Preaching the Gospel AND the Law to Yourself

by Lee Buford on April 26, 2011

The importance of preaching the gospel to ourselves daily is a topic that is getting more attention of late in Christian circles, and thankfully so. Far too many of us view the gospel as merely a tool for saving the lost, and we look past its implications for, and rightful application in, our daily lives. As Christians, you and I need the gospel today more than we ever have, and preaching it to ourselves daily is imperative.

I read an excellent interview with Joe Thorn on this very subject. Joe has written a new book, Note to Self: The Discipline of Preaching to Yourself, and, in the interview, he responds to some very key questions relative to the subject and the book. In my opinion, one of the biggest take-aways therein is the idea of preaching the gospel AND the law to ourselves, and here’s the excerpt where Joe explains why this is so important:

When reading Scripture we are being confronted with either law or gospel, the commands and standards of God or the promises of God in his Son. What I am encouraging in the book is for Christians to be preaching the Scripture to themselves—both law and gospel. These are two very different things, and we need to understand what they are, and how we relate to them. I unpack this in the introduction of Note to Self, so if you get the book do not skip the intro. And, Sam Storms wrote an amazing foreword that explores the place of Scripture in the life of the believer. His foreword alone is worth the price of the book.

But let me summarize the whole law/gospel thing here in this way.

The law is God’s revealed will for us all. We’re talking about his commands, which are summarized as loving God and neighbor, organized in the Decalogue, and unpacked by the prophets, apostles, and Jesus. So when we read, for example, that God commands us to love, pray, or give—this is law. Now, many are ready to say, with Paul, that we are not saved by works of the law, but what is our relationship to the law? What purpose does it serve? The law essentially does three things:

1. The law tells us what’s right. God has not left us in the dark about his will and ways. He has graciously revealed himself and his will to us that we might know what is right and good. This is actually grace.

2. The law tells us what’s wrong. Unfortunately, we do not keep God’s commands. The law is held up against our own lives, and what is reflected back is a life of lawbreaking, rebellion, and selfishness. The law shows us what’s wrong—ourselves. Through the law we see our sin and guilt.

3. The law tells us what’s needed. The law then shows us that what we need before God is forgiveness, cleansing, and restoration. We need mercy if we are to find life. We need God to rescue us from our sin and his judgment. In this way the law prepares us for the gospel.

So the law then leads us to the gospel where by faith in Christ we find forgiveness for sinners, righteousness for the unrighteous, and victory for the defeated. Once we find our hope and identity in the gospel, we can look again to the law and confess with the psalmists and Paul that it is good. We are not condemned or under the curse of the law, so we can in freedom and gratitude walk in God’s ways imperfectly with great joy, because Christ has walked in God’s ways perfectly on our behalf.

In the end, we preach law and gospel because that’s what we find in the Bible, and you can’t really understand the beauty of the gospel apart from the reality of the law.


You can read the entire interview here.

My prayer is that all of us would see the importance of preaching to ourselves on a daily basis in our own lives. The value to our spiritual growth and maturity cannot be overstated.


{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Theodore A. Jones July 9, 2011 at 12:45 am

“It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Rom. 2:13 Do you preach this to yourself?


Lee Buford July 9, 2011 at 2:07 am

Thanks, Theodore. And yes, this is integral to the understanding of the need for God’s grace and a Savior as none of us are able to earn righteousness by adherence to the law (as Paul expounds upon thereafter).

This is a clear example from Scripture of an area in which we cam miss the meaning if we view this as a stand-alone text rather than examining the context within which it is presented.


Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: