Should’s, Ought’s, and Must’s…and the the ever present…’Need To’s’

Addendum to post:  While driving back from San Diego this morning ( I took my wife to the airport)  I was listening to a very well known preacher on the radio who used the phrase, “If only…”, quite often in his sermon.

So I’m adding it to my list of words to watch out for. Example:If only you would receive the Lord Jesus.”

When you hear these words in a sermon…watch out.

When you hear these words directed towards you and your relationship with the Living God…you’ve just been had.

We ‘should’…we ‘must’…we ‘ought’…we ‘need to’. All law words. All words that have no gospel in them. All words designed to get some sort of performance out of you, or us.

Is there a place for these words? Of course there is. These words are a part of our daily lives. We must hear them and do them and strive to do them for the sake of ourselves and those around us.

But as far as a relationship with God goes, these words are poison. They bring death, and not life.

The words that bring life are these…”I love you, I forgive you, I have died for you.”

“For you”.  “This is my body, given for you. This is my blood shed for you.” These words indicate something that has already happened. Is still happening… and will yet happen….for you.

The word of the law is ‘do’. The word of the gospel is ‘done’.

Be on the lookout for the ‘do’ words in a sermon and then ask, but have not all these things been ‘done’…for me?

25 Responses

  1. I’ll contend that those words do actually belong in a sermon, at least at times. But the pastor preaching them should know that he is preaching law when he uses those words and needs to follow it up with the “done.”

  2. Bror,

    I agree with you. Those words ought be in a sermon as part of God’s accusing Word. I need to have that accusing voice cut me off at the knees, so that my old Adam will be killed off (at least for awhile).

    But far too often those words are used as a prod to get you to ‘do’ or ‘be’. And then not followed by the gospel promises. Or sometimes they are mixed to gether, so that you end up with a mixed message, a sort of Christian schizophrenia. Like the ‘Purpose Driven Life.’
    Talk about a mixed message!

    If one leaves worship thinking that he or she has some things to do to become a better Christian, or get closer to God, then they have not recieved the Word of salvation…but rather the words of damnation.

  3. Thank you. I found this helpful. I meet such folk and I need to avoid being such a one myself.

  4. Hello Leo,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I guess it’s easy to fall into that trap. It’s a good thing(I think) to keep it in mind.


    – Steve

  5. I passed this article around to some friends in an email. The following is a reaction from this article:

    Okay so what do with do with scriptures that say to take action, respond, should and partner with God?

    Romans 12:1…

    1Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual[a] act of worship. 2Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
    3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his[b]faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.

    Matt 6

    33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

    1 Thes. 5:17

    17Pray without ceasing.

    Matt 7:

    7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:

    James 1:

    5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

    6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.

    7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.

    8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.

    James 1

    19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

    22Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror 24and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does.

    26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

  6. Any one have a response? This is what I wrote. Correct me if I was off base:

    My response to the list is simple. You and I are derelict in our performance of the demand God’s law puts on us.

    There is no grace in the law. It only accuses and condemns. There is no life in it. The law brings death.

    Life with God is not created or sustained by ‘performing’ the law. If one insists on carrying out the law as somehow meritorious

    in their relationship to God, I would agree with St.Paul, that they are in danger. In such a scenario, St. Paul argues that grace would be

    set aside and Christ no longer a benefit.

    So, you’ve laid out the law for us, let me ask you, how are you doing with the list? How many homeless persons did you bring to your house tonight

    for supper? How have you spent your money this week? Did you really need to spend on that frivolous item? Could not that money have gone to

    someone who needs it more? What about your time? Did you look at television this week? Shouldn’t you have been praying instead?

    Don’t kid yourself! (because you’re not fooling others). You are not measuring up to what is required. You are equally guilty of breaking the whole law

    as any other sinner! So, now how do you plead? Guilty? Then to what or whom are you going to appeal? Your sincerity? Your best intentions?

    Or will you, as St. Paul says, finally shut your mouth before God!? Christ is the end of the law for those who have faith.

