What’s Law Got to Do with It?
In explaining the Lutheran distinction between law and gospel last week , I made the claim that the law does not show us what we can do; it simply shows us what we ought to do. Since that is a controversial statement, further explanations are in order. It is easy, and even logical, to assume that if the law only tells us to do things we cannot do, the law is meaningless. It only mocks us and makes light of our condition. That is the stance I had for most of my life, actually. Only when exposed to the keen Biblical insights of Martin Luther did I realize the fallacy of my reasoning. The law does not mock a person who is incapable of obeying it. In fact, by commanding the impossible, the law helps him. How? To answer, let me paraphrase an argument from Luther’s Bondage of the Will : Imagine a man with his hands bound behind his back, but who clearly and fully believes he can move his hands in any direction, whenever he wished. How could you best help this person? Well, by p