“The Purpose of the Law for the NT Believer” – Romans 7:1-13

November 27th, 2016

Message Text: Romans 7:1-13

“The Purpose of the Law for the NT Believer”

Aux Text: Matt 13:52

Call to Worship: Psalm 119:9-16


Service Orientation: The follower of Jesus does not look to obedience to the Law as the basis of his salvation and sanctification but as a tutor to drive him to Jesus.  Do you give the Law of God opportunity to do this work?


Bible Memory Verse for the Week:  Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.  But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. — Romans 3:20-21


Background Information:

  • Much of what Paul says in this paragraph parallels (Romans) chapter 6. As believers “die to sin” (6:2) and are set free from it (6:6), so they “die to the law” (7:4) and are set free from it (7:6).  As freedom from sin leads to serving God and producing fruit pleasing to him (6:18-22), so freedom from the law leads to serving “in the new way of the Spirit” (7:6) and producing “fruit to God” (7:4).  These parallels may suggest that 6:15-7:6 is a single, two-staged, exposition of the new life that freedom from sin and the law produces.  (Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans, 218)
  • It is this subject that the Apostle takes up in this 7th chapter. It is the chapter of chapters concerning the Law and its function, and the relationship of the Christian to the Law.  It is vitally important that we should be clear to this particular relationship; so the Apostle expounds it in the body of this chapter, and step by step he shows that sanctification by the Law is as impossible as was justification by the Law.  In his first four chapters the Apostle is proving that “no man can be justified by the deeds of the law;” he is now equally concerned to show that no man can be sanctified by the Law or by being “under the law.”  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 7.1-8.4, 110)
  • We are now ready to summarize three possible attitudes to the law, the first two of which Paul rejects, and the third of which he commends. We might call them ‘legalism,’ ‘antinomianism’ and ‘law-fulfilling freedom.’  Legalists are ‘under the law’ and in bondage to it.  They imagine that their relationship to God depends on their obedience to the law, and they are seeking to be both justified and sanctified by it.  But they are crushed by the law’s inability to save them.  Antinomians (or libertines) go to the opposite extreme.  Blaming the law for their problems, they reject it altogether, and claim to be rid of all obligation to its demands.  They have turned liberty into license.  Law-fulfilling free people preserve the balance.  They rejoice both in their freedom from the law for justification and sanctification, and in their freedom to fulfill it.  They delight in the law as the revelation of God’s will (7:22), but recognize that the power to fulfill it is not in the law but in the Spirit.  Thus legalists fear the law and are in bondage to it.  Antinomians hate the law and repudiate it.  Law-abiding free people love the law and fulfil it.  (John Stott, Romans, God’s Good News for the World, 191-2)


The question to be answered is . . .  Knowing that Christ has fulfilled and completed the Law, what is the purpose of the Law for the New Testament believer in Jesus now?


AnswerThe Law is a revelation of truth, an explanation of what it means to love, a reminder of our sinfulness and our need for continual repentance, an elaboration of the work of Jesus, and a reminder that true sanctification is not possible outside of our being “In Christ.”


The LAW only tells us what not to do.   The LAW in no way equips us to follow it.  – Steve Brown


The Word for the Day is . . . Sanctify


The antinomian tendency is much older than Luther and possibly as old as some reactions to Paul’s gospel.  It is based upon the mistaken conclusion–strongly rejected by Paul–that because we are not justified by keeping the law, but through our personal relationship of confidence in Jesus, in his death and his life, we have no essential use for the law and can simply disregard it.  (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 213)


The Purpose of the Law of God for the New Testament Believer is: (Mt 13:52)

I-  It is a source of truth.  (Ps 19:7-14; ch 119; Jn 8:32-36; 14:6; 17:17; 2 Tm 2:15)


The good news of the Gospel is founded upon Who Christ is and what He has done.  Not upon who we are and what we have done.  If you find yourself depressed or discouraged because you do not feel you can keep up this Christian life, then this is an indication that you are a slave to self-righteousness and you are counting on what you are and what you have done instead of Christ.  Cheer up.  You are a whole lot more sinful than you think.  But cheer up!   God is much more forgiving, gracious, merciful, and loving than we ever dreamed or imagined.  —Pastor Keith


