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The SwordBy Blood and by Water 

The Word of God is a sharp, two-edged sword (Heb. 4:12). The two cutting edges are the law and the gospel. As the Protestant reformer Melanchthon points out in his Apology of the Augsburg Confession, "All Scripture ought to be distributed into these two principal topics" (see Book of Concord [St. Louis, Mo.: Concordia Publishing House,1957], p.32).

And the Formula of Concord 1 declares:

"These two doctrines belong together and should always be urged by the side of each other, but in a definite order and with a proper distinction, and the Antinomians or assailants of the law are justly condemned, who abolish the preaching of the law from the church, and wish sins to be reproved, and repentance and sorrow to be taught, not from the law, but from the gospel... These two doctrines, we believe and confess, should ever and ever be diligently inculcated in the Church of God even to the end of the world." Ibid., pp.260-261.

Such clear statements are not confined to the Lutheran confessions, but similar statements are also found in the founding articles of the Reformed and Anglican Churches.

We agree with Edmund Schlink, who says, "As the law cannot be preached without Christ, so Christ's work cannot be preached without the law." Edmund Schlink, Theology of the Lutheran Confessions (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1961), p.86. The gospel is no great glory to those who have never stood before Mount Sinai, so to speak, and trembled before the awesome majesty of God's law. Those who have never felt the strength of sin (which is by the law) can never appreciate the joy and sweetness of the gospel. See how the apostle Paul uses the law in Romans (chs. 1-3) to prepare our hearts for the hearing of the gospel. It is certain that those who do not hear the law cannot hear the gospel. Neither can Christ's work for us be understood or appreciated apart from the law.

The Law of Love

Law is the basis of all good government. No government can exist without law. God has a law which is the basis of the divine government. One word may be used to summarize that law: love (Rom. 13:8-10).

Love is not a feeling of ecstatic pleasure. It is not a high religious rapture. It is an eternal principle, or law, of life. God has not left sinful mortals to work out their own interpretation of love but has carefully shown what is involved so that only the most obstinate need remain in ignorance.

If you pass light through a spectrum or glass prism, it breaks down into the colors of the rainbow. We then realize that light is the combination of the colors of the rainbow. When love is placed under the prism of God's Word, we may see that it is a combination, or blending, of ten eternal principles. These ten aspects of love are verbalized in the Ten Commandments:

1. Loyalty. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me." God is our Creator and Redeemer. Therefore we should love Him before everything else. He is to be first and last and best in everything. Love is loyal.

2. Faithfulness. In forbidding us from worshiping a god of our own making, the Lord says, "I the Lord thy God am a jealous God." He is the Husband of His people. Love requires faithfulness in our covenant to love Him with the kind of devotion that belongs to no other. The Bible uses the marriage covenant and relationship to illustrate the kind of faithfulness that love to God requires. The prophets likened Israel's unfaithfulness to the covenant-keeping Yahweh as harlotry and whoredom. Apostasy is spiritual adultery.

3. Reverence. God's name is holy and is to be held in awe and reverence. Reverence is the foundation of all true worship. God cannot do anything with an irreverent man. Popular revivals often try to make God into a popular somebody. The irreverence of much within the "Jesus movement" is blasphemy. As Luther said about the charismatics of his day, "They talk to God as if He were a shoemaker's apprentice." Love is reverent.

4. Holiness. The fourth precept of the Decalogue was given to inculcate and illustrate holiness—wholeness for God, sanctification, separation, and dedication to His service. Holiness is not rapture or the exercise of a high degree of religious feelings under extraordinary circumstances. It is doing the will of God, obeying His Word with unquestioning confidence.

Love is holy and by resting from his labors on the Sabbath the believer acknowledges not only Christ as his Creator, but also Christ the Savior who justifies and sanctifies all who trust in His finished work on Calvary. Just as Christ the Creator declared the creation week to be finished and rested on the Sabbath, so Christ hung upon the cross and cried out, "It is finished" and rested in the tomb on the seventh day having finished His work of redemption. Even so the believer is invited to rest in His finished work of redemption by resting with Him on the Sabbath. The Sabbath is a celebration of a finished creation and a finished work of redemption.

Hebrews 4:3-11 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: "So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest,' " although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 4 For He has spoken in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: "And God rested on the seventh day from all His works"; 5 and again in this place: "They shall not enter My rest." 6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, "Today," after such a long time, as it has been said: "Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts." 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His. 11 Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience.

5. Respect for Authority. The fifth commandment enjoins respect, not only for parents, but for all legitimate authority. Love is not lawless or disorderly. It does not disrespect those over us in positions of authority. Paul warned Timothy, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy... " 2 Tim. 3:1-2.

