A Legal Preacher: Turning Every Passage Into A Law Because He Doesn't Know Any Other Way

By: Scott Clark
HT: The First Premise 

A legal preacher is a preacher who majors in the law to the neglect of the Gospel. In practice, he preaches nothing but law. He thinks that mentioning Jesus periodically or even regularly means that he’s not a legal preacher and he can’t imagine that people are concerned about the tenor of his preaching because he doesn’t see anything wrong with it. It’s the sort of preaching he heard as a young man and it’s the sort of preaching he heard in seminary and it’s the sort of preaching he admires in other preachers.

He turns every passage into a law, because he doesn’t know any other way to read the Scripture and he doesn’t know any other way to preach. He preaches the law and he doesn’t even know he’s doing he it, even when, in his mind, he’s preaching the Gospel. When he finds a bit of good news in his passage, he doesn’t end with that because he doesn’t want his people to get the idea that there are no obligations to the Christian life.

He’s heard talk about a distinction between law and Gospel but he’s pretty sure that’s a Lutheran way to think and talk and beside, he never heard that when he went to seminary and he went to a good school where, were it important, he would have heard about it. He’s suspicious of the fellows who do talk about law and Gospel. They don’t seem to be nearly as interested in sanctification and obedience as they should be. Certainly those fellows aren’t as interested in it as he is. He suspects that those fellows are just lazy...

Every so often he mentions grace and faith but he doesn’t dwell on it or get caught up in it. When salvation comes up in a passage at hand (e.g., the crossing of the Red Sea) he covers it but he doesn’t leave the people there. In his application he presses them as to whether they really believe it enough and whether they’ve really obeyed God. Is God really pleased with them? He doesn’t want them to become lazy or presumptuous. We all know what the gospel is. In our age what we need to do is to get busy applying the Scriptures to everyday life and getting after the hard work of obedience and sanctification.
One of his parishioners once asked him, “Pastor, are you unhappy with us? You seem dissatisfied with us.” He thought to himself: “Yup, that’s right. I’m not really satisfied with you folks and why should I be? You have a long way to go.”