“The gospel restricts the function of the law to that of making demands upon people and to measuring their actions (but only their actions, and not their being) against the demands of the law. But the law is not entitled to pass judgment upon the person, which means upon the being of the human agent. For our acts, whether good or evil, cannot determine our being. Only the one who determines being and non-being determines our being. The gospel therefore contradicts the idea that, for example, on the basis of inhuman acts one can conclude that the subject of such acts is an inhuman person. The category of ‘inhuman’ is itself an inhuman category, at least if our discernment operates within the horizon guided by the gospel. For as forgiveness of sin, the gospel is the power which so addresses a human being that his or her person becomes distinguishable from his or her acts. Preceding all human attempts at self-realization, the gospel is the promise that the human person is already a definitively approved person, namely by God. All attempts to find out who or what we really are by identifying person with achievements or failures lead to an abuse of the law, to an – as it were – legalistic use of the law, to which the Christian faith opposes an evangelical use of the law. For the legalistic use of the law makes the demands of the law into an excessive demand. It makes an excessive demand on individuals if they are definitively to determine themselves through their acts. The gospel does not contradict the law’s demand, but it certainly contradicts the excessive demand of the law by proclaiming the justification of sinners and thereby the distinction between person and work.”
“On Becoming Truly Human: The Significance of the Reformation Distinction between Person and Works for the Self-understanding of Modern Humanity,” Theological Essays, vol. II (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1995), p. 236.