Now in full disclosure, my husband thinks that this use of the law should go after the gospel because this use of the law assumes the gospel. The more I thought of it, the more I agreed with him, but I wanted so badly to end the week with the gospel, so we’re just going to ignore that, but feel free to read these in opposite order, if you so choose.
Of course, a reminder of our verse for the week, Romans 6:23:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
But I also want to give a reminder of a verse that we looked at in the beginning of the month, Ephesians 2:8-10:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
What is the Third use of the Law?
Today, I want to talk about the epistle of straw. That’s right, if you remember the post on Sola Fide, you know that Martin Luther called James the epistle of straw because it so heavily emphasized works in a role of our salvation. As I stated Saturday, I do believe that all scripture is God breathed, it is for our good and correction, and I would include the book of James in this scripture. But before I get super deep into it, I want to give yet another Bible verse to give a bit of a proper context for how we’re reading James and this is from the words of Jesus in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”
How is it that the same Moral Law that is used to show us how sinful we are can also be used by us to show how grateful we are to God? In John 14:15, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” I think sometimes, we hear that and emotionally go to the place of the first use of the law instead of what it’s supposed to do, which is prompting us to show gratitude.
James 2:18 says
But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works and I will show you my faith by my works.
Now, the context of this verse has been talked about briefly in my Sola Fide post and I definitely recommend it. But I also encourage reading the whole book of James and also 1 Corinthians 13, especially as we move towards the election on Tuesday. Jesus also said, “By this they will know that you are my disciples, that you love one another.” This week’s Heidelberg reading was on the 9th commandment and I encourage especially paying attention to that in your interactions with others in the coming days. This should be an area where the Christian community is a model for the world and we have sadly been just as deep in the mud. That was a little bit more geared towards the first use, but I find it necessary right now and I just wanted to add that before I got back on topic.
Anywho, what I meant when I said, “we hear that and emotionally go to the place of the first use of the law,” is we often take “if you love me, you will obey my commands,” and “faith without works is dead” to make faith a work and therefore something we have to do. But obedience of the law as a way of salvation is a weight we cannot bear! In the life of the Christian, the third use of the law is for us to show gratitude to God for the atoning work of Jesus on the cross. We are not saved by our works, but we are known by our fruit.
In a sermon called The Gospel Mystery of Sanctification, Anglican pastor, John Fonville notes this based on a book of the same name by Walter Marshall:
What you do is not instrumental to your salvation. I want you to listen to Walter Marshall as he explains it in his book. He says, “holiness is not a means to an end. Holiness is not the instrumental means by which you achieve salvation. Your good works do not save you. Rather, holiness is part of the end itself.” You are saved in order to do good works, which God prepared in advance so that you should walk in them. Ephesians 2:10. Good works do not achieve salvation. Good works are the fruit and result of saving faith.
If God says what he desires for us is to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with him” (Micah 6:8), we should be happy to do that because Jesus has given us the ability to do that and because we love him and we want the world to know we love him. This is the maker of heaven and earth, who loved us so much that he sacrificed his only son to redeem us, justify us, and make us holy. Who would not be happy to love a God like that? But, I’m getting ahead of myself to tomorrow’s post.
That said, I do want to circle back to Matthew 11:28. As I said before, the weight of earning our salvation does not fall on us. His yolk is easy and his burden is light. As we move forward in our walks the process of sanctification will be going through us as we draw nearer to the Father and become more like the Son through the power of the Holy Spirit. This is good news, my friends. God loves us enough to save us as we are, but thank God that he doesn’t leave us there.
Related Unit Posts:
The Reformed Catechisms & Confessions address the Law here:
- The Section of the Heidelberg Catechism on “Gratitude” falls under Q&A 86-129
- Savoy Declaration 19, section 6-7
- WCF Ch 19, section 6-7
- 1689 LBCF 19, section 6-7
Resources on the Third Use of The Law:
This is something that kind of floored me a little bit when I was first learning about the 3 fold use of the law. Grace? How does grace have anything to do with the law? As I have told you in other posts (I think my New Perspective on Paul one is where I am most explicit here), the last few months, I have been trying to work on loving the law and seeing the benefits of having it, knowing that the real problem is myself and not the law. This second use of the law is a really great way to see the overlooked benefits of the law, so I hope that this is encouraging to you. As we go forward, let’s remember our focus verse for the week, Romans 6:23:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
So what is the Second use of the Law?
So, how many of you have atheist friends that think adultery is wrong? Now, obviously, this would require you to have non Christians as friends, so if you for whatever reason only know Christians, play along with me anyway. Have you ever asked them why they think adultery is wrong? One of my closest NYC friends is an atheist and we often talk about morality, each giving our differing perspectives. If I ever ask why she thinks something is wrong, she normally answers that it hurts someone else, so it’s automatically wrong. So, naturally, I ask, “but if it makes the person doing it happy, why should they care if they hurt someone else?” and then she normally responds with some sort of answer about how not everything that makes you happy is good for you, like if you want to eat junk food 24/7, that’s not good for you no matter how happy it makes you.
This is an example of something we call common grace. Common grace is the benefits God gives to humanity regardless of whether or not they are part of the elect. Examples of this are things like intellect, specialized skills that people have and develop over the course of their lives, and the one we’re going to focus on today, the ability to discern right from wrong.
Regardless of whether or not someone is a Christian, there are things that we as a society have deemed as unacceptable behaviors (though that list seems to be ever shrinking in America and a lot of the west, sadly). Many of them are things that could be found in the Moral Law, like murder, stealing, cheating on your spouse, and lying. While we would argue that society is borrowing their morality from Christianity in these instances, oftentimes people have other motives to want to do the right thing, like wanting to be seen as a good person or wanting to avoid the negative outcomes of breaking the law or violating cultural norms.
Yet in all these things, God is glorified. Yes, you read that right. God is glorified when a sinner does not sin. This is the second use of the law, to restrain evil. That is a grace. Does this mean that this means the unregenerate have a way to earn their salvation? Not at all, look back to yesterday’s post on the first use of the law. But if having a law in place and having a conscience is one of the ways that God limits the havoc that evil behavior wreaks throughout humanity, then yes, this is a good thing. John Calvin puts it this way in Book 2, ch 7 of the Institutes:
The second office of the Law is, by means of its fearful denunciations and the consequent dread of punishment, to curb those who, unless forced, have no regard for rectitude and justice. Such persons are curbed not because their mind is inwardly moved and affected, but because, as if a bridle were laid upon them, they refrain their hands from external acts, and internally check the depravity which would otherwise petulantly burst forth. It is true, they are not on this account either better or more righteous in the sight of God. For although restrained by terror or shame, they dare not proceed to what their mind has conceived, nor give full license to their raging lust, their heart is by no means trained to fear and obedience. Nay, the more they restrain themselves, the more they are inflamed, the more they rage and boil, prepared for any act or outbreak whatsoever were it not for the terror of the law. And not only so, but they thoroughly detest the law itself, and execrate the Lawgiver; so that if they could, they would most willingly annihilate him, because they cannot bear either his ordering what is right, or his avenging the despisers of his Majesty. The feeling of all who are not yet regenerate, though in some more, in others less lively, is, that in regard to the observance of the law, they are not led by voluntary submission, but dragged by the force of fear. Nevertheless, this forced and extorted righteousness is necessary for the good of society, its peace being secured by a provision but for which all things would be thrown into tumult and confusion.
The Reformed Catechisms & Confessions address the Law here:
- The Section of the Heidelberg Catechism on “Grace” falls under Q&A 12-85
- Savoy Declaration 19, section 5
- WCF Ch 19, section 5
- 1689 LBCF 19, section 5
Resources on the Law:
Bible Dictionary- The Hebrew word translated “gossip” in the Old Testament is defined as “one who reveals secrets, one who goes about as a talebearer or scandal-monger.” A gossiper is a person who has privileged information about people and proceeds to reveal that information to those who have no business knowing it.
Webster’s dictionary gossip- casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people, typically involving details that are not confirmed as being true.
Gossip is distinguished from sharing information in two ways. What is being shared and why it’s being shared.
Bible dictionary -properly, a slanderer; a false accuser; unjustly criticizing to hurt (malign) and condemn to sever a relationship
in secular Greek means “backbiter,” i.e. an accuser, calumniator (slanderer). 1228 (diábolos) is literally someone who “casts through,” i.e. making charges that bring down (destroy)
Webster’s dictionary – the action or crime of making a false spoken statement damaging to a person’s reputation.
Verses About Gossip and Slander
Proverbs 11:13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babble
Proverbs 10:18 He who conceals hatred has lying lips, And he who spreads slander is a fool
Proverbs 16:28 A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends
Proverbs 11:13 Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets, but he who is trustworthy in spirit keeps a thing covered
Ephesians 2:8&9 Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
Exodus 23:1 Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness.
James 4:11 Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.
I Timothy 5:13&14 At the same time they also learn to be idle, as they go around from house to house; and not merely idle, but also gossips and busybodies, talking about things not proper to mention. 14 Therefore, I want younger widows to get married, bear children, keep house, and give the enemy no occasion for reproach;
Titus 2:2-5 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance. 3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
Ephesians 4:29 Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.
James 1:26 If anyone thinks himself to be religious, and yet does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this man’s religion is worthless.
For further reading;
Slander in the Camp by Tim Lane
Godless Gossip by Max Dover
The 5 Gossips You Will Meet by Tim Challies
Resisting Gossip by Tim Challies
How to Shut Down Gossip by Erik Raymond
With all of the acronyms and abbreviations used in Reformed Christian circles, we’ve put together a reference list as we often get questions about what these things mean. Not everything on here is specifically Reformed, but are things which may be used in various theological discussions and writing.
2C 2nd commandment
2CV 2nd commandment violation (3CV and so on depending on the commandment violated)
2K two kingdoms
3FU Three Forms of Unity
3PC/4PC three point Calvinist/four point Calvinist
AACC American Association of Christian Counselors
AALC The American Association of Lutheran Churches
ACA Anglican Church in America
ACBC Association of Certified Biblical Counselors
ACE Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals
ACNA Anglican Church in North America
AoG/AG Assemblies of God
APA Anglican Province of America
APC Associated Presbyterian Churches
APM A Puritan´s Mind
ARBCA Association of Reformed Baptist Churches of America
ARP/ARPC Associate Reformed Presbyterian Church
AV Authorized Version, Bible (same as KJV)
BCF Belgic Confession of Faith
BCO Book of Church Order
BCP Book of Common Prayer
BCT Baptist Covenant Theology (1689 Federalism)
BoT Banner of Truth
BPC Bible Presbyterian Church
BPS Book of Psalms for Singing
BT Biblical Theology
CanRC The Canadian and American Reformed Churches
CARPC Covenanting Association of Reformed and Presbyterian Churches
CB Credo Baptism
CBMW The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood
CCCC/4C’s Conservative Christian Congregational Conference
CELC Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference
CmL Ceremonial Law
CofC Church of Christ
CoG Covenant of Grace
CoR Covenant of Redemption
CoW Covenant of Works
CREC Communion of Reformed Evangelical Churches (formerly the confederation of Reformed Evangelical Churches)
Credo credoBaptism (believers baptism)
CRC/CRCNA Christian Reformed Church in North America
CRPC Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church
CT Covenant Theology or Critical Text
CTS Covenant Theological Seminary
CvL civil law
DPW Directory for Public Worship
DoG Doctrines of Grace
EFCA Evangelical Free Church of America
ELCA Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
ELS Evangelical Lutheran Synod
EP Exclusive Psalmody
EPC Evangelical Presbyterian Church
EPCA Evangelical Presbyterian Church of Australia
ERLC The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention
ERPC Evangelical Reformed Presbyterian Church
ESS: Eternal Subordination of the Son
ESV English Standard Version, Bible
