Law Preaching

Discussion in 'The Law of God' started by The Lamb, Apr 10, 2005.

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  1. The Lamb

    The Lamb Puritan Board Freshman

    Did the Puritans "over emphasize" Law Preaching as the way to convict man in regards to his sinfullness?

    Are the Ten Commandments the "only way" to teach sinners their guilt?

    Does the New Testament teach that the law is the only way of sin conviction? John 16:8-11 is the most important passage concerning Holy Spirit conviction.

    The Puritans took this matter of "law-preaching" very seriously, as the following quote from John Owen demonstrates:

    What is necessary to be found in us antecedaneously to our believing unto the justification of life?there is supposed in them in whom this faith is wroughtthe work of the law in conviction of sinthat which any man hath first to deal withalis the lawWithout this the gospel cannot be understood, nor the grace of it duly valuedthe faith which we treat of being evangelicalcannot be acted by us, but on a supposition of the work and effect of the lawAnd that faith which hath not respect hereunto, we absolutely deny to be that faith whereby we are justified, Gal. 3:22-24; Rom. 10:4 (Justification, pp. 74-76).

    Does the New Testament promote this opinion?

    AS of right now, I have not reached a full conclusion on the matter. This is a subject for an upcoming study we are to prepare for.

    In His Grace


    [Edited on 4-10-2005 by The Lamb]

    [Edited on 4-10-2005 by The Lamb]
  2. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    Psa 19:7 The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
  3. The Lamb

    The Lamb Puritan Board Freshman

    I agree Scott Bushy. But that is not addressing my question. I am not implying the Law has no worth. I am specifically asking if this is the only way for conviction. Again, this is a topic for an upcoming study.

    I have always believed in the traditional structure to preach the Law prior to the Gospel. And I see Biblical warrant for it. The question now asked is this way proposed anywhere in the NT, especially for Pauls writings?
  4. Larry Hughes

    Larry Hughes Puritan Board Sophomore


    First, I would agree with this "preach the Law prior to the Gospel", and never ever confuse the two. The later is the greatest ill of far too much preaching today. The Gospel is confused and hence Christ is so obscured in much, not all but much, of today's preaching so as to almost dehydrate the church of the Water of Life.

    We must NEVER forget that the Gospel alone is the power of God, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." Romans 1:16. 1 Cor. 1:18, "For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God."

    As to Psalm 19:7, John Calvin is helpful: "As the conversion of the soul, of which he speaks immediately after, is doubtless to be understood of its restoration, I have felt no difficulty in so rendering it. There are some who reason with too much subtilty on this expression, by explaining it as referring to the repentance and regeneration of man. I admit that the soul cannot be restored by the law of God, without being at the same time renewed unto righteousness; but we must consider what is David´s proper meaning, which is this, that as the soul gives vigor and strength to the body, so the law in like manner is the life of the soul. In saying that the soul is restored, he has an allusion to the miserable state in which we are all born. There, no doubt, still survive in us some small remains of the first creation; but as no part of our constitution is free from defilement and impurity, the condition of the soul thus corrupted and depraved differs little from death, and tends altogether to death. It is, therefore, necessary that God should employ the law as a remedy for restoring us to purity; not that the letter of the law can do this of itself, as shall be afterwards shown more at length, but because God employs his word as an instrument for restoring our souls...

