Category Archives: Kurt E. Marquart

Kurt Marquart on Preaching Law and Gospel

Lest I be misunderstood, let me make some things very clear. I am not advocating that we as truly evangelical preachers should imitate Calvinism or so-called “Evangelicalism”. The main use of the law is that which shows us our sin. And the Gospel, not the Law in any of its uses, must predominate in our preaching. Like humane physicians we must stress the diagnosis not for its own sake, but for the sake of the cure, and then concentrate on the glorious treasures of the love of God, poured out upon us so superabundantly in His blessed Son! It is our task to preach the love and joy of God into people’s hearts. But then we must also guide them towards God-pleasing expressions of their responding love for God. And in our non-sacramental age, in which all sorts of sacrament-substitutes flourish, such as alleged tongues and miracles, millennialist fantasies about Middle Eastern places and politics, “purpose-driven” psycho-babble, and the like, we must hold high the glory of the Gospel, which is “the power [dynamis] of God for salvation'” (Romans 1:16). Our preaching needs to serve and communicate the three permanent witnesses on earth, the spirit (or the blessed Gospel words which are spirit and life, St. John 6:63), the water of Holy Baptism, and the Blood of the New Testament, 1 John 5:8. It is through these blessed Gospel-channels that the divine life of faith is transmitted to us sinners.

“The Third Use of the Law in the Formula of Concord”, from “You, My People, Shall Be Holy: A Festschrift in Honour of John W. Kleinig”, pages 122-123

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Leave It To Marquart

This view of believers as saints and sinners at the same time, and as perfectly justified and imperfectly sanctified, with a fierce civil war raging within them between their old and new natures (see Romans 7), requires great care in the proper application of Law and Gospel. A number of things must be and remain quite clear: the Law is the standard and measure of good works, but it lacks the power to produce or motivate them. Only the Gospel does that. yet the Gospel does not simply liberate us from the law, as antinomianism imagines; rather, it liberates us from the condemnation and the coercion of the Law, so that according to our new nature we are now free to love and obey it. The worst feature of antinomianism is that in refusing to see the Law as applicable to Christians, it inadvertently turns the Gospel into Law, that is, into a rule and demand for good works! Such radical confusion of Law and Gospel in principle destroys both of them. It is true that the Law “always accuses”. But this refers to the chief, or second, use of the Law, which cannot be separated but must be distinguished from the third use. For the new creation within us loves and treasures God’s will as expressed in His Law, even while the old, rebellious flesh within us needs to be on the receiving end of the full force of the Law’s condemnation. Having been saved by grace and through faith alone, we are “God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do” (Eph. 2:10 NIV).

+Kurt E. Marquart+, “The Third Use of the Law in the Formula of Concord”, from “You, My People, Shall Be Holy