The Reformation of the Good News
In contrast, Martin Luther and John Calvin believed the Bible contained “two words”: Law and Gospel.(1) “Law” describes anything in Scripture which says, “Do this and live” (Luke 10:28), while “Gospel” describes anything which says, “It is finished” (John 19:30).
“Do this and Live!”
The Law is God’s unbending moral will. This is why the Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) 19.1 reminds us that God’s Law requires “personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience” before and after the fall. This was exactly Moses’ doctrine in Deut 27:26 and Paul’s in Gal 3:10: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the book of the Law.”
The Reformers taught that God revealed his Law to Adam in terms of a covenant of works, “the day you eat thereof you shall surely die” (Gen 2:17). The implicit promise to Adam of eternal blessedness was conditioned on his obedience as the representative of all humanity.(2) In his sin, Adam broke the covenant of works and all humanity fell with him.(3) As a result, regarding justification, the Law is bad news for sinners, accusing us that we “have grievously sinned against all the commandments of God, and have never kept any of them, and [are] still prone always to all evil” (Heidelberg Catechism (HC) 60).
“It is Finished!”
The Good News is another thing however. It is the announcement that by his one act of obedience, Christ, the Second Adam, has kept the Law, fulfilled the covenant of works, and made a “new covenant” in his blood for sinners.(4) The promised Savior-King has come with his kingdom and covenant of grace.(5) While the Law says, “do,” the Gospel says, “done!” While the covenant of works says, “work,” the covenant of grace says, “rest!” This is why the Gospel is such “good news,” since it is about our justification earned for us by Christ and offered freely to us.(6) -R. Scott Clark
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