Category Archives: Robert Schaibley

Law, Gospel, What Next?

But let the Law do its work, and let the Gospel follow; then we face another strategic question – what should come next? A popular answer, offered by some of the really big names in LCMS history, is that you go back to the Law! “Sanctification,” some call it! “Evangelical admonition,” others say! Still others refer to “Gospel imperatives,” and yet more point to the “Third Use of the Law.” And all of the above are ready to label as “antinomian” those of us who say “no!” to these answers, however worded. Be assured that I believe in the third use of the Law, precisely and especially in the sense that it is discussed in FC VI, namely, that the third use is one of the ways in which God uses the Law….

Two things need to be noted, as we discern what should come after the Gospel. First, what many people want, and what many pastors deliver, is NOT the third use of the Law, which is purely informative in nature, indicative and not imperative. Rather, many people want and many pastors deliver the first use of the Law! What they desire is the law which modifies behavior, by curbing the continuance of anything that does not comport to what ought to be in the lives of Christians. That is the first use, not the third!

Moreover, whatever else the Law is doing, it is always accusing! Lex semper accusat! This is because, as the Formula says while discussing the third use, “to reprove is the real function of the law.” Now, if proclamation is what Lutheran preaching is about, and if identification of my  new being as a child of God is what the Gospel gives me, and if “good works are bound to flow from faith,” as our confessions assert, why would we want to put our hearers back under accusation and the terrors of conscience once again at the end of the sermon?

Instead, let me propose that Lutheran preachers consider “Gospel application.” Gospel application is where one goes beyond the statement of Gospel facts, such as “Jesus died for you,” or “in Holy Baptism, people are reborn into the kingdom of grace.” Gospel application occurs when, on the basis of the Gospel facts, the preacher actually forgives sins, when he actually declares, “you are God’s child!” “You are forgiven!” “No one will pluck you out of My hand!” Such Gospel application is simply relieving reflective reasoning of a necessary role in proclamation. We ought not to leave the hearer to draw the immediate application from the general principle. Instead, make Gospel application the summation of your sermon.

– Rev. Robert Schaibley, “Lutheran Preaching: Proclamation, Not Communication”

Schaibley

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