World Wide Wolfmueller

Law and Gospel in Joyful Clarity

The Comfort of the Law

It is a wonderful surprise that we also find comfort in the Lord’s law. I would suggest that there are two places or ways that the law comforts us. First, it provides order in this chaotic world, and second it tells us that God is pleased with our works and vocation.

"Ten Commandments" Throw PillowThe Gift of Order
The ideology of evolution compels us to think that this world is the result of chance, chaos, accident. Relativism says that there is no absolute truth, no universal right and wrong. The fast-paced troubles of the news tempt us to think that this world is out of control. “Not so,” says the Scriptures, says the Law. God created the world with order. Seven speeches in seven days, given by God Himself, and the result is everything in the universe. God created the heavens and the earth to bring forth and support life.

In the Lord’s ordering of things He established institutions: the family, the church, the state, all to deliver to us His gifts. The Ten Commandments protect these institutions. The Law establishes and keeps God’s order.

The first table of the Law (commandments one to three) protect the Divine Service, the worship of the true God. The fourth commandment protects the institutions of the family and the state. The fifth commandment protects God’s order of life. The sixth commandment protects God’s order of husband and wife. The seventh commandment protects God’s ordering of possessions. The eighth commandment protects God’s ordering of truth, of honest conversation, of a good name, etc. The ninth and tenth commandments protect a rightly ordered heart, rightly ordered desires.

But here’s the comfort: there is an order to things. This world is not give to chaos. When we look around at our own lives and the troubles of this world the devil would tempts us to think that there is no order at all, that things are spinning out of control, that there is no up and down, no good and bad. “Take comfort,” the law says, “there is an order to this world. There is a good and a bad. All is not chaos.”

The Gift of Vocation
How do I know what God thinks about what I am doing? The law tells us. The Ten Commandments let us know what God likes, how He wants us to act, and in what ways He would have us serve our neighbor. In other words, the law also comforts us with the confidence that the Lord is pleased with our works.

This might sound strange to our Lutheran ears, but we find this teaching all through the Large Catechism. The Lord gives us vocations (stations in life) and He gives us neighbors, and He tells us how to love and serve them.

Consider this passage from Luther:

Let us, therefore, learn at last, for God’s sake, that, placing all other things out of sight, our youths look first to this commandment [“Honor your father and your mother”], if they wish to serve God with truly good works, that they do what is pleasing to their fathers and mothers, or to those to whom they may be subject in their stead. For every child that knows and does this has, in the first place, this great consolation in his heart, that he can joyfully say and boast (in spite of and against all who are occupied with works of their  own choice): “Behold, this work is well pleasing to my God in heaven, that I know for certain.”

Let them all come together with their many great, distressing, and difficult works and make their boast; we will see whether they can show one that is greater and nobler than obedience to father and mother, to whom God has appointed and commanded obedience next to His own majesty; so that if God’s Word and will are in force and being accomplished, nothing shall be esteemed higher than the will and word of parents; yet so that it, too, is subordinated to obedience toward God and is not opposed to the preceding commandments. (Martin Luther, The Large Catechism, I.115-116)

When we serve our neighbor according to our vocation, when the mother tends to her children, when the father works Women's T-Shirts ~ Women's Heavyweight T-Shirt ~ God Approved T-shirtto support his family, when children are obedient to their parents, when the soldier goes off to war, when the pastor stands up to preach God’s Word, in every station and vocation that the Lord has given us we can be confident that the Lord is pleased with these works. We are not making up or inventing our own good works, but following the instructions that the Lord has give us, and we have the confidence, the comfort, that the Lord is pleased with these works. 

The law answers the question, “What does God think of my works?” When we worship God and serve our neighbor according to the Ten Commandments we know that the Lord is pleased with them.Ultimate Comfort
At last, though, the comfort of the law is not eternal. We fail. We undo the Lord’s ordering of things. We sin against God and our neighbor. The law comforts us with with order and with the confidence of vocation, but that same law always accuses us, shows our sin and death. For eternal comfort we look, at last, to our Lord Jesus, to His cross and suffering, to His death in our place, to His word of forgiveness. The Gospel gives the eternal and abiding comfort that God is not mad at us, that He loves us and delights in us and calls us His own dear children.Every place we look in the Scriptures we find the Lord’s comfort, and this gives us joy in this life, and the sure hope of the resurrection and eternal life to come. Amen.

