Who uses the Law, God or Man?

Use it or lose it.

[Related: “Mathew Block, the Formula of Concord, and more on who’s using the using”]

In the contemporary debate regarding the three uses of God’s Law a certain assertion is frequently made. Interestingly, it doesn’t seem to be unique to one side of the debate, but in my experience can be heard issuing forth from either (any?) side at any given time as a sort of clarion-call and reminder of an ostensible point of agreement. The assertion is this:

“You don’t use the Law; God does.”

The precise wording of the statement changes. Sometimes it’ll be more along the lines of “The uses of the Law are the Holy Spirit’s uses, not man’s”, or “Preachers don’t use the Law; God uses the Law”, etc. Some Lutherans— again, on either side of the debate— have thought it necessary to eschew the language of the “uses” of the Law altogether. Still others signal their incredulity with scare-quotes, talking about the Third “Use” of the Law.

The aim of this article is a very limited one: I purpose to show that the statement “You don’t use the Law; God does” is a false dichotomy, such that, as it stands, it is prima facie a false statement. Indeed, it is my conviction that this phrase is a prime example of the reductionism which seems to bedevil Lutheran discourse on the topic of the Third Use of the Law. Holy Scripture, the Lutheran Confessions, Martin Luther, the Church Fathers, and the liturgy of the Lutheran Church all attest a proper human use of the Law. Accordingly, we should by no means refrain from speaking of one; rather, we should learn from such examples and modify our discourse where needed, lest shoddy theological sloganeering edge out the sound pattern of words that we have duly received from our fathers in the faith.

The Nugget of Truth

G. K. Chesterton, in one of his many quotable quips, once remarked that “a heresy is always a half-truth turned into a whole false­hood.”1 One has to enjoy the irony, of course, as a Lutheran would contend that Chesterton himself labored under the delusion of a half-truth/whole falsehood known as Romanism. But the good Romanizer’s point stands, and with it in mind we should ascertain just what truth has been halved and morphed into the false statement, “You don’t use the Law; God does.”

It is indeed true that God’s Law is not some mere proposition. God’s Word of Law is existentially and noetically involving. We might even adapt a Nagelism and say that “God does Law to us.” His word of Law doesn’t simply inform us, but it acts upon us at the level of our inmost being. And what does it do? Well, it only accuses us— no, actually, it does more than that. But it always does that— always, that is, until the Resurrection. Until that aweful day dawns, though, we sinners cannot encounter the Law, meditate on it, or even be guided by it without fear— holy fear of a righteous God who judges sinners. Yes, perfect love casts out fear, but in us love is not perfect— not our love for our neighbor, and certainly not our love for God. “But who in truth can say or boast that he keeps the Law, and loves God as the Law has commanded?” Philipp Melanchthon asks rhetorically in the Apology.2 Indeed, no one. Thus the fear of God is ever present with us this side of heaven. If the Scriptures are to be believed here, such fear is a good thing.

Holy Scripture

Yet absent any explanation, to say “You don’t use the Law; God does” flies in the face of God’s Word written. St. Paul in I Timothy 1:8 states plainly, “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully.”3 No doubt one could do some exegetical gymnastics and contend that αὐτῷ (rendered “one” in the NKJV) refers to Jesus only. In my Radical Lutheran days this is probably what I would have done— “Yes, this is true, but Jesus is the only one who uses the Law lawfully!” However, neither the the text of the verse itself nor the thrust of the context commends such a reading. Since the point I wish to make is a limited one, I will leave it at that.

In the Old Testament, we read in Joshua 1:8, “This Book of the Law (הַתּרָה) shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” Granting that Torah means more than “Law” in the strict sense, having a lexical range that includes “teaching”, “testimonies”, “precepts”, etc., all the same it’s rather obvious that man can and should meditate on the Torah of God in a sense which includes the Law in this strict sense. Sometimes I fear that when people angrily insist that “Torah means more than ‘Law’!” what they really mean is “Torah does not in any sense mean ‘Law’!”