Your discontent, your striving to be holy, to be sanctified, to be like Jesus, your thinking that something is wrong with your life and that you need to be more than you know you are at present; is God’s gift to you to come to Jesus and find your rest in Him. —Pastor Keith


Self-righteousness is the one sin if you have it you don’t know it.   —Steve Brown


The Law is a kind of transcript of the character of God; it is a perfect expression of His desire and of His will.  The Law, therefore, is holy in the sense that it not only reveals to us the character of God, and what our character should therefore be, but it also holds us to that revelation.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 7.1-8.4, 163)


Paul’s usage will show that the word “Spiritual” is derived from the Holy Spirit.  “Spiritual words” (1 Cor 2:13) are words taught of the Holy Spirit.  The “Spiritual man” (1 Cor 2:15) is the man indwelt and controlled by the Holy Spirit.  “Spiritual songs” (Eph 5:19; Col 3:16) are songs incited by the Holy Spirit.  “Spiritual understanding” (Col 1:9) is the understanding imparted by the Holy Spirit (cf. also Rom 1:11; 1 Cor 3:1; 10:3, 4; 12:1; 15:44, 46; 1 Pt 2:5).  Hence the statement, “the law is Spiritual” refers to its divine origin and character.  Since it is Spiritual it is possessed of those qualities which are divine–holy, just, and good.  (John Murray, The New International Commentary on the New Testament: Romans, 254)


II-  An explanation of what it means to love.  (Mt 22:35-40; 7:12; Rom 13:8-10; Gal 5:14; Jam 2:8-12)


Lord willing we will cover this subject in much greater detail on December 18th.  But for now, please consider the scripture texts given above which all confirm that . .  “love is the fulfillment of the law.” (Rom 13:10b) and that . . . “All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” ; Love God and love others as yourself (Mt 22:35-40). — Pastor Keith


III-  A reminder of our sinfulness and our need for continual repentance. (Ps 119:11, 105; Isa 64:6; 66:1-2; Jer 17:9; Mt 3:2-11; 4:17; 5:3-48; Lk 5:32;  13:1-5; 15:7, 10; 24:47; Jn 7:19; Acts 2:38; 7:53; 17:30; 20:21; 26:20; Rom 3:9-31; 7:1-16; 8:1-7; 1 Cor 15:56; 2 Cor 3:1-7; Gal 4:21; 5:3-4; Heb 4:12; Jam 1:25; 1 Jn 1:10; Rev chps 2 & 3)  


Growth in holiness cannot continue where repenting from the heart has stopped.  (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 139)


The Law is a divinely sent Hercules to attack and kill the monster of self-righteousness and to show us every day just how desperate we need God’s grace.  —Martin Luther  (Tullian Tevidgjian, Life Without God – Pt 7)


True repentance only begins when one passes out of what the Bible sees as self-deception (cf. Jas 1:22, 26; 1 Jn 1:8) and modern counselors call denial, into what the Bible calls conviction of sin  (Cf. Jn 16:8). (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 123-4)


“The more spiritual light they have enjoyed, the more they have seen their own countless defects and shortcomings.” (J. C. Ryle; Holiness, xxi)


Now, the more I look into this perfect law, the more I feel how far I come short of it; and the more I feel this, the more I feel my need of his blood to atone for all my sin, and of his Spirit to purify my heart, and make me “perfect and entire, lacking nothing.”