    I think that is the point the article was making. That is the message that should be heard in preaching after the law has shut up the boasting

    arrogance of the “righteous”, so that Jesus Christ may actually start redeeming sinners. Any sermon that turns the sinner back in on looking at his performance

    in order to get “right ” with God is DEATH! There is no salvation is such a message.

    Anyway, that’s my take on the article.

    As for the bible scriptures that were used against Christ, then I would argue that in such a case Christ be used against scripture!

  7. Brent,

    And they call me a hyper-Lutheran!

    You take the cake (would you bring it back please…I’m hungry)

    Just who are you, anyway…Brent Gordon?

    – Steve M.

  8. Brent is correct. This is a case – as Luther stated – when Christ must be used against a misuse of scripture.

  9. “Christ must be used against a misuse of scripture.”

    That statement by both Brent and Mark, in and of itself, is enough to drive fundamentalists right up the wall.

    I think what they are saying is that you have to do theology. You can’t apply the same level of value to every or verse of scripture.

    Christ and His mercy and grace must stand over and above the demand of the law, or Christ’s death on that cross was in vain.

    Those that are honest about it, must admit that they blithely ignore the law of God almost all of the time, anyway.

    I hardly ever go the speed limit for more than a few minutes. I hardly ever come to a complete stop at a stop sign. Are these laws somehow less than the demands that Jesus gave in the Sermon on the Mount? (that is just one small area of life)

    People say that the Sermon on the Mount was all about God giving us guidelines to live. Well then, don’t just talk about it…do it!

    No one does it!

    Have your enemies over for dinner at regular intervals? Never get angry with anyone (Jesus says that’s a form of murder, you know)? Never worry about anything? Exercise perfection in all that you do?

    Right. Who are you trying to kid?

    Well then, if we can’t, or flat out refuse to do it, then we surely get a few points for the few times we give half hearted effort towards one of Jesus’ demands.

    Can you spell R-O-M-E?


    – Steve M.

  10. How many sermons by Luther have you read? Have you ever read Walther’s Law and Gospel? How about article 6 of the Augsburg Confession:

    Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification 2] before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these things, say: We are unprofitable servants. Luke 17, 10. The same is also taught by 3] the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone.

    Here’s a quote from the Apology:

    Likewise the faith of which we speak exists in repentance, i.e., it is conceived in the terrors of conscience, which feels the wrath of God against our sins, and seeks the remission of sins, and to be freed from sin. And in such terrors and other afflictions this faith ought to grow and be strengthened. Wherefore 22] it cannot exist in those who live according to the flesh who are delighted by their own lusts and obey them. Accordingly, Paul says, Rom. 8, 1: There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. So, too 8, 12. 13: We are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die; but if ye, through the Spirit, do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 23] Wherefore, the faith which receives remission of sins in a heart terrified and fleeing from sin does not remain in those who obey their desires, neither does it coexist with mortal sin.

  11. my point with those quotes is that if the preacher is tying the must, should, etc to how we are justified then of course that is bad theology like in your example, but if the preacher is stating what a Christian will do as a new creation then it’s a perfectly valid use of those “law” words. You seem to be pretty convinced that for the Christian as Christian there is no use for the law of course I am here reacting to more than this one post.

  12. Steven G.,

    So faith in Christ brings about good works.

    Then why does anyone need be told that they have to do them? Is not, as scripture says, ” the law written upon their hearts.”?

    What part of “Christ is the end of the law for all those who have faith”, do you not understand?

    This wanting to do away with the law to coax good works out of people sure seems to have a lot of folks upset.

    Is it possibly that the ground upon which they’ve built a little house of righteousness is starting to shake a little bit?

    Or is it just that what they’ve always been taught (which contradicts so many passages in scripture, including the one above) could possibly be not completely true?

    My original question still stands as well. If the law is so important to you, then why do you flat out refuse to do it?

    Thanks Steven G.

    – Stephen M.

  13. The following is a quote from Gerhard Forde.

    “There is little chance, too, then, of really arriving at a positive attitude to law. For it is the supernatural pretension of law, its unbreakable absoluteness that makes it unbearable and drives man in his endless quest to be rid of it.
    When it has an end, however, a real end, one can see its positive use. In view of the end in Christ we can see that the law is intended for this world and that a
    new kind of goodness is possible, a goodness in and for this world, a “civil righteousness.” Faith in the end of the law establishes the law in its proper use.”

