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Romans Series #27


      Title:         The Purpose of God’s Holy Law


      Text:                                  Romans 3:19

      Subject:               The Proper Use of the Law

      Reading: Romans 9:31-10:13

      Date:                                Sunday Morning — September 7, 2014



My test is Romans 3:19. I want to talk to you as plainly as I can about The Purpose of God’s Holy Law.


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.


The Purpose of God’s Holy Law — That is my subject. 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 heard the law and has not yet learned the Gospel.


Complete Opposites


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 in this world 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 one thing which Paul had to deal with throughout all of his epistles and in every local church. He expended every effort to destroy every remnant of legalism among God’s people. In this message, I am going to make several dogmatic statements and we are going to look at a good many passages of Scripture. I want you to get this message. It is so very, very important to your soul’s eternal welfare and your day by day comfort and consolation in Christ.


Not Under Law


Here is the first thing I want you to see; and I want you to see it for yourself in the Book of God. I have said this every way I know how to say it. I have repeated it countless times. And I tell you now, again. Will you hear what God declares in His Word? — There is absolutely no sense in which believers are under the law.


Legalism is the most persistent of all heresies, though it is the one heresy the Scriptures address and denounce in every place. I took the time in preparing this message to look once more at every place in the Epistles of the New Testament where the word law is used. It is used 160 times from Romans through 1 John. Not once, not even once in those 160 references is there a single hint that the believer is in some way, to some degree, for some reason motivated by, ruled by, under the dominion of, or obligated to the law. Let’s look at just a few of the plain, obvious statements of Holy Scripture dealing with this, the most persistent of all heresies.


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.”


Was Paul opposed to the law? Did he think the law was an evil thing? Certainly not. In Romans 7, he shows us his own and every true believer’s attitude toward God’s holy law. — “The law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good…We know that the law is spiritual…I delight in the law of God after the inward man.”


Believers recognize the purpose of the law, and highly reverence the law. It is every believer’s desire to live in perfect compliance with everything revealed in the law. And recognizing the law’s perfection, we refuse to seek acceptance with God on the basis of legal obedience. It is our reverence for the law that keeps us from trying to live by the law. The perfect holiness and strict, unbending demands of God’s law and justice drive us to Christ. This is not licentious doctrine, but holy doctrine!


Illustration: Dr. Chalmers — “I preached morality until there was scarcely a moral person left in the parish. I preached righteousness and goodness until I could hardly find a decent, honest man anywhere around me.” Then God saved him. He began preaching Christ crucified and salvation by the free grace of God in him, and things changed! That is exactly what Paul told us would happen if we would just preach the Gospel.


Titus 3:4-8 But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared, (5) Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; (6) Which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; (7) That being justified by His grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. (8) This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.


·      We don’t preach sabbath keeping because God forbids it; but we keep the sabbath rest. — Christ is our Sabbath!


·      We don’t preach circumcision because our Lord forbids it; but we are the circumcised. — God the Holy Ghost has circumcised our hearts!


·      We don’t preach tithing because God plainly forbids us taking anything from anyone by constraint of law. — “God loveth a cheerful giver!” But we give. — We give ourselves to Christ.


Three Difficulties


Second, I want you to see that — Every Gospel preacher is faced with three great difficulties. In seeking the conversion of sinners, there are three terribly difficult tasks confronting me everywhere I go.


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, a real sinner, a sinner who is lost, really lost. In all the years I’ve been preaching, I’ve 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 religious rite or ceremony, 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 need a little 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 utterly, totally, helplessly lost, in need of salvation by pure, free grace alone. Only God the Holy Spirit can produce a lost sinner. Joseph Hart put it this way…


“What comfort can a Savior bring

To those who never felt their woe?

A sinner is a sacred thing;

The Holy Ghost hath made him so.

New life from Him we must receive,

Before for sin we rightly grieve.


This faithful saying let us own,

Well worthy ‘tis to be believed,

That Christ into the world came down,

That sinners might by Him be saved.

Sinners are high in His esteem,

And sinners highly value Him.”


The first thing that must be done is to get a person lost. Only real sinners seek real grace.


The second great 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, sovereign, saving grace in Christ proclaims salvation that 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 difficult, 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.


Illustration: Naaman the Leper


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.

  • Redemption
  • Justification
  • Sanctification
  • Assurance
  • Preservation


1 Corinthians 1:30-31 But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.


One Use


Third, I want you to see that 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.


The only purpose of God’s holy law is to identify, expose, and condemn our sin, shutting us 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 sinner 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. It is by the law’s demands (holiness, righteousness, satisfaction, perfection) that sinners are shut up to faith in Christ and convinced of sin because they do not believe on the Lord Jesus Christ (John 16:7-11). This plowing is a difficult, but necessary process.


Our Only Hope


Fourth, our only hope before God is grace, — grace flowing freely to chosen sinners through the precious, sin-atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ, grace flowing freely to sinners upon the ground of righteousness fulfilled and justice satisfied. I want you to look with me now at two more text of Scripture.


Romans 3:19-31 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. (20) Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin. (21) But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; (22) Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: (23) For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; (24) Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: (25) Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; (26) To declare, I say, at this time His righteousness: that He might be just, and the justifier of Him which believeth in Jesus. (27) Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith. (28) Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. (29) Is He the God of the Jews only? is He not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also: (30) Seeing it is one God, which shall justify the circumcision by faith, and uncircumcision through faith. (31) Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.


The Spirit of God inspired Paul to say exactly the same thing to the saints at Galatia. He means for us to get the message.


Galatians 2:19-21 For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. (20) I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me. (21) I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.


Dead to the Law


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 7:4). —— This is Paul’s doctrine. —— God’s elect have been delivered from the law by the body of Christ. By His obedience in our nature, as our Representative and covenant Surety, the Lord Jesus Christ rendered to the law, in its precept and its penalty, by His life and by His death, all that the law required of us. Having died with Christ, in union with Him, being crucified with Him, every believing sinner is as free from the law, just as a woman by death is loosed from the law of her husband (Romans 7:1-4).


Not Licentious


Legalists scream, “Licentious doctrine! Such doctrine is antinomian. It opens the floodgates to sin and ungodliness!” “Not so,” says God the Holy Ghost. So far is this doctrine from leading to licentiousness, that it is essential to godliness. There is no godliness without it. — For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God (Galatians 2:19). Gospel life flows from legal death. I cannot live unto God except by having been crucified with Christ. Though we cannot be justified by the law, we are subject to its penalty, which is death. And we cannot live unto God, except by death to the law.




I live,” says the believing soul, “yet not I.” Being crucified with Christ I died; “but Christ liveth in me” (Galatians 2:20). Christ dwells in the hearts of His people. His living in us is our deliverance from sin’s dominion. Being made “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), we live unto God. We are commanded to hold fast our confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end (Hebrews 3:6). That is to say, we are commanded to look away from self to Christ for everything pertaining to life and godliness.


That does not mean that we are lawless rebels. Just the opposite. We are “not without law to God, but under the law to Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:21). The love of Christ constrains us to live not unto ourselves, but unto Christ who loved us and gave Himself for us.


Galatians 4:21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?


In order to live in holiness and communion with God, we must have no connection to the law; we must have nothing to do with the law; we must be dead to the law, completely freed from the law. Religious legalists, following the wisdom of this world and not the revelation of God the Holy Spirit in Holy Scripture, denounce the Gospel of God’s free grace in Christ as an encouragement to sin (Jude 4). Free grace appears to those who have never experienced it to remove every restraint to sin and give license to every imaginable wickedness.


That we are sanctified as well as justified in Christ, by grace, and not by any works performed by us, is a mystery human wisdom can never fathom. Yet, this is the clearly stated doctrine of Holy Scripture. Is it not? Who can read 1 Corinthians 1:30-31 and Hebrews 10:10-14, and say otherwise?


Dead to the Law


I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God” (Galatians 2:19). — By Adam’s sin, all have come under condemnation. By the curse of God’s holy law which we have broken, all are cut off from God, and life, and light, and holiness, “dead in trespasses and in sins.” Under the curse of the law, we cannot have grace. The law’s curse is a barrier which excludes the purifying streams of Divine grace.


Nothing Acceptable


In this situation and condition nothing we do is acceptable to God. — “The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to the Lord” (Proverbs 15:8; 21:7). — “The plowing of the wicked is sin” (Proverbs 21:4). Though fallen man, under the curse of the law, might bestow all his goods to feed the poor and give his body to be burned for Christ, it would profit him nothing. You may be very respectable and amiable in the eyes of men; but the holy Lord God will not receive you. He will not come to you; and He will not let you come to Him. Until the law has no claim on you God will not accept you.


            Illustration: Boaz and Ruth and the Nearer Kinsman


The law is our jailor. It keeps us firmly bound until we pay the debt we owe. It is a debt we can never pay; but our inability does not free us from our obligation to sinless obedience, perfect righteousness, and complete satisfaction. The debt remains. As transgressors, we are justly under the law’s condemning power. Thus the sinner is kept in chains.


Christ’s Obedience


That is the situation in which the Gospel finds us, under the curse of the law, without any apparent possibility of escape. Christ, the supreme Lawgiver, alone had power over the law. How did He exercise that power? He did not abrogate the law, set it aside, or require it to accept less than justice demanded. That could not be, for God cannot deny Himself.


Instead, the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s darling Son assumed our nature, became our Substitute, went down into the pit in which His elect lay. He bore our curse. The Only-begotten not only yielded to the law the obedience it demanded, but endured its full penalty and drank the cup of Divine wrath to the last bitter dregs. Being made sin, He died under the penalty of sin. Bearing our sin in His own body on the tree, He justly suffered all the fury of God’s holy wrath in the place of God’s elect.


End of the Law


Christ is,” therefore, “the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth” (Romans 10:4). — He fulfilled it in its precept and its penalty; and His resurrection is God’s open and public demonstration and declaration that the debt is paid and justice satisfied. The law has no claim upon the redeemed of the Lord! Its curse is gone! Its power is completely abrogated! In Christ, with Christ, when Christ died and we died in Him, God’s elect have given the law full satisfaction. We have endured the curse. We have paid all which it demanded, and received a full discharge. By our indissoluble union with Christ, God’s elect are dead to the law, that we may live unto God.


The law demands a weighty debt;

And not a cent will it abate.

The Gospel points to Jesus’ blood,

And says, “He made the payment good!”


The law provokes man oft to ill,

And hardened hearts makes harder still.

The Gospel shows Immanuel’s heart

And melts this hardened sinner’s heart!


“Run, run, and work,” the law commands,

But gives me neither feet nor hands.

Much sweeter news the Gospel brings.

It tells me Christ did everything!


That’s my message. That’s my hope. May God make it good to your soul for Christ’s sake.





Don Fortner








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