6. Respect for Life. "Thou shalt not murder," like the other commandments, is exceedingly broad. In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus showed that He did not come to weaken, much less do away with, the Decalogue, but to show its far-reaching claims. To be angry with a brother without cause or to rail on him is to be in danger of judgment and hell-fire. Love will seek to preserve and promote life, not destroy and murder, even as Christ said, "The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, (murder) and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." John 10:10. Paul also said, "What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?" 1 Cor. 6:19. "If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are." 1 Cor. 3:17. Multitudes of professed Christians live intemperately, abuse their health and indulge themselves in debilitating habits, not knowing that for all these things God shall bring them into judgment.

7. Purity. Love is pure. Jesus warned us that the last days would be marked by the kind of widespread immorality which existed in the time of Noah and Lot. We scarcely need to be reminded that we are living in the midst of an immoral revolution. The church is supposed to be the salt which preserves society from utter corruption, but what can we expect when professed churches of Christ become a cage of every unclean and hateful bird? The San Francisco Chronicle of January 5, 1972 reported:

"Homosexuals were blessed as psychologically fit for the ministry by a narrow vote of the First Congregationalist church yesterday. (Resolution to ban them was defeated by 68 votes to 63)."

If the minority 63 delegates did not get up and get out of a church like that, they too have lost all sense of the abominable condition of such a church.

8. Honesty. Love is honest, and it always gives good measure, pressed down and running over.

9. Truthfulness. Jehovah is a God of truth, and His Spirit is called the Spirit of truth. We are commanded to speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15).

10. Contentment. The selfish heart will always covet; but where love is, there will be "godliness with contentment."

Here is love. Love is loyal, faithful, reverent and holy. It respects authority and life. It is pure, honest, truthful and contented. The Ten Commandments describe the kind of people God will have in His kingdom. Everything contrary and rebellious to these eternal principles of a righteous character will be shut out. Sin needs to be clearly defined, and in the Ten Commandments it is so clearly defined that both learned and ignorant may understand. Sin is the transgression of this law (1 John 3:4), and the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23).

To transgress the Decalogue is an affront to the awesome majesty of a sin-hating God. That Israel might know something of the terrible majesty and sacred character of His law, God brought them to Mount Sinai. As God spoke the Ten Words in the hearing of the people, the whole mountain was enveloped in fire and smoke, and the earth shook at the voice of the Eternal. The people were in fearful terror, and even Moses declared, "I exceedingly fear and quake." The people cried, "Let not God speak with us, lest we die." Sinful mortals were not even able to hear the law, much less do it!

When God invited the people at Sinai to enter into covenant with Him, they confidently declared, "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." Ex. 19:8. The Lord said to Moses, "They have well said all that they have spoken. O that there were such an heart in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments always, that it might be well with them. ... "Deut. 5:28-29. God knew that the sinful heart of man would not keep its best resolutions. Within a few days Israel forgot God and entered into the wildest religious orgy. And as long as anyone has nothing better to trust in than his promises to God, he will be under the law without hope of justification or pardon.

The New Covenant

The new covenant is based on better promises (Heb. 8:6) – not a better law or a better government or even better conditions, but a promise based on an oath (Heb. 6:16-18). A covenant has two parties. The old covenant was between God and the people. The new covenant was between God and Christ (Zech. 6:12-13). It was an everlasting covenant, a plan which existed from times eternal (see Rom 16:25, R.S.V.).

In the new covenant, Christ stands in the place of the people. He becomes the Substitute and Surety for them. In their name and on their behalf, He makes an oath to God: "All that the Lord hath said I will do." Thus, "when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Gal. 4:4-5).

Righteousness is obedience to the law. This the sinner owes to the law, but he is incapable of rendering it (Rom. 8:3). With infinite pity, the Son of God looked upon the lost race, but He could not indulgently save them. If He was to save them, He must save them in a way consistent with the perfect justice of a righteous law. He chose to undertake for them, to step down, to stand in their place and to render to the law all that it required. He did it because His love called Him that way. For Him heaven was not a place to be desired while we were without God and without hope in the world.

In the person of His Son, the eternal God came to this planet. He humbled Himself to take the form of man, as a man He humbled Himself to become a servant, and as a servant He humbled Himself to death, even the death of the cross (Phil. 2:5-8).

The second Person of the Godhead partook of the substance and essence of human nature as it was affected by sin but not infected by sin. As true man – indeed, as the representative Man – He lived the law of God. He was the law, the Word, the Ten Words made flesh; “… (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the Only Begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). In our name, He gave to the law a life that equaled its broadest claims. The obedience of Jesus was the obedience that the law required of us. He was always loyal ("I must be about My Father's business"), faithful, reverent, holy, respectful, pure, honest, truthful and contented.

