"Behold, I have come to do Your Will, O God." And by this Will of God, we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.
So, I've been trying to approach recent discussions and rethink them in terms of Christ and His fulfilling of the Law for us; and then to consider what that looks like, and what that means for us, as Christ now lives in us and we in Him.
I resonate with those who make distinctions between the "old man" and the "new man" in us; and with all those extrapolations, which apply the Law to the "old man," the Gospel to the new. I'm simplifying here, for the sake of brevity (and so as to humor my colleagues), but I get it, I've said it and taught it myself, and I still find it an attractive way of thinking.
Yet, for all that, I've been challenged, not only by such quotes as Fr. Curtis and Fr. Braaten have recently shared, and by my own careful reading of the Apology (especially Article IV on Justification, of all things), but also by the preaching and catechesis of my Lord in the Gospels, and by His holy Apostles in their Epistles. St. Paul, in particular, the great champion of Justification by grace, never flinches from preaching and teaching the Law, and exhorting the people to whom he writes with admonitions to live righteously.
I don't believe that the Gospel is lacking in anything. I don't believe that the Law can enable us to become better, or to do good works. I don't believe that our righteousness before God is found in our keeping of the Law. And, while I am convinced by the Scriptures and the Confessions that God does promise temporal and eternal rewards to those who keep His commandments, I also believe that such rewards are in, with, and under the Cross; that the righteous suffer many things; and that, in any case, I am deserving of nothing of punishment. Whatever hidden good there is in me, I have received by grace through Jesus Christ, my Lord; and it is only by His mercy and forgiveness that all that is lacking in me is filled up and completed by Him.
But as to this dividing of the Law and the Gospel between the "old man" and the "new man," much as I like it, I don't believe that distinction satisfies the consideration of the way in which the good and acceptable Will of God is revealed to us and worked in us by the Spirit of Christ, our Savior. The "new man" delights in the Law of God, precisely because it is His good and holy Word, and because it faithfully reveals His Will, which has been fulfilled by Christ for us. It conveys not only information, but establishes the good and determines what the life of righteousness is: faith toward God, and fervent love toward one another.
Returning, then, to my initial thought, and my point for consideration and discussion:
When Jesus "went down with [His earthly parents, Joseph and Mary], and came to Nazareth; and He continued in subjection to them," was that His "old man" (sic) or His "new man" that was heeding the Fourth Commandment?
When Christ Jesus relied upon the Holy Scriptures to resist and refute the devil's temptations in the wilderness, citing the commands of God, such as "You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only shall you serve," and "You shall not tempt the Lord your God," was that His "old man" (sic) or His "new man" that was laying hold of the Law and submitting to it?
When the Lord Jesus Christ "loved His own who were in the world, and He loved them to the end," and He knelt down to wash their feet in humble obedience to the Father who sent Him, and He commanded them to "love one another, as I have loved you," was that His "old man" (sic) or His "new man" who was living and loving in fulfillment of the Law of God?
And, in turn, as St. Peter writes that "Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously," was that His "old man" (sic) heeding the Law and subjecting Himself to the Will of God? Or, was that not the very "New Man" whose fulfilling of the Law is here set forth as "an example" for us to follow?
The necessary caveats: I'm posing these questions for the sake of my own thinking out loud about them, and because I welcome the comment, correction, and clarification of my brothers. I have no "opponent" in mind, real or imagined. This isn't offered as an accusation or critique. It's probably not even provocative enough to prompt a response, but, hey, I gotta be me. No kingdom building here; just trying to start a conversation. (I also recognize and understand that the "old man" never keeps the Law. I do realize that, and, if I were speaking more precisely and thoroughly, I would have noted that throughout. My question has to do with the way in which the Law is used, and the way in which it functions, in the life of Christ; on the assumption that His use of the Law will inform an understanding of the Christian's use of the Law in Him.)