    The Law can only demand and accuse. Period. When Christ enters in, the demands and accusations are brought to an end. Now, we are free to take up creaturely existence for the sake of the world and the neighbor. The law demands good conduct. The grace of Christ inspires good conduct.

    Sorry, third use folks. No takers here.

  14. I agree with Pastor Anderson here…
    The unsettling ‘itchiness’ I find in this topic is the hiddeness of God. Wouldn’t it be great if we could read the recipe, apply it and see the power go to work!
    Sorry, you know as well as I do, that life in Christ just isn’t like that. No, the
    christian life is wrapped in the paradox of sinner and saint; already but not yet.
    “My God WHY have you forsaken me?!” Do we fancy ourselves greater than our master? This cry to God is our cry also! Why are caught up with it just as Christ was. I find that these attempts at keeping 3rd use law lists. is an effort to expose the hidden God. To make demonstrable, ‘proof’ that God ‘works’. It’s a vain pursuit my friends.
    “I am the vine, you are the branches, without me you can do nothing”
    I think Steve makes a good point, if the grace of Christ indeed will inspire christians to good works, (which it will), then why worry about it? Prodding and poking saints to perform or improve when it concerns there relationship
    and standing before God, only makes matters worse. When it comes to the neighbor, sure go ahead and prod and poke to get some action, that is what the law is intended to do. However, don’t be so quick to stick a ‘christian’ label on it and be ready to present those ‘works’ as evidence that the Spirit is working in you, because as soon as that is done, those works can turn on you in a heart beat. Then we find ourselves with the confession of St. Paul,
    “I have no confidence in the flesh”.
    Finally, “grace inspires good conduct” this is true! That is why the grace of Christ must be preached! All the time, not just as a starting point or entry level course, but continually! I think of it as sand bagging the encroaching sewer of filth that bubbles up in my own heart let alone what the culture has to offer.
    No wiggle room at all for the 3rd use of the law.
    Christ is the end of the law for those who have faith. I’ll end with a quote from Luther, “abandon good and evil, cling to Christ”

  15. It is not a wonder why God commands us to love one another. The sole purpose is to share His Word and Baptize. Loving one another, encourage and support throughout our journey finishing with Christ.

    Boasting comes from pride. Pride comes from it being about “me” (arrogance). “Me” is about “doing” … my successes—alone.

    The words: “I love you.” “I forgive you.” “I died for you.” “For you.” “Given for you.”

    These words are about love, unconditional love: gifts freely given, expecting nothing in return.

    Man muddies up the water with law and rules of man.

    Why does man have such difficulty relaxing and resting with Him?

    We know the above to be true, yet we fight it (struggle).

    We fight this for some reason. It must be trust. Trusting in God.

    Can we learn to simply love and accept His gift(s) of Grace?

    Can we learn to simply love one another, encourage and support one another as we walk with Christ?

  16. Magdalene,

    Apparently we are having some trouble with that.

    Thanks Magdalene.

    – Steve

  17. Yes, we do. Good thread, Steve.

  18. Thanks Magdalene.

    Like Pastor Anderson says, “You have to stand up to these people and proclaim Christ…and not blink.”

    It’s sad, but for many, many people…Christ is just not enough.

    – Steve

  19. Surrender. That may be it. We refuse to completely “surrender” to God. We surrender “a little bit” … whatever is comfortable, but completely surrendering would be dying to self. Our nature is defend and survive. Dying is not easy.

  20. ‘The word of the gospel is ‘done’.’

    Good words! 😉

  21. To Steve,

    If the law is so important to you, then why do you flat out refuse to do it?

    As a sinner I do refuse to do it. As a saint I do not refuse to it. I rejoice in doing it. The third use of the Law is precisely a description of the Christian as a saint, or to use Forde’s terms a creature who is no longer trying to be the Creator The Christian as a saint prays, praises, and gives thanks, does not defraud his neighbor, refuses to think badly of his neighbor, loves and honors his wife, honors his parents by loving them, serving them, obeying them, cherishes, etc.