    ...But here a question of no small difficulty arises; for Paul seems entirely to overthrow these commendations of the law which David here recites. How can these things agree together: that the law restores the souls of men, while yet it is a dead and deadly letter? that it rejoices men´s hearts, and yet, by bringing in the spirit of bondage, strikes them with terror? that it enlightens the eyes, and yet, by casting a veil before our minds, excludes the light which ought to penetrate within? But, in the first place, we must remember what I have shown you at the commencement, that David does not speak simply of the precepts of the Moral Law, but comprehends the whole covenant by which God had adopted the descendants of Abraham to be his peculiar people; and, therefore, to the Moral Law, the rule of living well "” <<<he joins the free promises of salvation, or rather Christ himself>>>, in whom and upon whom this adoption was founded. But Paul, who had to deal with persons who perverted and abused the law, and separated it from the grace and the Spirit of Christ, refers to the ministry of Moses viewed merely by itself, and according to the letter. <<<It is certain, that if the Spirit of Christ does not quicken the law, the law is not only unprofitable, but also deadly to its disciples.>>> <<<Without Christ there is in the law nothing but inexorable rigour, which adjudges all mankind to the wrath and curse of God.>>> <<<And farther, without Christ, there remains within us a rebelliousness of the flesh, which kindles in our hearts a hatred of God and of his law, and from this proceed the distressing bondage and awful terror of which the Apostle speaks.>>> These different ways in which the law may be viewed, <<<easily show us the manner of reconciling these passages of Paul and David, which seem at first view to be at variance.>>> The design of Paul is to show what the law can do for us, <<<taken by itself>>>; that is to say, what it can do for us when, <<<without the promise of grace>>>, <<<it strictly and rigorously exacts from us the duty which we owe to God>>>; but <<<David, in praising it as he here does, speaks of the whole doctrine of the law>>>, <<<<<which includes also the gospel,>>>>> and, therefore, <<<under the law he comprehends Christ.>>>" --John Calvin's, Commentaries

    Second, sinners unconverted will not even taste the fulness of their guilt until they see the price that the innoncent Son of God paid for the sins of His people. Seeing the Gospel awakens the full weight of the Law and is a must. For the Law in its essence is spiritual and not outward. This is why Paul wisely chooses in Romans 6 to speak about coveting - as it points directly to the problem the fallen human heart. If one wants to create fertile soil for growing atheist, the by all means preach only law and/or continually confuse the Law and the Gospe, and make moralisms out of every thing you preach - tell the people to stare at their hearts and never point them clearly to Christ. Then one will grow all the fine atheist and agnostics one could ever desire.

    Third, the biggest issue with some of the Puritans (who were not monolithic) is that some over emphasized the subjective, inner workings of a man to establish assurance. Such excessive inward looking will either lead to despair or some will be fooled that they are actually pulling it off. The Gospel is external, alien, historic and objective and THERE is where faith IS LOOKING (AT Christ ALONE) and assurance are found. Not naval gazing. This is what separated the Puritans from the Magisterial Reformers.


  5. NaphtaliPress

    NaphtaliPress Administrator Staff Member

    Along the lines of some of the concerns mentioned previously, see a sermon preached today by my pastor on The Tenth Commandment (MP3). Listed at
  6. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    Well, Joseph....

    You're onto something here....

    Way back when I was reading a lot of John Owen, my (United) Reformed pastor told me to "go easy" on Owen.


  7. The Lamb

    The Lamb Puritan Board Freshman

    Well I am not the one proposesing the idea. Another in our study has, so I have to study it.

    His main question is this.

    Are the 10 the only way to convict a person of sin in light of John 16.

    And did the puritans have it slightly wrong

  8. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior


    Paul says we are the "aroma of death to those perishing..."

    No the "10 Commandments" need not be used....for the Law is written on the heart of each human being on earth.


    [Edited on 4-14-2005 by Robin]
  9. The Lamb

    The Lamb Puritan Board Freshman

    i agree Robin!!!!!!!!! Wow Mark this date down!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
  10. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    :handshake: Joseph, my brother!

  11. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior


    I sure appreciate your 4/10 post, above. :up:

    The Puritans were not monolithic in their views.

