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Luther on law and gospel

Luther on law and gospel

This week we celebrate the 499th anniversary of Martin Luther’s posting of his 95th Theses and the beginning of the Lutheran Reformation.  

Consider this quote by the Reformer on the purpose of the law and the purpose of the gospel.

[Someone says,] “If we cannot do anything to keep the law, what is the point of so many laws, so many precepts, so many threatenings and promises?” 
Paul replies in Romans 3:20: “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.” 
He replies to this question very differently from the way people or free choice thinks. He denies that free choice is proved by the law and cooperates with it to produce righteousness.  For what comes through the law is not righteousness but knowledge of sin. It is the task, function, and effect of the law to be a light to the ignorant and blind.  
Such a light as reveals sickness, sin, evil, death, hell, the wrath of God.  Though it affords no help.  It brings no deliverance from these.  It is content to have revealed them. 
Then, when a person becomes aware of the disease of sin, he is troubled, distressed, even in despair. The law is no help. Much less can he help himself. 
There is need of another light to reveal the remedy. This is the voice of the gospel, revealing Christ as the deliverer from all these things. 
It is not reason or free choice that reveals Christ.  How should it when it is itself darkness and needs the light of the law to reveal its disease.  By its own light it does not see. Rather it believes to itself healthy.… 
When sins are unrecognized, there is no room for a remedy and no hope of a cure. The reason: humans will not submit to the touch of a healer when they imagine themselves well and in no need of a physician.