As we commemorate Martin Chemnitz today, we read a portion of his writings about Law and Gospel in Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion.
What is the Gospel?
The prophets designated the preaching of the New Testament with the special [Hebrew] word basar [tell good tidings]. The term [evangelize] has been taken from the Greek translation into the common use also of other tongues, so that it is commonly called Evangelium [Gospel], that is, a doctrine that announces good and joyful things.
Now the name Gospel is sometimes used in general for the whole doctrine that is to be set before the people of the New Testament. So also by the name Law is often understood the whole doctrine of the divine Word. And in this sense the general definition is true, that the Gospel is the preaching of repentance and remission of sins. For Christ and Paul include the whole doctrine of the entire ministry in those as the chief members of chief parts. Moreover, since the preaching of grace and of remission of sins is not to be set forth before either the proud Pharisees or the secure Epicureans, but the contrite or penitent; since also in the preaching of repentance—lest consciences be brought to despair, but that the sorrow of contrition might bring forth repentance unto salvation, not to be repented of—the preaching of the Law is not enough, but the preaching of the Gospel must be added. And finally, those who neither believe nor obey the Gospel are and remain under the wrath of God and eternal damnation, unless they are converted.
Is the Gospel a new doctrine, which first began at the time of Christ and the apostles?
By no means. For as there is one faith of the pious both of the New and of the Old Testament, so also it is one and the same Gospel of both people, those of the Old as well as of the New Testament. For the doctrine of the Gospel was revealed by God immediately after the Fall and thereafter gradually repeated during the whole time of the Old Testament not less than in the New Testament. There is only this difference, that in the Old Testament it was the promise of the Messiah to come, who was to be a sacrifice for us; but in the New Testament it is truly Gospel, that is the joyful tidings of the Messiah who has been sent [and] who has completed the work of redemption. There is also a difference in the mode of revelation, which was more obscure in the Old Testament, but is clearer and brighter in the New. But just as we in the New Testament are justified and saved by faith in Christ [who is] now revealed, so the fathers in the Old Testament were justified and saved by faith in Christ [who was] to come.
Devotional reading is adapted from Ministry, Word, and Sacraments: An Enchiridion, pages 68–70 © 1981 Concordia Publishing House. All rights reserved.
Today Your gate is open,
And all who enter in
Shall find a Father’s welcome
And pardon for their sin.
The past shall be forgotten,
A present joy be giv’n,
A future grace be promised,
A glorious crown in heav’n.
Hymn text is from LSB 915:2.