Author Topic: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism  (Read 5519 times)

Brian Stoffregen

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Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« on: September 05, 2022, 06:46:51 PM »
The Third Use of the Law always leads to legalism regardless of how it is described.
1. These are the rules that Christians must obey.
2. These are the rules that Christians should obey.
3. These are the rules that Christians should want to obey.
4. These are the rules that the Spirit leads Christians to obey.

The one exception, which is what I was taught at seminary, and a classmate who occasionally looks in on the forum recently wrote me that what I've said is also what he remembers learning at Wartburg Theological Seminary. That understand is that the Third Use declares that the first two uses continue to apply to believers. There were those who claimed that the regenerated were free from the Law, perhaps because they believed that the Spirit within them would guide them into proper behaviors. The Formula says, "No." God continues to use the law even on the regenerated (1) to curb (and guide) behaviors for the good of society; and (2) to convict of sinful behaviors and our inner sinful nature.

However a separate 3rd use is imposed on Christians, it boils down to, if someone isn't obeying the guiding laws or doesn't want to obey them or isn't trying to obey them, or the Spirit isn't leading the believer to obey them, the conclusion must be that the disobedient or unguided person must not really be a Christian.

How do those who hold to a 3rd Use explain it in such away that it doesn't become legalism?
"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Donald_Kirchner

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2022, 07:12:25 PM »
We get to...
Don Kirchner

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peter_speckhard

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2022, 07:28:42 PM »
The third use is not imposed on Christians. It is what they want. They “gladly” hear and learn the Word. They pray, praise, and give thanks. They want to lead sexually pure and decent lives. Nobody is haranguing them into it with threats. The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.

Do you hope to cheat your neighbor and only refrain out of fear? The Old Adam in you does, of course. But if indeed you have faith in Jesus as your Lord and follow Him, you will also find yourself repulsed by the idea of cheating your neighbor. Or cheating on your wife. Or cursing and swearing, or whatever. There is such a thing as a regenerate will, slave of Christ and truly free. If you find yourself yearning for freedom from the demand to love God and your neighbor rather than yearning for the ability to do so more and more, I wonder whether you have faith at all.

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2022, 07:49:53 PM »
It was not just at Wartburg Theological Seminary where the 3rd Use = Uses 1 & 2. Timothy Wengert was a co-editor of the 2000 English Edition of The Book of Concord. He was a professor of church history at The Lutheran Theological Seminary at Philadelphia. He did his seminary training at Luther in St. Paul. His Ph.D. came from Duke University. Among many other books, he wrote: A Formula for Parish Practice: Using the Formula of Concord in Congregations. I quote from his chapter on Article VI: Concerning the Third Use of the Law: "As we shall see, for the concordists the third use of the law was nothing but the first and second uses applied to Christians" (p. 91).

"The third use of the law reminds us of two things. First, Christians do not graduate from God's law to a higher form of existence. As long as we are in the flesh (which is going to be for a very long time), we are under the law. It curbs our inveterate addiction to ourselves, drives us to serve our neighbor whether we want to or not, and continues to show our desperate need for a Savior." (p. 94)

"The first use maintains order in this world and restrains our evil inclinations. The second use confronts us with our sins and, to use Luther's picturesque language, drives us to Christ. The third use of the law is a guide for the Christian life. Faced with certain Roman Catholic claims that the church could also prescribe things necessary for salvation, the reformers always insisted that only God's law, not humanly invented rules, revealed God's true desires. Although, as we shall see, this third use functions in ways not unlike the first and second uses, it does provide Christians with an outline of what God desires." (pp. 96-97)

"Thus, the third use of the law is nothing other than the first use (to order our lives toward what God wants and drive the old creature to do good) and the second use (to reveal our sin daily and thus to drive us to return to Christ and his forgiveness) applied to Christians." (p. 98)

"This article also implies that Christian as believers need not fear the law and its accusation but can finally discover there an invitation to life with God and the neighbor - the very thing the law describes but cannot give. Only when we confuse law and gospel (as many folks do who think they are defending the third use of the law) do things get turned upside down and (or course) the gospel disappears." (p. 100)
"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2022, 07:51:28 PM »
We get to...


