Tuesday, November 16, 2010

FW: A Little Bit More on the 3rd Use

The 3rd use of the Law…


Feed: Confessional Gadfly
Posted on: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 4:56 AM
Author: Rev. Eric J Brown
Subject: A Little Bit More on the 3rd Use


Here are the thoughts I have at the moment on the third use. When one is preaching (as opposed to giving specific advice and counsel to a specific individual in a specific situation), what does the third use of the Law look like? Is it a command to do X, or does it present a pattern that one should seek to emulate?

I do think that the easiest example of third use that we have as Lutherans are the positive parts of the explanations to the commandments. As an example, the third commandment - we should fear and love God so that we do not despise preaching and His Word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it. The bold is 3rd use - you are describing what a Christian ought to do.

How do we teach this? Do we teach specific ways one can hear the Word? Should we say, "As a Christian, you need to listen to Rev. Fisk's Worldview Everlasting," or, do we instead say, "You have so many opportunities to be in the Word, to study and learn more about God, be it some good blogs, or something like Rev. Fisk's Worldview Everlasting. See the chances that God gives you to be in His Word, and take advantage of them"?

Or to think of it this way - often we think of the third use as a guide. What's a guide? Well, a guide book for a tourist says, "You should see X, Y, and Z" - that's how we often think of it. Or like a cookbook - if you want to make a Good Christian life, do this, add this here, and then you will have a completed dish. We can think of this guide as being very, very specific.

My vicarage Supervisor used the image of a trellis - that the Law provides a pattern, a foundation upon which to grow. Instead of a tour book that says, "You need to stay at this hotel", one that says, "This is how you can tell if a hotel is going to be a good one for you." Instead of a simple cook book, think of Good Eats - where in addition to specific recipes you learn techniques that can be applied to other things as you see fit - ah, this isn't just a recipe for gravy, this is how you make a pan sauce, and I can apply this technique to all sorts of pan sauces.

I really think this later aspect is what we need to emphasize more on the third use. When Luther explains the commandments, he doesn't say, "but go to Church once on Sunday and on every day of obligation." He says, "Hold the Word Sacred and gladly hear and learn it." Is it good to go to Church when it is offered - yes. But there is more to this pattern of hearing the Word of God gladly - whenever and wherever.

Now, can we and ought we highlight specific things? Of course. But when we teach examples that fulfill the third use, we must always teach them so that the Christian understands that this is not the divine checklist of "do this and you are a good Christian" - but rather, "These are the types of things you should see in your life."

Or to put it this way. Teaching the third use is not just teaching that X is good. It is teaching a person to be able to look at something you've never mentioned and determine whether it is good or bad. Before the boy knows to refuse the evil and choose the good. . . that is the goal - to lead people into growth and wisdom - not simply that they can repeat, but that they can apply.

The 3rd use isn't about doing something specific - it is about learning to apply the examples we have from Scripture in our own lives - not simple emulation, for I will never be in the situation that the cloud of witnesses before me were in - but I can strive to act "like" they would have in the situations I find myself in. The 3rd use should encourage this.

(or think of it this way - not just "clean this thing" but rather, "go clean things, like perhaps this, or whatever else needs to be cleaned".

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