It might be a wonder, we know of the 3rd use of the Law, but in my book there is the 3rd use of Grace. First a review of the uses of the Law is in order:
- 1st use: to externally discipline society
- 2nd use: to make us see our helpless state of sin
- 3rd use: to guide us as to what is pleasing to Him
The 3rd use predominates Evangelicalism so much so that it has been said to be Law-Gospel-Law. The 3rd use is overemphasized that it becomes a New Law which determines Gods attitude towards the Christian. It determines if one's life will be filled with blessings or filled with misery. You do it, then expect blessings to flow to you or you violate it and expect discipline at the corner. There is truth to this of course. This, as you know, either makes you feel you are pulling God's commands off making you Pharisaical or leads you to despair.
We really are Law makers. In fact I recall when I was finishing my degree in Religious Studies, in my OT Judaism class, I recall that the Rabbis believed that "man was created for the Torah". Contrast that with Mk 2:27, but I digress.
The question now is how does Evangelia rescue you from being a Pharisee or from being despondent. Well, to correct our Phariseism, it will say to us "now, that is not nice, don't be like that - stop being a Pharisee" -i.e. more Law. To rescue from despondency, either none is given thereby we burn out and eventually check out of Christianity, or it may say to us "God has grace, you can do it". Here is where the 3rd use of Grace comes in, but let me review first the ideas of Grace.
Taking my cue from the way Grace is mentioned in Thomas Oden's The Justification Reader, I will restate the 3 ideas of Grace in the Bible.
-1st idea: a phase in history when God overrides the Law to show mercy.
-2nd idea: God reconciling himself with humanity, we call this favor dei, God's merciful attitude towards sinners - (cf. the Cross).
-3rd idea: a gift of enabledment to perform a distinctive action by God's help.
The same way that the 3rd use of the Law predominates, the 3rd use of Grace predominates also amongst our Evangelian brethren. Let me illustrate this 3rd use of Grace from a current popular highly acclaimed Evangelical author, from Dr. John Piper's Future Grace. BTW, I appreciate his illustration of the Filipino insight of gratitude in that book, this is called "utang na loob" -i.e. the ethics of gratitude or debtor's ethics (Chapter Two).
Here is a quick quote enjoining us on the 3rd use of Grace, making Grace "gratia infusa" in p.65
In Dr. Piper's Future Grace he says:
The only life I have left to live is future life. The past is not in my hands to offer or alter. It is gone. Not even God will change the past. All expectations of God are future expectations. All the possibilities of faith and love are future possibilities. And all the power that touches me with help to live in love is future power. As precious as the bygone blessings of God may be, if he lives me only with the memory of those, and not with the promise of more, I will be undone. My hope for future goodness and future glory is future grace.
This is quite revealing, because it seems that grace is disentangled from the Cross, the lens from which we see things. It is 180 degrees opposite of the Concordian focus on the uses of the Law and the ideas of Grace. For a Concordian, it is the 2nd use of Grace that predominates, and also the 2nd use of the Law that is lifted high. Hence, for him, the grace in the past at the Cross is still the grace that he needs and clings to for his future , it functions literally in his here and now (this is strange to some), so there is no new or fresh batch of grace. Grace in this respect is neither diminished, gets stale, like bread or is increased. Grace is outside him, that is the focus, whereas in Evangelian talk, Grace is seen as something imparted inside the constitution of the Christian - intra gratia.
Grace for sure
Bluntly we have no promise of future grace as a free standing idea we can hold on to from God. If we want to know if God has "future grace" for us - we will be grasping at straws if we do not see it from the 2nd use of Grace. Yes, God by nature is gracious but where do you find it with certainty? There is no naked Grace of God towards us that is not clothed in Christ's Cross. Besides this, we will interpret our circumstances from a temporal world view and not in the light of eternity.
Which drives what?
In other words, which drives what, which idea of grace drives? I believe there is 3rd use of Law and 3rd use of Grace, but the question is which drives what? We should not disagree that we do have sanctification, we do have it absolutely! That is the nature of faith in the Gospel. We should just refuse for it to be driven by anything except by the 2nd use of Grace.