A Jagged Contention: Law and Gospel


“In view of the Scriptural requirement of perfect sanctification, the Christian will ask: ‘Who, then, can be saved?’ Christ tells him, ‘With me this is impossible, but with God all things are possible,’ (Matt. 19:25-26). Nothing makes Christians so conscious of their daily deficiencies as the earnest striving for perfection. And when they acknowledge and confess their daily shortcomings before God, they flee for refuge to divine grace, knowing that the grace of God takes no account of the Law and human works, of our daily success or failure in sanctification and good works. Only by keeping Law and Gospel separate could the Apostle, on the one hand, be fully assured of grace and salvation, Romans 8:37-39, and, on the other hand, require unsparing self-denial, 1 Cor. 9:27. The whole life of the Christian thus becomes a daily repentance. The more sincerely Christians daily endeavor to rid themselves of all they have and to serve God alone in all their works, the better they learn to know the abysmal sinful depravity which clings to them, and the more earnestly they will daily implore the free grace of God in Christ. And since they are no more under the Law, but under grace (Romans 6:14), they daily begin anew their struggle to attain perfect sanctification, deploring their many failures (‘O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?’), but, at the same time, being assured of their ultimate victory (‘I thank God through Jesus Christ, our Lord,’ Romans 7:24-25). Striving after perfect sanctification, the Christian thus leads a life of daily repentance (poenitentia quotidiana, poenitentia stantium [daily repentance, standing repentance]).”

– Franz Pieper, “Christian Dogmatics“, (3:34)


Pieper asserts that it is by keeping a clear distinction and separation between Law and Gospel that the Christian is led to daily repentance and trust in the Gospel. Why does it seem that this clear separation is so difficult to make and maintain today?

Share your thoughts in the comments below