If law and gospel faced off in a kickboxing match, I’m pretty sure that this would be the result (warning, graphic footage):
Ultimately the gospel is stronger and surer than the law. As a means of trying to make ourselves right with God, the law is weaker than this guy’s leg. The law is weak not because it has no value or no purpose, but because we are fundamentally weak, flawed, powerless to perform to God’s standard.
We often think of the gospel and the law as opposites. We make them opposites when we try to use the law for a purpose other than which God intended for it.
Why did God give us His moral law and how are we to use it?
- The law is a restraint on sin and stands apart from the work of salvation
- The law confronts sin and points us to Christ
- The law teaches us the way of righteousness
The law and our good works do not cause us to be saved rather they prepare the ground for us to encounter and receive the gospel. They also travel with us as we follow Christ as his disciples.
As long as we remember this, we needn’t see law and gospel as foes. The law serves the gospel and together they are necessary and helpful both for our justification and our growth in holiness.
The Belgic Confession puts it like this:
So then, it is impossible for this holy faith to be unfruitful in a human being, seeing that we do not speak of an empty faith but of what Scripture calls “faith working through love,” which leads a man to do by himself the works that God has commanded in his Word.
These works, proceeding from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable to God, since they are all sanctified by his grace. Yet they do not count toward our justification– for by faith in Christ we are justified, even before we do good works. Otherwise they could not be good, any more than the fruit of a tree could be good if the tree is not good in the first place.
The Belgic Confession, Article 24.
Focusing on the law can lead to, well, legalism–subconsciously trying to earn points toward God’s love. Ignoring the law can lead to well, antinomianism, casting aside all restraint and cheapening the grace and love of God. Neither leads to a deepening life of faith.