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Theodore Beza - Law and Gospel

Theodore Beza - Law and Gospel

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Published by Jorge Bessa

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Published by: Jorge Bessa on Sep 20, 2010
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04/25/2013

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The Two Parts of the Word of God:
 Law & Gospel 
by Theodore Beza
(1519-1605)
The following article by Theodore Beza was taken from chapter four (sections 22-30) of his book
The Chris- tian Faith,
translated into English by James Clark (Focus Christian Ministries Trust, East Essex England,1992). This book was a "best seller" during the Protestant Reformation, and appeared in 1558 under theoriginal title of 
Confession De Foi Du Chretien.
The current modern edition contains no copyright notice,therefore it is assumed that the articles contained within it may be freely distributed. Original title appearsbelow. p. 1, par. 1, [GOSPEL]
That which we call The Word of God: Its two parts -- the Lawand the Gospel
On this subject we call the "Word of God" (for we know well that the Eternal Sonof God is also so named) the canonical books of the Old and New Testament; forthey proceed from the mouth of God Himself.
p. 1, par. 2, [GOSPEL]
We divide this Word into two principal parts or kinds: the one is called the "Law",the other the "Gospel". For, all the rest can be gathered under the one or the otherof these two headings.
p. 1, par. 3, [GOSPEL]
What we call Law (when it is distinguished from Gospel and is taken for one of thetwo parts of the Word) is a doctrine whose seed is written by nature in our hearts.However, so that we may have a more exact knowledge, it was written by God ontwo Tables and is briefly comprehended in ten commandments. In these He setsout for us the obedience and perfect righteousness which we owe to His majestyand our neighbours. This on contrasting terms: either perpetual life, if we perfectlykeep the Law without omitting a single point, or eternal death, if we do not com-pletely fulfil the contents of each commandment (Deut. 30:15-20; James 2:10).
p. 1,par. 4, [GOSPEL]
What we call the Gospel ("Good News") is a doctrine which is not at all in us bynature, but which is revealed from Heaven (Matt. 16:17; John 1:13), and totallysurpasses natural knowledge. By it God testifies to us that it is His purpose to saveus freely by His only Son (Rom. 3:20-22), provided that, by faith, we embrace Himas our only wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor 1:30). By
 
it, I say, the Lord testifies to us all these things, and even does it in such a mannerthat at the same time he renews our persons in a powerful way so that we may em-brace the benefits which are offered to us (1 Cor 2:4).
p. 1, par. 5, [GOSPEL]
The similarities and the differences between the Law and theGospel
We must pay great attention to these things. For, with good reason, we can say thatignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel is one of the principlesources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity.
p. 2, par. 1, [GOS-PEL]
The majority of men, blinded by the just judgement of God, have indeed never se-riously considered what curse the Law subjects us to, nor why it has been ordainedby God. And, as for the Gospel, they have nearly always thought that it was noth-ing other than a second Law, more perfect than the first. From this has come the er-roneous distinction between precept and advice; there has followed, little by little,the total ruin of the benefit of Jesus Christ.
p. 2, par. 2, [GOSPEL]
Now, we must besides consider these things. The Law and the Gospel have incommon that they are both from the one true God, always consistent with Himself (Heb. 1:1-2). We must not therefore think that the Gospel abolishes the essence of the Law. On the contrary, the Law establishes the essence of the Gospel (Rom.10:2-4); this is what we shall explain a little further on. For both set before us thesame God and the essence of the same righteousness (Rom. 3:31), which resides inperfect love to God and our neighbour. But there is a great difference in thesepoints which we shall touch on, and especially concerning the means of obtainingthis righteousness.
p. 2, par. 3, [GOSPEL]
For, in the first place, as we alluded to before, the Law is natural to man. God hasengraven it in his heart from creation (Rom. 1:32; 2:14,15). When, a long time af-terwards, God made and exhibited the two Tables of the Law, this was not to makea new law, but only to restore our first knowledge of the natural law which, be-cause of the corruption of sin, was little by little becoming obliterated from theheart of man (Rom. 7:8-9). But the gospel is a supernatural doctrine which our na-ture would never have been able to imagine nor able to approve without a specialgrace of God (1 Cor. 1:23; 2:14). But, the Lord has revealed it, firstly to Adamshortly after his sin, as Moses declares (Gen. 3:15), afterwards to the patriarchs andthe prophets in increasing degrees as seemed good to Him (Rom. 1:2; Luke1:55,70), until the day in which He manifested Jesus Christ in Person. It is He who
 
has clearly announced and accomplished all that is contained in the Gospel (John15:15; 6:38). This Gospel God still reveals today and will reveal it until the end of the world by the preaching instituted in His Church (John 17:18; Matt. 28:20; 2Cor. 5:20).
p. 2, par. 4, [GOSPEL]
In the second place, the Law lays bare to us the majesty and justice of God (Heb.12:18-21). The Gospel sets forth this same justice to us, but there it is pacified andsatisfied by the mercy manifested in Christ (Heb. 12:22- 24).
p. 3, par. 1, [GOSPEL]
In the third place, the Law sends us to ourselves in order to accomplish the right-eousness which it commands us, that is to say, the perfect obedience to its com-mandments, which is necessary in order to escape guilt. That is why it shows usour curse and subjects us to it, as the Apostle declares (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:10-12).
p.3, par. 2, [GOSPEL]
But the gospel teaches us where we shall find what we do not have and, havingfound it, how we shall be able to enjoy it. That is why it delivers us from the curseof the Law (Rom. 3:21,22; Gal. 3:13,14). In conclusion, the Law pronounces usblessed when we accomplish it without omitting anything; the Gospel promises ussalvation when we believe, that is to say, when, by faith, we take hold of JesusChrist who has everything which we lack, and still more that we need. Now, thesetwo terms -- to do what the Law commands, or to believe what God offers us in Je-sus Christ -- are two things which are not only very difficult but totally impossibleto our corrupt nature. This latter, as St. Paul says, cannot even perceive what is of God (2 Cor. 3:5; Phil. 1:29). That is why it is necessary to add a fourth differencebetween the Law and the Gospel.
p. 3, par. 3, [GOSPEL]
Thus, the fourth difference between the Law and the Gospel is that the Law, by it-self, can only show us, and make us see, our evil more exceedingly, and aggravateour condemnation; not through any fault of its own (for it is good and holy), butbecause our corrupt nature burns for sin the more it is reproved and threatened, asSt. Paul has declared through his own example (Rom. 7:7-14). But the Gospel notonly shows us the remedy against the curse of the law, but it is at the same time ac-companied by the power of the Holy Spirit who regenerates us and changes us (aswe have said above); for He creates in us the instrument and sole means of apply-ing to us this remedy (Acts 26:17,18).
p. 3, par. 4, [GOSPEL]
In order to speak even more clearly, let us expound these words "letter" and "spirit"which some have taken in the wrong sense. I say, therefore, that the Gospel is not"letter", that is to say, only a dead doctrine which sets before us in their barenessand simplicity (I do not say those things which it is fitting for us to do -- for that is

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