The righteous demands of the law could not be met alone by the holy living of our Substitute. We have sinned, and justice demands that the death penalty be executed. Here again, Christ took our place to make entire satisfaction to the law on our behalf.

As Jesus entered the Garden of Gethsemane on the night of His betrayal, His soul was overwhelmed with a superhuman sorrow. He said to His disciples, "My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death." Leaving them at the entrance of the garden, He staggered on alone. The sins of the whole world rolled like a mountain on His divine soul until He began to sweat drops of blood. It was in a garden that the first Adam sold the race to Satan. It was in a very different garden that Jesus made the final decision to redeem the race.

Behold now! The Judge of all becomes the Judged of all. Adam in Eden blamed God for his sin. So has every sinner. God says, "Very well, I will take the blame!" The Judge steps down and invites sinners to judge Him. And judge Him they did. He was arrested at midnight as if He were a wild animal. He was arraigned before corrupt courts, abused, spat upon, derided, lashed, crowned with thorns. When Pilate invited men to choose between Jesus, the Son of God, and Barabbas, the murderous robber, they overwhelmingly called for Barabbas; as if to say, "Barabbas is a very saint compared to Jesus." He was judged as if He were a snake, a venomous, poisonous snake, unfit to live on this planet. "Away with Him I" they cried. "Let Him be crucified!" And so He was led forth before the rage of an infuriated mob to die a most cruel and shameful death.

The mystery of human sin is that they hated Him "without a cause" (John 15:25). But greater yet is the mystery of love, that He could love them without a cause. The blacker the night, the more brilliant the stars. His love for sinners became stronger and stronger as they hated Him more and more.

He was lifted up from earth on the cross because earth had refused her King. And not only earth but Heaven too, for He was now the sinner in the awful reckoning of God.

"As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up…" John 3:14.

"For He hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." 2 Cor. 5:21.

"Transgressors cannot dwell with God.
They have no ray of light;
So Christ saw not the Father's face,
Only eternal night."

As the darkness and despair of eternal separation from God gathered about the soul of Christ, He suffered anguish so great that His physical pain was hardly felt. This was infinite suffering that would make the suffering of all the holy martyrs combined appear as nothing. This was infinite humiliation, for there was no lower place for the King of glory to go.

The awful sense of being separated from God forced from His parched lips the awful cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" The answer is in Romans 3: "Because there is none righteous, no, not one. No one understands, no one seeks after God." But we may now cry, "My God, my God, why hast Thou accepted me?" And the gospel answers: "Because there is One righteous, yes, just One." God promised Jeremiah that He would spare Jerusalem from the Babylonians if he could find one righteous man in it (Jer. 5:1). But more amazingly, God covenanted to save the world for one righteous Man. Christ chose to be that One. Said Luther:

"Our most merciful Father, seeing us to be oppressed and overwhelmed with the curse of the law, and so to be holden under the same that we could never be delivered from it by our own power, sent his only Son into the world and laid upon him all the sins of all men, saying: Be thou Peter that denier; Paul that persecutor, blasphemer and cruel oppressor; David that adulterer; that sinner which did eat the apple in Paradise; that thief which hanged upon the cross; and briefly, be thou the person which hath committed the sins of all men; see therefore that thou pay and satisfy for them. Here now cometh the law and saith: I find him a sinner, and that such a one as hath taken upon him the sins of all men, and I see no sins else but in him; therefore let him die upon the cross. And so he setteth upon him and killeth him. By this means the whole world is purged and cleansed from all sins, and so delivered from death and all evils. Now sin and death being abolished by this one man, God would see nothing else in the whole world, especially if it did believe, but a mere cleansing and righteousness." — Martin Luther, Commentary on Galatians (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Wm. B. Eerdmans' Publishing Co., 1930), p.272.

On the cross, Christ exhausted the penalty of the law and provided a pardon. He reconciled the prerogatives of justice and mercy. Two things were accomplished: the integrity of God's law was upheld, and salvation was provided for sinners. The object of the atonement was not only redemption for the fallen race, but that the divine law and government might be maintained and vindicated. As Flavell, that great Puritan author, said, "Never was the law of God more honored as when the Son of God stood before its bar of justice to make reparations for the sins of men." The cross enables God to justify sinners without detracting from the dignity or claims of His righteous law.