And then there’s the great one-hundred-nineteenth Psalm. Take a look at verses 15, 23, 27, 48, and 78. Through man’s voluntary meditation on the Law, alluded to in the selected verses, God is using the Law in such a way that we might even talk about the Law itself “doing” things, perhaps in the manner described by Psalm 19:7-11. This is an instance of metonymy, and it should remind us that the Law is one with the will of God, as our Confessions attest.4 While we’re on the subject of Psalms, there’s another “Radical Lutheran” exegetical move that should be cut off and gunned down at the pass, and that is the assumption that Christological Psalms only say what Christ does/has done, nothing about what Christians do. That would be another false dichotomy.

[Update – 2/15/17] The Book of Concord

The Epitome of the Formula of Concord begins with a synopsis of the three uses of the Law, thus to summarize the status controversiae (state of the controversy) among the Lutheran theologians at that time:

Since the Law was given to men for three reasons: first, that thereby outward discipline might be maintained against wild, disobedient men [and that wild and intractable men might be restrained, as though by certain bars]; secondly, that men thereby may be led to the knowledge of their sins; thirdly, that after they are regenerate and [much of] the flesh notwithstanding cleaves to them, they might on this account have a fixed rule according to which they are to regulate and direct their whole life, a dissension has occurred between some few theologians concerning the third use of the Law, namely, whether it is to be urged or not upon regenerate Christians. The one side has said, Yea; the other, Nay.

In the bolded section, which specifically summarizes the third use of the law, note the grammar: the regenerate men [subject] regulate and direct their whole lives [predicate] according to the Law [ablative phrase]. In case you distrust the translation, here is the Latin of the bolded section:

… tertio, ut homines iam renati, quibus tamen omnibus multum adhuc carnis adhaeret, eam ipsam ob causam certam aliquam regulam habeant, ad quam totam suam vitam formare possint et debeant

The subject of the subjunctive verbs possint and debeant (+ the complementary infinitive formare) is homines renati, i.e., regenerate men. Regenerate men are able and ought to conform their entire lives to the Law. According to the Formula of Concord, to which orthodox Lutherans subscribe unreservedly, Christians do in fact use the Law. The totality of what is said concerning the Law in the rest of the Formula of Concord, both in its Epitome and its Solid Declaration, is consistent with this understanding.

Martin Luther

Luther’s comments on I Timothy 1 are very illuminating. “To the Christian the Law is most sacred,” he says in his 1528 Lectures on First Timothy. He goes on:

Because it is divine wisdom, it is a very fine and sacred thing. The fact of the matter is this: both the wicked and the pious man have the Law. Both have a very good thing. But they disagree over its use. The former misuse a very sacred thing. We teach that one must use it correctly. … Gold and silver, too, are fine things, but everyone grabs them up for his own use. The same thing happens with Scripture. The Enthusiasts use the Word. The papists have the very Gospel itself, but they do not use it. The same is true of the Enthusiasts. … There is no argument here as to whether the Law is good or bad. So they are arguing that we condemn their doctrine, and condemn it, as also the Law, with the judgment: It is not a good thing. But they are not using it well.5

In Luther’s mind there is no question over whether human beings use God’s Law; the question is rather how it is used, rightly or wrongly. A little later in the same lecture, Luther says the following:

What is the “lawful use” that knows that “the Law is not [for the just but for the unjust]”? To sum up all of this: Use the Law as you wish. Read it. Only keep this use away from it, that you credit it with the remission of sins and righteousness. Beware of making me righteous by the Law. Rather, use it to restrain. You must not give the Law the power and virtue to justify. But you are teaching this— that there is a righteousness of works and of the Law. But boasting is excluded (Rom. 3:27). “If … by works”; but that’s what you believe. However, “the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the Law” (Rom. 3:21). It is a spiritual misuse of the Law if anyone wants to make men righteous by it, if anyone teaches that men can be justified by the Law and by works. It is a misuse of the Law if one wants to teach what he does not know and assert what he does not understand.6