Therefore I cannot spare the law one moment, no more than I can spare Christ; seeing I now want it as much to keep me to Christ, as I ever wanted it to bring me to him.  Otherwise, this “evil heart of unbelief” would immediately “depart from the living God.”  Indeed each is continually sending me to the other,–the law to Christ, and Christ to the law.  On the one hand, the height and depth of the law constrain me to fly to the love of God in Christ; on the other, the love of God in Christ endears the law to me “above gold or precious stones;” seeing I know every part of it is a gracious promise which my Lord will fulfill in its season.  (John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 5, 445)


Jews were to see their inability to keep the Law and, because of this, look to the Messiah all the more.  God designed the Law this way.  Moreover, even if by some miracle a Jew was able to keep EVERY SINGLE tenet of the Law, he would likely still fail in one—his attitude.  The Law, after all, creates a horrible “Catch-22” almost by necessity.  The better you “keep” the Law, the more you think yourself basically “good” and the less you humble yourself before God.  You quickly become self-righteous and prideful.  Thus, though you may be able to keep many outward tenets of the Law (as the Pharisees did), your motivation for doing so would have shifted from love of God to love of self.  All the outward piety in the world cannot cover a sick and twisted heart. Period. — Chris Scripter


A good way of putting this is to say that he means, “I became poor in spirit,” as the first beatitude in the Sermon on the Mount puts it (Mt 5:3).  A man who is poor in spirit is a lifeless man.  The man who is “alive” is a man who is full of spirit and of power and confidence.  We say “there is a great spirit in that man.”  But the true Christian becomes “poor in spirit;” he says, “Who am I and what can I do?”  He is not only poor in spirit, he also mourns.  He was not mourning before; he was boasting.  But he is now mourning because of his sin; he is troubled and unhappy.  He has now had such a view of the Law that he feels he can do nothing, he is exactly as if he were dead.  He sees the holiness of God and the holiness of the Law; he also has a sight of the terrible, evil power that is within himself.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 7.1-8.4, 140-1)


If we think back to our pre-Christian days, were we overburdened by a sense of sin and guilt?  Not until the Holy Spirit brought his conviction on us, quickened our consciences, and made us alive to the law did we feel for the first time the weight or our guilt.  That is what drove us to Christ and gave us a new life.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Romans, 218)


There was more ink given to the construction of the tabernacle than was used in the entire book of Romans, Paul’s magnum opus of theology.  God was so explicit for two reasons:  for glory and for beauty.  He did not give so much detail for the purpose of creature comforts.  He wanted the tabernacle built for His glory and honor and for the beauty of His holiness.  (RC Sproul, St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary: Matthew, 144)


One of the deep truths of sanctification is that you get “better” and “worse” at the same time!

You truly shine more brightly as you move toward the light.  You hold onto God more steadily.  You’re more loving and joyful.  You’re more trustworthy.  More teachable.  You give to people rather than use them.  But brighter light also exposes more dark corners, pockets of unconscionable and once unimaginable iniquity.  (John Piper & Justin Taylor, Sex and the Supremacy of Christ, 101)


Guilt makes us seek Christ, but gratitude should make us serve him.  Guilt should lead to confession, but without a response of love as the motive of renewed obedience, true repentance never matures.  (Bryan Chapell; Holiness by Grace, 192)


Vance Havner — A lot of people have been starched and pressed, but never washed.


I think, the right method of preaching is this:  At our first beginning to preach at any place, after a general declaration of the love of God to sinners, and his willingness that they should be saved, to preach the law, in the strongest, the closest, the most searching manner possible; only intermixing the gospel here and there, and showing it, as it were, afar off.

After more and more persons are convinced of sin, we may mix more and more of the gospel, in order to “beget faith,” to raise into spiritual life those whom the law hath slain; but this is not to be done too hastily neither.  Therefore, it is not expedient wholly to omit the law; not only because we may well suppose that many of our hearers are still unconvinced; but because otherwise there is danger, that many who are convinced will heal their own wounds slightly; therefore, it is only in private converse with a thoroughly convinced sinner, that we should preach nothing but the gospel.  (John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 11, 486-7)


The Law is a guide.  Your salvation is in Christ.  Therefore there is no room for pride, self-confidence or self-righteousness.  All have failed miserably under the Law.  (Eph 2:8-9)


Probably the finest NT statement of the normative use of the law is in Gal 2:19; “I through the law died to the law” (Gk. Dia nomou nomq apethanon).  Paul meant that the law became his teacher to lead him away from itself to the Savior.  When he fully comprehended the law’s meaning (Rom 7:1-12), he realized what a violator of it he actually was and died to it as the meritorious ground of salvation.  Accordingly, he asked the Galatians, “Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law?” (4:21).  People think they live by the law, which actually condemns them, because they do not hear it.  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 90)


Heidelberg Catechism: Question number 60 Q. How are you right with God?

