delighting in the law, surprised by grace

by caseybedell

Ps. 19 and Ps. 119—two psalms that celebrate God’s law—give us a picture of what an Israelite would and should delight in. The same can be said for the Christian.

The Reformers redemptive-historical hermeneutic rightly discerned three uses of the law.  The third use in particular, not only aligns the Christian’s character to God’s character (the ontological) but provides a way of understanding how justice and shalom (i.e., Dutch Reformed tradition) in this world can mirror the world to come (the eschatological).  Matthew 5-7—life in the kingdom of God — is about the law of God.  It is about how God’s law is loving and good for humanity.

Yet while the Reformers strived to embody the law of God in this world, ultimately we cannot get past the Lutheran insistence on the continual need for grace and renewal, especially the Lutheran assertion that our default motive is often to justify ourselves apart from grace. Lutherans are spiritual realist, for they tell us that our piety is often nothing more than an effort at self-justification.  Hence why Lutherans emphasize a theology of the cross.

In the end, Ps. 19 and Ps. 119 sit the Reformed and Lutheran at the same table, as they both end with a confession of sin.  Together they show us that even in our striving to embody the law, we must come back to grace to know how to use the law.  Together they show us that delighting in the law and being surprised by grace are both good for the Christian.