The old Lutherans of the sixteenth century used to say that the proper distinction between the law and the gospel was the brilliant light of the Reformation. Luther said that any man who could properly distinguish law and gospel should be put at the head of the table and called a real doctor of theology even if he had never been to school.
Let us not fool ourselves into thinking we always make this proper distinction or that we easily distinguish the preaching of law from the preaching of gospel. Both must be proclaimed, but do we grasp as clearly as did the Reformers that they must not be "brewed and stewed together"? How many evangelicals today understand that preaching about Christ's work in us (sanctification) is the preaching of the law? How many understand that to preach that it is Christ's coming into our hearts which saves us is really preaching salvation by law?
I hope our subscribers will read my friend Paxton's article, "What Is the Gospel?" with care. Otherwise, it might be safer not to read it at all. Paxton has the habit of saying some shocking things — deliberately. Once he wrote in this magazine that it is not the new birth which saves us! Some people immediately cried, "Heresy! Heresy! This man is doing away with the doctrine of the new birth!" I am even tempted to think that some objectors knew better. Paxton had wounded them in a sensitive spot, and rather than to acknowledge that they had been guilty of perverting the gospel, it was more palatable to cover up by saying, "He is denying the importance of the new birth." Of course, the importance of the new birth was not in question.
Well, Paxton is quite unrepentant, and, like old Jeremiah, he has come back and added some words about what is the gospel and what is not the gospel. Before anyone starts shouting, "Paxton, much learning doth make thee mad," please read his article carefully and hear him out.