As a Lutheran seminary student and then as a pastor’s wife, I used to hear “law and gospel” bandied about frequently. Lutherans are the “original gangstas” of Protestants so us cool kids had to teach the Zwinglians, Calvinists, and Anabaptists how it was done. A friend of mine, an LCMS pastor, even had a tie with clay tablets on it and I joked that he needed to add a tie pin in the shape of a cross to accurately reflect his views on this subject.
Back to the phrase “law and gospel”, it is the basis of our salvation. We couldn’t keep the Law, so Jesus had to come and die for us, which is the Gospel. Many of us would like to think that Christ’s death on the cross vacates our requirement to keep the Law, but it does not. We are still bound by the Ten Commandments, even if we may have relaxed some of the rules in Leviticus.
Today’s passages talk about the wisdom embodied in the Law and I agree. The Ten Commandments give us a basis for how to treat others ethically. The Book of Deuteronomy does an excellent job of rehashing where the Israelites have been to remind of where they are going as they cross into the Promised Land. Israel continually fouled it up and eventually faced exile. What Jesus is saying in the Gospel is that we still are held to that standard, but He came to fulfill its promises of a Messiah. The Law brought death, but the Gospel brings healing to us.
Help us, O Lord, to see the wisdom in your Law, that we might learn to treat others better because of it. Amen.