Law and Gospel - God's Two Words

The Small Catechism starts with the Decalogue, which you know better as “The Ten Commandments”. In other words, we start with God’s Law!

It is a Lutheran insight to understand God’s Word speaking to us primarily in two ways. First, God’s Word comes to us as Law. His commandments indicate his perfect will. And second, God’s Word comes to us as Gospel or promise. These promises are based on what the Lord has mercifully done for us on our behalf.

The Ten Commandments are a succinct summary of what God expects of us. With ten fingers on our hands, a list of ten is a helpful number for committing something to memory! We can count them off with our fingers.

To hear God fully and fruitfully we need to hear both his Law and his Gospel. To hear just one or the other results in a distortion of our understanding. And it is usually helpful to hear the Law first! When we hear the Law it functions three ways for us. Those three ways can be symbolized by a curb, a mirror, and a guide. The Law, with its accompanying threat of punishment, curbs wickedness. It does not eliminate it. But it sometimes limits it. The Law, as a perfect reflection of God’s will, mirrors for us how woefully short we fall in living according to the Lord’s commandments. And, even after being forgiven of our sins and filled with the Holy Spirit, the Law still perfectly reflects how we love God and our neighbor, hence it is a reliable guide.

When the Lord God gave Moses the Ten Commandments, the first thing he said as a preamble was “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Ex. 20:2).

We belong to Him because He first chooses and delivers us from bondage, and not because we somehow earned the privilege!

Since You Asked…

Does the receiving of money offerings play a significant role in the worship service?

Yes, more than you might think! Cash is one of the strongest symbols in modern culture. When we offer our money on the altar it should represent our time and effort – our very selves. In early Christian worship gifts-in-kind were handled during the weekly assemblage. In our post-industrial societies, we now exchange in paper or metal symbols. The offering of our selves upon the altar is in response to God’s love proclaimed in the Good News and in anticipation of how God offers back that which is entrusted to him. During the moment of offering we also offer bread and wine upon the altar, and in return these gifts are offered back to us as the very body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.