Preach the Law to Rest In the Gospel

5. Those who already believe. We must teach them:

(i) The gospel: the biblical teaching on justification, sanctification and perseverance.

(ii) The law: but as it applies to those who are no longer under its curse, so that they may be taught how to bear the fruit of a new obedience in keeping with their repentance (Rom. 8:1; 1 Tim. 1:9). Here Paul’s teaching in Romans serves as a model.

(iii) Although someone who is righteous and holy in the sight of God should not be threatened with the curse of the law, the opposition of the law to their remaining sin should still be stressed. As a father may show his sons what he will do as punishment to induce a proper sense of fear of doing wrong, so meditation on the curse of the law should be frequently encouraged in true believers, to discourage abusing the mercy of God by sinful living, and to increase humility. Our sanctification is partial as yet. In order that the remnants of sin may be destroyed we must always begin with meditation on the law, and with a sense of our sin, in order to be brought to rest in the gospel. 1


  1. William Perkins, “VII. Use and Application: Categories of Hearers,” in The Art of Prophesying.
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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

1 D.R. Randle September 2, 2011 at 12:00 pm

I’m really trying these days to work out my theology in regards to the Law. Currently, I am leaning toward New Covenant Theology, wherein the entire Law has been fulfilled in Christ and now we have the Law of Christ. Any thoughts?

2 Todd Braye September 2, 2011 at 12:36 pm

Not too long ago, I would have replied with a hearty ‘Amen!’ But today, I cannot. Paul’s view on Mosaic Law expressed in both Galatians and Romans does not support what is posited above. However historic it might be, the post is not historic enough. Mosaic Law, however one might divide it, does not sanctify. It “arouses sin” (Rom. 7:5), is the “power of sin” (1 Cor. 15:56), and was a temporary addition in the history of redemption (Gal. 3:19, 24 ESV). The Spirit of Christ, the Holy Spirit, sanctifies the believer apart from Mosaic Law (Gal. 5:25). Properly understood, this does not lead to ‘fast and loose’ living, but to a life of obedience to Christ, the very substance of the Law (Col. 2:16-17), inscribed upon the hearts of believers (Jer. 31:31; cf Gal. 4:6).

3 Jim Gifford September 2, 2011 at 12:43 pm

Hi Mark and D.R.

I’m going to on Perkins like white on rice.

A gospel that has been reduced to justification, sanctification, and perseverance is like trying to stay healthy on a diet of orange peels and sand. What is missing from Perkins’ gospel presentation? Why the personality of God, of course, and his love for us that has motivated him to incarnate himself in Jesus Christ, to die and raise again, to ascend and be seated at the Father’s right hand, and to come again to raise us anew like him. All this spills over into us because we are joined in union with him so that we may become sons of God in the Son of God. We are now partakers of the divine nature, who are walking in the Spirit while dwelling in Christ, as Christ and the Spirit indwell us. It is because of what I just highlighted that justification, sanctification, and perseverance are even possible.

Of course a “gospel” stripped of its core message has no idea how to relate law and “gospel.” The law is and always was the proper response of God’s people to God’s grace. The Israelites, before the incarnation and without the indwelling Spirit, had no recourse but to try to keep the law on their own. They failed miserably at it. Jesus, as the faithful Israelite, kept the law perfectly from birth to crucifixion. Those of us in Christ are now free to respond to God in Spirit and in truth knowing that both of the following are true:

(1) Jesus as the faithful one has kept the law for us
(2) The Spirit empowers us with the grace of God to keep the law in us.

Because of the lingering effects of death in us (death is the last enemy to be conquered), we are unable to fully yield to the Spirit as Jesus was, and therefore fall short of the perfect response, even though we live in Christ and are indwelt with his Spirit. Nevertheless, we have an advocate with the Father who contains us (we are “in him” after all) and who has perfectly pleased the Father.

I think a good response to “law-gospel” should follow this track, but I’ve already written too much and lunch is ready. :0)

Jim G.

4 Mark September 2, 2011 at 1:59 pm


Thanks for stopping by. As I read the Perkin’s quotes again I think that you two are in agreement, but maybe I misunderstand one or both of you.

