Friday, May 27, 2011

The Difference between a Reformed and Lutheran Approach to the 3rd Use

For any who might be interested, I would note this blog post by Rev. Michael Larson in which he describes the difference between the Lutheran approach to the 3 uses of the law (I like that he gives the Latin terminology - the usus civilis, usus elenchticus, and tertius usus legis). He makes excellent points.

Coming from the opposite direction - here is a post on the same distinction from a Reformed point of view

The difference in emphasis is interesting. The Lutheran focus is upon the Gospel of Christ - that Christ Jesus has fulfilled the Law, and that by grace I will do good works. The Law is only needed as I remain in sin, yet as a Christian I will delight in God's Law.

The Reformed focus treats God's Law as a higher reality than the Gospel - indeed, even saying that "The gospel is temporary; the law is everlasting and precisely that which is restored by the gospel."

The reformed end up treating salvation, the Gospel, the Cross as though they were all only some sort of back-up plan, some divine temporary building until we get back to the real thing - God's Law.

This doesn't mesh with the Scriptures -- Christ is the Lamb who was slain from the foundations of the world. Christ's redemption is not just some booby prize that we get to happily ignore in the New Heavens and the New Earth... no, the Lamb who was Slain has begun His Reign -- and even for all eternity Paul will know nothing but Christ and Him Crucified. The Gospel is Central and will always remain.

As for the Law -- it will always remain... but the day is coming when no one will have to instruct or proclaim the law - you won't have to say, "Know the Lord"... because the Lord will have forgiven our sin and remember our sin no more.


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

This probably accounts for a distinction in how we approach the Christian life as from the Reformed. If you look at the comments in Thomas Lemke's blog post dealing with clothing you will see an interesting exchange.

Lemke notes that we demonstrate our love for God by the care we show our neighbor. We dress modestly for the sake of our neighbor, and this is pleasing to God. One comment the other direction, that we dress modestly for God, and this just happens to benefit our neighbor.

For the Reformed, God is known primarily in is Law, so the focus is following the rules.

For the Lutheran, God is known primarily in the Gospel, in His love for us. Therefore, the focus is upon showing love for the neighbor, which is how then our love for God is shown.

This is what Christ teaches - "Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to Me."

It's a differing approach, and I can't help but conclude that any approach which diminishes the Gospel is off base.

Anonymous said...


Scott Diekmann said...

Pastor Larson's post is excellent. It really does highlight the huge difference between Lutheran and Reformed theology, which really leads to a different worldviews. Lutherans are free to live out their lives in joyous response to what Christ has done for us - we are a new creation. The Reformed never escape the prodding of the Law, and its constant question, "Have you done enough?"

Thanks for your post Pastor Brown.

Emma said...

Hi Rev. Brown! This is Emma, as in the Emma who believes in limited atonement. I found your blog via Pastor Fiene’s blog. I just wanted to say ouch! I actually agree more with the Lutheran view here, than I do with the Reformed view. Thanks for giving me something to think about.

Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Welcome Emma! See, Lutheran's aren't crazy... well, okay, maybe slightly, but only in so far as one who desires under the Scriptures to be in the world but not of the world must look slightly crazy =o)