Full Text for Dogmatics 4- Volume 27 - Isn't the law an awkward and unproductive motivation for a Christian that does everything from the Gospel? (Video)

No. 27. >> Related to David's question, I wonder about the issue of motivation. While the law may be useful as motivation for unbelievers, isn't the law an awkward and unproductive motivation for a Christian that does everything from the Gospel? I suppose I'm surfacing the issue of antinomianism again. But I have come to the point of fearing my ability to apply the law appropriately in a positive sphere. As an aside, I'll mention that not long ago I read a paper presented at an LCMS seminary-sponsored gathering in which the author and presenter argued that there is in the final analysis only one use of the law: The mirror, the revelation of sin. >>DR. JOEL D. BIERMANN: All right. We keep on going further and deeper in this. And it starts to sound maybe a little redundant. But I think there are nuances that are distinct here. Let's pick up the last thing first. The idea that there is only the second use of the law. If I'm going to define the law as that which kills me, kills me in my personal being, kills me in my desire to try to save myself, helps me realize my fallenness and my brokenness, that is true in a relationship before God. That's what the law does. The law does not justify me. The law does not make me better. The law does not give me steps for justification. The law does not give me guidance on how to become more acceptable to God. It cannot do that. It can only do one thing. It can smash me and kill me. And when the law is declared full blast and it does its thing, it will always lay low everybody. Every single time we come face to face in God's reality in the law and the height of his law, it always lays us down flat. Always, always, always. Then the Gospel comes rolling in and declares us forgiven and things are set right. And if that was the only relationship we were thinking about, I would say: End of story. We're done. Law kills. Gospel makes alive. That's it. But we don't just focus on the right hand realm. We don't just focus on a person's coram deo or vertical relationship. We also have to deal with the horizontal realm. This world, the realities. And in this world, the law has not been subverted. It has not been set aside. Christ said: I came to fulfill the law. Not to destroy the law. And Paul says: Is the law good or bad? It is good. It is God's goodwill. So I would disagree vehemently with the idea that the law only has one purpose and that is killing. Does the law always accuse? Yes. And here is the dangerous part -- and you're very right to say I'm very weary of the law. Hey, man, the law is loaded. It's a powerful thing. And when you lay the law out there, it does stuff. And just when you think you're getting your handle on it, you can kind of control it, it's going to bite you every time. One of my colleagues likes to say, this is Dr. Kolb, he says: The law is nothing but a domesticated wolf. You don't tame a wolf. It can get you any time. So think about your own Christian walk. Just when you think things are going well. You're really getting on top of it. And you think you are really starting to kind of thrive. You're going to find yourself all of a sudden levelled and you say: How did this happen? How did I make such a huge mistake? How was I so stupid? And the very law you thought you had under control just bites you. It does that. Again and again. Because we're broken people. Simul iustus et peccator, at the same time saint and sinner. We do not do what we should do. So the law is always going to convict. Always going to bite. Always going to kill. Use it. You see, just because it's a loaded, dangerous thing doesn't mean we shouldn't use it. You've got to. Because it also instructs. It also curbs. It helps people to realize what God's will is for them in this life. And if you sort of shy away from it because it's so loaded and so potent, you're going to do your people a disservice. Because they will not understand God's will for their lives. They won't know how to live. And they will go looking for answers somewhere to find them so they can know what they are supposed to do. Coram mundu, in this world, we need the law. And it's a good thing. And the third use is for Christians. Christians need it. There is this notion that's kind of around. And sometimes I think it comes out of a misunderstanding of Luther. Luther said in one place, he said: Oh, faith is a living, busy, active thing. It's doing good works before it even has to be told. It doesn't need anybody to tell it what to do. That's true. There is definitely a reality to that that when the Gospel comes into my life. It transforms me. It drives me. It motivates me. I do things I never thought I could do. And you've all experienced new Christians who are just on fire for the Lord. That's how we talk about it. And they are just doing great stuff without even being told. Now, is that the whole story? I don't think it is. Because the same Luther, who talked about how works just come flying out of the Christian, also talked about training and discipline and practice and forcing ourselves to do the right thing when we don't want to. And sometimes we do things simply because we have to not because we want to. Between the seminary and my home in St. Louis there's a stretch of road that's beautiful big five-lane highway up and down these nice rolling hills in St. Louis and it's a great road. And you can go 50 miles an hour on that road no problem. And the speed limit is 30. When I go home, I drive 30 miles an hour every single day. Why? Because I love Jesus so much? No. Let's be honest. I drive 30 because I do not want the embarrassment of being pulled over and having to explain a ticket to my wife. The ticket is not the motivation. The real motivation is explaining it to my wife. That I don't want. So I drive the speed limit for one reason only. I don't want to have to deal with the consequences. Now, is that a Gospel motivation? No. Am I doing it because I love God so much? Not really. I'm doing it because it's the curb. I'm being honest. Maybe something kind of -- maybe I'm a little bit less spiritual than some of you guys. Maybe it's just my own personal problem. But I suspect the law still plays a pretty vital role for all of us. The law has a role. It motivates. Is it the best? No. Far better for me to do out of my love for my neighbor. Out of my love for God. But short that, the law still has a role to play. And it helps us just to stay out of trouble. To be obedient. To be a better servant. The law will do that. Even for Christians. And it even helps Christians to understand better what it is that God wants them to be doing. That's that third function. It's not just automatic. You just don't all of a sudden start knowing what God's will is just because you become a Christian. You get better tuned in. You're paying better attention. But God still has to teach you. And he teaches you in his law. So is there a place for those laws in the life of the Christian? Yes. And is there a place for it in preaching? You bet there is. Specific, concrete, tangible law. It needs to be there.