  1. Only by true faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 3:21-28; Gal 2:16; Eph 2:8-9; Phil 3:8-11).

Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all of God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them (Rom 3:9-10), and even though I am still inclined towards all evil (Rom 7:23), nevertheless, without my deserving it at all (Ti 3:4-5), out of sheer grace (Rom 3:24; Eph 2:8), God grants and credits to me the perfect salvation, righteousness, and holiness of Christ (Rom 4:3-5; Gn 15:6; 2 Cor 5:17-19; 1 Jn 2:1-2), as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner, as if I had been perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me (Rom 4:24-25; 2 Cor 5:21).

All I need to do is to accept this gift of God with a believing heart (Jn 3:18; Acts 16:30-31).


Q61.           Why do you say that by faith alone you are right with God?

  1. It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me. Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God (1 Cor 1:30-31).  And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone (Rom 10:10; 1 Jn 5:10-12).


Q62.           Why can’t the good we do make us right with God, or at least help make us right with him?

  1. Because the righteousness which can pass God’s scrutiny must be entirely perfect and must in every way measure up to the divine law (Rom 3:20; Col 3:10; Dt 27:26). Even the very best we do in this life is imperfect and stained with sin (Isa 64:6).


IV-  An elaboration on the work of Jesus.  (Mt 5:17-20; Lk 24:44-45; Jn 3:16; Rom 3:19-31; 6:14-15; 7:1-9; Gal 2:16-21; 3:10-25; Bk of Heb)  


Go back again and read the books of Leviticus and Numbers; read all about the burnt offerings and sacrifices; read all about the tabernacle, and the temple ceremonial, all about the altar and the laver of washing and so on.  Go back to those details and ask yourself, “What do all these things mean?  What are they for, the shewbread, and the high priest, and the vessels, and all these other things?  What are they meant to do?”  They are nothing but shadows, types, prophecies of what is going to be done fully and finally by the Lord Jesus Christ.  He indeed has literally fulfilled and carried out and brought to pass every single one of those types.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 168)


Christ’s work does not come as an afterthought appended to an already self-existing, self-sufficient law.  The law of the OT is not a mere datum or a mere code book, but the personal word of the great King of the universe.  And who is this King?  From eternity to eternity the Word was with God and was God (Jn 1:1).  The King is the Trinitarian God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  God the Son was always at work from the beginning.  The law of Moses is a reflection and foreshadowing of the absolute perfection and righteousness of Christ, rather than Christ being a reflection of the law.  (Vern Poythress, Ph.D., The Shadow of Christ in the Law of Moses, 92-3)


In His death, resurrection and ascension the whole of the ceremonial law has been entirely fulfilled.  In conformation of that, as it were, the temple was later destroyed.  The veil of the temple had already been rent in twain at His death, and finally the temple and all that belonged to it were destroyed.  So that, unless I see that the Lord Jesus Christ is the altar and the sacrifice and the laver of washing and the incense and everything else, I am still bound to that Levitical order.  Unless I see all this fulfilled in Christ, unless He is my burnt offering, my sacrifice, my everything, all this ceremonial law still applies to me, and I shall be held responsible unless I perform it.  But seeing it all fulfilled and carried out in Him, I say I am fulfilling it all by believing in Him and by subjecting myself to Him.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, 170)


This means that the Bible is about Jesus and that he is its fulfillment in all ways.  He fulfills the moral law by his obedience, the prophecies by the specifics of life, and the sacrificial system by his once-and-for-all atonement.  This is a part of what Paul means in Rom 10:4 when he calls Christ “the end of the law.”  (James Montgomery Boice, The Gospel of Matthew, Vol. 1, 81)


