The biggest ill use of Scripture (in my limited perspective) is by far and above legalism. This may well be the biggest danger to our churches. It is a failure to understand the right use of the law. The gospel is distorted and we often do not even notice! This happens when our sermons are all “do this” and there is no mention of what Christ has “done”. This happens when the gospel is relegated to the end of the sermon every week when every head is bowed and eye closed. This happens when we forget that we as believers need the gospel to. There is a misuse of the law and a mismanagement of the gospel!
This can take many forms. Another illustration is the fact that many of us say we go to church to be convicted of sin. Many think that is the only reason for believers to go. While conviction of sin may certainly occur as the Word is preached, that is not the only reason. I have heard many say as a compliment to the pastor “you sure gave me a black eye this morning”. It is like we are going to church to get beat up! Either we are acting like someone who cuts themselves (they want to feel something) or we are being masochists. If a sermon gives you a black eye and nothing else, it was not a good sermon! That means all you heard was the law. The law is good and we need it. The law does not give us hope or comfort or encouragement or the power to obey. The church is not for getting beat up spiritually. It is not for making you feel good either. It is not about you. It is about Jesus and we are to worship Him.
Many believers come to church beat up enough already. Single moms that are worn out or moms with several young children that are exhausted, someone’s best friend moved away, a beloved family member died, a young couple struggling with why they can’t get pregnant, Struggles at work, problems in marriage, the list goes on and on. Knowing the people that sit in the pew, we go looking and expecting to get beat up more?
The right use of the law is important. The right use of the gospel is important. To confuse the two is take make a mess of things. If a pastor is going to give a black eye, he at least needs to give the salve to put on it. The good news of what Christ accomplished for us and He can help us no matter what our struggles are needs to be proclaimed. There is forgiveness in Christ. God’s favor on me does not depend on my performance, because Christ performed perfectly and I am in Christ as a believer. If we cannot see Christ, the pastor has failed to do his duty. In the next few posts we will see briefly what legalism is (and its twin antinomianism), what the law is and the right use of it and how the gospel is essential. Our common philosophy that the law is for believers and the gospel is only for unbelievers is wrong and dangerous. Or to state it more positively, the gospel is for believers and for everyday life.
Jay Wipf is a former student of Coalt Robinson and attended Grace University where he earned his degree in Christian Education. Jay is currently studying at Reformed Baptist Seminary in the comfort of his home in Huron, SD. By grace and at Grace he met his beautiful wife Rachel, and they now have three young children. Jay and his family live in Huron where he works in facilities at a local credit union and serves within the local church.