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    LAW AND GOSPEL(Question 84)

    In the last lesson we learned about the keys of the Kingdom. There are two keys: the preaching of the gospel, and the proper use of church discipline. By using these keys, the church has the ability and the responsibility to let people into God's kingdom, and to keep them locked out. In this week's lesson, we want to take a closer look at how the preaching of the Gospel lets some people in while keeping other people out.

    Q. 84 How is the kingdom of heaven opened and shut by the preaching of the Gospel?
    By witnessing to believers that their sins are forgiven because of what Christ has done, and by also proclaiming to unbelievers that the wrath of God is upon them until they repent.

    So within each church service or Bible study, there are two groups of people being addressed: believers and nonbelievers. To those who believe there is a message that because Christ has died for their sins on the cross, they are completely forgiven and considered holy in God's eyes. However, to those who do not believe and won't trust in Christ, the message is one of condemnation and judgement. To them is the bad news of God's anger and wrath.

    Now the tricky part is this-first, how do I tell the difference between those who are believers and those who are unbelievers? It would be simple if we could say that the believers are the ones who come to church regularly. Or they are the ones who read their Bibles faithfully and pray often. But that isnt the case. If we are honest with ourselves we know that many whom God has chosen are those who DO NOT attend church as they should, or read their Bibles as they ought. So we can't use good works or church attendance as a way to determine who is who.

    If we can't use good works, how about bad works? In other words, can't we tell who is who by how they act? Surely those people who cuss, who smoke, who go to parties-they must be the unbelievers. But again, we would probably guess wrong if we thought that way. There are many Christians who do smoke, who do go to parties, and sadly, who do participate in things that Christians should not engage in. However, it doesnt mean that they are not chosen, or that they have not trusted in Christ. It means that they are learning how to live a Christian life and day by day they will become more holy. Probably the best way to decide who is who is to not decide! Maybe that doesn't make sense to you, so lets look at these words of Jesus. In this parable He is giving advice on how to tell believers apart from nonbelievers. But He calls them "wheat" and "tares".

    Matthew 13:24-30

    Did you catch the symbolism in the parable? The owner of the field is God. The field is the church. The enemy is Satan. The workers are people in the church, perhaps Pastors and elders. When these people find that the enemy has planted tares or weeds in with the wheat, they want to tear them out. But the owner says not to, because in so doing they may accidentally tear out a wheat instead. The owner tells them to wait until Harvest, and then they will be separated. The tares will be burned, and the wheat will be put in the owner's barn.

    In other words, in the church, nonbelievers and true believers are so much alike that we need to be very careful. Instead of trying to tell who is who, we should wait on God until He comes and separates them Himself. God tells us simply this-there will be two groups in the church, there is nothing you can do about it, so trust in Him.

    This brings us to the second part of our dilemma-now that we know there are two groups of people, and we cant tell them apart, how does the Pastor know who to preach the gospel to, and to who to pronounce judgment? How will the Pastor ever know who to open the kingdom up for and who to keep out? The answer is simple-he preaches to both at one time!

    In each sermon there should be two things-law and gospel. The law is for the unbelievers. This reminds them that as long as they trust in and of themselves they are required to keep all of God's commands perfectly. They must earn their own way to heaven. And if they fail, even in one small point, they are doomed to hell. That's the bad news. Now the good news, or the gospel, that is to be preached to those who believe. The gospel is for those who have trusted in Christ and no longer seek to earn their own way. Instead they realize that Jesus has done it all for them. All they have to do is believe the promises Jesus has made to them in the word of God. Look at this verse to get a better understanding of how the two(law and gospel) are distinct from each other:

    John 1:17

    Even though we cant tell who is who, by the preaching of the gospel God separates the wheat from the tares. Those who are wheat will repent of their sins and trust in Christ. Those who are the tares will continue in disobedience and rebel against God's will for their lives.

    Before we close, let me make one last point. Even though I or other people in the church cant tell who is who, God makes it clear that the wheat know who they are and so do the tares. What are you? Are you a believer who is trusting in Christ for salvation and holiness, or are you a tare, who is still trying to run from God or be good enough to earn your own way to heaven. If you are a wheat, the gospel is for you. Those promises of free grace and forgiveness open the door of heaven to you and God says to enter in. But if you are a tare, God's judgement is upon you and the door to heaven remains locked until you repent of your evil ways. Don't wait outside where the dogs and theives are, come inside to the place Christ has prepared for you from the foundation of the earth.

    1. What two groups of people are there in the church?
    2. Why shouldnt we try to tell the two apart?
    3. What two things should every sermon have in it?

    1998 Pomona Youth Chapel/Pastor Tim Shultz