Lord’s Blessings,
Pastor

8 Comments

  1. I’ve often used the comfort of God’s Law in regards to order when teaching children about divorce. Jesus’ cut and dry teachings on divorce often startle the children of divorced parents (a large demographic), and my first point is to teach them that everyone finds forgiveness of sins in Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection; this includes people who commit adultery. But I also use Jesus’ cut and dry teachings to show them that God would not have a world where people end up in a destroyed marriage, where custody is split, where they miss out on seeing one parent (sometimes for life), etc.

    Good post, Pr. Wolfmueller.

  2. I’ve often used the comfort of God’s Law in regards to order when teaching children about divorce. Jesus’ cut and dry teachings on divorce often startle the children of divorced parents (a large demographic), and my first point is to teach them that everyone finds forgiveness of sins in Christ’s perfect life, death, and resurrection; this includes people who commit adultery. But I also use Jesus’ cut and dry teachings to show them that God would not have a world where people end up in a destroyed marriage, where custody is split, where they miss out on seeing one parent (sometimes for life), etc.

    Good post, Pr. Wolfmueller.

  3. Order and vocation are Law. Any comfort we have in them is derived from the Gospel. Law can only be received as God’s blessing and gift through the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. Otherwise, Law always condemns.

    Robert at bioethike.com

  4. Order and vocation are Law. Any comfort we have in them is derived from the Gospel. Law can only be received as God’s blessing and gift through the gift of faith in Jesus Christ. Otherwise, Law always condemns.

    Robert at bioethike.com

  5. I agree with Robert. Pastor Wolfmueller, I heard you speak of this on Issues Etc, and I was a bit troubled. I understand for the most part what you are getting at, but as Robert points out, the comfort that you speak of still only comes through the gospel of Jesus. Even the LC passage you quote doesn’t say that the law comforts. The law never tells us that God is pleased with us. Only in Christ is God pleased with us, and that’s the gospel. I’m afraid this kind of talk is confusing at best.

    Thanks for your consideration.
    Peter Snyder

  6. I agree with Robert. Pastor Wolfmueller, I heard you speak of this on Issues Etc, and I was a bit troubled. I understand for the most part what you are getting at, but as Robert points out, the comfort that you speak of still only comes through the gospel of Jesus. Even the LC passage you quote doesn’t say that the law comforts. The law never tells us that God is pleased with us. Only in Christ is God pleased with us, and that’s the gospel. I’m afraid this kind of talk is confusing at best.

    Thanks for your consideration.
    Peter Snyder

  7. The only reason the Law always condemns is that we are sinners. God’s Law is still good, and can show us good attributes of God: God is just, God is a God of Order, God doesn’t change, etc. True, none of these attributes can draw us to trust in His grace, so “comfort” may not be the best choice of words, but they still show all what is good and right. Were we not sinners, all would find great “comfort” in the attributes of God. But we are. Christians, though, living a new life in God’s grace can take comfort in God’s justice, God’s order, and God’s eternity (all of which, btw, centered and fulfilled in Christ’s death and resurrection) because they can delight in God’s Law, as Jesus Christ has taken away all condemnation.

  8. The only reason the Law always condemns is that we are sinners. God’s Law is still good, and can show us good attributes of God: God is just, God is a God of Order, God doesn’t change, etc. True, none of these attributes can draw us to trust in His grace, so “comfort” may not be the best choice of words, but they still show all what is good and right. Were we not sinners, all would find great “comfort” in the attributes of God. But we are. Christians, though, living a new life in God’s grace can take comfort in God’s justice, God’s order, and God’s eternity (all of which, btw, centered and fulfilled in Christ’s death and resurrection) because they can delight in God’s Law, as Jesus Christ has taken away all condemnation.

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