As Edward Engelbrecht ably shows in his Spring 2011 CTQ article, “Luther’s Threefold Use of the Law,” both in his Lectures on First Timothy and in his Weihnachtspostille (Christmas Postil) of 1522, Luther not only clearly states that the Law has a “threefold usefulness”, but he is very clear that Christians can, do, and must use God’s Law.7 I’d encourage you to take the time to read Engelbrecht’s piece. It is probably one of the most helpful journal articles I have come across on this topic. Do note also that the article is something of précis for his book Friends of the Law: Luther’s Use of the Law for the Christian Lifewhich hadn’t been published at the time the article was written. The book is a bit on the pricey side but is worth taking the time to read. Also, if you can read German, the text of Luther’s Weihnachtspostille is available online here. The rest of us will either have to learn German, read the deficient Lenker translation, or read Dr. Ben Mayes’s fine new English translation in the recently released Vol. 75 of the American Edition of Luther’s Works from CPH. (For a taste see footnote #7, which will take you to a snippet translation by my friend Matthew Carver.)

After a close examination of both texts Engelbrecht provides a helpful chart which outlines what Luther understood to be the human and divine uses of the Law:

Screen Shot 2016-01-13 at 3.09.00 PM

Lastly, we turn to that most classic of Luther’s works, the 1535 Lectures on Galatians. Commenting on Galatians 3:15, Luther notes the following:

It follows, therefore, that the Law with its function does contribute to justification— not because it justifies, but because it impels one to the promise of grace and makes it sweet and desirable. Therefore we do not abolish the Law; but we show its true function and use, namely, that it is a most useful servant impelling us to Christ. After the Law has humbled, terrified, and completely crushed you, so that you are on the brink of despair, then see to it that you know how to use the Law correctly; for its function and use is not only to disclose the sin and wrath of God but also to drive us to Christ.8

Again, on Galatians 3:21:

[A]lthough the Law discloses and increases sin, it is still not against the promises of God but is, in fact, for them. For in its true and proper work and purpose it humbles a man and prepares him— if he uses the Law correctly— to yearn and seek for grace. For only when a man’s sin is disclosed and increased through the Law does he begin to see the wickedness of the human heart and its hostility toward the Law and toward God, the Author of the Law. Then he seriously feels that he not only does not love but hates and blasphemes God, the supremely good, with His most holy Law. Now he is forced to confess that there is nothing good in him at all. When he has been crushed and humbled this way, he acknowledges that he is truly miserable and damned. Therefore when the Law forces a man to acknowledge his evil this way and to confess his sin sincerely, it has performed its function; its time has come to an end, and the time of grace has come, when the Blessed Offspring is to arrive, who will raise up and comfort the man who has been frightened and wounded by the Law.9

And some twenty pages later:

Paul shows the true use of the Law: that it does not justify hypocrites, because they remain outside Christ in their presumptuousness and smugness; on the other hand, if those who have been frightened use the Law as Paul teaches, it does not leave them in death and damnation but drives them to Christ.10

So, according to Luther, there is indeed a way in which man ought to use the Law. In and through man’s right use of the Law God is active through His Spirit to bring about the good effect. You might adapt the familiar phrase often used in reference to the Lord’s Supper and say that God’s use of the Law is going on “in, with, and under” man’s use of it.

St. John Chrysostom

St. John Chrysostom, arguably the greatest preacher of the ancient Church, declares in his homily on I Timothy, “The law, [Paul] seems to say, is good, and again, not so good…

