This article originally appeared at Reformation21 and is used with their permission
Editors’ Note: As the title indicates, this is the second of two articles on this subject.
2. Does the third-use of the law play a significant role in the Christian life?The HC gives serious and careful attention to the requirements of God’s law as a guide for the Christian life Q. 92-113. This section does not teach sinners how to live in order to be saved, as if salvation could be earned by works of the law. Rather, it teaches those who are already saved through faith in Christ how to “behave towards God” and “what duties we owe to our neighbor” Q. 93.God’s law not only restrains, exposes, and condemns sin, it also instructs those who are united to Christ how to love, honor, please, and obey God–how to live as faithful citizens of Christ’s kingdom. The HC explains that good works are “only those which proceed from a true faith” and are “performed according to the law of God, and to his glory; and not such as are founded on our imaginations or the institutions of men” Q. 91. The law, therefore, serves to give God’s children wisdom and direction for Christian living. We do not set the rules or make them up as we go.Ursinus states in his commentary on the HC that while the chief efficient cause of conversion is “the Holy Spirit, or God himself,” the “means or instrumental cause of conversion [which includes sanctification in his use of “conversion”] are the law … the gospel, and again, the doctrine of the law after that of the gospel.” He goes on to explain that
The preaching of the law goes before, preparing and leading us to a knowledge of the gospel: “for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” Rom. 3:20 Hence, there can be no sorrow for sin without the law. After the sinner has once been led to a knowledge of sin, then the preaching of the gospel follows, encouraging contrite hearts by the assurance of the mercy of God through Christ. Without the preaching there is no faith, and without faith there is no love to God, and hence no conversion to him. After the preaching of the gospel, the preaching of the law again follows, that it may be the rule of our thankfulness and of our life. The law, therefore, precedes, and follows conversion. It precedes that it may lead to a knowledge and sorrow for sin: it follows that it may serve as a rule of life to the converted. It is for this reason that the prophets first charge sin upon the ungodly, threaten punishment, and exhort to repentance; then comfort and promise pardon and forgiveness; and lastly, again exhort and prescribe the duties of piety and godliness Ursinus, Commentary, 472– emphasis mine.
read the rest of the article via Sanctification and the Heidelberg Catechism, Part Two Jon Payne » Gospel Reformation Network.