How is that different from the first use? E.g., We get to drive at a safe speed on the highway.
"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

Brian Stoffregen

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2022, 07:54:06 PM »
The third use is not imposed on Christians. It is what they want. They “gladly” hear and learn the Word. They pray, praise, and give thanks. They want to lead sexually pure and decent lives. Nobody is haranguing them into it with threats. The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.

Do you hope to cheat your neighbor and only refrain out of fear? The Old Adam in you does, of course. But if indeed you have faith in Jesus as your Lord and follow Him, you will also find yourself repulsed by the idea of cheating your neighbor. Or cheating on your wife. Or cursing and swearing, or whatever. There is such a thing as a regenerate will, slave of Christ and truly free. If you find yourself yearning for freedom from the demand to love God and your neighbor rather than yearning for the ability to do so more and more, I wonder whether you have faith at all.


The boldface is exactly my point. When folks don't seem to do what they "get to do," you then accuse them, or at least wonder, do they really have any faith?


I'll bet you would have wondered about the faith of Mary when it was obvious that had gotten pregnant out of wedlock.
"The church ... had made us like ill-taught piano students; we play our songs, but we never really hear them, because our main concern is not to make music, but but to avoid some flub that will get us in dutch." [Robert Capon, _Between Noon and Three_, p. 148]

peter_speckhard

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2022, 09:06:38 PM »
The third use is not imposed on Christians. It is what they want. They “gladly” hear and learn the Word. They pray, praise, and give thanks. They want to lead sexually pure and decent lives. Nobody is haranguing them into it with threats. The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.

Do you hope to cheat your neighbor and only refrain out of fear? The Old Adam in you does, of course. But if indeed you have faith in Jesus as your Lord and follow Him, you will also find yourself repulsed by the idea of cheating your neighbor. Or cheating on your wife. Or cursing and swearing, or whatever. There is such a thing as a regenerate will, slave of Christ and truly free. If you find yourself yearning for freedom from the demand to love God and your neighbor rather than yearning for the ability to do so more and more, I wonder whether you have faith at all.


The boldface is exactly my point. When folks don't seem to do what they "get to do," you then accuse them, or at least wonder, do they really have any faith?


I'll bet you would have wondered about the faith of Mary when it was obvious that had gotten pregnant out of wedlock.
Do you not think it possible to have a dead faith? That is, to confess the faith without believing it, or to think things to be true intellectually without relying on them spiritually? Why should I assume that everyone has faith? If someone willfully and without apology or repentance does things contrary to Jesus’ will, why should I think their claim that Jesus is Lord is anything but empty words and an assumption of cheap grace?

The openly unrepentant are not believers. Saying, “I repent of this,” while deliberately doing it without any effort or intention to stop doing it is just lying. And note, I didn’t say you don’t have faith. I said that IF you have no converted will struggling against your sinful nature’s will, THEN I wonder if you have faith at all.

It isn’t legalism to acknowledge that some professing Christians do not have a living faith. The preacher must never describe faith in such a way that doesn’t apply to all believers at all times. You seem to insist that faith never be described in such a way that it doesn’t apply to all professed believers at all times. Big difference. I’m not your judge. Nor am I your pastor. I’m simply pointing out that a converted will is a sign of conversion. Yes, that fact can be abused by people wanting to make a show of being Christian, which is also lying, but it remains a fact nonetheless.


George Rahn

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2022, 09:24:11 PM »
The third use is not imposed on Christians. It is what they want. They “gladly” hear and learn the Word. They pray, praise, and give thanks. They want to lead sexually pure and decent lives. Nobody is haranguing them into it with threats. The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.

Do you hope to cheat your neighbor and only refrain out of fear? The Old Adam in you does, of course. But if indeed you have faith in Jesus as your Lord and follow Him, you will also find yourself repulsed by the idea of cheating your neighbor. Or cheating on your wife. Or cursing and swearing, or whatever. There is such a thing as a regenerate will, slave of Christ and truly free. If you find yourself yearning for freedom from the demand to love God and your neighbor rather than yearning for the ability to do so more and more, I wonder whether you have faith at all.

They gladly hear and learn it has to do with the preaching and God’s total word. 

“The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.”  Not sure what to make of this.  The New Man lives through the image of Christ, his Gospel
and the sacraments.  The Christian life does not disagree with the law but it’s primary impetus is not the letter of the law but life in the Spirit.  “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:18
Then Paul goes on to describe the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2022, 09:26:53 PM by George Rahn »

Donald_Kirchner

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #8 on: September 05, 2022, 09:25:22 PM »
We get to...