What then? Suppose one uses it unlawfully, is it not good? No, even then the law itself as such remains good. What he means is this: if any one fulfills the law in his actions, it is good. For that is to “use it lawfully,” as here intended. But when one trumpets the law in words but neglects it in deeds, that is using it unlawfully. For such a person uses it, but not to his own profit. Further, the law, if you use it correctly, sends you to Christ. For since its aim is to justify, when the law itself fails to justify, it sends you on to the One who can justify. Some may keep the law but only superficially. It is kept as a bridle worn only for the purpose of going through the motions of constraint, but not, in fact, for constraint itself. The bridle here does not serve the true need of the prancing horse that should be guided by it, but only exists to look good. The faithful use the law lawfully when they govern themselves in its spirit but are not constrained by the letter of it. One uses the law lawfully who is conscious that it is not needed for salvation. The faithful fulfill the law not from fear of it, but from that principle of virtue that it makes possible. The faithful use the law not as being in fear of it, but having before their eyes rather the condemnation of their own conscience than the punishment hereafter.11

In John Chrysostom as in Luther, we not only read clear references to man “using the Law,” but we see a real harmony of understanding regarding what constitutes proper use: the Law always points us to Christ, even those of us who are already in Christ. And yet it is also truly unable to condemn the baptized, for we are safe, dry, and secure in the Holy Ark of Christendom— that is, His Body, the Church.

(Interested in what pre-Reformation medieval theologians such as Thomas Aquinas, Peter Lombard, and Nicholas of Lyra have to say on the topic of the use of the law and on the particular phrase “usus legis”? Read Edward Engelbrecht’s article and/or book.)

The Confessional Mirror

One manner in which Lutheran Christians have continued to make pious use of the Holy Law of God is through the practice of self-examination prior to confession and absolution— and let’s remember, for the record, that the Small Catechism assumes that private confession and absolution is the norm, not the public rite that has since been added onto the beginning of the Divine Service. Lutherans have retained the centuries-old practice of using a “confessional mirror” as an aid to self-examination prior to confession. Emmanuel Press, the in-house publishing arm of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Ft. Wayne, IN, offers two such “confessional mirrors”: the Beichtspiegel is available as a free download and is also included in the Brotherhood Prayer-Book; the PRIE (Preparation through Reflective and Introspective Examination), also available as a free download, is similar, but has a more compact format.

Vocation and the Means of Grace

Are you a parent? You use the Law lawfully when you teach, admonish, and discipline your children. Are you a pastor? You use the Law lawfully when you preach repentance and godliness, when you teach the faith to your parishioners, and, yes, in those instances when you must use the binding key.12 Do you work in government, particularly in law-enforcement? You use the Law lawfully when you enforce the justice of the civil code (provided that it does not contradict God’s Law). Or are we going to start saying, “God enforces the Law; policemen do not”?

In both of His Kingdoms God does His ordinary work through means. In His Kingdom of Grace He accomplishes His gracious and saving will through the aforementioned “means of grace”— and, it should be remembered, He works through the ministers of those means, “the stewards of the mysteries”, men who have been called and ordained to the Office of the Holy Ministry. In the Kingdom of Law, He accomplishes His preserving and ordering will through human beings working in their vocations.

Let’s consider a familiar example. In what Kurt Marquart thought of as the essential pastoral act, the ordained regularly announce to penitents, “I, as a called and ordained servant of the Word announce the grace of God to you, and in the stead and by the command of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I forgive you all your sins.” He does this because, as every Lutheran catechumen learns, “we receive absolution, or forgiveness, from the confessor, as from God Himself.” We do not imagine that we somehow can “see through” the absolution to the reality of forgiveness behind it; no, but we are to cling to these human words themselves “and in no wise doubt, but firmly believe, that our sins are thereby forgiven before God in heaven” because the pastor is there in the stead and by the command of Christ. His word is Christ’s word. It is as though Christ the Word were standing before your very eyes and saying to you, personally, “On the strength of my own Passion I forgive you.” Thus the Lutheran Service Book rite13 has the pastor ask the penitent, “Do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness?” (Answer: “Yes.”) It would not at all be the same thing if he asked, “Do you believe that my forgiveness symbolizes God’s forgiveness.” Also, it wouldn’t be biblical.14

So, are the official (lit.: “of the office”) acts of pastors human or divine? Are these mortal men in some sense “using” God’s words of Law and Gospel? Are men acting, speaking, and doing things, or is God the sole operator? Luther’s answer is apposite:

