Oswald Bayer on Law, Gospel, and Justification

Over at Mockingbird Will McDavid posted a great quote from Oswald Bayer on the law, gospel, and justification. I thought I’d share it with you:

From Oswald Bayer’s interpretation of Martin Luther’s Theology, pages 228-9:

“The effect that the law creates is not surprising. One has no trouble understanding what it means to rely on oneself and on one’s own deeds; the action-consequences relationship has its own logic. But the gospel is absolutely, completely incomprehensible. That God rescues one from, and brings one safely through, the deserved judgment is a miracle. Law and gospel cannot be plausibly intertwined together; their existence is hard and fast in opposition to each other. The gospel is literally a paradox: it stands against that which the sinner can reasonably expect; it stands against damnation.

It is thus not surprising that the communion between the sinning human being and the God who justifies through Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit is incomprehensible; it is stupefying – astonishing – which does not lead one to be calm and at peace. Rather, it is described by Luther as a ‘stupendumduellum‘ – as a  duel that arouses astonishment, as a duel like the one Jacob engaged in at Jabbok (Gen. 32). That this deadly confrontation between God and humanity is a ‘happy exchange,’ is a miracle. The one who has escaped from judgment and death cannot be sufficiently astounded about this.

‘The love of God does not find one worthy of its love to be present already, but [first] creates it.’ In this sense God is ‘God and no mortal’ (Hos. 11:9). For: ‘human love comes for the one who holds another worthy of love [already].’ (Luther, WA 1:354.35f). By contrast, the justification of the ungodly  (Rom 4:5) is nothing less than the resurrection of the dead and the creation out of nothing (4:17).”

Additionally, in the video below Tullian Tchividjian expounds more on the distinction between the law and gospel and how only the gospel changes hearts:

All this talk of the distinction between the law and gospel brought three quotes to mind:

“Ignorance of this distinction between the law and the gospel is one of the principal sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity” ~ Theodore Beza

“Run John run the law commands, but gives me neither feet nor hands. Far better news the gospel brings, it bids me fly, and gives me wings” ~ John Bunyan

“The liberal preacher is really rejecting the whole basis of Christianity, which is a religion founded not on aspirations, but on facts. Here is found the most fundamental difference between liberalism and Christianity–liberalism is altogether in the imperative mood, while Christianity begins with a triumphant indicative; liberalism appeals to man’s will, while Christianity announces, first, a gracious act of God” ~ J. Gresham Machen

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