Monday, July 10, 2006

The Law is Spiritual - Martin Luther

In Romans 7, St. Paul says, "The law is spiritual." What does that mean? If the law were physical, then it could be satisfied by works, but since it is spiritual, no one can satisfy it unless everything he does springs from the depths of the heart. But no one can give such a heart except the Spirit of God, who makes the person be like the law, so that he actually conceives a heartfelt longing for the law and henceforward does everything, not through fear or coercion, but from a free heart.

Martin Luther (1483-1546), "Preface to the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans"


At Tuesday, July 11, 2006 11:10:00 AM, Blogger Jada's Gigi said...

...and hence from Luther proceeds so much of the legalism of the church world today....What a sad state of mind to think that freedome can come from the law...the Spirit of God makes us into the image of Christ...."when I was a child"...(children need the law so desperately)...but eventually we should grow to live in grace unto Christ.

At Tuesday, July 11, 2006 12:49:00 PM, Anonymous bobby grow said...


notice another perspective (or at least a little more context) on Luther and the Law: Luther said:

"From what has been said it is easy to see from what source faith derives such great power and why a good work or all good works together cannot equal it. No good work can rely upon the Word of God or live in the soul, for faith alone and the Word of God rule in the soul. Just as the heated iron glows like fire because of the union of fire with it, so the Word imparts its qualities to the soul. It is clear, then, that a Christian has all that he needs in faith and needs no work to justify him; and if he has no need of works, he has no need of the law; and if he has no need of the law, surely he is free from the law. It is true that 'the law is not laid down for the just' [I Tim. 1:9]. This is that Christian liberty, our faith, which does not induce us to live in idleness or wickedness but makes the law and works unnecessary for any man's righteousness and salvation." (Martin Luther, "Three Treatises: The Freedom of a Christian," 284)

There is a difference between the way Calvin approached the law and the way Luther did. Thus the two different traditions, i.e. Calvin=Law and Gospel & Luther=Law versus Gospel (discontinuity). So Luther hasn't led to "legalism" in a seminal way; rather Calvin's 3rd usage (in sanctification and as the basis of justification) has!

At Tuesday, July 11, 2006 10:10:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...


Certainly you don't think that a christian who grows to live in grace unto Christ would be a habitual adulterer do you? If not, does this make you a legalist simply because you believe there are clear moral standards that someone living in grace would or would not do?


At Tuesday, July 11, 2006 10:24:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...


Maybe sometime we could have a discussion regarding our definitions of the term "law". It would be helpful to me to see your perspective.

When you say that there is no third use to the law (namely to govern our lives even as Christians), my mind automatically goes to laws like thou shalt not steal, and thou shalt love the Lord your God and make no graven images. So you can see why I scratch my head when you say that. Clearly we are to be governed by such laws.
And your mind probably goes to laws regarding sacrifices or some other aspec that has clearly ended.

The ones I mentioned are clearly still in effect and the cerimonial are clearly no longer in effect.

How do you distingush between the two.

There is still a standard today for righteous living that is required of us. I call it God's moral law. What do you call it, and how is it related to the mosaic law if related at all? I'm just trying to clear some things up in my mind on this topic.

God Bless,


P.S. Anyone else can jump in if you want also.

At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 8:21:00 AM, Blogger Jada's Gigi said...

Now I do like that quote of Luther's...much better perspective. Of course I do not believe that a Christian growing in grace should live as a habitual adulterer...that would be where the child needs the guidance of the law. What I do know is that God is bigger...bigger even than the law as mere man perceives it and I would not rule out that habitual adulterer being a believer, however unlikely, and ending up in heaven some day. Rules that keep us on the straight and narrow...promises of consequences...this is not living by grace...this is living by by grace involves walking on the straight and narrow from a pure heart...because He enables us to, He lives in us. Our own efforts to "do better" are wasted time as bobby grow's Luther quote states. We,as believers, are free from the law.
the 10 Commandments are OT and have been fulfilled by Christ who is the only person who could keep them all. His new commmandment is to Love...apparently without boundaries so I propose that means we live under the law of love...what all that means is worked out daily in the lives of beleivers everywhere. I don't think it can be canned into 10 steps or some formula..which would just roll back around to the law.
sorry to sound so confrontational...I don't know what's gotten into me...

At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 9:02:00 AM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Hey Jada,

Don't worry, you don't sound to confrontational. I think we've chatted back and forth enough to know that even though we may have different views on a few things, we discuss them as a brother and sister in Christ.

