I’m at the Preach the Word conference through Acts 29 today and as always, posting my notes to the sessions I attend.
One of the speakers is Justin Holcomb. His topic was an incredibly important theological topic when it comes to preaching: preaching God’s 2 words – law and gospel. Justin used Galatians 3:1 – 3, 10 – 14 as his text.
Justin is a pastor at Mars Hill Church, where he serves as Executive Director of The Resurgence and leads the Leadership Development department. He is also Adjunct Professor of Theology and Culture at Reformed Theological Seminary and previously taught at the University of Virginia. Justin holds two masters degrees from Reformed Theological Seminary and a Ph.D. from Emory University. He and his wife Lindsey are the authors of Rid of My Disgrace: Hope and Healing for Victims of Sexual Assault, and he his new book is On the Grace of God.
Here are some things that jumped out in his talk:
- It is important to understand how law and gospel relate as both are from God.
- If we mess up the relationship between the law and the gospel, we are corrupting the core of the Christian faith.
- When we miss this, we miss the core of the gospel.
- We know from Scripture that Christ died to set us free.
- Christ fulfilled the law perfectly.
- Christ was raised from the dead for our justification.
- We have been set free from the bondage of sin, the fear of death. We are called what Jesus was, pure and perfect.
- The gospel has no condemnation.
- Thesis 1: the doctrinal contents of the Holy Scripture, both of the Old Testament and the New Testament are made up of two doctrines different fundamentally from each other – the Law and the Gospel.
- The law condemns and the gospel comforts.
- The law is everything that commands, the gospel is everything that promises favor in Christ.
- The problem is not with God’s law, but with us.
- The law directs and the gospel delivers.
- The 10 commandments are the summary of the law.
- The law can’t heal what it diagnosis.
- The law of God is perfect, true and righteous. It is holy, right and good.
- The law can do nothing to create what it commands (Romans 7).
- The function of the law is not to generate obedience, grace is.
- God’s law and God’s gospel are two different words with two different functions.
- The law tells us the truth but fails to convey the power to fulfill what it commands.
- The gospel is the good news is that Jesus’ burden is light and there is no more “no” as that went to Jesus on the cross.
- The gospel reveals God’s goodness, his mercy and his benefits.
- Jesus took the law very seriously. He came to fulfill it, not abolish it.
- Jesus summarizes the law in Matthew 22 by telling us to love God with all of us and love our neighbor as yourself.
- Jesus commands love of God all the time.
- Jesus doesn’t just summarizes the law, he intensifies it. The sermon on the mount (Matthew 5-7) is a great example of this. “You have heard it said…”
- Jesus goes past the outward evidence of obedience to get to our heart.
- Jesus’ call to be perfect is to give up what we worship so we can worship Jesus.
- Thesis #2: Only he is an orthodox teacher who not only presents all articles of faith in accordance with Scripture, but also rightly distinguishes from each other the Law and the Gospel.
- Law and gospel go together and in that order.
- When we use the law to look good, it isn’t to get what Jesus gives us.
- We can’t have the law without the gospel, but we can’t have the gospel without the law.
- Forgiveness means never bringing it up.
- Don’t replace the ministry of the Holy Spirit with law or exhortations motivating the human spirit.
- Your goal in preaching is not to motivate someone.
- Exhortation is not yelling or shaming.
- Thesis #3: Rightly distinguishing the Law and the Gospel is the most difficult and the highest art of Christians in general and of theologians in particular. It is taught only by the Holy Spirit in the school of experience.
- The only appropriate response to law and gospel is repentance.
Great opening session.