Bavinck on Lutheran view vs. Reformed view of the Third Use of the Law
The reason that I am posting this is that I believe that this has much to do with the ongoing 'Law/Gospel distinction debate'. I also think that this sheds some light as to why objections are being raised.
There are those who say that there is no difference between the Lutheran view and the Reformed view when it comes to the Third Use of the Law. However, according to Bavinck, that is not true.
Lutherans almost exclusively have an eye for the accusing and condemning function of the law and therefore know no higher bliss than deliverance from the law. Law is necessary only because of sin. In the state of perfection, there is no law. God is free from the law; Christ was in no way subject to the law for himself; the believer is no longer subject to the law. Granted, Lutherans do speak of a threefold use of the law, not only of a political, that is, civil, use for the purpose of restraining sin, and of a pedagogical use to arouse the knowledge of sin, but also of a didactic use of the law to be a rule of life for believers. This last use [Third Use], however, is solely necessary since and insofar as believers still continue to be sinners and have to be restrained by the law and led to a continuing knowledge of sin. By itself, when faith and grace come on the scene the law expires and loses all its meaning.
"The Reformed held a very different view. The political use and the pedagogical use of the law have only become "accidentally" necessary because of sin. Even when these earlier uses cease, the most important one, the didactic or normative use, remains. The law, after all, is an expression of God's being. As a human being Christ was naturally subject to law for his own sake. Before the fall the law was inscribed on Adam's heart. In the case of the believer, it is again engraved on the tables of his heart by the Holy Spirit; and in heaven all its inhabitants will conduct themselves in accordance with the law of the Lord. The gospel is temporary; the law is everlasting and precisely that which is restored by the gospel. Freedom from the law, therefore, does not mean that Christians no longer have anything to do with that law, but the law can no longer demand anything from them as a condition for salvation and can no longer judge and condemn them. For the rest they delight in the law in their innermost being [Rom. 7:22] and meditate on it day and night [Ps. 1:2]. For that reason that law must always be proclaimed in the church in the context of the gospel. Both law and gospel, the whole Word, the full counsel of God, are the content of preaching. Accordingly, among the Reformed the law occupies a much larger place in the doctrine of gratitude than in that of misery.
[Here Bavinck has a footnote providing bibliographical references relating to the views of Luther, Zwingli, Calvin, Zanchius, Witsius, De Moor, Vitringa, Schneckenburger, Frank, and Gottschick.]
Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 4. 2008 Edition. pp. 454-455.
If you want to read more, you can access Dr. Kloosterman's translation HERE.
Note: I am in no way implying that the 'Law/Gospel distinction' should be rejected because it is said to be primarily Lutheran. It is clear to me that this distinction is part of Reformed theology. However, it makes me wonder why there are those who insist that there is no difference.
Joel de Leon
under care - Christ Presbyterian Church, OPC
"To doubt God’s mercy because our faith is feeble, is rather to rely upon our faith than upon the Lord. It is not the excellency and great measure of faith that makes us righteous before God, but Christ whom faith does receive and apprehend: which a weak faith can do as well as the strongest.” - John Ball (Puritan)
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