Title: The Purpose of God’s Holy Law
Text: Romans 7:9
Readings: Office: Ron Wood Auditorium: Larry Criss
Subject: The Proper Use of the Law in Preaching
Date: Tuesday Evening - September 24, 1996
Tape # S-95
Introduction: Romans 7:1-9.
"Know ye not, brethren, (for I speak to them that know the law,) how that the law hath dominion over a man as long as he liveth? (2) For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. (3) So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man. (4) Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God. (5) For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death. (6) But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter. (7) What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. (8) But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. (9) For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died."
I want to talk to you tonight about The Purpose of God’s Holy Law. I want to show you the proper, biblical use of the law in preaching the gospel. The person who knows the proper place of the law and the glory of God’s free grace, the person who can rest in Christ alone for all that the law requires and all that justice demands, knows the gospel. But that person who mixes law and grace, in any measure whatsoever, as a matter of acceptance before God, has not yet learned the gospel aright.
There are no two things in the world more completely opposed to one another than law and grace. They are as opposite as light and darkness. They can no more agree than fire and water. Like oil and water, law and grace simply will not mix. The Scriptures are explicitly clear...
Romans 11:5-6 "Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. (6) And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work."
Yet, there is an amazingly well-established opinion in the distorted minds of men that law and grace will mix! Though law and grace are diametrically opposed to one another, the depraved human mind is so void of spiritual understanding, and so thoroughly turned away from God, that the most difficult thing for man to do is to discriminate between law and grace. Man insists on mixing that which God has positively put asunder. Because of his foolish ignorance, man wants to find some legal standing before God. This is the thing which Paul opposes throughout all of his epistles. He expends every effort to destroy every remnant of legalism among God’s people. Look one more time at the plain, obvious statements of Holy Scripture.
Romans 6:14-15 "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. (15) What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid."
Romans 7:4 "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God."
Romans 8:3-4 "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: (4) That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."
Romans 10:4 "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth."
Galatians 3:24-25 "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."
1 Timothy 1:8-10 "But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; (9) Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, (10) For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine;"
Does this mean that Paul was opposed to the law; or that he thought the law was an evil thing? Certainly not. In this seventh chapter of Romans, the apostle Paul is showing us the believer’s attitude toward God’s holy law. The true believer recognizes the purpose of the law; and he highly reverences the law. It is his desire to live in perfect compliance with the law. And recognizing the law’s perfection, he refuses to seek acceptance with God on the basis of legal obedience.
The gospel preacher is faced with three great difficulties. In seeking the conversion of sinners, there are three terribly difficult tasks confronting me.
1. The first real difficulty in conversion is TO GET A PERSON LOST - REALLY LOST.
The hardest thing in the world to find is a sinner who is really lost. In the years of my ministry, I have met very few people who were really lost. That is to say, people who knew that they were lost, so thoroughly and completely lost that no system of works, no law, no code of morality could do them any good. There are many people who will admit that they are weak, and in need of help. There are even some who will admit that they are sinful, and in need of some atonement. But there are few people in this world who will acknowledge that they are totally and eternally lost, in need of salvation by pure grace alone. Only the Holy Spirit can produce a lost sinner. The first thing that must be done is to get a man lost. Only real sinners seek real grace.
2. The second real difficulty in conversion is TO TEACH A PERSON THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD.
There are few people in this world who have ever heard the gospel, and fewer still who ever really learn it. The gospel of God’s free-grace in Christ comes to the lost sinner without any return on his part. It is the free gift of God, from beginning to end. Even repentance, faith, and good works are gifts of his grace. It is a very difficult thing for men to learn the gospel, because...
· It is opposed to our pride.
· It is opposed to our wisdom.
· It is opposed to our religious prejudices.
· It is opposed to our traditions.
3. The third great difficulty in conversion is TO BRING SINNERS TO REST IN CHRIST ALONE.
We must rest entirely upon Christ. We must never grow beyond that. We are to live all the days of our lives trusting that same grace and love that first took us in. We are chosen, redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and kept by grace alone.
Here I raise mine Ebenezer;
Hither by Thy help I’m come:
And I hope by Thy good pleasure
Safely to arrive at home.
