Full Text for Homiletics 2- Volume 4 - Why is so much emphasis given to differentiating Law and Gospel? (Video)

Homiletics 2 File 4 Professor Carl Fickenscher II Question by: Nick >> NICK: Thank you. That all seems pretty clear. Six differences. This is what the law is, this is what the gospel is. But Walther spends a whole book on it. Why the big deal? >> PROF. FICKENSCHER: Good question, Nick. The truth of the matter is, what we've done so far is really very easy. To put up on the blackboard left side law, right side gospel, this is what the law is, this is what the gospel is, defining them, understanding basically what they are, is something that frankly we did really all learn in confirmation class, as we look back and consider, once again. It's really quite simple. The tough thing, of course, is applying them. Okay? Walther says in his second thesis, "Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all the articles of faith in accordance with scripture but also rightly distinguishes from each other the law and the gospel." The term that we use for applying law and gospel is "rightly dividing" or "rightly distinguishing" between the two. And this is where it gets very, very difficult. In fact, this is such an important concept that St. Paul almost summarizes the whole work of the pastor on this very issue. In 2 Timothy 2, that's well worth turning your Bibles with me as 2 Timothy 2:15. Turn there with me and you'll probably have different translations. I'll read again from the New American Standard Bible. St. Paul says this: "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth." Now, you know, a pastor, as the writer of the Hebrew says in Hebrews 13:17, is going to have to give an account to God of the souls in his charge. Okay? The pastor is going to stand before God and say, "This is how I was faithful" or "This is where I failed to be faithful in caring for the sheep that you gave me." And here, St. Paul says to Timothy, advice of a pastor to another pastor, "If you want to be able to stand before God on that judgment day as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, if you want to be able to stand before God and say, 'Yes, now, here's the faithful accounting of the souls placed in my charge,' then," Paul says, "be able to say that you handled accurately the word of truth." Now, some of you are probably reading from different translations. The New International Version is very similar to the NASB, but if any of you are reading from the New King James or the Old King James, you'll notice the last part of Verse 15 is a little different. It probably says something like "rightly dividing the word of truth," okay? The Greek word here is "orthotomeo," which means, literally, to cut straight. What Paul says to Timothy, then, is: In order to give an account of the faithful service of the sheep in your care, be able to tell the Lord that you cut straight or rightly divided the word of truth. What does that mean? Well, the word of truth, of course, is scripture. All 66 inspired inerrant books of the Bible. But Paul is saying here that it's necessary to use parts of God's word in one situation, other parts in other situations. I like to illustrate this by reminding you of the old Ford Granada. I don't know how many of you remember the Ford Granada, but the Ford Granada was a car that the Ford Motor Company made in the early and terribly dark days of the energy crisis in the 1970s when a gallon of gas went from 27 cents to 42 cents a gallon! And the world, at least in America, was terrified. The European and Japanese car manufacturers, for many years, had been making cars that got 30, 40 or more miles to the gallon, and American manufacturers were getting us something like 13 or 14 miles to the gallon. And so the Ford Motor Company decided that they would make a new car that would be more economical and would deal with that energy problem. Now, unfortunately they didn't at that time quite have it down just right, and so the first effort they made in the Ford Granada was simply to take a car and a chassis they'd used before and make it into a nice simple box with wheels, cut off some of the front, cut off some of the back, cut off some of the sleekness, get a little less metal, get a little more mileage, a few more miles to the gallon. Now, it looked lousy, but they were aware of the fact that it did look a little bit like in fact, quite a bit like a Mercedes. And that was a good marketing ploy. To tell us that the Granada looked just like a Mercedes, to an extent, worked. But they definitely went over the edge when they told us that the Granada actually also rode like a Mercedes. And you may recall, some of you, a commercial in which they pushed that idea. It went like this: They had a camera mounted in the front seat, supposedly, of a Ford Granada, pointing toward the backseat. And in the backseat sat a man in a dark suit, perhaps a little narrower tie, and in his eye was a jeweler's loop. You remember you looked through one of those when you got the engagement ring for your wife, right? Now, in very hushed tones, the announcer explained to us that this man was an expert diamond cutter, and before him was a precious uncut diamond. Now, you know how it is. The diamond is the hardest substance in the world, but it doesn't just come out of the ground in the form that's usable for an engagement stone. You got to cut it. And you can, quite nicely, as long as you hit it right on its natural facets. When you hit it just right, it will split beautifully, smoothly, and the uncut diamond becomes two or three very valuable engagement stones. But as they explain to us in the commercial, the slightest miss, failing to hit that facet just right, results in that diamond being split into powder, which of course loses all of its value. They tell us it becomes worthless, frankly. Now, they tell us this expert diamond cutter will be able to cut this precious uncut diamond while riding in the backseat of a Ford Granada because it rides just as smoothly as a Mercedes. There he is. He's ready. And now we see the exterior shot of the car. It's bouncing through chuckholes or over speed bumps and all kinds of things through the city streets. In the back, it's as smooth and serene as can be, until that expert diamond cutter, focused only one thing (making sound). "Perfect! It's beautiful! It's perfect!" You know, he's got that European accent that sounds really cultured, and that enthusiasm that says he's a maestro who has just conducted a brilliant concert for a full concert hall. Now, I don't buy the Granada riding as smoothly as the Mercedes, but that commercial does visualize nicely what Paul is talking about in 2 Timothy 2:15 when he says that we are to cut straight the word of truth. The entire holy Bible, of course, is God's inspired inerrant word, and every syllable is useful for our teaching and learning, for reproof and correction and so on. But in those 66 books, God has given us law and he has given us gospel. And it is God's intention that we speak law at a moment when our hearer needs to hear law, and gospel at a moment when our hearer is terrified and needs to hear gospel. To confuse those two, to speak law at a moment when our hearer needs to hear gospel, or to speak gospel at a moment when our hearer needs to hear law, is to fail to hit that diamond on the facet. Essentially, it is to splinter off that precious uncut diamond, the word of scripture, and, in fact, make it sometimes worthless. For example, to speak to a terrified sinner and give her something else that she is to do "Well, why don't you just pray about that, just turn that over to God" rather than assuring her that God knows her needs, God hears her prayers, God is caring for her, is potentially to drive her to despair. And even though St. Paul says, "Pray without ceasing," even though you may be giving a concept, pray about it, it is undeniably scriptural. It is not what God would say to that woman at this moment. You have splintered the diamond. You have essentially rendered it worthless. That is confusing law and gospel. That is failing to properly divide law and gospel. Yeah, it's a simple thing to put up on the board what law is, what gospel is, but to know the hearts of your hearers, know whether they are terrified or hardened, whether it is a law moment when they need to hear law, or gospel moment when they need to hear gospel, is, to say the least, a challenge for every preacher, and St. Paul or rather, Walther would say, even in Thesis No. 3, that this is the most difficult and the highest art of Christians, taught only by the Holy Spirit in the school of experience.