I actually agree with most of what you said, and I most certainly agree with the other Luther quotes that Bobby posted. But here is part of your quote that I'm not too sure about.

You said,

"His new commmandment is to Love...apparently without boundaries so I propose that means we live under the law of love...what all that means is worked out daily in the lives of beleivers everywhere."

It's the part that says "without boundries" that concerns me. There are most certainly boundries that we must stay within or we are no longer loving. I agree we will not do this without Christ living in us, but "zeal without knowledge' never works. If we are to love we must know how to love.

Do you think that God's moral law is unloving. Since I believe it flows from his nature and he is love, I believe it is an expression of his love.

You seem to speak of love as trumping God's moral when in fact it lives in perfect harmony with it. If all other rules are gone then love in turned into a warm feeling, because without laws, rules, and propositions how would we ever know how to express our love. Love is looking out for the other persons best interest even if it means denying our own. Without laws, we would never know if our loving a person is helping or hurting them. To see a homosexual couple and say, “I love you and I just want you to be happy,” this is not loving them, because we are actually helping them continue in a manner that will bring the judgment of God upon them. We are to lovingly help them out of that relationship. God’s moral law is an expression of His love. Whenever we have something that we call “love” that trumps those laws, we’ve deceived ourselves.

You also seems to argue that now that we have a new nature we do not need the law because God's love is in our hearts. And I agree God's love is in our hearts but let me ask you these two questions. Would God's love that is in our hearts ever violate God's moral law? and Second, do you really believe you will ever reach a point in this life where you will be so sanctified that you don't need God's moral law to keep you check?

I believe the answer to both of those questions is "no."

God Bless,


Heb. 11:22 Consider the severity and goodness of God.

At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 12:15:00 PM, Anonymous bobby grow said...

Hey Doug,

I would call it the Law of Christ (Gal. 6:2)--instead of God's "moral law" (although this might be only an issue of semantics ;). I would only see the Mosaic Law's repeated by the New Testament as directly binding moral laws (i.e. from the Mosaic Code)--and the rest, from the Old Cov., as paradigmatically binding, in the sense that they serve as moral principles to be applied or used, as you say, as the parameters of what moral godly living will look like!

You already know what I think about the Mosaic Law as the basis of our imputed righteousness from Christ--which is why I have a problem with Calvin's 3rd usage of the law--since it is inextriably tied to his view of justification (not just sanctification)!

P.S. The trichotomy of ceremonial, civil, and moral law, that has been traditionally been made in regards to the "force" and contemporary applicability of the Mosaic law seems artificial, sense the NT never makes this distinction. It seems your theonomist brothers are more consistent in this regard than the typical covenantal approach to understanding the Mosaic Law! In other words they have "bitten the bullet", where most Reformed seem inconsistent in their "usage" of the Mosaic Law.

In Christ,

Bobby G.

At Wednesday, July 12, 2006 10:00:00 PM, Blogger Doug E. said...

Thanks Bobby,

I'm still trying to see where we disagree. We tends to use different terms but we seem to think a lot alike on this issue.

I have no problem calling it the law of Christ, but it still seems to be the law. Especially since part of the new covenant is to have the law written on our hearts (Heb. 8:10). I guess my question is, is this really a different law?
Or just the same one altered for the new covenant?

Still trying to get a good handle on it myself.

God bless,


At Friday, June 06, 2008 8:50:00 PM, Anonymous steve martin said...

I personally don't know any Christian that doesn't sin willfully everyday.

I know lots of Christians that blithely break traffic laws all day long and think nothing of it. That is sinning.

I don't know any Christian that takes the Sermon on the Mount seriously.

Invite your ememies over for not worry about anything, everything in a perfect manner, do not get angry with anyone, ever.

Jesus also tild His disciples to get rid of all they own otherwise they could not be His diciples. (Luke 14:33)

I don't know any Christians that are willing to put aside their selfish desires for the Lord.

But hey, He died for the ungodly...for real sinners, like we are. That's the good news!

We truly are free in Christ!


- Steve Martin

At Monday, October 27, 2008 12:39:00 PM, Anonymous steve martin said...

Luther is parroting Paul who tells us that the law must be satisfied...perfectly.

Since we are tainted by sin, we can in no way ever, satisfy the demand of the law.

God knew that this is a problem for us and decided to do something about it in the person of Christ and His death and forgiveness from the cross.

The law kills. The gospel gives life.

Luther knew this, because he read and understood Paul.

Thanks be to God for them and for all the rest of the Reformers of the Church


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