alien righteousness

Talk of Law and Gospel on the White Horse Inn

A great discussion on the Holy Law and the triumphal indicative on the White Horse Inn.

Michael Horton: Now when we are talking especially about the third use of the law.  Is it important to ground this particularly in the distinction between indicative and imperative?

Kim Riddlebarger: Absolutely.

Michael Horton: You talk about not imposing things on the text, you actually have Greek moods in the text that are indicatives and imperatives it’s a form of… Kim Riddlebarger: An indicative is a statement of fact…

Rod Rosenbladt: Christ has died for you, carried your sin in His body on the tree it will count before the Father at the end all these things are true whether you believe them or not!

Michael Horton: Therefore…

Kim Riddlebarger: Therefore…  I’m always amazed in the book of Romans for example when Paul moves from his discussion of Justification in chapter 3, 4, and 5 into some would consider his discussion on sanctification in 6 through 8. The first imperative in chapter 6 is “reckon yourselves dead to sin, but alive to God.” The first command is to consider your Justification. That’s the basis for any sanctification is to consider yourself dead to what you were in Adam, and alive to what you are in Christ!

Ken Jones: I love Colossians 1. He sets forth everything we have in Christ: You have been translated to the Kingdom of His Son, you have been conformed…you have all of these things. And then later in chapter 3 he goes on to say: Now put to death the members which are upon the earth. Now if you begin in chapter 3 and think you could work back to chapter 1 you will die of depression.

Michael Horton: I remember growing up how Romans 6 just scared me to death because I was raised with the carnal Christian teaching, you know you could be a first class Christian and go to heaven up in the front of the plane—live in victory, or you could sort of get in by the hair of your chinny, chin, chin.

Kim Riddlebarger: The self is still on the throne. Michael Horton: Your carnal Christian. And of course no Christian, no one who really is dwelt by the Holy Spirit wants to be a carnal Christian, so your striving to get into that upper region, and Romans 6 was the victorious Christian life. Romans 7 was the defeated Christian life or the carnal Christian—it’s not the same Paul at the same time, it’s two different stages of a persons life as a victorious Christian or as a carnal Christian. The thing that was just revolutionary for the Christian life was not only Justification but realizing too that Sanctification was by the Grace of God, and that Sanctification was rooted in the triumphant indicative when Paul says [in Romans 6], “Shall we then sin that grace may abound?” He doesn’t say, either on one hand, “Sure, God likes to forgive and I like to sin, that’s a great relationship.” Nor does he say on the other hand “You better not unless you want to be a victorious Christian.” What he says is you cannot! It is impossible for you to be carnal Christian. It is impossible!

Ken Jones: Because you have died to sin!

Michael Horton: You have died. I’ve buried you with Christ. I raised you up, it’s done, get over it, stop trying to walk around in grave clothes.

Kim Riddlebarger: Well, the great change in Romans 8 that theology produces because if your in the carnal Christian Romans 8 then sets out the option of walking in the flesh or walking in the Spirit, when the contrast is between all Christians who walk in the Spirit versus all those in Adam will and can only walk in the flesh. And once you are freed from that now you make real progress in the Christian life. Rod Rosenbladt: Yeah, ironically when that victorious life teaching has its stake put through its vampire heart it becomes possible in following what we are discussing in Romans. Finally it becomes possible to maybe hear the Law and have a shot at it, you know, to fight the fight.

Michael Horton: That’s right, yeah exactly.

Ken Jones: Because now you have the victory—the real victory which is Romans 8:1 “There is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.”

Michael Horton: Yeah. Rod Rosenbladt: Right on.

Michael Horton: Anytime you hold out victory as a reward for my personal performance whatever kind of victory it is, I’m going to eventually become a Pharisee or…

Rod Rosenbladt and Michael Horton: …suicidal.

Michael Horton: but the alternative isn’t “Oh, we get a free seat in heaven and obedience doesn’t matter.” The alternative is to obey from freedom.

Kim Riddlebarger: The person that I get is the person who has been to every church, gone to every seminar, read every book, and still has some sin or some struggle that has them in what they think is a death grip. And they are wondering “Am I a Christian because I still keep doing this. I try and stop it. I can’t or I don’t seem to make much progress.” That’s the person I get. Michael Horton: That’s got to be the biggest pastoral problem.

Kim Riddlebarger: That is the biggest pastoral problem. You have people who kick up their heels and do all kinds of unholy things in the name of Christ and they need to be disciplined and dwelt with but that is not…

Rod Rosenbladt:…that is not the major problem

Kim Riddlbarger: The major category is somebody who’s been in the church for a long time, and who is seriously questioning God’s favor toward them because of their miserable performance and obedience to the Law.

Rod Rosenbladt: Yup.

Kim Riddlebarger: And as more Pastors try to deal with that by making sanctification more of an emphasis and stressing the need to get beyond that by trying this and trying that the more frustrated people become.

Michael Horton: One of the things that we ought to take a look at is the way in which the Law is distinguished from the Gospel in various ways. I know that both of our traditions, Reformed Confessions and Lutheran Confessions, and our dogmatics basically say the same thing. Here’s a quote and I betcha Rod this is right out of what you guys would say too. Zacharias Ursinus commentary on the Heidelberg Catechism:

“The doctrine of the church is the entire and uncorrupted doctrine of the Law and the Gospel concerning the true God together with His will, works and worship. This is the whole doctrine of the Church can be subdivided into two parts…The doctrine of the church consists of two parts: the Law, and the Gospel; in which we have comprehended the sum and substance of the sacred Scriptures…Therefore, the Law and Gospel are the chief and general divisions of holy scriptures, and comprise the entire doctrine comprehended therein…For the Law is our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ constraining us to fly to Him and showing us what that righteousness is which he has brought out and now gives to us. But the Gospel professedly treat of the person, office, and benefits of Christ. Therefore we have in the Law and Gospel the whole of the Scriptures comprehending the doctrine revealed from heaven for our Salvation. The Law prescribes and enjoins what is to be done and forbids what ought to avoided whilst the Gospel announces the free remission of sin through and for the sake of Christ alone. The Law is known within us by nature. The Gospel is divinely revealed outside of us in His Word. The Law promises life upon the condition of perfect obedience. The Gospel on the condition of faith in Christ and commencement of new obedience.

“This transcription of “Rightly Dividing the Word: Law and Gospel” is a
broadcast of the White Horse Inn radio program that originally aired on May
22, 2005 and is posted with permission. The White Horse Inn exists to equip
Christians to “know what you believe and why you believe it.” For more
information about the White Horse Inn, please visit or
call (800) 890-7556.”

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