How is that different from the first use? E.g., We get to drive at a safe speed on the highway.

 ???

You and I have a different definition of the 1st use, I guess. Brian, your responses are ridiculous! 😚
« Last Edit: September 05, 2022, 09:30:30 PM by Donald_Kirchner »
Don Kirchner

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George Rahn

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #9 on: September 05, 2022, 09:28:02 PM »
We get to...

How is that different from the first use? E.g., We get to drive at a safe speed on the highway.

 ???

You began the obfuscation.  Why the emoji?

peter_speckhard

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #10 on: September 05, 2022, 09:35:49 PM »
The third use is not imposed on Christians. It is what they want. They “gladly” hear and learn the Word. They pray, praise, and give thanks. They want to lead sexually pure and decent lives. Nobody is haranguing them into it with threats. The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.

Do you hope to cheat your neighbor and only refrain out of fear? The Old Adam in you does, of course. But if indeed you have faith in Jesus as your Lord and follow Him, you will also find yourself repulsed by the idea of cheating your neighbor. Or cheating on your wife. Or cursing and swearing, or whatever. There is such a thing as a regenerate will, slave of Christ and truly free. If you find yourself yearning for freedom from the demand to love God and your neighbor rather than yearning for the ability to do so more and more, I wonder whether you have faith at all.

They gladly hear and learn it has to do with the preaching and God’s total word. 

“The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.”  Not sure what to make of this.  The New Man lives through the image of Christ, his Gospel
and the sacraments.  The Christian life does not disagree with the law but it’s primary impetus is not the letter of the law but life in the Spirit.  “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Then a Paul goes on to describe the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24.
Of course it has to do with preaching God's total Word. But it happens. I do not say the "primary impetus" of the Christian life is the letter of the Law. Life in the Spirit WANTS/DESIRES/SEEKS to love God and the neighbor. It just does. Someone who has no such desire or will does not have a converted will, which calls into question whether they are converted at all. People who are alive exhale. They just do. If you cannot detect any sign of exhaling, you rightly question whether the people is alive. That doesn't mean exhaling is what gives life.

peter_speckhard

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #11 on: September 05, 2022, 09:38:40 PM »
We get to...

How is that different from the first use? E.g., We get to drive at a safe speed on the highway.

 ???

You began the obfuscation.  Why the emoji?
Because saying we "get to" drive the speed limit is a ludicrous parallel to saying we "get to" hear God's Word as it relates to the third use of the law.

George Rahn

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #12 on: September 05, 2022, 09:49:21 PM »
The third use is not imposed on Christians. It is what they want. They “gladly” hear and learn the Word. They pray, praise, and give thanks. They want to lead sexually pure and decent lives. Nobody is haranguing them into it with threats. The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.

Do you hope to cheat your neighbor and only refrain out of fear? The Old Adam in you does, of course. But if indeed you have faith in Jesus as your Lord and follow Him, you will also find yourself repulsed by the idea of cheating your neighbor. Or cheating on your wife. Or cursing and swearing, or whatever. There is such a thing as a regenerate will, slave of Christ and truly free. If you find yourself yearning for freedom from the demand to love God and your neighbor rather than yearning for the ability to do so more and more, I wonder whether you have faith at all.

They gladly hear and learn it has to do with the preaching and God’s total word. 

“The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.”  Not sure what to make of this.  The New Man lives through the image of Christ, his Gospel
and the sacraments.  The Christian life does not disagree with the law but it’s primary impetus is not the letter of the law but life in the Spirit.  “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Then a Paul goes on to describe the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24.
Of course it has to do with preaching God's total Word. But it happens. I do not say the "primary impetus" of the Christian life is the letter of the Law. Life in the Spirit WANTS/DESIRES/SEEKS to love God and the neighbor. It just does. Someone who has no such desire or will does not have a converted will, which calls into question whether they are converted at all. People who are alive exhale. They just do. If you cannot detect any sign of exhaling, you rightly question whether the people is alive. That doesn't mean exhaling is what gives life.

