I have been considering how people react to the law lately. Luther had a robust understanding of the human conscience and referred to the impact that both law and Gospel had on it.
I think there are five reactions to the law:
- Abide by. Attempt to fulfill the commands and demands of scripture. This person has received their marching orders when they hear the law
- Despair. This person has seen the utter holiness of God and now says with Isaiah, “Woe is me. I am a man of unclean lips and I live among a people of unclean lips”
- Rebellion. When told that they are in violation of the law, a smile creeps across their face and they go to break more
- Minimizing. This person attempts to bypass the non-negotiable demands by looking for a loophole. They excuse themselves. In modern parlance, these are ‘lawyers’
- Lawless. “I do whatever I want”. If the law doesn’t exist, then I can’t be in violation of it. This person has no conscience
#’s 1, 3, 4, and 5 all reveal a sinful and idolatrous heart. To these, only the law should be preached until they show signs of repentance
#2 is in a place to receive the Gospel (see Luke 3, “what should we do?”) This person is ready to hear the ’90-proof’ Gospel. Jesus for you. Only Jesus now.