  12. The Lamb

    The Lamb Puritan Board Freshman

    What is a simple definition of monolithic?
  13. Robin

    Robin Puritan Board Junior

    Main Entry: mono·lith·ic
    Pronunciation: "mä-n&l-'i-thik
    Function: adjective
    1 a : of, relating to, or resembling a monolith : HUGE, MASSIVE b (1) : formed from a single crystal <a monolithic silicon chip> (2) : produced in or on a monolithic chip <a monolithic circuit>
    2 a : cast as a single piece <a monolithic concrete wall> b : formed or composed of material without joints or seams <a monolithic floor covering> <a monolithic furnace lining> c : consisting of or constituting a single unit
    3 a : constituting a massive undifferentiated and often rigid whole <a monolithic society> b : exhibiting or characterized by often rigidly fixed uniformity <monolithic party unity>
    - mono·lith·i·cal·ly /-thi-k(&-)lE/ adverb

  14. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    How does the Spirit convict us of sin without using the law?
  15. The Lamb

    The Lamb Puritan Board Freshman

    The Holy Spirit works deep in the heart of an unbeliever to reveal the truth of a coming judgment by God. God will judge every motive, every thought, every word, and every deed. God will pronounce judgment on every human. Deep down, where no one from the outside can see or reach, the unbeliever has to shudder at the thought of the coming judgment. This is where the Holy Spirit works on an unbeliever--places you and I cannot reach through legalism, judgmental attitudes, or convincing arguments. We can talk until we are blue in the face but we will never talk anyone into the Kingdom of God. We can only proclaim God's word and our confidence in it
  16. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    Fine, the Spirit reminds us of judgment. But what is the cause of the coming judgment?
  17. Scott Bushey

    Scott Bushey Puritan Board Doctor

    The scriptures are clear, men cannot be saved outside of the preaching of Gods word. The word illuminates Gods law. The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul. Men are unable to repent unless they know what God requires they turn from. hence, men must know of Gods law in order to be saved. Well, you may say, thats not true, it is the judgment that drives them to Christ; judgment is a result of waged sin. Sin is a result of breaking the law of God. Unless the man know why he is being judged, it is unlikely that the man repent.
  18. Puritan Sailor

    Puritan Sailor Puritan Board Doctor

    I think we need to clear up something about Puritan preaching as well. They didn't just preach the law. They preached about the law in-depth, but only so they could preach about the gospel in-depth. You can't have one without the other. The Puritan "overemphasis" of the law also explains their overemphasis of devotion and love to Christ, which is so lacking in the Church today.
  19. The Lamb

    The Lamb Puritan Board Freshman

    On the surface I will agree with this.

    Here is where I disagree. The Law does not convert, it does not illumine, yes the Law is Perfect. When was the Law preached to Zaccheaus, the woman at the well, the Apostles, it is not present. In fact, the Pharasses and scribes, who "knew" the Law inside and out were a brood of vipers. The Law did nothing for them.

    What about the gentiles who did nto have the law? They were still guilty Scott.

    The Law had and has its place in the life of the believer. But according to John 16. It is the Holy Spirit who convicts now..

    Witsius made the following remarks about the Ten Commandments: "all prescription of duty belongs to the law[in the teaching of Christ and the apostles] there is a certain mixture of various doctrineseach of which ought to be reduced to their proper heads, so that the promises of grace be referred to the gospel, all injunctions of dutyto the law" (pp. 407, 411). Does this hard and fast distinction reflect sensitivity to the N. T. ethical perspective? Is it not the case that in the N. T. duties are pressed upon believers because of their relationship to the grace of Christ in the gospel?

    "Love one another, even as I have loved you," is the starting point of Christian ethics. "Under grace," duty flows out of union with Christ. In Witsius scheme, the gospel is said absolutely not to prescribe duty; only the law is granted this function. But how contrary this is to N. T. teaching? The command to love is old; the command to love as it is connected to the decisive redemptive event of the cross is new (John 13:34-35; 15:12-13).

    covenant theology puts the believer in a tension of being both "under law" and "not under law." Samuel Bolton put it like this: "The law sends us to the Gospel that we may be justified; and the Gospel sends us to the law again to inquire what is our duty as those who are justified . . . It is a hard lesson to live above the law, and yet walk according to the lawto walk in the law in respect of duty, but to live above it in respect of comfort" (True Bonds of Christian Freedom, pp. 71, 219, 220).

