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Two Presentations on the Third Use of the Law

January 29th, 2007
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A friend just recently pointed me to the papers that Dr. Kurt Marquart and Dr. David Scaer delivered in 2005 at the symposium on the Lutheran Confessions. Here are the papers.

Download marquart3rduse.pdf

Download scaer3rduse.pdf

Is there is a significant difference between the two papers? I do not see that. I view these papers as complimentary. Marquart’s concern is with a certain view that holds one should not speak about doing good works in our sermon but merely use the Law according to its "second use" and not concern ourselves with sanctification (in its narrow sense), but let that just take care of itself. Scaer’s concern is not to let conversations about good works float free of Christ and the Gospel but to realize that it is all in Christ, and as a result of Christ, but he too sees great value in the third use of the law, and points out that when we fail to confess the third use of the law we are risking the kind of Gospel reductionism that plagued The LCMS during the Seminex crisis.

Interestingly, both men praise Dr. Scott Murray’s excellent book on this subject.

Here is a "clip" from Dr. Marquart’s paper, from his conclusion:

"I am not advocating that we as truly evangelical preachers should imitate Calvinism or so-called “Evangelicalism.”  The main use of the law is that which shows us our sin.  And the Gospel, not the Law in any of its uses, must predominate in our preaching.  Like humane physicians we must stress the diagnosis not for its own sake, but for the sake of the cure, and then concentrate on the glorious treasures of  the love of God, poured out upon us so superabundantly in His blessed Son!  It is our task to preach the love and joy of God into people’s hearts.  But then we must also guide them towards God-pleasing expressions of their responding love for God.  And in our non-sacramental age, in which all sorts of sacrament-substitutes flourish, such as alleged tongues and miracles, millennialist fantasies about Middle Eastern places and politics, “purpose-driven” psycho- babble, and the like, we must hold high the glory of the Gospel, which is “the power [dynamis] of God for salvation” (Rom. 1:16).   Our preaching needs to serve and communicate the three permanent witnesses on earth, the spirit (or the blessed Gospel words which are spirit and life, St. Jn. 6:63), the water of Holy Baptism, and the Blood of the New Testament, I John 5:8.  It is through these blessed Gospel-channels that the divine life of faith is transmitted to us sinners. This, however, does not imply indifference to sanctification.  Our Confessions stress its importance everywhere.  Indeed, they insist that sanctification, as the precious fruit of justifying faith, must grow and increase in us.   The Apology teaches “that we ought to begin to keep the law and then keep it more and more” (IV,124, p. 140).  Again:  “For we do not abolish the law, Paul says [Rom. 3:31], but we establish it, because when we receive the Holy Spirit by faith the fulfillment of the law necessarily follows, through which love, patience, chastity, and other fruits of the Spirit continually grow” (XX,15, p. 237).   Luther’s Large Catechism teaches that the Holy Spirit through the Word “creates and increases holiness, causing it daily to grow and become strong in the faith and in its  fruits.”  Also:  “holiness has begun and is growing daily.” Again:  “All this, then, is the office and work of the Holy Spirit, to begin and daily increase holiness on earth through these two means, the Christian church and the forgiveness of sins” (Creed, pp. 438, 439).  Further:  “Now, when we enter Christ’s kingdom, this corruption must daily decrease so that the longer we live the more gentle, patient, and meek we become, and the
more we break away from greed, hatred, envy, and pride” (Baptism, p. 465).  And the Formula  of Concord teaches that the Holy Spirit “cleanses human beings and daily makes them more upright an holier.”  Also:  the Spirit “creates and increases holiness, causing it daily to grow and become strong in the faith and in the fruits which the Spirit produces. . . He brings us into the Christian community, in which he sanctifies us and brings about in us a daily increase in faith and good works” (II, p. 551). 

Sometimes we are told that sanctification is best left to itself, that conscious attempts to please God lead to hypocrisy, and that if we just preach the Gospel, sanctification will happen automatically.  No, we are not automata.  We have a renewed will, which “is not idle in the daily practice of repentance but cooperates in all the works of the Holy Spirit that He accomplishes through us” (Formula of Concord, SD, II,88, p. 561).   If being branches in the True Vine (St. Jn. 15) means that like plants we have no conscious intentions, but simply produce fruit “automatically,”  then the same applies to the Vine Himself.  And that is as absurd as saying that since Christ is the Way and the Door, He is as indifferent as ways and doors are to who is passing over or through them!  This pseudo-biblical argument is exactly parallel to that of the old antinomians, who argued that Christians will do the right things “without any teaching, admonition, exhortation, or prodding of the law, . . . just as in and of themselves the sun, the moon, and all the stars follow unimpeded the regular course God gave them once and for all” (FC, SD,VI,6, p. 588). 

Clearly the New Testament exhortations to love and good works require conscious effort, not unthinking, automatic compliance with inner instincts!  Thus St. Paul begs the Roman Christians by the mercies of God (which he had expounded in the preceding 11 chapters) to present their bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, as their “reasonable worship” (Rom. 12:1).  And of himself he writes:  “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is  ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Phil.3:13,14, NIV).  No automatism or somnabulism (sleep-walking) here!"

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Categories: Christian Life
  1. Randy Short, Fort Wayne
    January 31st, 2007 at 06:54 | #1

    All this talk of the third use of the law has severely cut me to the heart. Wait a minute, isn’t that the second use of the law? Any way, one of my pastors spoke of a professor he had who said as far as the law goes just turn it on and get out of the way. Let the flood gates open.
    Peace be with all.
    McCain: True, but…some are trying to convince us that we can only “turn it on” at a certain point in a sermon, and not at another, and one must avoid any talk of encouraging the saints and teaching them, etc. etc. And I’ve heard it said by more than one person: a sermon is not teaching, it is preaching. That’s quite a dubious distinction some are trying to argue for. The only “difference” is that we don’t have 45 minutes, but only 15 or 20 now. Good grief.

  2. February 2nd, 2007 at 12:51 | #2

    Pr. Larry Vogel has his paper presented to the Society of the Holy Trinity reprinted in the Christmass/Winter 2006 issue of the Lutheran Forum under the title “Doing Ministry Between the Law and the Gospel”.
    I highly recommend it as another source on this important topic

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