“To be at peace with God, we have need of a far better mediator than Moses and the law.” - Martin Luther
I am an evangelist to the core. I preach the gospel to everyone I can. And I rage like William Wallace whenever I encounter the heresy of “God helps those who help themselves.” God helps those who can’t help themselves! So there is one thing I make very clear when I preach:
Jesus ain’t Moses.
Moses shows us God’s Law. Jesus shows us God’s grace. Moses went up a mountain and brought down the Law on stone tablets (Ex. 19:1-25), but Jesus went up a mountain, showed how deep this Law really is (Matt. 5:1-7:29), then went up another mountain to die on the cross because we couldn't keep it (Lk. 23:33-49). On this mountain Jesus brought down God's grace.
If you confuse Law and gospel, meaning that you believe that your obedience to God’s commandments secures your salvation from your sins, you make Christianity like every other religion in the world. This confusion can plague everyone from the recent convert to the seasoned pastor. This is why Luther says, “The person who can rightly divide Law and gospel has reason to thank God. He is a true theologian.”
The Law consists of God’s commandments from Genesis to Revelation, and is summarized in the 10 commandments. The purpose of the Law is to reveal God’s holiness and our sin, but it cannot make us holy. The Law is a diagnostic tool to show us that we need Jesus. There is nothing wrong with Moses and the Law - they’re great - they just can’t save you. As Paul says, “If righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.” (Gal. 2:21)
The Bible is the tale of a hero - but that hero isn’t you. It’s Jesus. The gospel is that God has promised salvation to us solely through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Eph. 2:8-9)
So when we look at the cross we see God’s Law - the one we cannot keep - being fulfilled by Jesus - the one who will not let us go. It is Jesus’ righteousness that forms our identity, not our observance of the law.
This simple message of the gospel fits within the whole story of the Bible. God consistently comes after sinners with grace. Grace is one way love, so the Bible is a one way love story of God and his people.
Paul hammers this point into our brains three times in Gal. 2:16. Why? Because we’re dense. He basically says, “It’s grace alone, it’s grace alone, and, in case you didn’t get that, it’s grace alone.” The Christian life is one of continually returning to this.
So let me be clear again: Jesus ain’t Moses. As Luther explicitly states, Jesus is “no lawgiver, no tyrant, but the mediator for sins, the giver of grace and life.”
What keeps us from understanding the gospel? It’s not the sins of vice so much as it’s the damnable righteousness that we think we have. We think we are good enough to contribute to our salvation.
If you confuse Jesus and Moses, you will think that Christianity is a miserable life of rules and regulations. You will see that your performance can never measure up. You can never be free until you understand the difference between Law and gospel.
So here is a question for you: When you picture Jesus reaching his hands out to you, do you see stone tablets or nail holes?
Your answer is the most important thing about you.