V-  A reminder that true sanctification can only be achieved by being “in Christ.” (Lv 6:16-18, 25-27; 11:44-45; 19:2; 20:7-8, 26; 21:6-8, 15, 22-23; 22:9, 16, 32; Isa 64:6; Jer 31:31-34; Jn 17:17-19; Acts 13:39; 26:18; Rom 1:16-17; 3:9-31; 8:2-4; 10:4-5; 15:16; Bk of 1 Cor; 1:2, 30; 6:11; 2 Cor 1:12; 5:21; Gal 2:16-21; 5:18-23; Eph 5:25-27; Phil 3:9; 2 Thes 2:13; 1 Tm 1:7-11; Heb 2:11; 8:10-12; 10:10, 14-15, 16; 12:10, 14; 13:11-12; 1 Pt 1:2, 15-16; 2:1-9)


To the degree that we feel we are on legal or performance relationship with God, to that degree our progress in sanctification is impeded.  A legal mode of thinking gives indwelling sin an advantage, because nothing cuts the nerve of the desire to pursue holiness as much as a sense of guilt.  On the contrary, nothing so motivates us to deal with sin in our lives as does the understanding and application of the two truths that our sins are forgiven and the dominion of sin is broken because of our union with Christ.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 108)


Satan would have us define ourselves as holy by the Law, when God gave us the law to define us as sinners.  —Chuck Swindoll


The reason why so few believers “through the Spirit mortify the deeds of the body,” is, a forgetfulness that the work has to do first and mainly with the root of sin in the soul:  “Make the tree good, and the fruit will also be good”; purify the fountain, and the stream will be pure.  Oh, were there a deeper acquaintance with the hidden iniquity of our fallen nature,–a more thorough learning out of the truth,–that “in our flesh there dwelleth no good thing,”–a more heartfelt humiliation on account of it, and more frequent confession of it before God,–how much higher than they now are would be the attainments in holiness of many believers!  (Octavius Winslow, Personal Declension and Revival of Religion in the Soul, 172)


It happens all the time, often for good reasons.  We think that there has to be more discipline, more obedience, more holiness and more sanctification . . . and all of that is true.  It is just that those things don’t come from effort, they come from being free and loved. (Steve Brown; Living Free, 171-2)


To slay the sinner is, then, the First use of the law; to destroy the life and strength wherein he trusts, and convince him that he is dead while he liveth; not only under the sentence of death, but actually dead unto God, void of all spiritual life, “dead in trespasses and sins.”  The Second use of it is, to bring him unto life, unto Christ, that he may live.  It is true, in performing both these offices, it acts the part of a severe school-master.  It drives us by force, rather than draws us by love.  And yet love is the spring of all.  It is the spirit of love which, by this painful means, tears away our confidence in the flesh, which leaves us no broken reed whereon to trust, and so constrains the sinner, stripped of all, to cry out in the bitterness of his souls, or groan in the depth of his heart,

I give up every plea beside,–

Lord, I am damn’d; but thou hast died.

The Third use of the law is, to keep us alive.  It is the grand means whereby the blessed Spirit prepares the believer for larger communications of the life of God.  (John Wesley, The Works of John Wesley, Vol. 5, 443)


The law is still important to the Christian.  For the first time, he is able to meet the law’s demands for righteousness (which was God’s desire when He gave it in the first place), because he has a new nature and God’s own Holy Spirit to empower his obedience.  And although he is no longer under the law’s bondage or penalty, he is more genuinely eager to live by its godly standards than is the most zealous legalist.  With full sincerity and joy, he can say with the psalmist, “O how I love Thy law!” (Ps 119:97).  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8, 364)


Puritan author, Samuel Bolton, “The law sends us to the Gospel, that we may be justified, and the Gospel sends us to the law again to enquire what is our duty in being justified.”  The Law informs us of what God requires and the Spirit empowers us as we fulfill our duty.  (Alister Begg; Pathway to Freedom, 29)


Any teaching with regard to holiness and sanctification which starts with us and our needs, rather than with the glory of God, is unscriptural, and seriously unscriptural.  That subjective approach, it seems to me, is what has led so many astray for so many years.  (D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Romans, Exposition of Chapter 6, 178)


Mortification from a self-strength, carried on by ways of self-invention unto the end of a self-righteousness, is the soul and substance of all false religion in the world. —John Owen  (Sinclair B. Ferguson; The Christian Life, 160)


