Friday, December 23, 2016

John 1:1-14 Law is Gospel

KEY TEXT: John 1:14-17 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.'") And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.

KEY THOT: John states in verse 14 that the eternal Son of God (Logos, v.1) became flesh and dwelt among us. In so doing, he reveals to us God's glory: "glory as of the only Son from the Father." This glory is experienced by those who believe and receive him as grace and truth: "And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth (i.e. gospel) came through Jesus Christ" (John 1:16-17). And this gospel is revealed in the context of the law that came through Moses. While Moses reveals God's holiness (law), Jesus Christ revealed God's grace and truth (gospel). Note that John is not repudiating the law but simply says that it came from Moses and the gospel came from Jesus Christ. We need the law to understand the gospel and we need the gospel to (re)interpret the law.

Lutheran theology speaks of "law and gospel", not "law or gospel." If we only have law without the gospel, we end up with a religion of rules and regulations, i.e. legalism. But if we only have gospel without law, we end up with libertarianism, i.e. lawlessness. When we pit gospel against the law, we may end up with hypergrace. Biblical grace can only be understood in the context of law, not apart from it.

Law does not condemn--it simply exposes sin. It is our sin that condemns us. Law reveals God's holy character and is therefore holy: "So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good" (Rom. 7:14). Without the law, we won't know what sin is, for sin is the transgression of the law. But if we don't have the gospel, the law will serve to judge us as sinners, not free us from sin. It is the gospel of Jesus Christ that saves us from our sin so that the law can no longer condemn us but guide us into the path of righteousness. So, from the Lutheran perspective, the Ten Commandments is "condemning law" if we reject the grace and truth revealed by Jesus Christ. Or the Ten Commandments  can be "gospel" too if we accept the grace and truth revealed by Jesus Christ. The law not only points us to grace of the gospel but also guide us into the truth taught by the gospel.

Once we are saved and transferred from darkness into light through grace, the law is no longer a "law of sin" but become the "law of life" as it reveals the truth about God and his character. Jesus Christ did not come to reveal grace alone but grace and truth. The truth Jesus came to reveal is his interpretation of the law as a "law of the Spirit of life" (Rom. 8:1).

So the law is not our problem. But our understanding of the gospel is. The gospel that Jesus Christ came to reveal is both grace and truth. Not grace or truth.

Father, open our eyes to see beyond the rules and regulations of Your law into the holy character revealed in them. May we delight in obeying the law so that we might be transformed by the renewal of our mind. Amen.

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