Christians Need The Law, But Not For Encouragement

Yes, there are exhortations in Romans and elsewhere throughout the New Testament that deal with more than civil righteousness.  However, we must draw a line that would exclude all pretensions of human free will.  Luther reminded the Church first in the Heidelberg Theses and later in his monumental Bondage of the Will: in spiritual matters, there is no free will, not even for the Christian!  Any conception of human freedom in spiritual things above us is a figment of the imagination.  The analogy of the will acting as a charioteer does not fit any human being before or after the Fall in the area of spiritual matters.  The Christian simply does not occupy a neutral position to be able to choose between sin and the Spirit.  The will is bound, not obliterated, but captive and ruled from above.  As Luther graphically put it, one is ridden in life as a mule either by God or the Devil.  When the Law is applied to spiritual matters, things above us, the human will must always be considered bound.

The Apostle taught that as we Christians are a new creation in Christ, we are captivated - slaves to God and righteousness (Romans 6:18, 22).  Yes, we are free from the bondage of sin, death, and the Devil, but now bound in slavery to God and the works of God (Luther's analogy of a mule ridden by God).  Thus, we do as we are in Christ.  Nevertheless, the Law is indeed recognized as still needed and applied by God in the lives of Christians for the simple reason that apart from Christ, we remain sinners.  Apart from baptism into Christ, Paul considered himself fleshly self, and thus we like him, are sold as a slave to sin (Romans 7:14, 18).  Because of this latter slavery, the Christian's sanctification is incomplete, and he needs the Law continually, but not for encouragement of choices in spiritual things.  There simply is no level of dimension of spiritual works where the Christian can be encouraged to make an autonomous right decision.  There are no decisions for Christ - not with faith nor with works.  We simply do, willfully as we are ruled in the flesh and in the Spirit, by the Devil and our Lord, Jesus Christ.  We must interpret Paul's use of Law exhortation in light of what he teaches about the dual slavery of the Christian - bound in Christ and bound apart from Him to sin.  The simultaneous character of this duality means that our works always have a mixed, good tree/bad tree character about them in this life.  What makes good works good is that they are covered with the forgiveness of sins.  This is because they flow from the duality of what we are as a slave to righteousness and a slave to sin.  Therefore, if the non-Christian isn't impressed with some of your works, you should not be surprised.  

Because the Christian in this life is still Old Adam apart from Christ, he always needs to be exhorted by the Law.  Lutherans in their confessions use strong verbs like admonish, exhort, teach, reprove, warn, and threaten, but not encourage (See FC VI: 9, 24).  Christians, on account of the Old Adam, need to be roused and egged by the Law.  Law, however, is never credited with empowering or producing sanctification or its works of faith - not ever and not on any level!  The Gospel produces works of faith exclusively. Rather, the Law should be recognized as necessary to crucify the sinful flesh, expose false godliness, and reveal what we ought to be and do.  Christians need this on account of the Old Adam and the Devil's deceit.  All the while, a wrathful God indicts us for missing the mark: we aren't, we don't, and we can't measure up to how He created and redeemed us to be and do.  The Law always accuses!  Thus, Christians always need the Law.  It is as eminently practical as it is assuredly spiritual.  The accusation of the Law, as we have discussed earlier, leads to and prepares for the Gospel to be received.  Here God's foolishness justifies, sanctifies, and empowers the fruit of faith . . . entirely!  As God has His way with us, the spiritual heartbeat in the sanctified life of the Christian remains always the same - Law/Gospel, back and forth, again and again - but never Gospel/Law, and surely not Law/Gospel/Law. 

. . . 

Why does the Christian need any instruction concerning good works, especially since the new creation just does them in accord with its nature?  The problem, as our discussion has previously noted, is that the Christian is not simply a new creation in Christ.  He is also, apart from Christ, a fleshly slave to sin (Romans 7:14).  Christians still require the teaching of the Law to prevent them from relying on their own sense of holiness and piety or creating works that lack His Word and command.  The instruction of the Law helps the Christian guard against fleshly self-appointed works.  At the same time the Law may curb, coerce, and co-opt the sinful self (motivated by self-interest) to go along with the outward character of works that have God's command.  To be sure, the fleshly sinful self never contributes anything positive to the works of the Christian.  All it can do is sin.  

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