Why shouldn’t God assign us His name, when He assigns us His power and His office? For to forgive sins, to retain sins, to make alive, etc., are works of the Divine Majesty alone; nevertheless, the same works are given to human beings and are done through the Word which human beings teach. As Paul says (Rom. 11:14): “That I might make many to be saved of my flesh.” Likewise (1 Cor. 9:22): “I was made everything for all, that all I might save.” Therefore just as these works are truly works of God but may also be assigned to men and be performed by men, so the name of God in truth denotes God but may also be applied to human beings.15

It’s not difficult to see the relevance of what Luther says here to the question of whether God or man uses the Law. There is a human use and ministration of the Law, just as surely as there is a human use and ministration of the Sacraments and of doctrine. We don’t get our knickers in a twist over articles of the Confessions entitled “Of the Use of the Sacraments” (Article XIII in both the CA and the Apology), but there’s an entire school of Lutheran theology whose principals deride the Formula of Concord largely because of its sixth article, “Of the Third Use of God’s Law.” Yet I know of no similar objections to the phrase “use [of] the Sacraments”, which, if you include close variations, occurs some thirty times in the English Book of Concord (Dau & Bente). Elsewhere it is said that we “use” absolution (Apol XI.60). Similarly, the Confessions speak of Christians “using doctrine.” In all such instances we rightly understand that we do in some sense use the Sacraments, and that we do in some sense use doctrine. “Good grief, Lutheran Confessions! God uses the Sacraments on uswe do not use them! We are the direct objects of God’s actions— nothing more!” If that’s so, then don’t get out of bed. Just wait to get faithed and sacramentated. Bumper-sticker and hashtag Lutheran theology will not serve us terribly well here.

Why the confusion? Some possibilities

What would the point be of insisting on the dichotomy of “God uses the Law; you do not”?

My answer (or something like it) is a bit of a roundabout one. You may recall that the question of whether and in what way man cooperates in his sanctification has been something of a live-wire on the Lutheran blogosphere for the past few years. It’s really difficult to summarize it you haven’t been keeping a thumb on it, so I won’t try. Suffice it to say, though, that there are some very well-meaning Lutherans who stress the utter passivity of the human creature in salvation so much that they take statements that are true with respect to justification and apply them without qualification to every area of the Christian life, resulting in statements such as the following:

Christians are dead in trespasses and sins.


Christians do not have a free will.


The only part we play in sanctification is our resistance to it.


The only thing we do willingly is sin.

If such statements are expressive of your anthropology, your “Doctrine of Man”, then, yes, of course you’re going to think that Christians only encounter the Law passively and negatively. From there it’s an easy transition to the functional estimation of the Law as “whatever brings you down”16— the so-called “existentialized view of the Law.” Really, it’s a revolving door.

Of course, the reply— often delivered quite vehemently— is that understanding the Law “existentially” is the Radical “authentic” Lutheran corrective to the “objectification” of the Law into mere information perpetrated by the evil “neo-scholastics” of Lutheran Orthodoxy. While I think we can agree that objectifying the Law into “mere information” is bad, as I mentioned at the outset, it’s equally bad to deny that the Law is “information” at all. I cannot think of a more literal way of describing “information” than “the process by which the soul is conformed to what is good, true, and beautiful” or perhaps “conformity of soul to the good, true, and beautiful”— note the common use of the root “form.” Scripture does say that God will put His Law on our inward parts (Jer. 31:33; Heb. 10:16). So, yes, we are quite literally in-formed by the Law. Such “informing” is the adequation of the mind to divine reason— and, no, that’s not “rationalism”. Acknowledging the goodness of reason does not make one a rationalist— if it does, then a rationalist wrote the explanation to First Article of the Creed in the Small Catechism— and, in any case, the corrective to rationalism is not irrationalism but rationality rightly ordered, reason in its proper place, etc.

