The Cross is both a deterrant to sin and its absolution

During my reading this morning, I came up with the following little reflection. Let me know what you think. Is it a confusion of Law/Gospel to use the cross (i.e. the love of God) as a deterrant to sin?

For a Christian, the cross is both a deterrant to sin and its absolution. When we are tempted to sin, we cling to the cross and remind ourselves that we are baptized into the death of Christ and that for that reason we cannot, we must not go back to the untruth of sin. And then, when we have fallen we turn once more to the cross, not as an example of divine wrath against sinners (Reformed) but as the greatest sign of divine love, grace, mercy, peace, and forgiveness.


About Rev. Paul L. Beisel

Graduate of Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, IN in 2001 (M Div.) and 2004 (S.T.M.); LC-MS Pastor and Adjunct Instructor for John Wood Community College; Husband of Amy and father of Susan, Elizabeth, Martin, and Theodore.
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4 Responses to The Cross is both a deterrant to sin and its absolution

  1. Lawrence says:

    Hmm… consider this perspective:

    The cross does not deter sin.

    The cross absolves sin.

    There is a significant difference.

    In absolving sin, and having Faith work in us, we are better able to resist temptation to sin.

    We still sin, but with active Faith from God, we only sin according to what God knows we can handle. Meaning that God, by his give of Faith through Christ’s sacrifice, protects us from temptations He knows we can’t handle.

  2. Anonymous says:

    I’m not a theologian, but it seems to me that the Law and the Gospel, while distinct, are definitely related. For Lutherans, more than most Christians, it seems that the two give meaning to each other. Isn’t the proper (“third”) use of the Law, for Christians, to remind us of how God wants us to behave, as believers who have the assurance of salvation through Christ’s gracious sacrifice?

    So the cross reminds us that although we are saved from being judged according to the Law, we are expected to try, in gratitude, to obey it.

  3. Rev. Benjamin Mayes says:

    Johann Gerhard’s commentary on the Passion History always considers the cross from two aspects: as an example of the wrath of God against sin, and as the sacrifice of Christ to atone for our sin. I think your observation is correct.

  4. Leistico says:

    Apparently Luther thought the cross was a deterent to sin. Consider this quote from the conclusion of his “How to Meditate on the Passion of Christ” of 1519 (so yes, early Luther – but it was included as the sermon for Good Friday in the Church Postil of 1525):

    “To this point we have considered Christ’s Passion as a sacrament that works in us. Now we want to consider the sufferings of Christ in a different way, in a way that is something that works in us when we suffer. When the day comes that sickness and sorrow weigh you down, think how little it matters compared to the thorns and nails of Christ. If you have to do something you don’t want, or can’t do something you want to do, think about how Christ was led about by others, tied up as a prisoner. Does pride attack you? Look at how your Lord was mocked and disgraced along with murderers. Do sexually impure thoughts and lust come your way, thrusting themselves on you? Think how bitter it was for Christ to have his tender flesh torn, pierced and beaten, again and again. Are hatred and envy at war within you, or are you seeking vengeance? Remember how Christ prayed for you, and all of his enemies, with many tears and cries. He had more reason than you to seek revenge! If any trouble or adversity trouble your body or soul, take heart! Say, ‘Why shouldn’t I also not suffer a little since my Lord sweat blood in the Garden because of his anxiety and grief? I would be a lazy, disgraceful servant if all I want to do is lie in bed while my Lord is forced to do battle with a painful death.’”
    (This was the McCain translation of 2004. A different translation can be found in LW 42, pg 7ff)

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