Let us consider what regard we ought to have to our own duty and to the grace of God.  Some would separate these things as inconsistent.  If holiness be our duty, they would say, there is no room for grace; and if it be the result of grace there is no place for duty.  But our duty and God’s grace are nowhere opposed in the matter of sanctification; for the one absolutely supposes the other.  We cannot perform our duty without the grace of God; nor does God give his grace for any other purpose than that we may perform our duty.  (Jerry Bridges, The Discipline of Grace, 133)


I took some comfort in the fact that the church in the first century was already on a seesaw, tilting now toward perfectionistic legalism and now toward raucous antinomianism. …The church, in other words, should be both:  a people who strive toward holiness and yet relax in grace, a people who condemn themselves but not others, a people who depend on God and not themselves. (Philip Yancey; Finding God in Unexpected Places, 222)


Arrogant wrongdoing is the deepest possible wound people can inflict on their soul.  Efforts at spiritual formation in Christlikeness obviously must reverse this process of distancing the soul from God and bring it back to union with him.  What can help us do that?  The law of God.  (Dallas Willard; Renovation of the Heart, 211)


Why, one wonders, did God give His chosen people a law that was impossible for them to keep?  His purpose was not only to reveal the standard of righteousness by which the saved are to live but also to show them the impossibility of living it without His power and to show them the depth of their sinfulness when honestly measured against the law.  The law was not given to show men how good they could be but how good they could not be.  Following his quotation from Dt 27:26, Paul told the Galatians, “Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident” (Gal 3:11a).  To substantiate that truth he quoted another OT passage that declared that “the righteous man shall live by faith” (v. 11b; cf. Hab 2:4).  The law was given to establish God’s standard and to reveal to men the utter impossibility of their achieving that standard of righteousness and their consequent need for forgiveness and for trusting in God’s goodness and mercy.  (John MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8, 367)


“Surely one of the reasons in this day for low moral standards is the lack of awareness of the majesty and holiness of God and of our accountability toward him.  To a certain degree the same deficiencies can be seen among professing Christians.  One of the marks of spiritual decline is that “there is no fear of God before his eyes” (Ps 36:1).  Instead we fill ourselves with confidence in our own sufficiently.  This is the complete antithesis of holiness.” (Kenneth Prior; The Way of Holiness, 21)


The Pharisees’ erroneous interpretation of the law rested on an erroneous view of mankind.  They regarded the fall of Adam as simply the first example of a person deciding wrongly; people can still live correctly after the fall if guided by the law.  But Paul realized that mankind is in no position to fulfill the law.  Nor did faith, for him, presuppose a power to fulfill all the requirements of the law, for a believer was free from the law.  In fact, faith itself is the gift of God (Eph 2:8).

Faith justifies because it means participation in Christ who has fulfilled the law and brought righteousness (Gal 3;11).  Paul contrasted (v. 12) righteousness by the law and righteousness by faith, but believers achieve the latter by Christ’s fulfillment of the law, whereas the former is the supposed righteousness of people who trust in themselves.  The person who thinks that he can effect works-righteousness does not really hear the law, Paul insisted.  Nevertheless, faith-righteousness does not abandon law-righteousness, which is simply placed in Christ rather than the individual.  Those who are in Christ really fulfil the law (Rom 8:4).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 90)


Through the law the sinfulness of sin is exposed.  The law shows it to be rebellion against God.  Though sin is always there it comes to life through the law (Rom 7:8, 9).  It is the law which first makes sin real rebellion (5:20).  Law drives the fallen man to Christ by revealing the enormity of his sin; it completely unmasks him before a Holy God.  Man is shut up by the law under sin (Gal 3:22ff.).  Properly understood then, the law prevents man from attempting to secure a righteous standing before God in any other way than by faith in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ.

God’s eternally abiding standard of acceptance before Him is that of obedience to his will.  The story of God’s grace centers just in this, that that obedience which fallen man is unable to render has been rendered by another in his place.  Paul states, “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous” (Rom 5:19).  Through faith in Christ, his obedience is accounted as ours.