Colossians 2:6 "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:"
We place no hope whatsoever in our obedience to the law of God. We have neither salvation, nor sanctification, nor reward by our obedience to the law. We trust nothing but Christ alone. And we trust him for all things.
The law of God has but one proper use. It was given for only one purpose.
· It was not given as a code of moral ethics.
· It was not given as the believer’s rule of life.
· It was not given as a motive for Christian service.
· It was not given as a measure of sanctification.
· It was not given to be the grounds of our assurance.
· It was not given as a basis for reward in heaven.
Proposition: The purpose of God’s holy law is to expose man’s sin, shutting him up to Christ alone for acceptance with God.
Romans 3:19 "Now we know that what things soever the law saith, it saith to them who are under the law: that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God."
Romans 5:20 "Moreover the law entered, that the offence might abound. But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound:"
Before any man is converted, he must be convinced of his sin and guilt. And so we preach the holy law of God to convince men of their sin. Before any man is given the newness of life in Christ, he must be slain by the law. The law is God’s deep cutting plow, by which he breaks up the fallow ground of a man’s heart and conscience, and prepares the soil for the gospel. This plowing is a difficult, but necessary process.
Divisions: In our text Paul tells us of three things that he had experienced, by which he was brought to faith in Christ. These three things are experienced, to a greater or lesser degree, by all of God’s elect. Here are three things that happen to every truly converted soul.
1. “I was alive without the law onced.”
2. “When the commandment came, sin revived.”
3. “And I died.”
I. “I WAS ALIVE WITHOUT THE LAW ONCE.”
When Paul says that he was alive without the law, he does not mean that he had never heard or read the law before, or that he did not know it. Of all men, Saul of Tarsus was very well-acquainted with the law of God. He knew and understood the letter of the law very well. When Paul says, “I was alive without the law once,” his meaning is this - “There was a time when the law of God had never come home to my heart and conscience, I never knew the spirituality of the law. I never knew what the law demanded.”
A. Saul of Tarsus was a lost religious man.
He was zealous. He was devoted. He was strict. He kept the law, in its letter, all the days of his life. But he was as lost as the most debased barbarian who ever lived in the darkest corners of Africa. Yet, he was totally convinced that everything was well with his soul.
While he was dead in sin, he was full of religious life.
· He enjoyed a false joy.
· He enjoyed a false peace.
· He enjoyed a false confidence.
· He rested in a false hope.
· He had a false faith.
· He had a false assurance.
· He was deluded by a false security.
B. Saul’s proud, self-righteous security made him very zealous in his religion.
1. He looked down upon others with disgust and scorn. He held sinners in contempt.
2. He became a ferocious persecutor.
As soon as you think yourself better than others, you become the judge of others; and the next step is to carry out your sentence upon others.
C. There are many things which support men and give them security in self-righteous religion.
Saul lacked none of those things which give men a false security.
1. First and foremost, Saul was ignorant of the law’s spiritual character.
Romans 7:7 "What shall we say then? is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet."
“Like the rest of the Pharisees, he thought the law only regarded the outward actions, and did not reach to the spirits or souls of men, the inward thoughts and affections of the mind.”
Self-righteousness stems from a failure to understand the spiritual character of the law of God. Uncleanness of mind in God’s eyes is as obnoxious as uncleanness of life.
· An unclean thought is adultery.
· Anger is murder.
· Covetousness is theft.
· Love of self is idolatry.
2. Saul had the respectability and esteem of high office in the church.
He was a pharisee of the pharisees! He came behind no one in matters of religious devotion. Read the third chapter of Philippians. Saul of Tarsus was a remarkable, highly respected figure in the religious world.
3. Saul rested in a false evidence of God’s love and favor.
He thought external reformation was an indication of God’s favor.
John 8:39-41 "They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham's children, ye would do the works of Abraham. (40) But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham. (41) Ye do the deeds of your father. Then said they to him, We be not born of fornication; we have one Father, even God."
4. Saul strengthened his carnal security by comparing himself to those who were more profane and wicked than himself.
5. Saul had that love of self which causes a man to overlook his own faults and exaggerate the faults of others.
Matthew 7:3-5 "And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (4) Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? (5) Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."
6. Saul was deceived with a wrong idea of God’s justice.
He did not realize that the law of God demanded perfection and that the justice of God required an infinite atonement for every deviation from God’s holy law.