    Please tell me where does the NT teach anythign like this?

    this is contrary to the N. T. teaching on sanctification. On the one hand, covenant theology tells us that the law promotes transgression, stirs up sin, brings death, and cannot be the means of sanctification Yet, on the other hand, we are told that "grace is more commanding than law," "that it is a mark of spiritual infancy to be under law." and that in sanctification we are left "within the law as a rule of life"

    I am not in any way denying the usefulness of the Mosaic commands in the Christian life. But these commands come to us through Christ.

    Paul specifically said that when he was among Gentiles his evangelistic method was "with law" (1 Cor, 9:21). He nowhere used the Ten Commandments with Gentiles to convince them of sin. There is no evidence of this in the brief sermons addressed to Gentiles that are recorded in Acts 14:15-17 and 17:23-31. Rather, as can be seen in Rom. 1, his starting point was general revelation. Furthermore, even the use of the O. T. special revelation in Acts does not reveal the use of the Ten Commandments to drive men to Christ. Rather, Christ in all of His offices is proclaimed (Acts 17:2-3; 26:22-23).

    I believe the remarks of Geerhardus Vos are appropriate and insightful.

    It is evident that there are two distinct points of view from which the content of the old dispensation can be regarded. When considered in comparison with the final unfolding and rearranged structure of the N. T., negative judgments are in place. When, on the other hand, the O. T. is taken as an entirety by itself and as rounded off provisionally in itself, and looked at, as it were, with the eyes of the O. T. itself, we find it necessary to take into account the positive element by which it prefigured and anticipated typically the N. T. (Biblical Theology. p. 144).

  20. Texas Aggie

    Texas Aggie Puritan Board Freshman

    I believe the law is an integral part of conviction upon the elect... we can not escape it. I think there is also more to conviction than just the law. Look what was kept inside the Ark of the Covenant behind the veil in the tabernacle. We know there were the tables of the law, Aaron´s staff that budded and a cup of manna. These items are three very important representations found here.... the law (on stone written with the finger of God Himself), resurrected life (Aaron´s staff) & Jesus Christ (the cup of manna... food from heaven).

    Now, if we take what was physical in the Old Covenant and apply it spiritually in the New, we have the exact same thing. Under the New Covenant, we have God´s law written in our hearts and in our minds. We have resurrected life/salvation from a second death and we have Jesus Christ & the Holy Spirit dwelling within us (we are now the temple of God). Maybe the tabernacle under the Old Covenant is a representation of man.... if that is the case, we may need to look at the contents of the tabernacle and see what they may symbolize. If we go a little further, we may want to look at the priesthood overall.

    We know from the book of Hebrews, that the satisfaction of Christ made necessity of a change in the law. From Hebrews, we can clearly see that two parts of the ceremonial law have changed (the priesthood & animal sacrifices). I am not sure what the law written in our hearts and in our minds is if it is not the same law written in stone by God Himself. I think the fact that He used stone as well as His own finger may indicate that His law is to remain permanent.

    As far as the judgments and times are concerned, I can´t find anywhere in the scripture where they have been changed, nullified or done away with. I would recommend your bible study class take a look at the tabernacle and its significance as applied to the New Covenant. It may lead you to something beyond conviction of the law. Good luck.
  21. kceaster

    kceaster Puritan Board Junior


    What is the definition of sin?

    In Christ,

  22. Puritanhead

    Puritanhead Puritan Board Professor

    The law exists to bring us to knowledge to sin... The problem with today's church is that it does not preach law hardly at all... just pop-psychology puff to make people feel good about themselves as they already are... How does one hope to convict a person of their sin with such weak, touchy-feely Gospel preaching? In the malaise of such weak preaching it seems that inevitably the nefarious idea that grace is actually a license to sin may begin to creep in... Today's church needs to preach the law like the old stalwart Puritans did. We all fall short of God's perfect standards, and we're made just by an alien righteousness imputed to our account--that of Christ Jesus. The just shall live by faith!
  23. smallbeans

    smallbeans Puritan Board Freshman

    To echo what some others are saying here - the Law has a context. It seems to me that the biblical pattern is gospel (establishing who we are) first, then instruction in the law. Notice the Ten Commandments:

    Exodus 20:

    "I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery."
    [GOSPEL - here's what I've done for you, here's who you are, the ones I redeemed from Slavery, therefore....]
    You shall have no other gods before me....

    I also would note that most liturgical forms feature a confession of sins near the beginning of the service. Thus, the liturgical context of the sermon is already post-confession - we have already confessed our sins and heard of forgiveness in Christ prior to sitting down to be instructed. Thus, whatever the pastor says, it is already in that context of grace.

    You can still convict people by emphasizing where they fall short of God's law, but that is a message for the people of God who have been made the people of God by his grace.

    I think you also see this in apostolic instruction - Paul will often say - 1. Here is what you are, 2. in light of that, how can you do X? An example is I Cor. 6: "Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never!" See the pattern - here is what you are in Christ, therefore do not do X.

    It is grace that brings us a knowledge of our sin. One of the tools of grace is the law of God that we are able to see aright, by grace.

    One of the beauties of the reformed system is that our people get real instruction in Christian living without the danger of communicating a works righteousness.
  24. crhoades

    crhoades Puritan Board Graduate

    The indicative and the imperative are tied together. I think this is exactly what smallbeans was driving at. For Christians, Christ therefore do this. Even for non-christians the indicative and imperative still applies. Indicative - you are created by God and are bound to his law. He gave us His righteous law in order to drive us to His wonderfully provided redemption. Imperative - Repent and believe!

    In other words, for believer and non-believer alike, the law should never go forth alone. (Solus Nomos was not a reformation cry. :))
  25. The Lamb

    The Lamb Puritan Board Freshman

    Missing the mark.

    WHat does this question have to do with the primary topic Kevin?

    Law preaching that is done without Christ is useless. The original intent of this thread was not to determine the place of the Law, but to determine if it was overemphasized by the puritans, which I believe was in certain people.

    The thunderings of the Law are not the only means of conviction. According to John, the Holy Spirit does this without the Law. Again, in Romans Paul explains that even without the Law, the gentiles were cursed.

    Did Christ mention the Law as the only way to convict those who He encountered? This question still has not been answered.

    covenant theology puts the believer in a tension of being both "under law" and "not under law." Samuel Bolton put it like this: "The law sends us to the Gospel that we may be justified; and the Gospel sends us to the law again to inquire what is our duty as those who are justified . . . It is a hard lesson to live above the law, and yet walk according to the lawto walk in the law in respect of duty, but to live above it in respect of comfort" (True Bonds of Christian Freedom, pp. 71, 219, 220).

    Where is this taught in the NT?

    Again I am not calling the LAw useless, I am calling excessive Law Preaching useless.

    Christ NEVER preached this way.

    [Edited on 5-13-2005 by The Lamb]
  26. Texas Aggie

    Texas Aggie Puritan Board Freshman


    You are so right about the teaching of the law in churches. Usually if you mention the law, you are tarred & feathered and thrown out of church. First thing you will here is that we are not under the law but under grace!.. or Christ is the end of law!

    The law defines sin and does in fact convict His elect; however, I can not convict anyone of their sin, nor can a preacher at the pulpit. I do wish the church would teach more on the law of God and what has changed. I wish we had a better understanding of the law written in our hearts and in our minds as a provision given to us under the terms of the New Covenant.
  27. The Lamb

    The Lamb Puritan Board Freshman

    THe Law preached without the remedy is just as bad as anythign else from the pulpit.
  28. R. Scott Clark

    R. Scott Clark Puritan Board Senior

    Isn't Joseph really asking two questions, 1) Is the law only in the decalogue? and 2) What are the uses of the law?

