precious blood. Through His gospel, in Word, water, and bread and wine, His righteousness and forgiveness are given to you and are yours through faith. Furthermore, as Christians, we delight in the Law of God, and are able to keep it—though imperfectly—because we live a new life in Christ, a life in faith and love, powered by the Holy Spirit.
Have a blessed June!
Questions to consider for the next article: What are some false gods that you worship? Why is it such a blessing that God commands us to use His name rightly? What should our main purpose for going to church be?