What is the L/G distinction? If one was to express it in a snappy, soundbite, one might describe it thus, in true White Horse Inn style:
The Law is everything that God requires of us. The Gospel is everything God gives us. God gives us everything in the Gospel that he requires of us in the Law.Yet since such a definition does not do justice to the wide variety of passages in Scripture that speak of "the law" (Gk. nomos), and those who hold to the L/G distinction are aware of the subtle nuances surrounding the phrase nomos.
Mike Horton, in his barn storming, Covenant and Salvation, believes that the term "law" can be understood in two ways, depending on context. Firstly, the law can be understood in its redemptive-historical sense. That is, it can be seen as a body of writings containing promises that point forward to the Lord Jesus Christ. In this sense there is no tension between law and gospel as we move from promise to fulfillment. Indeed the apostle Paul, in this sense, can describe the law as "glorious" (2 Cor. 3:7). Nevertheless:
...when the question was justification and the way a sinner can obtain salvation, law was regarded as a principle or method of salvation in antithesis to promise or gospel - a question of ordo salutis. Such gear shifting [between redemptive-historical and principle] far from arbitrary, is simply a way of interpreting the same term (nomos) in different texts and different contexts. (p89)So as a covenantal principle, we are under grace not law. The two are mutually exclusive to the extent that the apostle Paul says that "the law is not of faith" (Gal. 3:12). The L/G distinction is merely another way of expressing the works/grace contrast (Rom. 4:4). Too many evangelicals are ignorant of this sharp distinction. It brings clarity to confused minds and results in consolation to bruised hearts. When one recoils as Christ thunders his "but I say to you's" from the Sermon on the Mount in the Gospel According to Matthew, we hear the Law in all it's condemning power. When we read of Christ's bloody death for his people at the end of Matthew, we see the Gospel, i.e. (Christ taking upon himself our failures to live the Sermon in the Mount) in all it's gracious, life giving power. Let's pray that more evangelical preachers become gripped by this powerful hermeneutic.