    First, we need to define "law." The law is broader than the decalogue. As virtually all the Reformed, including the British Reformed tradition (i.e., the Puritans -- most all the Reformed across Europe were also "Puritans") understood there to be a categorical distinction in God's Word between those places where God says, "Do this and live," and those places in God's word where it says, "Christ has done" or "shall do" for us.

    Theodore Beza, Calvin's successor, spoke for the entire Reformed tradition when he said:

    <<We divide this Word into two principal parts or kinds: the one is called the 'Law,' the other the 'Gospel.' For all the rest can be gathered under the one or other of these two headings...Ignorance of this distinction between Law and Gospel is one of the principal sources of the abuses which corrupted and still corrupt Christianity>> (The Christian Faith, 1558)

    William Perkins agreed when he said:

    <<The basic principle in application is to know whether the passage is a statement of the law or of the gospel. For when the Word is preached, the law and the gospel operate differently. The law exposes the disease of sin, and as a side effect, stimulates and stirs it up. But it provides no remedy for it. However the gospel not only teaches us what is to be done, it also has the power of the Holy Spirit joined to it....A statement of the law indicates the need for a perfect inherent righteousness, of eternal life given through the works of the law, of the sins which are contrary to the law and of the curse that is due them.... By contrast, a statement of the gospel speaks of Christ and his benefits, and of faith being fruitful in good works>> (The Art of Prophesying, 1592, repr. Banner of Truth Trust,1996, 54-55)

    This is what one finds throughout the Reformed orthodox in the 16th and 17th centuries. See

    Therefore, according to the Reformed, the law is one word and the gospel is another. For sinners, the law is bad news and the gospel is good news. The law, in itself, is holy, good, and perfectly just. It becomes toxic in connection with our sin.

    Hence, the two questions. The Reformed answer to the second is that there are three uses of the law: the pedagogical, the civil, and the normative. The Heidelberg Catechism speaks of the first use when it says that the law (not the gospel) teaches us the greatness of our sins and misery (QQ 2-3). The gospel, by contrast (Q65; Rom 10), is that instrument used by the Spirit to bring the elect to life. Owen was right about this.

    So, yes, the law has to be preached in order for the gospel to be understood, but, in answer to the first question, the law can and must be preached from throughout the Scriptures since the entirety of the Bible speaks both law and gospel.

    The third use of the law is to serve as the norm of the Christian life. Therefore, believers are not "under the law" in the strict biblical sense of being under the command to "do and live." We are not under the penalty of the law, but we are under the moral duty to obey the law out of gratitude. The law cannot justify the sinner and the sinner cannot be justified by law keeping. That is not why we obey the law, but we do strive to obey the law.

    To say we're justified by law keeping (even by "faith and works") is neo-nomianism. To deny that we have any obligation to the law whatsoever, having been justified sola gratia, sola fide, is antinomian. We ought to avoid both errors.

  29. Texas Aggie

    Texas Aggie Puritan Board Freshman


    THe Law preached without the remedy is just as bad as anythign else from the pulpit.

    Agreed.... but I didn't say preach, I said teach. Those of us who know the remedy may benefit from knowledge of the law without even discussing Christ's satisfaction of the law.

    I would hope that "preaching from the pulpit" would in fact include a remedy... I have never heard a sermon on the law without mentioning Christ's work. This would be terrible for a visitor called to know God.

    Bible studies should focus on teaching more meat as opposed to sipping the milk. Back to your original question... to me, an individual's conviction of sin can be accomplished an infinite number of ways by an infinite God. The law merely defines His will for man on earth. It defines sin and sets the moral boundary.

    The unregenerate man can not and will not come to know God, God's law and all things pertaining to God unless God Himself gives the heart transplant. As for the nature of your study, the law converts the soul... trangression of the law is sin. The world does not care about the law... the elect should (and spend a little more time looking at all the law). Good luck with your study.
  30. The Lamb

    The Lamb Puritan Board Freshman


    This is the ONLY part of your response that I would disagree with. I do not see the Law having anything to do with conversion or Salvation.

    Perhaps you mean something different.
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