Summation: Law, Gospel, Faith

From “The Loci Communes” by Philip Melanchthon, 1521 Page 215-218 1. 2. 3. 4. Law is that teaching which prescribes what ought and ought not to be done. The gospel is the promise of the grace of God. The law demands the impossible: love of God and neighbor. Rom. 8 They who attempt to express the law through human powers and free will, only feign external works and fail to express the affections which the law demands. 5. Therefore they do not satisfy the law but are hypocrites: “White-washed sepulchres without,” as Christ calls them in Matt. 23:27, and Gal. 3:10: “Those who are by the works of the law, are under the curse.” 6. Hence it is not the function of the law to justify. 7. But the proper function of the law is to reveal sin and therefore to confound the conscience, Rom. 3:20 “The knowledge of sin is by the law.” 8. To the conscience which now knows sin and is confused by the law, Christ is revealed by the gospel. 9. Thus when John preaches repentance, at the same time he shows Christ: “Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” John 1:29 10. Faith, by which we believe the gospel showing us Christ, and by which Christ is received as the one who has placated the father, which through grace is given, constitutes our righteousness, John 1:12: “As many as received him, to them gave he the power to become the children of God.” 11. If indeed such faith alone justifies us, there is plainly no respect for our merits or our works, but only of Christ’s merits. 12. Such a faith pacifies and exhilarates the heart, Rom.5:1: “Being justified by faith we have peace.” 13. And it results that for such kindness, for the fact that sin is forgiven for Christ’s sake, God is loved in return and thus the love of God is the fruit of faith. 14. This same faith causes us to be ashamed of the fact that we have offended such a kind and liberal Father. 15. And in addition, it cause us to abominate our flesh together with its concupiscences. 16. Human reason neither fears nor believes God but is utterly ignorant of him and despises him, according to Ps.13:1: “The fool hath said in his heart there is no God.” And Luke 16:31: “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets they will not believe even if one would get up from the dead.” By this Christ means that the human heart does not believe the word of God. This madness of the human heart Solomon (as instanced by Ecclesiastes 8:11) has reproached: “Because no judgment is quickly brought against the evil, and the sons of man without any fear perpetrate evil things.” 17. Because the human heart is utterly ignorant of God, it therefore turns aside to its own counsels and cupidities and sets itself up in the place of God. 18. When God confounds the human heart through the law by a knowledge of sin, it does not yet know God and certainly not his goodness, and therefore it hates God as though he were an executioner. 19. When God arouses and consoles the human heart by showing Christ through the gospel, precisely then does it know God; for it knows both his power and goodness.

This is what Jeremy (Jeremiah) means when he says in 9:24: “Let him glory in this, that he knoweth me.” 20. He who has believed the gospel and knows the goodness of God, his heart is now made erect so that he trusts God and fears him, and consequently abominates the counsels of the human heart. 21. Peter has most aptly said in Acts 15:9: “Hearts are purified by faith.” 22. Mercy is revealed by promises. 23. Sometimes these promises are corporal (physical), sometimes spiritual. 24. In the law corporal things are promised such as: the land of Canaan, the kingdom, etc. 25. The gospel is the promise of grace or the forgiveness of sins through Christ. 26. All corporal promises depend on the promise of Christ. 27. For the first promise was of grace or the promise of Christ. Gen.3:15: “Her seed shall bruise thy head,” that is, the seed of Eve should bruise the kingdom of the serpent lying in wait for our heel, that is, sin and death. 28. This promise was renewed in the one made to Abraham, Gen.12:3 and 18:18: “In thy seed shall all nations be blessed.” 29. Wherefore since Christ should be born of Abraham’s posterity, the promises which were added to the law concerning the possession of the land, etc., are obscure promises of the coming of Christ. For these corporal things were promised to the people lest they should die before the promised seed would come, and also that God might in the meantime indicate his mercy and try the people’s faith by these corporal things. 30. Upon the birth of Christ, the promises which had been made were consummated and the remission of sins was openly accomplished, for which purpose Christ was to be born. 31. The promises of the Old Testament are signs of the coming of Christ, and therefore of the promise of grace that was to be published in the future. 32. Just as he does not really know God who merely knows that God exists but does not know his power and mercy, in like manner he does not truly believe who merely believes in the existence of God but not his power and mercy. 33. Therefore he truly believes who in addition to threats believes the gospel also; who turns his face to the mercy of God or to Christ who is the pledge of divine mercy.

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