Law and Gospel: A Most Important Distinction

The Proper Distinction Between Law and GospelThe distinguished Lutheran theologian, C. F. W. Walther gave a series of Friday night lectures from 1884-1885 for the seminary students at Concordia Seminary.  Thankfully, these lectures have been translated into English.  Though over 100 years old, they are still quite penetrating and helpful today. 

“The Law tells us what we are to do.  No such instruction is contained in the Gospel.  On the contrary, the Gospel reveals to us only what God is doing.  The Law is speaking concerning our works; the Gospel, concerning the great works of God.  In the Law we hear the tenfold summons, ‘Thou shalt.’  Beyond that the law has nothing to say to us.  The Gospel, on the other hand, makes no demands whatever.”

Uneasy?  Keep reading…

“But does not the Gospel demand faith?  Yes; that, however, is just the same kind of command as when you say to a hungry person, ‘Come, sit down at my table and eat.’  The hungry person will not reply: ‘Bosh! I will not take orders from you.’  No, he will understand and accept your words as a kind invitation.  That is what the Gospel is — a kind invitation to partake of heavenly blessings.”

This book is outstanding; I highly recommend it.

See C. F. W. Walther, The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel trans. W. H. T. Dau (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1986), 9.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

6 thoughts on “Law and Gospel: A Most Important Distinction”

  1. I’m right with you Bruce. I used the book about 4 years ago, and put it on my wish list then. Even if it is still there, I’m not sure if you can even get a copy of this anymore . . . perhaps Wipf and Stock has it . . . probably costs around $75 though!!!

    Thanks for the quotes, Shane. Nothing like that REFORMED doctrine of law and gospel! ;)


  2. For some reason I took it off my Amazon wish list. I think I somehow developed a weird anti-Lutheran phobia somewhere along the line.

    Anyhow, it seems you can get this book either new or used for under $30.


  3. An odd double negative: “anti-Lutheran phobia”. Really, what I meant was that I had somehow become anti-Lutheran before I even understood what aspects of Lutheranism should be embraced.


  4. I remember reading this in my spare time during the first year of seminary. (I actually HAD some spare time, being a lowly M.A. student.) It was one of the highlights of the year for me.


  5. This is also one of my favorite books. I profited greatly from it. I would highly recommend it to every minister who is seeking to preach faithfully. As William Perkins pointed out, distinguishing properly the law and the gospel is one of the most important aspects of preaching. I wish there were a book like this from a Reformed perspective. I have yet to find one. Do you know of one?


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