Through all of these things, the god of this world had blinded his mind, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto him. Like some of you, Saul of Tarsus was a man lost in religion. His religion kept him from Christ. “I was alive without the law once.”
II. Secondly, “WHEN THE COMMANDMENT CAME, SIN REVIVED.”
Before the commandment came, piercing his heart and soul, sin was a dead thing to him. He had mortified the flesh. He had sanctified himself. He did not believe that there was really any great sin in him. In his own estimation, and in the eyes of others, Saul was a truly holy man.
What does Paul mean by this statement - “When the commandment came, sin revived?”
· The law exposed his sin - “Thou shalt not covet.”
· The law aggravated his sin.
For the first time in his life, Saul felt himself to be a guillty sinner. This conviction of sin is not an easy thing to experience. But it is necessary. Without it, no man will ever be saved. Your sin must be exposed to you, or you will never come to Christ.
III.Thirdly, the Apostle says this, “AND I DIED.”
At last, Saul was slain by the law. His mouth was stopped. He stood guilty before God.
A. What was it in this man that died?
It was that which ought never to have lived. It was the great “I”. “Sin revived, and ‘I’ died.” The law killed it. “I” was so secure. “I” was so proud. “I” was so holy. “I” was so zealous. But now “I died.” Any man whose heart has been exposed to the light of God’s holy law sees himself as a vile, obnoxious, rotting corpse of human flesh.
B. What does Paul mean by this statement - “I died”?
1. I saw that I was justly cndemned to die.
2. All my hopes from my past life of self-righteousness died.
3. All my hopes regarding the future died.
He had broken the law of God, and all his efforts to keep it in the future would not atone for his sin. All his tears of repentance, all his sorrowful cries, all of his sincere confessions, all his best deeds, could not mend God’s broken law.
Could my tears forever flow,
Could my zeal no langor know,
All for sin could not atone;
Thou must save and Thou alone.
The thunderous bolts of Sinai dashed all his hopes to the ground. The iron cold sword of the law, had wounded and slain his spirit. Then, but not until then, we hear this broken man cry, “Lord, what wilt thou have me do?”
C. Have you ever been slain by God’s Holy Law?
I hope that there are some of you hearing my voice tonight, who have been slain. You feel yourselves to be real sinners, utterly lost and undone. I’ve got good news for sinners. Christ died for sinners. God, for Christ’s sake, saves sinners.
Here are five powerful truths that dawned upon my soul, by which I was slain.
1. I saw my own sinfulness.
· I saw my sinful deeds.
· I saw my sinful nature.
· I saw the sinfulness of my righteousness.
2. I saw the infinite holiness of God’s law.
The law of God requires perfection. God cannot and will not accept anything less than absolute perfection.
Leviticus 22:21 "And whosoever offereth a sacrifice of peace offerings unto the LORD to accomplish his vow, or a freewill offering in beeves or sheep, it shall be perfect to be accepted; there shall be no blemish therein."
3. I saw that the only hope for sinners is a perfect substitute.
· I must have someone to obey the law and accomplish righteousness for me.
· I must have someone to make an infinite, justice satisfying atonement for my sins.
· That Substitute I found in Jesus Christ the Son of God.
4. I saw that faith in Christ is the only way a sinner can ever find acceptancewith God.
5. And I saw that faith in Christ is the gift of God.
By these five truths I was slain; all hope in myself was gone. And I was compelled to fall down before Christ, sueing for mercy - “God, be merciful to me, the sinner.” “Lord, if you will, you can make me whole.”
1. There is no hope held out to any man in the law.
2. Sinner, trust the Son of God.
3. Children of God, cling to Christ alone all your days for all things.
4. By faith in Christ, we who believe fulfill the law of God. By faith in Christ, we who believe fulfill the law of God. "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law" (Rom. 3:31).
5. We must never allow anyone to bring us back under the yoke of the law.
Galatians 5:1 "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage."
Colossians 2:8-23 "Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. (9) For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. (10) And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: (11) In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: (12) Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. (13) And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; (14) Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; (15) And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. (16) Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: (17) Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. (18) Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, (19) And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. (20) Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (21) (Touch not; taste not; handle not; (22) Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? (23) Which things have indeed a show of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh."