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Sermon #79 — Romans Series


      Title:                                 The Law’s Failure and

             Its Fulfilment


      Text:                                  Romans 8:3-4

      Reading: Leviticus 19:1-37

                                                            Deuteronomy 6:1-15

                                                            Galatians 2:19-3:29

      Subject:               The Law Fulfilled

      Date:                                Sunday Morning — February 21, 2016



I want to talk to you about the holy law of God. The title of my message is — The Law’s Failure and Its Fulfilment. My text is Romans 8:3-4. — The Law’s Failure and Its Fulfilment (Romans 8:3-4).


No Mixture


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 depraved 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 foolishness and ignorance, man wants to find some legal standing before God.


This is the thing Paul opposes throughout all his epistles. He expends every effort to destroy every remnant of legalism among God’s people. Everywhere in the New Testament, when the law of God is mentioned, we are told that…

  • We are not under the law.
  • We are dead to the law.
  • Christ is the end of the law.

Nowhere is there even a hint that believers are under the law, live by the law, or have anything to fear from the law (Romans 6:14-15; 7:4; 8:1-4; 10:4; Galatians 3:13-14, 24-25; 1 Timothy 1:8-10).


Law and grace cannot be mixed. Any attempt to mix the two will land you in hell.

  • If you choose Moses, you can’t have Christ!
  • If you have Christ, you don’t want Moses!


(Galatians 5:1-4) “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. (2) Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. (3) For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. (4) Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.”


Now, let’s look at Romans 8:3-4. Here God the Holy Ghost plainly tells us of the law’s failure and its fulfilment. That’s my subject. — The Law’s Failure and Its Fulfilment.


(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.”


Moral and Ceremonial


Generally when we speak of God’s law we divide it into two categories (the moral law and the ceremonial law), though technically this cannot be done. The moral law cannot be divided from the ceremonial law for the very simple reason that they were both given to Israel by Moses under the Old Testament economy, and they both have the same purpose. Both the moral and the ceremonial law were given to point sinners to Christ, to show us our Savior, to point the way to him.


The ceremonial law deals with all of the things that had to do with the worship of God in the tabernacle and temple: the rites, rituals, ceremonials, and sacrifices performed by the priests. It stood throughout the Mosaic Age as the instrument of God to portray and point to the way of life. — All the blood of all the thousands of sacrifices that were offered before God could never suffice to wash away even one sin. It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of a heifer could wash the stain of sin from our souls (Hebrews 10:4, 9, 12, 13). The impotence and inefficiency of those legal sacrifices is demonstrated by the fact that they were repeated again and again, day after day and year after year, for 2000 years.


Christ’s One Sacrifice


But the sacrifice of Christ was offered and accepted once for all, never to be repeated. Christ died once for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that one atoning death is forever effectual. It is all-adequate, and all-sufficient.


Most everyone recognizes that that was the purpose of the ceremonial law. Almost all professing Christians recognize that the ceremonial law pointed to Christ and was fulfilled by Christ. But few, very few realize that it is also the purpose of the moral law to point us to the Savior and show us our need of him. And fewer still realize that just as our Lord Jesus fulfilled all the ceremonial law he fulfilled the moral law for his elect. We hold the moral law in the highest esteem. It is like God himself, perfect. It is a picture of holiness. The Ten Commandments were inscribed in stone by the very finger of God.


But we must remember that the law can never save. It can never bring in righteousness. It was not given for that purpose.Law contributes nothing to grace! The purpose of the law is to point us to Christ. It can do no more.

  • Once the needy soul comes to Christ, the law has no other use.
  • Once the sinner comes to Christ, he is done with the law and the law is done with him!

As we read in Galatians 3…


(Galatians 3:24-25” “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.”


It is needful that we understand the teaching of Holy Scripture regarding the law of God and the grace of God. So let’s look at Romans 8:3-4. Here God the Holy Ghost tells us both what the law could not do and what the God of all grace has accomplished in the person and work of his dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.


(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.”


Proposition: The law can never make sinners righteous, but Christ does!


Law’s Failure


First, our text speaks of the law’s failure, “what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh.” — We acknowledge, and rejoice to do so, that “the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good” (Romans 7:12). The law of God is perfect. You cannot add anything to it, nor take anything from it, without spoiling it. If you read the Ten Commandments and understand them in their spiritual meaning, you find that they are far-reaching.

Š      There is nothing right but that of which the law of God approves.

Š      And there is nothing evil except that which the law of God condemns.


(Matthew 22:37-40) “Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. (38) This is the first and great commandment. (39) And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (40) On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”


What a great law the law of God is! What a magnanimous law! What a blessed law! But there is a weakness, a very great weakness. The Spirit of God tells us that that there is something the law can never do because “it was weak through the flesh.” There’s nothing wrong with the law; but there’s much wrong with us! Because of the sinful weakness of our fallen humanity

Š      The law that commands us to love God with all our hearts can never produce that love in us.

Š      The law that requires us to love one another as we love ourselves can never enable us to love one another.

Š      The law that commands righteousness can never make us righteous.

Š      The law that demands holiness from us can never produce holiness in us.


The law cannot produce a new heart in a sinner. It cannot save a lost soul. It cannot justify a guilty person. It cannot draw a wanderer back to God. The law cannot make us new creatures. As it was originally given to Adam in the Garden, had that perfect man obeyed it, would have glorified God and would have produced in him a perfect life. But we are not in the same position towards God as Adam was. We are fallen and have a fallen nature that Paul calls, “the flesh,” which lusts to envy, and turns aside from God. Therefore there are some things the law simply cannot do.

Š      The law can point me in the right direction, but it can’t take me there.

Š      The law can show me my filth, but it can’t remove it.

Š      The law can condemn me for sin, but it can’t put away sin.

Š      The law can tell me what I ought to do, but it can’t give me the slightest inclination to do it.


The law cannot justify the ungodly (Romans 3:19-20; Galatians 2:16, 21).


(Romans 3:19-20) “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.”


(Galatians 2:16) “Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”


(Galatians 2:21) “I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”


The law cannot sanctify a sinner (Galatians 3:1-3.


(Galatians 3:1-3) “O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? (2) This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? (3) Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?”


The law cannot put away sin (Hebrews 10:1-22). The law shows our malady, but offers no remedy. The law denounces sin and warns of death, but does nothing and can’t do anything to turn sinners to God.


Run, Don, run, the Law demands,

But gives me neither feet nor hands:

The Gospel far more sweetly sings;

It bids me fly and gives me wings!


Law’s Fulfilment


That’s the law’s failure. Now, second, let me show you what I can of the law’s fulfilment.


(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.”


Illustration: Little Boy Running Toward

Lit Dynamite Fuse


(Hebrews 10:1-22) “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect. (2) For then would they not have ceased to be offered? Because that the worshippers once purged should have had no more conscience of sins. (3) But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. (4) For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. (5) Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me: (6) In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin thou hast had no pleasure. (7) Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God. (8) Above when he said, Sacrifice and offering and burnt offerings and offering for sin thou wouldest not, neither hadst pleasure therein; which are offered by the law; (9) Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, O God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. (10) By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (11) And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: (12) But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down on the right hand of God; (13) From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. (14) For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified. (15) Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, (16) This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; (17) And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. (18) Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. (19) Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, (20) By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; (21) And having an high priest over the house of God; (22) Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water.


Wondrous grace! Glorious mercy! Inexpressible loving-kindness! The holy Lord God, the Triune Jehovah, God whose law we have broken devised a way to bring his banished ones back to him; and that way is Christ!


God sending — Our text does not speak of God waiting for us to come to him. Oh, no! The text speaks of God sending! — From the Throne of Heaven, God sends! His thoughts are with poor, struggling, guilty, unworthy sinners. The law cannot help fallen man; and fallen man cannot help himself. Therefore Jehovah interposes! — “But God, who is rich in mercy!” — “God sending! — God sends! I repeat, he does not wait for us to come to him. — He sends! He who has been offended sends to make peace!


God sending His Own Son! — God sending, not an angel or host of heavenly angels. Oh, no! God sent his own Son, the Lord Jesus Christ!

Š      John 3:16

Š      1 John 4:9-10


Our case was so desperate that only God, himself, could meet our need! And Jesus Christ, God’s own Son, very God of very God, can do the job! He came into this world as the Sent One of the Triune God!


“Hark, the glad sound, the Savior comes,

The Savior promised long!

Let every heart prepare a throne,

And every voice a song!”


But how does he send him? — God sending His Own Son in the Likeness of Sinful Flesh! How astonished the angels of God must have been, when God sent his own Son to take our flesh into union with himself! — “Verily He took not on Him the nature of angels,” but came here as a man, to save fallen man! He took on him the seed of Abraham, to save his chosen, his elect, his covenant people (Matthew 1:21). Yonder, in Bethlehem’s manger he lies, the offspring of a woman! — Our Savior!

Š      Christ our Surety!

Š      Jehovah’s Righteous Servant!

Š      Behold the love of God!

Š      Behold the grace of God!

Š      Behold the justice of God!

Š      Behold the wisdom of God!


(Philippians 2:1-11) “If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, (2) Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (3) Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. (4) Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. (5) Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (6) Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: (7) But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: (8) And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (9) Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: (10) That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; (11) And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”


Christ did not come in sinful flesh, but he came in the “likeness of sinful flesh.” — He came in the reality of flesh, but not in the sinfulness of flesh. His flesh was like sinful flesh, but it was not sinful flesh. It was real flesh, but it was not sinful flesh. It was the likeness of sinful flesh, for, as you looked upon him, you could not tell him from anyone else. That marvelous prophecy of Isaiah was fulfilled — “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him.” He was “a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief.” This was in the likeness of sinful flesh which he assumed — to be poor, to be hungry, to be thirsty, to be despised, to be rejected, to be homeless, to be friendless, to be forsaken, to be betrayed, to be scourged, to be put to death! He was “numbered with the transgressors!” —— Why?


God sending His Own Son in the Likeness of Sinful Flesh, and for Sin! For Sin! God sent his own darling Son into this world “for sin!” — What a statement! What an astounding statement! — God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin!” God sent his Son into the world because of sin, on a mission, with an assignment, to “save his people from their sins!

Š      Because of Sin

Š      To Punish Sin

Š      To Put Away Sin

Š      To Save from Sin


Still there is more. — “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin — Condemned Sin in the Flesh!” The law could not do it, but Christ did! He “condemned sin in the flesh,” when he who knew no sin was made sin for us!


(2 Corinthians 5:17-21) “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. (18) And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; (19) To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. (20) Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. (21) For he hath made him to be sin for us[1], who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.”


Oh, hear that piercing cry!

What can its meaning be?

“My God! My God! Oh! Why hast Thou

In wrath forsaken me?”


It was because our sins

On Him by God were laid;

He who Himself had never sinned,

For sinners, sin was made!


(Galatians 3:13-14) “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: (14) That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.”


(Hebrews 9:12) “Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.”


(Hebrews 9:26-28) “Now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself. (27) And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: (28) So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.”


I ask again, Why? Why did God do this? Why did Christ do this? Why this great sacrifice? Read verse 4 — Romans 8:4.


“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.”


God sent his own dear Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, that he might be made his sin for us and thereby condemn sin in the flesh. —— He forever put it away, annihilated it, by the sacrifice of himself, when he fully satisfied the justice of God! This he did, that he might make sinners like you and me “the righteousness of God in him! — Yes, blessed be his name forever, “the righteousness of the law is fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit!

Š      Fulfilled by Perfect Obedience!

Š      Fulfilled by Perfect Satisfaction!

Š      Fulfilled by Perfect Justification!

Š      Fulfilled by Perfect Sanctification!

Š      Fulfilled by Resurrection Glory!


“Sons of peace redeemed by blood,

Raise your songs to Zion’s God;

Made from condemnation free,

Grace triumphant sing with me.


Calvary’s wonders let us trace,

Justice magnified in grace;

Mark the purple streams, and say,

Thus my sins were washed away.


Wrath Divine no more we dread,

Vengeance smote our Surety’s head;

Legal claims are fully met,

Jesus paid the dreadful debt.


Sin is lost beneath the flood,

Drowned in the Redeemer’s blood,

Zion, oh! How blest art thou,

Justified from all things now.”

            —John Kent








Don Fortner








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[1] John Bunyan wrote, “How was Jesus Christ made of God to be sin for us? — Even so as if himself had committed all our sins; that they were as really charged upon him as if himself had been the actor and committer of them all. “He hath made him to be sin,” not only as a sinner, but as sin itself. Some, indeed, will not have Jesus Christ our Lord to be made sin for us. Their wicked reasons think this to be wrong judgment in the Lord. It seems, supposing that because they cannot imagine how it should be, therefore God, if he does it, must do it at his peril, and must be charged with doing wrong judgment, and so things that become not his heavenly Majesty. But against this duncish sophistry we set Paul and Isaiah, the one telling us still, “The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” and the other that, “God hath made him to be sin for us.”

But these men, as I suppose, think it enough for Christ to die under that notion only, not knowing nor feeling the burden of sin and the wrath of God due thereto. These make him as senseless in his dying, and as much without reason, as a silly sheep or goat, who also died for sin, but so as in name, in show, in shadow only. They felt not the proper weight, guilt and judgment of God for sin. But thou, sinner, who art so in thine own eyes, and who feelest guilt in thine own conscience, know thou that Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God in flesh, was made to be sin for thee, or stood sensibly guilty of all thy sins before God, and bare them in his own body upon the cross.

God charged our sins upon Christ and that in their guilt and burden. What remaineth but the charge was real or feigned? If real, then he hath either perished under them, or carried them away from before God. If they were charged but feignedly, then did he but feignedly die for them, then shall we have but feigned benefit by his death, and but a feigned salvation at last — not to say how this cursed doctrine chargeth God and Christ with hypocrisy, the one in saying, he made Christ to be sin; the other in saying that he bare our sin; when, in deed and in truth, our guilt and burden never was really upon him.”