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August 29, 2011 / Daniel

George Eldon Ladd on the Sermon on the Mount

I ran across this quote in Ladd’s NT Theology. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Ladd, he is Mr. “Already but Not Yet” Eschatology.  Before NT Wright and Greg Beale were on the scene of NT studies, there was George Eldon Ladd.

This quote reminds me of what I was reading D.A. Carson’s book on the Sermon on the Mount.

Ladd writes,

The Sermon presupposes something: the proclamation of the Kingdom of God. The Sermon is not Law but gospel. God’s gift precedes his demand. It is God’s reign present in the mission of Jesus that provides the inner motivation…The God whom Jesus proclaimed is the God who has visited human beings in the person and mission of Jesus to bring them the messianic salvation of forgiveness and fellowship…It is those who have experienced the present rule of God who will enter into the eschatological consummation.”

It’s important to remember that Matthew 4:18-22 precedes Matthew 5-7.  Jesus calls his disciples before he gives them the ethics of the Kingdom.  Grace gives us the strength to fulfill the Law.

The same thing is true in the OT.  The preamble to the Ten Commandments reads,  “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of a house of bondage” (Ex. 20:2).   Covenant precedes covenant stipulation.   YHWH rescues Israel from slavery and then he reveals his moral standards.   It’s as if God was saying, “Now that you are my people, here’s how I expect for you to live.”

The problem is when we flip this around and get the cart ahead of the horse.  (This was Paul’s problem with the Judaizers).   The order is not “Law first, then Gospel.”   The order is “Gospel first, then Law.”

As Augustine once prayed, “Give what you command, and command what you will.”

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