In This Issue

Ryan Glomsrud
Wednesday, September 1st 2010
Sep/Oct 2010

This is an exciting issue of Modern Reformation as it is dedicated to two of our favorite themes: seeing Christ in all of Scripture, and reading the Bible with an understanding of law and gospel. These are critical for recovering Scripture in our preaching, corporate, family, and individual Bible study.

Law and gospel is not as much a way of reading the Bible as the basic categories one finds in the Bible itself. It means distinguishing instruction from declaration, command from promise, "Do this" from "Christ has done," and our best effort from Christ's work on our behalf. This is not simply for Christians in their maturity, perhaps for the few who want to go deeper with God. Understanding the Bible in terms of law and gospel is how we arrive at maturity; it is how we find Jesus where we need him most, in his saving office. The apostle Paul captures these themes well when he instructs Timothy to "rightly handle the word of truth" (2 Tim. 2:15).

What does it mean to divide or handle the word of truth? Starting at the beginning, Sean Norris, author of the important book Two Words, introduces and simply defines law and gospel as the essential way to read the Bible for spiritual benefit. The law does not simply mean the Old Testament, nor does the gospel equate to the New Testament (a common misunderstanding in evangelicalism); rather Paul relates the distinction between law and gospel to covenant history, in terms of an analogy between Abraham's two sons, between two mountains and two covenants–the Mosaic and the Abrahamic (Gal. 4:21-31). As such, our editor-in-chief Michael Horton helps us negotiate continuity and discontinuity throughout the whole of the Bible by addressing several important questions of interpretation. Running alongside these feature articles are two sidebars that bear testimony to the near-universal formulation and acceptance of law and gospel in early Reformation traditions, including the early English Reformer William Tyndale. It is remarkable to know that as Anglo readers held the Bible in their own language for the first time, they did so with a preface by Tyndale that explained law and gospel as the pathway into Holy Scripture. Next, Shane Rosenthal, producer of the White Horse Inn, reflects upon the problem of narcissistic Bible reading in an article subtitled, "You're So Vain, You Probably Think This Text Is About You."

We began this year by describing the problem of biblical illiteracy in evangelicalism today, but just as common is the problem of knowing the biblical stories yet not really understanding them. Seizing an opportunity, this is when the law within us ever so gently pushes us to read the Bible as we would Aesop's Fables, to find a life lesson–almost always a moral one–in every story. As recovering Scripture sometimes means saving the Bible from ourselves, we're featuring a series of short studies on familiar passages that are frequently misinterpreted in a moralizing direction in sermons, small groups, and individual quiet times. The Bible should be read as an unfolding drama of redemption that exposes the nastiness of sin through the law and glories in the surety of the gospel promise of redemption in the central character–the person of Christ. These essays represent our way of pressing home the importance of theologically informed Bible study.

Of course, there are moral lessons to be learned in Scripture: the law orders and norms our life of sanctification that we pursue with grateful and earnest hearts. But the power unto salvation, for both justification and sanctification, is always the gospel–the word that announces "Christ has accomplished it all!"

Ryan Glomsrud
Executive Editor

Wednesday, September 1st 2010

“Modern Reformation has championed confessional Reformation theology in an anti-confessional and anti-theological age.”

Picture of J. Ligon Duncan, IIIJ. Ligon Duncan, IIISenior Minister, First Presbyterian Church
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