    All this the Christian as saint does not do to earn favor with God because God is already His Father because he is united to the Son. He does it out of gratitude. The Holy Spirit works faith and love in the saint. I would agree that their nothing especially Christian about any of these works. This is the what all people were intended to be by nature, but because of the fall we can only be and do by grace and the Holy Spirit.

    The Christian as sinner hates His neighbor, commits fornication, is full of wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, debate, deceit, malignity; whisperers, are backbiters, haters of God, despiteful, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenantbreakers, without natural affection, implacable, unmerciful: Who knowing the judgment of God, that they which commit such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but have pleasure in them that do them.

    I agree with Forde the Gospel frees us to serve our neighbor. He look to the Law to see how we do that because the Spirit always uses the Word both to tell us what to do and what Christ has done for us.

  22. Steven G.,

    If the ‘third use of the law’ is, as you say, “a description of the Christian as a saint…” and not a pre-scription…then of what purpose is that?

    If it is the Spirit of God that is doing these good things in us, what need does the Spirit of God have for a ‘use of any law? None.

    If we truly live by faith and not by sight, what use do we have of any descriptions of what the law (third use) is supposedly bringing forth, these good works are not because of the law in the first place, it is because of the gospel.

    In practical terms, what does one profit from the third use of the law, that someone like me who does not subscribe to it, is not already getting from the first two uses of the law?

    I contend that the third use is not at all necessary, and more than that, it is harmful because it takes the focus off of Christ’s work and puts little ol’ me back in the saddle again. Not good.

    Thanks Steven G.

    – Stephen M.

  23. Here is what Forde has to say about the third use…like it or not.

    “That is why the law must be limited to its two proper uses. Although the argument is more subtle and complicated that we can do justice to now, one should be able to see why it is perilous to accommodate Luther’s view with a so-called “third use of the law” as a friendly guide for the reborn Christian. There is no way yet into a state where the Christian can use the law in a third way. Such a view rests on presumptions entirely different from those of Luther and, for that matter, Paul. It makes too many pious assumptions. It assumes, apparently, that the law can really be domesticated so it can be used by us like a friendly pet. Does the law actually work that way? It assumes that we are the users of the law. We do not use the law. The Spirit does. And we really have no control over it. Who knows when it is going to rise up and attack in all its fury? Luther knew full well, of course, that in spite of all his piety he could not bring the law to heel. Indeed, even as a Christian one needs to hear and heed the law – and the law will attack a Christian just as it attacks the non-Christian. One does not have the key to some third use.
    We do not live in an eschatological vestibule. Christians need the law in the same way non-Christians do. The idea of a third use assumes the law story simply continues after grace. Grace is just a blip, an episode, on the basic continuum of the law. Luther’s contention is that the law story is subordinate to the Jesus story. The law is for Luther, as it was for Paul, an episode in a larger, not vice versa. It is only grace that can bring the law to heel.”

    Gerhard Forde

    A More Radical Gospel: Essays on Eschatology, Authority, Atonement, and Ecumenism

  24. Forde is in my opinion arguing against Calvin’s notion of the “third use of the law”, which was introduced and in many places replaced the Lutheran understanding of the third use of the law esp. in the Scandevian pietism that Forde was reared in. In order to understand what an author says one has to understand their history. For Forde, when he encountered people talking about the “third use of the law”, he encountered people “attempting to use the law as a domiscated pet”. I am not attempting to do that. All that I am saying is that for the Christian as saint the law is no longer a burden, it is a joy.

    Let me ask you a question, Do you pray? If you do, why?

  25. Steven G.,

    Good point. It is always helpful to know the author’s background and into which circumstances he is writting about.

    But I think Forde’s point has broad application for Christian peoples in all circumstances. It is an overarching principle that he is advocating. And that is that the Holy Spirit, as a part of the Godhead is powerful enough to create the desire in the Christian to ‘do’ , without tghe prodding, gentle coaxing, or whatever, that any use of any law could never do, apart from keping one in line in society.

    I pray, because I want to…or not.

    Thanks Steven G.!

    – Steve M.

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