Category Archives: Law/Gospel Hermeneutic

Trinity Talk Interview with Andrew Sandlin on the Life and Theology of Norman Shepherd


icon for podpress  Norman Shepherd: The Man and His Theology

Andrew Sandlin is the president for the Center of Cultural Leadership and editor of Obedient Faith: A Festschrift for Norman Shepherd (Mount Hermon, California: Kerygma Press, 2012).

You can find more information about the book here.

Pure Grace

‎”The fact that God is pleased to forgive a sinner who repents is pure grace. Pure grace! It is perfectly true that God does not forgive impenitent sinners; he forgives penitent sinners. That he forgives penitent sinners is a matter of pure grace. For you see, the ground of that pardon is not in us or in our repentance, but it is in Christ. No amount of repentance can atone for sin that is past, it is only the blood of Jesus Christ that bears the penalty of sin and washes that sin from us.” -Norman Shepherd

{thanks to Herminio}

Law as Friend

Richard Gaffin has this to say about the relationship between Law and Gospel in his book By Faith and not by Sight:

“From this perspective, the antithesis between law and gospel is not an end in itself. It is not a theological ultimate. Rather, that antithesis enters not by virtue of creation but as the consequence of sin, and the gospel functions as its overpowering. The gospel is to the end of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer. How so? Briefly, apart from the gospel and outside of Christ the law is my enemy and condemns me. But with the gospel and in Christ, united to him by faith, the law is no longer my enemy but my friend. Why? Because God is no longer my enemy  but my friend, and the law, his will, the law in its moral core, as reflective of his character and of concerns inherent in his own person and so of what he pleases, is now my friendly guide for life in fellowship with God”

 {Thanks to Herminio for the quote}

Beatitudinal Observations…

The Sermon on the Mount is filled great controversy. Historically, dispensationalists have seen these teachings/exhortations as futuristic. In other words, they do not apply to a present people, but they are models for the kingdom, which is to come after the seven year tribulation.

Covenant theologians have also been cautious in treating these beatitudes as ethical guidelines for the Christian life. Some fear that taking these assertions too literally may lead to legalism or moralism. After all, biblical laws can only be seen as hypothetical, but never achievable.

The center of this Matthean narrative is necessarily contrary to the previous two assertions. The Sermon on the Mount is an expansion (not an abrogation) of the Mosaic proclamation in the Old Covenant. In fact, one central reason Matthew contains so many mountain allusions is precisely because he is portraying Jesus as the New/Better Moses; the One who brings a message not limited to theocratic Israel, but the theocratic cosmos.

The Beatitudes are not so much about a blessing/cursing motif, but about a shame/honor motif as K.C. Hanson observes.[1] The Sermon was given to bring the new sons of the New Creation into glory and exaltation. They are being honored in this newly created kingdom, where the religious leaders of the day are being portrayed as shameful.

These are not legalistic rules for a future society nor are they the hypothetical ideals of a present society; rather, they are the honorable characteristics of a present society to be lived out in the heavenly kingdom that has come to earth.

[1] K.C. Hanson  How Honorable! How Shameful! A cultural Analysis of Matthew’s Markarisms and Reproaches.

Legal Gospel in Turretin

Douglas Wilson found this gem from Turretin. It should settle the issue, but trust me, it will not.

“The Mosaic covenant may be viewed in two aspects: either according to the intention and design of God and in order to Christ; or separately and abstracted from him. In the latter way, it is really distinct from the covenant of grace because it coincides with the covenant of works and in this sense is called the letter that killeth and the ministration of condemnation, when its nature is spoken of (2 Cor. 3:67). But it is unwarrantably abstracted here because it must always be considered with the intention of God, which was, not that man might have life from the law or as a sinner might be simply condemned, but that from a sense of his own misery and weakness he might fly for refuge to Christ…The law is said “to be not of faith” (Gal. 3:12), not as taken broadly and denoting the Mosaic economy, but strictly as taken for the moral law abstractly and apart from the promises of grace (as the legalists regarded it who sought life from it)” (2:267-68).

“The law is not administered without the gospel, nor the gospel without the law. So that it is as it were a legal-gospel and an evangelical-law; a gospel full of obedience and a law full of faith” (2: 268).

Law-Gospel Hermeneutic

Mark Horne concludes:

The typical interpretations of Luke 10.25-37 and 18.18-30 along the lines of a Law-Gospel hermeneutic are obviously flawed and end up undermining the very doctrine they are trying to protect. They allow Jesus to actually encourage people to be justified by good works and then try to save the Reformation slogan sola fide (”faith alone”) by claiming Jesus really was using a clever ploy to get people to give up trying to be justified by good works.

A better interpretation allows Jesus to simply call people to repentance and faith. Because faith involves trusting God’s promises, it involves concrete actions. Nevertheless, such works are not meritorious nor an attempt to earn God’s favor. Rather they are manifestations of a trust in God to save us and take care of us.

Read the entire article.