But I digress— if you have been habituated to think that the Law is just accusation and enslavement, you’re probably not going to want it written on your heart. That sounds like the reverse of Freudian talk-therapy: “Let’s tuck all of this negativity and bad news permanently into your subconscious.” Thankfully, that’s not what the Law is.

So, that’s my best construction. Some people, out of a laudable desire to safeguard the article of justification from those who would wrongly introduce human cooperation into it, have settled on the position that Christians do not do anything (except sin); it thus goes without saying that Christians do not in any sense “use” the Law. God uses the Law on us— end of story.

I have another theory which is a bit more cynical, but that will have to wait for another day.

The rest of us? I think we should stop conceding the point and instead insist that a proper distinguo be made. Man uses the Law. God uses the Law. Both of these uses are real and related. We are not Muslims. We do not believe in a solitarily-willing divine monad, but in YHWH Adonai, King of the Universe, Whose very Being is communion, Whose eternally-begotten Son out of love took on flesh to redeem mankind, Whose Spirit, given to us in Baptism, enthralls but never compels hearts to love Him in return. At this point it’s important to point out, again, that being simul iustus et peccator does not mean that we are insubstantial volition-less miasmas that just sort of waft among the tractor-beams of “Old Man” and “New Man”, being jolted at random by speech-acts of “Law” and “Gospel.” We may solemnly and joyfully use all of the means which God has appointed for our salvation, for it is through such ardent use that we make our bold approach to the throne of grace where mercy is to be found.

We meditate on His Holy Ten Commands— as Luther’s hymn says, “to see therein / That you have not been free from sin / But also that you clearly see / How pure toward God life should be.”17 God uses our use of the Law in this way for His good purpose! So, too, we may use the Sacraments: penance, which, as Luther says, “is really nothing else than Baptism”18; and the Lord’s Supper. When we are distraught, we can, as the Formula says, “repair to holy preaching” and be comforted.19 We need not engage in absurdism and claim that we do not meditate on the Law but instead are only “killed by the Law”; that we do not believe in the Gospel, but are instead “Jesused and faithed”; that we do not repent and confess our sins to the pastor, but are actually being “repented”; that we do not, in fact, “take and eat”… but are instead… taken and eaten? None of these deeds are meritorious, no, but they are actual and real. We do do them. And in a human sense they are necessary, for they are the means appointed for our salvation. Without them, faith would soon die. We hold the treasure in earthen vessels.

As Luther writes so beautifully in the Catechism, we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, our Lord, or come to Him. But it doesn’t stop there: “BUT the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” And BECAUSE He has thus called, enlightened, sanctified, and kept us, because He has made us alive and established us in communion with the Father through the flesh of Jesus Christ, we are led to pick up our beds and follow in His train. Now, if that fact “accuses” you and makes you doubt your salvation, I will pray for you. Not by name, because I don’t know who you are. But you might also consider whether you have been fed solid spiritual food. That we are made alive in order to live, move, and have our being in Christ is good news, not bad news. Beware the hucksters who speak as though this life itself were a preachment of accusing Law. There’s a gnostic gene in such theology…

…and that’s about all I have to say about that.
















  1. G. K. Chesterton, America, November 9, 1935
  2. Apology V [IV II].38
  3. Οἴδαμεν δὲ ὅτι καλὸς ὁ νόμος ἐάν τις αὐτῷ νομίμως χρῆται. (SBLT)
  4. FC Ep. VI.7; FC SD III.57, VI.3, 15
  5. LW 28:231
  6. op cit., 231-232
  7. “From these things we see, then, in the first place, how perilous those doctrines be which by commandment and law drive the man to the opinion that he is made godly thereby. For in this way they only tear him further and further from God, from Christ, yea, even from the Law and all righteousness— they do no more than to make the conscience increasingly fearful, faint, hopeless, and broken, ever teaching it to fear death and hell until that it drive utter doubt into the heart, so that both here and hereafter the man must play martyr to the devil.