Having given to the law all it required of the fallen race, Christ cried, "It is finished!" On the cross He destroyed sin, abolished death, defeated Satan, opened Paradise and shut the gates of hell. It was for us He did it. His victory is ours. It was secured in our name. The incarnation means that we were in Him when He lived and died. Therefore we have fulfilled the law in Him. If the football fan can cry, "We have won!" when his team wins, how much more should we cry, "We have won!" as we identify ourselves with the life and death of Jesus. This is the gospel. We have won — by Him and in Him. We have been redeemed by perfect obedience to the law of God — not ours but His. (And yet, what is His is ours.) This is an eternal victory. Genuine Christian experience comes by glorying in His.

By Blood and Water

"But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced His side, and forthwith came there out blood and water. And he that saw it bear record, and his record is true: and he knoweth that he saith true, that ye might believe." John 19:34-35.

The Blood. "Much more then, being now justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. " Rom. 5:9. Sinners are justified by Christ's perfect obedience and satisfaction which He gave to the divine law on our behalf. The gospel takes the law seriously.". . . the doers of the law shall be justified." Rom. 2:13. When we as repentant guilty sinners believe on Jesus, His doing and dying are credited to us, and thus we are justified by perfect obedience to the law. Justification and faith have no meaning apart from the law of God.

The Water. "He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive…)"John 7:38-39. The benefits of the new covenant are renewal by the Holy Spirit as well as forgiveness. Writes the apostle, "…This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Heb. 10:16-17.

Let those who want to major on experience and the Holy Spirit, measure up to the great office work of the Spirit. True experience is important. It is not rapture and ecstatic feelings, but it is having the law which Christ died to vindicate written in our hearts and carried out in our lives. This is worth more than all the noise of the charismatic movement. The "normal" Christian life of faithfulness and obedience must not be undervalued. It may not be as spectacular as some other things that people tend to run after, but it is of great price in the sight of God. Let those who value miracles consider that the greatest miracle is a life that is loyal, faithful, reverent, holy, respectful, pure, honest, truthful and contented.

Says Melanchthon in his Apology:

"It is written in the prophet Jer. 31, 33: 'I will put My law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts.' And in Rom. 3, 31, Paul says, 'Do we, then, make void the Law through faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law.' And Christ says, Matt. 19, 17: 'If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.' Likewise, 1 Cor. 13, 3: 'If I have not charity it profiteth me nothing.' These and similar sentences testify that the Law ought to be begun in us, and be kept by us more and more [that we are to keep the Law when we have been justified by faith, and thus increase more and more in the Spirit]. Moreover we speak not of ceremonies, but of that Law which gives commandment concerning the movements of the heart, namely the Decalogue.

Because, indeed, faith brings the Holy Ghost, and produces in hearts a new life, it is necessary that it should produce spiritual movement in hearts. And what these movements are, the prophet Jer. 31, 33 shows, when he says: 'I will put My Law into their inward parts, and write it in their hearts.' Therefore, when we have been justified by faith and regenerated, we begin to fear and love God, to pray to Him, to expect from Him aid, to give thanks and praise Him, and to obey Him in afflictions. We begin also to love our neighbors, because our hearts have spiritual and holy movements [there is now, through the Spirit of Christ a new heart, mind, and spirit within]. “— Book of Concord, p.42.

The Formula of Concord well says:

"For the Law says indeed that it is God's will and command that we should walk in a new life, but it does not give the power and ability to begin and do it; but the Holy Ghost, who is given and received, not through the Law, but through the preaching of the gospel, Gal. 3:14, renews the heart. Thereafter the Holy Ghost employs the Law so to teach the regenerate from it, and to point out and show them in the Ten Commandments what is the [good and] acceptable will of God, Rom. 12:2, in what good works God hath before ordained that they should walk, Eph. 2, 10." — Ibid., p.262.

And yet we must always remember that mortal man can never reach a point in the Spirit-filled life where his fellowship with God does not rest entirely on justification by the blood of Christ.

John the apostle says, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world." 1 John 4:1. How shall we try the spirits? Isaiah declares, "To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." Isa. 8:20; cf. v.16. That is to say, we must try them by the law and the gospel.

As the "fire …from heaven" deceives multitudes with sensational wonders (Rev. 13:13), God will have a people whose faith and experience meet the two-fold test of the law and the gospel. Says the revelator:

"And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters . . . Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus."

"And I looked, and behold a white cloud, and upon the cloud One sat like unto the Son of man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him that sat on the cloud, Thrust in Thy sickle, and reap: for the time is come for Thee to reap; for the harvest of the earth is ripe." Rev. 14:6-7, 12, 14-15.

1Published in 1584 as a confession of the faith of the Lutheran church.