ERQ Eglise Reformee du Quebec (Reformed Church of Quebec)
FACA The Federation of Anglican Churches in the Americas
FCC Free Church of Scotland, Continuing
FCS Free Church of Scotland
FoG Form of Government
FotF/FOTF Focus on the Family
FPCNA Free Presbyterian Church of North America
FRCNA The Free Reformed Churches of North America
FV Federal Vision
GA general assembly (the highest court of presbyterian polity)
GPTS Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary
GSB Geneva Study Bible
HCSB Holman Christian Standard Bible
HNRC/HRC Heritage Netherlands Reformed Congregation/Heritage Reformed Congregation
HRC The Heritage Reformed Congregations
ICRC International Conference of Reformed Churches
IFB Independent Fundamental Baptist
HC head covering
IHOP International House of Prayer
IRBS Institute of Reformed Baptist Studies
KPCA The Korean Presbyterian Church in America
kirk Scot word for the church
KJV/KJB King James Version, Bible
KJO King James Only
KTS Knox Theological Seminary
LBCF/1689 LBC Second London Baptist Confession of Faith (1689)
LCMS Lutheran Church Missouri Synod
LD Lord’s Day
LS Lordship Salvation
MDiv Master of Divinity Degree
MERF Middle East Reformed Fellowship
ML moral law
MLJ Martyn Lloyd Jones
MOS Mortification of Spin (podcast)
MT Majority Text
NAPARC North American Presbyterian and Reformed Council
NASB New American Standard Bible
NCT New Covenant Theology
NGSB New Geneva Study Bible
NIV New International Version, Bible
NKJV New King James Version, Bible
NLT New Living Translation, Bible
NPP New Perspective on Paul
NPW normative principle of worship
NRC Netherlands Reformed Congregations
NRSV New Revised Standard Version, Bible
OCRC Orthodox Christian Reformed Church
OPC Orthodox Presbyterian Church
OPCGA Orthodox Presbyterian Church General Assembly
Paedo paedobaptism (infant baptism)
PB Puritan Board or paedobaptism
PCA Presbyterian Church in America
PCAGA Presbyterian Church in America General Assembly
PCUSA Presbyterian Church USA
PSA Penal Substitutionary Atonement
PRCT Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology
PDM Psalms of David in Metre
PresRC The Presbyterian Reformed Church
Presup presuppositional apologetics
PRC/PRCA Protestant Reformed Church in America
PRTS Puritan Reformed Theological Seminary
PTL Praise the Lord
R2K Reformed two kingdoms or radical two kingdoms
RB Reformed Baptist
RCA Reformed Church in America
RCC Roman Catholic Church
RCJ Reformed Church in Japan
RCM Reformation Christian Ministries
RCUS Reformed Church in the United States
RE Ruling Elder
REC Reformed Episcopal Church
RES Reformed Episcopal Seminary
RPCA Reformed Presbyterian Church of Australia
RPCGA Reformed Presbyterian Church General Assembly
RPCHP Reformed Presbyterian Church (Hanover Presbytery)
RPCNA Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America
RPCS Reformed Presbyterian Church of Scotland
RPCUS Reformed Presbyterian Church in the United States
RPTS Reformed Presbyterian Theological Seminary
RPW regulative principle of worship
RSC R. Scott Clark (for TG listeners)
RSV Revised Standard Version
RT Received Text
RTS Reformed Theological Seminary
RUF Reformed University Fellowship
SBC Southern Baptist Convention
SBFA Salvation by faith alone
SD Sabbath Day or Savoy Declaration
SDG Solo Deo Gloria
ST Systematic Theology
SWRB Still Water Revival Books
TE Teaching Elder
TEDS Trinity Evangelical Divinity School
TG Theology Gals
TGC The Gospel Coalition
TR Textus Receptus or Truly Reformed
TFoU Three Forms of Unity: Heidelberg Catechism, Belgic Confession, Canons of Dort
TULIP Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, Perseverance of the Saints. (The 5 Points of Calvinism)
URC/URCNA United Reformed Churches in North America
VT Van Til
WELS Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod
WCF Westminster Confession of Faith
WHI White Horse Inn (radio show/podcast)
WLC Westminster Larger Catechism
WPCUS Westminster Presbyterian Church in the United States
WRF World Reformed Fellowship
WRS Western Reformed Seminary
WSC Westminster Shorter Catechism or Westminster Seminary, California
WTS Westminster Theological Seminary(PA) or Whitefield Theological Seminary or Western Theological Seminary
YRR Young, Restless and Reformed
*If I’ve missed something or need to make any corrections, you can either comment on this post or email me. Some things may be more specific to Theology Gals listeners than the Reformed community as a whole.