    “In the second place, we see that there are three uses of the Law, or that men react [or stand in relation] to the Law in three different ways: The first [group], who take the risk and brazenly contradict it with an unrestrained life— to these it is as if there were no law; the second, who by it abstain from such a dissolute life and are preserved in an honorable life, and thus walk in discipline [Zucht] outwardly but inwardly are hostile to the schoolmaster [Zuchtmeister, disciplinarian, 1 Cor. 4:15, Gal. 3:24]; all their activity proceeds from the fear of death and hell, and thus they regard the Law merely outwardly— yea, the Law is their keeper outwardly; inwardly they neither keep it nor are kept by it. The third group keep it outwardly and inwardly. They are the tables of Moses, engraved without and within by the Finger of God Himself. Now therefore, as the first are godly neither outwardly nor inwardly so the second are good only outwardly and not in their heart. But these last are thoroughly good. Of them St. Paul says (1 Tim. 1 [:8]): ‘We know that the Law is good, whoever uses it rightly.’ How then is it used rightly? He answers: ‘Whoever knows that to the righteous no law is given, but to the unrighteous.’ What does that mean? Nothing else than that he that would preach the Law rightly must distinguish these three: that he by no means preach the Law to the third in a manner as if they should become godly thereby, for that would be temptation [Verführerei=Verführung]. Howbeit to the first it is to be preached in this manner, that it has been set down [established, instituted by law] that they should leave their brazen life and be preserved under the schoolmaster. But it is not sufficient that they be thus preserved and kept by the Law; they must in turn also learn to keep the Law; it is then necessary to preach more and in addition to the Law the Gospel also, wherein Christ will give grace to keep the Law. Thus it is an entirely different thing to preserve or keep the Law and to be preserved or kept by the Law. The first neither keep it nor are kept by it, the second are kept [by it], the third keep [it].”

    (Martin Luther, Luthers Werke: Kritische Gesamtausgabe [Scriften] WA 10.1:456-457; trans. Matthew Carver)

  8. LW:316
  9. op. cit., 328-329
  10. op. cit., 347
  11. St. John Chrysostom, Homilies on 1 Timothy 2
  12. From C. F. W. Walther’s Fourth Evening Lecture on the Proper Distinction between Law and Gospel: “Zechariah relates the following, chap. 11, 7: I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock. And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock. A real, spiritual shepherd has two staves, or rods. The rod Beauty is the Gospel, and the rod Bands is the Law. He must be well informed as to the persons to whom he is to apply either the one or the other of these staves. The Messiah — who is the Speaker in this passage — says that He used the rod Bands against the flock of slaughter, that is, against sheep which were to be slaughtered and not to be led to the pasture. The “poor of the flock” represent poor sinners. Among them He uses the comforting staff and rod of the Gospel. Most preachers make the mistake of hurling the rod Bands among the sheep and using the rod Beauty for wicked knaves.” [SOURCE]
  13. Lutheran Service Book, pp. 292-293
  14. “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them, saying, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'” John 20:21-23
  15. Lectures on Genesis, Vol 1. LW 1:12-13
  16. Pr. Todd Wilken summarizes such thinking succinctly and well in his recent article.
  17. LSB #581
  18. LC IV.75
  19. “Moreover, the declaration (John 6:44) that no one can come to Christ except the Father draw him, is right and true. However, the Father will not do this without means, but has ordained for this purpose His Word and Sacraments as ordinary means and instruments; and it is the will neither of the Father nor of the Son that a man should not hear or should despise the preaching of His Word, and wait for the drawing of the Father without the Word and Sacraments. For the Father draws indeed by the power of His Holy Ghost, however, according to His usual order— that is, the order decreed and instituted by Himself— by the hearing of His holy, divine Word, as with a net, by which the elect are plucked from the jaws of the devil. Every poor sinner should therefore repair thereto to holy preaching, hear it attentively, and not doubt the drawing of the Father. For the Holy Ghost will be with His Word in His power, and work by it; and that is the drawing of the Father.” (FC SD XI.76-77)