For the festival of Reformation the three readings to be read are Revelation 14:6-7; Romans 3:19-28 and either Matthew 11:12-19 or John 8:31-36. The sermon text is Romans 3:21, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets.”
The primary doctrine of the Christian faith is “justification by grace through faith on account of Jesus Christ.” The second most important teaching of the Christian faith, without which the Bible remains a sealed book, is the distinction between Law and Gospel. This probably is never more true than with our Reformation epistle reading from Romans 3 in which the word “law” occurs nine times and with significant differences in meaning.
While some imagine that the difference between L&G is the difference in their content alone, the true distinctions which are often confused is in regard to their use. The primary use of the Law in the spiritual kingdom is to make you aware of your inability to save yourseslf even with the help of God. Never does God permit a use of the Law by which we get closer to God by our obedience to the Law. Part of this confusion occurs because the word law in both Hebrew and Greek have a number of different meanings that can only be ascertained by the context. It is a primary reason why an English concordance is not that helpful because the same English word can have a multitude of nuances and meanings.
In verse 19 through 28 of Romans, chapter 3 we have the same word “law” used but with these meanings as synonyms. Verse 19: commandments and the idea of salvation through obedience; Verse 20: obedience and God’s will; Verse 21: obedience; 5 books of Moses; Verse 27: Principle of life; Verse 28: obedience to God’s will.
The Reformation clarified that the Law can never be a means of grace; that is, a means God uses to bring you into His family by your obedience to the Law. Rather, true salvation and receiving the righteousness of God Himself, is witnessed by the Old Testament writings but comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all and on all who believer. Therefore, the way of salvation is not by the principle of obedience to the Law but by the princple of trusting in the Gospel promises of Jesus Christ. In other words, the means bywhich we bring another person into a right relationship with the true God is by providing them with the promises of the Gospel.