In today’s email came this quote from John Stott.
I just had to share it.
“After God gave the promise to Abraham, he gave the law to Moses. Why? Simply because he had to make things worse before he could make them better. The law exposed sin, provoked sin, condemned sin. The purpose of the law was, as it were, to lift the lid off man’s respectability and disclose what he is really like underneath — sinful, rebellious, guilty, under the judgment of God, and helpless to save himself.
And the law must still be allowed to do its God-given duty today. One of the great faults of the contemporary church is the tendency to soft-pedal sin and judgment. Like false prophets we ‘heal the wound of God’s people lightly’ (Je. 6:14; 8:11). This is how Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it: ‘It is only when one submits to the law that one can speak of grace … I don’t think it is Christian to want to get to the New Testament too soon and too directly.'(1) We must never bypass the law and come straight to the gospel. To do so it to contradict the plan of God in biblical history.
Is this not why the gospel is unappreciated today? Some ignore it, others ridicule it. So in our modern evangelism we cast our pearls (the costliest pearl being the gospel) before swine. People cannot see the beauty of the pearl, because they have no conception of the filth of the pigsty. No man has ever appreciated the gospel until the law has first revealed him to himself. It is only against the inky blackness of the night sky that the stars begin to appear, and it is only against the dark background of sin that the gospel shines forth.
Not until the law has bruised and smitten us will we admit our need of the gospel to bind up our wounds. Not until the law has arrested and imprisoned us will we pine for Christ to set us free. Not until the law has condemned and killed us will we call upon Christ for justification and life. Not until the law has driven us to despair of ourselves will we ever believe in Jesus. Not until the law has humbled us even to hell will we turn to the gospel to raise us to heaven.
(1) Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “Letters and Papers from Prison” (Fontana, 1959), p. 50.
–From John Stott, “The Message of Galatians” (The Bible Speaks Today series: London and Downers Grove: IVP, 1968), p. 93.