Today, I ran across a few quotes from Martin Luther on the subject.
Here's how Luther described the difference between law and gospel:
- "We must now learn to distinguish between the two parts which are called the law and the gospel...The law brings us before the judgment seat, for it demands that you settle accounts and pay what it requires, there it cancels itself. For even if you have performed what it requires, this still will not stand before God, since before him there will still be much which is lacking and failing....The law keeps harrying you and accusing you through your own conscience, which testifies against you, and absolutely demanding he judgment upon you." (Luther's Works 51.279)
According to Luther, the law points out sin,
- the "law is a word of destruction, a word of wrath, a word of sadness, a word of grief, a voice of the judge and the defendant, a word of restlessness, a word of curse....Through the law we have nothing except an evil conscience, a restless heart, a troubled breast because of our sins, which the law points out but does not take away. And we ourselves cannot take it away." (Luther's Works 31.231)
The Gospel, however, is truly Good News. According to Luther,
- the "gospel is a preaching of the incarnate Son of God, given to us without any merit on our part for salvation and peace. It is a word of salvation, a word of grace, a word of comfort, a word of joy, a voice of the bridegroom and the bride, a good word, a word of peace."
Because of the work of Christ a "joyous exchange" (Luther's Works 7.1) has occurred, where
- "the rich, noble, pious bridegroom Christ takes this poor, despised wicked little whore in marriage, redeems her of all evil, and adorns her with all his goods." (Luther's Works 31.51)
In light of this work of Christ,
- "Therefore for those of us who are held captive, who are overwhelmed by sadness and in dire despair, the light of the gospel comes and says, 'Fear not,' and 'comfort, comfort my people...' Behold that one who alone fulfills the law for you, whom God has made to your righteousness, sanctification, wisdom, and redemption, for all those who believe in him....Therefore those who are still afraid of punishments have not yet heard Christ or the voice of the gospel, but only the voice of Moses." (Luther's Works 31.231)
I hope you find this comparison helpful. I'll post more about the resource that summed up these quotes in a future post.