Perkin’s book can be read online and the section I quoted from is here: VII. USE AND APPLICATION.

5 Todd Braye September 2, 2011 at 2:21 pm

Hi Mark,
No, I’m pretty sure Perkins and I disagree. Where does his “In order that the remnants of sin may be destroyed we must always begin with meditation on the law…” and “…may be taught how to bear the fruit of a new obedience..” find Biblical warrant? Just asking.

6 Mark September 2, 2011 at 3:34 pm


First, a quote from Perkin’s at the beginning of section VII which seems to be similar to your position.

The basic principle in application is to know whether the passage is a statement of the law or of the gospel. For when the Word is preached, the law and the gospel operate differently. The law exposes the disease of sin, and as a side-effect stimulates and stirs it up. But it provides no remedy for it. However the gospel not only teaches us what is to be done, it also has the power of the Holy Spirit joined to it. When we are regenerated by him we receive the strength we need both to believe the gospel and to do what it commands. The law is, therefore, first in the order of teaching; then comes the gospel.

I think Perkin’s offers the answer in his last sentence of the original quote inferring that the Law exposes our shortfall “in order to be brought to rest in the gospel.

I thought you said as much, unless I misunderstand, when you stated: “Properly understood, this does not lead to ‘fast and loose’ living, but to a life of obedience to Christ, the very substance of the Law (Col. 2:16-17), inscribed upon the hearts of believers (Jer. 31:31; cf Gal. 4:6).

7 Todd Braye September 2, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Thanks, Mark. I believe part of the problem we’re having here is different covenantal assumptions. As a Puritan, Perkins embraced the overarching covenant of grace. While I am not Dispensational, I do not endorse a Covenantal hermeneutic. But that is fodder for another time, perhaps. 2 Cor. 3.

8 Mark September 2, 2011 at 4:05 pm


I’m not sure Perkins is reducing the gospel to just justification, sanctification, and perseverance. Rather, he is giving his thoughts on how believers ought to be preached to.

9 Mark September 2, 2011 at 4:29 pm


First, this article comparing Dispensationalism – Covenant Theology – New Covenant Theology and then “What is the Difference Between Covenant
Theology, and New Covenant Theology?
” may be of interest to some.

Right now, I probably fall somewhere between CT and NCT. Do you see the Law has having no benefit for Christians today?

10 Todd Braye September 2, 2011 at 4:59 pm

What happens when Law is preached to believers:

11 Steve Martin September 2, 2011 at 5:19 pm

Law is law, is law, is law.

The law to which Paul speaks is not just the Mosiac Law, but every demand that our existance places upon us to fulfill our humanity…and fulfill it perfectly.

Jesus said it himself, “Be pefect as your Father in Heaven is perfect.”

The law always accuses. It always condemns and brings death.

But “Christ is the end of the law for all those with faith.”

That’s the Good News!

12 Mark September 2, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Tony, thanks I’ll check it out.

Steve, would you say that the Law brings death which points us to our only hope of life which is found in the gospel?

13 Todd Braye September 2, 2011 at 5:34 pm

Does your definition of Law reflect the Bible’s? Paul’s exhortations do not fall under the category of Law.

14 Steve Martin September 4, 2011 at 6:47 am


Yes I do.


Yes I do.

Law is anything that ‘we do’. The book of Romans is terrific for letting us know just what that is worth, and how serious we are about it.

Not much..and not much.

As St. Paul reminds us, “The law brings death, but the gospel brings life.”

15 Chris Poe September 5, 2011 at 4:15 pm

NCT brethren and those leaning that way,

In the Psalms we read “I love thy law” many times. In your opinion as a non-covenant theologian, is this a statement that is appropriate for those of us who are under the New Covenant to affirm?

16 Todd Braye September 6, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Hi Chris,
Great question. My answer: “What if Law is a type?”

Hi Steve:
About your definition of law: Simply saying its Biblical doesn’t make it so. If Law is anything we do, then so is faith and repentance since we believe and repent, etc. But in Galatians, Paul says law is not of faith. So, how can the ‘obedience of faith’ be law? Just saying…


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