You are no longer talking about law and retribution.  You are describing life in the Spirit as the New Man desires what God wants.  So we are wading in like waters at this point.  The fruits of the Spirit “impel” and not the law.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2022, 09:57:18 PM by George Rahn »

peter_speckhard

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #13 on: September 05, 2022, 09:55:47 PM »
The third use is not imposed on Christians. It is what they want. They “gladly” hear and learn the Word. They pray, praise, and give thanks. They want to lead sexually pure and decent lives. Nobody is haranguing them into it with threats. The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.

Do you hope to cheat your neighbor and only refrain out of fear? The Old Adam in you does, of course. But if indeed you have faith in Jesus as your Lord and follow Him, you will also find yourself repulsed by the idea of cheating your neighbor. Or cheating on your wife. Or cursing and swearing, or whatever. There is such a thing as a regenerate will, slave of Christ and truly free. If you find yourself yearning for freedom from the demand to love God and your neighbor rather than yearning for the ability to do so more and more, I wonder whether you have faith at all.

They gladly hear and learn it has to do with the preaching and God’s total word. 

“The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.”  Not sure what to make of this.  The New Man lives through the image of Christ, his Gospel
and the sacraments.  The Christian life does not disagree with the law but it’s primary impetus is not the letter of the law but life in the Spirit.  “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Then a Paul goes on to describe the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24.
Of course it has to do with preaching God's total Word. But it happens. I do not say the "primary impetus" of the Christian life is the letter of the Law. Life in the Spirit WANTS/DESIRES/SEEKS to love God and the neighbor. It just does. Someone who has no such desire or will does not have a converted will, which calls into question whether they are converted at all. People who are alive exhale. They just do. If you cannot detect any sign of exhaling, you rightly question whether the people is alive. That doesn't mean exhaling is what gives life.

You are no longer talking about law and retribution.  You are describing life in the Spirit as the New Man desires what Gid wants.  So we are wading in like waters a this point.
But we're still talking about loving God and the neighbor, i.e. Law. Hence the third use. The Christian looks to the Law to see what God desires. The Old Adam cannot pray Thy Will Be Done. The New Man can and does. The converted, Christian will WANTS God to break and hinder every evil plan and purpose of his own sinful nature's will.

George Rahn

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Re: Third Use of the Law Is Legalism
« Reply #14 on: September 05, 2022, 09:58:48 PM »
The third use is not imposed on Christians. It is what they want. They “gladly” hear and learn the Word. They pray, praise, and give thanks. They want to lead sexually pure and decent lives. Nobody is haranguing them into it with threats. The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.

Do you hope to cheat your neighbor and only refrain out of fear? The Old Adam in you does, of course. But if indeed you have faith in Jesus as your Lord and follow Him, you will also find yourself repulsed by the idea of cheating your neighbor. Or cheating on your wife. Or cursing and swearing, or whatever. There is such a thing as a regenerate will, slave of Christ and truly free. If you find yourself yearning for freedom from the demand to love God and your neighbor rather than yearning for the ability to do so more and more, I wonder whether you have faith at all.

They gladly hear and learn it has to do with the preaching and God’s total word. 

“The New Man, constantly battling for control of the Christian’s life, seeks to live by what condemns the Old Adam.”  Not sure what to make of this.  The New Man lives through the image of Christ, his Gospel
and the sacraments.  The Christian life does not disagree with the law but it’s primary impetus is not the letter of the law but life in the Spirit.  “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.”
Then a Paul goes on to describe the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-24.
Of course it has to do with preaching God's total Word. But it happens. I do not say the "primary impetus" of the Christian life is the letter of the Law. Life in the Spirit WANTS/DESIRES/SEEKS to love God and the neighbor. It just does. Someone who has no such desire or will does not have a converted will, which calls into question whether they are converted at all. People who are alive exhale. They just do. If you cannot detect any sign of exhaling, you rightly question whether the people is alive. That doesn't mean exhaling is what gives life.

You are no longer talking about law and retribution.  You are describing life in the Spirit as the New Man desires what Gid wants.  So we are wading in like waters a this point.
But we're still talking about loving God and the neighbor, i.e. Law. Hence the third use. The Christian looks to the Law to see what God desires. The Old Adam cannot pray Thy Will Be Done. The New Man can and does. The converted, Christian will WANTS God to break and hinder every evil plan and purpose of his own sinful nature's will.

Correct, sort of.  One “looks” to the Holy Spirit and the fruits of the Spirit.  Not the law
« Last Edit: September 05, 2022, 10:01:50 PM by George Rahn »