Perkins on the Differences Between LAW & GOSPEL

Here is a real gem from Perkins in his commentary on Matthew 5:17:

"That we may further conceive aright the moral law, we must make a difference between it and the gospel. For the gospel is that part of the word which promises righteousness and life everlasting to all that believe in Christ. The difference between them stands especially in five things.

First, the law is natural, and was in man's nature before the fall; but the gospel is spiritual, revealed after the fall, in the covenant of grace.

Second, the law sets forth God's justice, in rigor, without mercy; but the gospel sets out justice and mercy, united in Christ.

Third, the law requires a perfect righteousness within us; but the gospel reveals our acceptance with God by imputed righteousness.

Fourth, the law threatens judgements without mercy, and therefore is called the ministry of condemnation, and of death; but the gospel shows mercy to man's sin, in and by Christ, if we repent and believe.

Last, the law promises life to the worker and doer of it, "Do this and thou shalt live"; but the gospel offers salvation to him that "worketh not but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly"; not considering faith as a work, but as an instrument apprehending Christ by whom we are made righteous.

The church of Rome in a manner confound the law and the gospel, saying that the gospel, which is new law, reveals Christ more clearly than Moses law did which they call the old law. But this is a wicked opinion, which overturnes all religion; being the cause of many gross points in Popery, which could not stand if they would acknowledge a true distinction between the law and the gospel."


  1. This is a very important subject, so I'm glad you're talking about it.

    From a Biblical point of view, I don't believe the Law-Gospel distinction is made, at least as Protestants have traditionally understood it.

    The Law Paul opposes in his Epistles, the "works of the Law" which he contrasts to faith, is nothing but the Mosaic Law. If this is not understood, then Paul wont make any sense. Paul never is talking about "any and all good works," but the Mosaic Law alone (which did not require any and all good works, see Mk 10:1-12 as explicit proof).

    There are other solid proofs that Paul only has the Mosaic Law in mind, for example Galatians 3:15-18 (which pretty much seals it). If the "law" is interpreted as anything else, then Paul's message in Gal 3 makes no sense.

  2. Thanks for responding to this classic Reformed disctinction. Am I correct in assumming you are RC? Please, tell me what Jesus was saying in Luke 10:28 when a lawyer questioned him about how to inherit eternal life?

  3. Yes, I am Catholic.

    Jesus was calling for what Paul explains is the "fulfillment of the law" in Rom 13:8-13. Once you're in a relaship with Christ you are enabled and required to keep His Commandments (John 15:1-10).