One Cannot Preach The Law In Such A Way That It Does Not Accuse

This leads to Romans 3:20b [for through Law is recognition of Sin], and its answer to the question, then, of the function of the Law.  "Law" here refers not only to Torah, but to Torah and to created man's built-in existential awareness of his answerability to his Creator.  Since the fall into Sin, Law - in either mode - always accuses.  It brings the recognition of Sin.  The explicit commandment (Genesis 2:17) became the opportunity for Sin (Genesis 3) - and it still is (Romans 7:8-11), for the flesh is weak.  And where weak flesh is under attack from Sin, it scarce can stand.  Indeed, Sin can always find in weak flesh a willing victim and (now) even a mutinous ally, since Sin still dwells in the members even of the Christian person.  Whenever those conditions prevail, the words "you ought," and "God expects" and even "all Christians should" strike the sinner's ears as accusation: "You know you haven't," and "You aren't a very good Christian, then, are you?"  One errs if he thinks he can preach the Law in such a way that it does not accuse but only guides.  It might be possible that it serve as a guide, but it always accuses.

Accordingly, the "third use" (or "third function") of the Law (FC VI) is best explained in this way: the Law is indeed to be preached to Christian congregations in this world because the Christian who is living in the time of the overlapping aeons is simul iustus et peccator, "simultaneously saint and sinner."  Because he is peccator - sinner - he still needs to hear the Law, to curb his behaviour and to accuse him of his sin (FC SD VI 7-9).  The notion that, with justification all taken care of and conveniently out of the way, one can forget the old man and preach the Law in a way so as to make it function as the preacher chooses to "use" it, so that there comes about an independent "third use" which guides the new man in the doing of good works, is foreign to Scripture and the Lutheran Confessions.  Such a notion involves a hopeless oversimplification that can be held to only if one avoids deeper meditation (or even self-examination) on the nature of the Christian person as simul iustus et peccator and on the nature of nomos (i.e., Law) as a relationship to God in which lex semper accusat (i.e., law always accuses).  Awareness of answerability eventuates in an awareness of being out of a right relationship to God and of being totally unable to get into a right relationship.

Paul says it succinctly (Romans 3:20): "through Law is recognition of Sin."

Excerpt taken from: 
Jonathan F. Grothe, The Justification of the Ungodly: An Interpretation of Romans - Second Edition (St. Caharines, Ontario, Canada: 2012), 164-165.  Additions to the quote are in brackets.  

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