"Distinction without separation" will be the formula in this article. The law and the gospel, the Great Commandment and the Great Commission, the church as Christ's institution entrusted with his ministry and the church as the people brought into being by this ministry: these are to be distinguished and simultaneously affirmed. God's moral vision for his world has not changed. The substance of the moral law is inscribed on the conscience in creation itself. The gospel does not obliterate the law, but is the only means by which love of God and neighbor can be truly realized in a sinful world. As we have seen, Jesus' summary of the law is the same as Moses'. The commandment itself does not change. What has changed is the transition from "this present age" (under sin and death) to "the age to come" (bringing righteousness and life), and that makes all the difference. This transition is recognized in 1 John 2, where the apostle calls the saints to love one another: "Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining" (vv. 7-8, emphasis added). Hearing this commandment "in Adam," under the reign of sin and condemnation, leaves us without any hope. It only tells us what we haven't done. But hearing this commandment "in Christ," under the reign of justification and eternal life, we are summoned to a new way of existence.
Michael Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), host of the White Horse Inn, national radio broadcast, and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is author of many books, including The Gospel-Driven Life, Christless Christianity, People and Place, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, The Christian Faith, and For Calvinism.
Issue: "Social Justice: Social Gospel?" Sept./Oct. 2011 Vol. 20 No. 5 Page number(s): 16-17
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