Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Little Bit More on the 3rd Use

Here are the thoughts I have at the moment on the third use. When one is preaching (as opposed to giving specific advice and counsel to a specific individual in a specific situation), what does the third use of the Law look like? Is it a command to do X, or does it present a pattern that one should seek to emulate?

I do think that the easiest example of third use that we have as Lutherans are the positive parts of the explanations to the commandments. As an example, the third commandment - we should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. The bold is 3rd use - you are describing what a Christian ought to do.

How do we teach this? Do we teach specific ways one can hear the Word? Should we say, "As a Christian, you need to listen to Rev. Fisk's Worldview Everlasting," or, do we instead say, "You have so many opportunities to be in the Word, to study and learn more about God, be it some good blogs, or something like Rev. Fisk's Worldview Everlasting. See the chances that God gives you to be in His Word, and take advantage of them"?

Or to think of it this way - often we think of the third use as a guide. What's a guide? Well, a guide book for a tourist says, "You should see X, Y, and Z" - that's how we often think of it. Or like a cookbook - if you want to make a Good Christian life, do this, add this here, and then you will have a completed dish. We can think of this guide as being very, very specific.

My vicarage Supervisor used the image of a trellis - that the Law provides a pattern, a foundation upon which to grow. Instead of a tour book that says, "You need to stay at this hotel", one that says, "This is how you can tell if a hotel is going to be a good one for you." Instead of a simple cook book, think of Good Eats - where in addition to specific recipes you learn techniques that can be applied to other things as you see fit - ah, this isn't just a recipe for gravy, this is how you make a pan sauce, and I can apply this technique to all sorts of pan sauces.

I really think this later aspect is what we need to emphasize more on the third use. When Luther explains the commandments, he doesn't say, "but go to Church once on Sunday and on every day of obligation." He says, "Hold the Word Sacred and gladly hear and learn it." Is it good to go to Church when it is offered - yes. But there is more to this pattern of hearing the Word of God gladly - whenever and wherever.

Now, can we and ought we highlight specific things? Of course. But when we teach examples that fulfill the third use, we must always teach them so that the Christian understands that this is not the divine checklist of "do this and you are a good Christian" - but rather, "These are the types of things you should see in your life."

Or to put it this way. Teaching the third use is not just teaching that X is good. It is teaching a person to be able to look at something you've never mentioned and determine whether it is good or bad. Before the boy knows to refuse the evil and choose the good. . . that is the goal - to lead people into growth and wisdom - not simply that they can repeat, but that they can apply.

The 3rd use isn't about doing something specific - it is about learning to apply the examples we have from Scripture in our own lives - not simple emulation, for I will never be in the situation that the cloud of witnesses before me were in - but I can strive to act "like" they would have in the situations I find myself in. The 3rd use should encourage this.

(or think of it this way - not just "clean this thing" but rather, "go clean things, like perhaps this, or whatever else needs to be cleaned".


Mike Baker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Baker said...

[Sorry... had to correct this so it could be understood. :P]

I don't want to sound all post-moderny, but I don't think we control if a hearer takes a presentation of Law as 2nd or 3rd Use.

When I hear preaching that presents the law as a pattern to emulate I almost always receive it as 2nd Use. When someone describes what a Christian "ought to do" that is the mirror that shows that I am not doing that. I think this comes from my background in Purpose Driven evangelicalism where all Law is presented in "ought to do" language.

I think that there is no greater example of intended 3rd Use is killing people like 2nd Use than in witnessing and outreach. You pull people aside and talk to them honestly one on one about the Great Commission and you learn that many of them hear "ought to do" as "what I am a horrible person for failing at".

The 3rd Use presentation that does not terrify and crush me personally is when it is framed as good works that are an outpouring from faith in view of the Gospel. I find that this is what Paul does alot in his epistles where he outlines the Gospel and frames the 3rd Use more as a joyful response where these works are not our works... but are by the Spirit's work within us by faith.

To me, I don't hear much difference between "clean this thing" and "go clean things". It just reminds me of how dirty my dishes are.

Dan at Necessary Roughness said...

I myself am in Mike's boat -- when a pastor tries to shoot for 3rd Use I end up hearing 2nd Use.

However, when I explain stuff to my kids, I don't just say, "Don't take your silly bands to school," I say things like, "Make sure you've done everything you're told and don't be a distraction to those who aren't done yet." So yeah, like Pr. Brown, one really needs to show where the guide is.

Pr. Borghardt on his last HT video did a great thing with the sixth commandment. He refused to answer the question, how far can one go sexually without sinning? He turned it around and say do what is truly the best service to the person you're in love with. Find that fundamental guide, and maybe we won't have to go back and forth with respect to where a line is.

The Law is gift. It keeps us from hurting each other. It shows us we need a savior. It shows us what God wants from a people thankful that He has purchased us from hell.

Yet the Law should never be left alone. :)

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

I think you both hit the main concern I have. A preacher may think he is doing one thing, while he is doing the exact opposite.

Mike Baker said...

...which is why the Gospel must predominate and frame everything.

So in Philipians 2:12-13 you have your 3rd Use:

"Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling...."

...but just in case someone receives it as 2nd Use and despairs despite the St. Paul's intent, you have the Gospel close at hand...

"...for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure."

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Or Ephesians 2:10 - for we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, for good works which He prepared before hand that we should walk in them.

My works = not about me. They are from and by God through me.

(And I would note Mike - when I said go clean things, it wasn't from the pulpit saying, "You need to have a clean home, so go home and clean things" - it was to people who had come to Church expressly TO clean. What do we clean? I don't know, go clean what you find dirty."