The second positive affirmation of Paul regarding the law is found in such a passage as Rom 8:4, where he states that Christ fulfilled the law in our place precisely “in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” through the dynamic of a new power, even that of the Spirit.  Though the Christian is not under the law as a means of acceptance with God he nevertheless seeks to obey the will of God in conformity to the pattern provided in the law.  The gift of justification leads to a recognition of the task of obedience. (Merrill C. Tenney, Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Vol. 3, 895-6)


Paul’s point was that the Jews were destroying the law in which they boasted while he was establishing what they accused him of destroying.  They destroyed the law by misinterpreting it, thereby crediting it with doing what it cannot do and preventing it from doing in them what it was designed to do.  He bore witness to their zeal in all this (Rom 10:1) but not to their wisdom, for he once suffered from the same error (Phil 3:3f.).  The whole Christian way (not Jewish way) is “in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us” (Rom 8:4).  (Geoffrey W. Bromiley, International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, 90)


“We do not keep ourselves virtuous by our own power,” Pascal wrote, “but by the counterbalance of two opposing vices, just as we stay upright between two contrary winds.  Take one of these vices away and we fall into the other.”

What did Pascal mean by this?  A man or woman who works very hard may simply be avoiding the sin of laziness by being filled with selfish ambition or greed.  Remove his or her hunger for more money, and this person will immediately become as lazy as any of us.

Others might be very disciplined around food.  They would be the last persons on earth you would label as gluttons.  Yet they are disciplined around food because they want to have a physique that will draw attention to themselves, not because they don’t want food to have a hold on their hearts and steal their affection for God.  They may be free from gluttony only because they are slaves to vanity.

Do you see how we play vice against vice–using vanity to destroy gluttony, for instance–and are upheld by the struggle of two sins?  This is a much different holiness than the ancients’ view of a transforming passion that gives birth to virtue.  On and on we could go, showing how 90 percent of our virtue is a sham, a vice wearing a coat and tie.  That’s why Jesus constantly pointed us to the heart, the one battlefield that really matters.  The state of our heart is the true state of our virtue.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 68-9)


It is possible for us to desire holiness for the wrong reasons; perhaps we simply want to use holiness for fame, as others might use a beautiful voice or eloquent speech.  Or perhaps we are steeped in pride and simply unwilling to count ourselves among the truly sinful.  This unholy desire for holiness produces a soul sadness that Satan exploits to further defeat us, with the intent of driving us off the cliff of despair.

Soul sadness “proceeds from an inordinate desire of being delivered from the evil which we feel, or of acquiring the good which we desire: and yet there is nothing which tends more to increase evil, and to prevent the enjoyment of good, than an unquiet mind.”

The essence of the Christian life is a love relationship with God.  Our standing in the Christian life rests with Christ; when the virtues take on too much importance, that is, when acquiring virtues and avoiding sin become the primary focus of our walk, we have elevated the (admittedly important) secondary over the primary.  Another way of putting it is that we have made an idol out of our own piety.  (Gary L. Thomas, Seeking the Face of God, 79)


Worship Point:  Worship the God of the Universe who loves us so much that He gave us His Law because He doesn’t want us to remain where we are but to become sanctified or just like His Son Jesus.


It is a mark of spiritual barrenness in the church when people come to worship to fulfill a duty or keep a habit rather than satisfy an appetite.  —Eric Alexander


Gospel Application:  Learn the Law.  See the Law as truthLove the Law.  Allow the Law to drive you to Jesus and teach you how to love.  Obey the Law by being “in Christ.”


The law was given to drive us to Christ.  But if we do not know His Law, the Law cannot do its job to bring us to repentance and thus drive us to Christ.


Spiritual Challenge:  Every believer should be concerned about sanctification (becoming more and more like Jesus and wanting to completely obey the Law).  But it will never happen apart from being “in Christ” and moved by the Holy Spirt. (Acts 26:18)


Now Christ was all; all my wisdom, all my righteousness, all my sanctification, and all my redemption.  (John Bunyan, Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners, 36)


The generations that heard the gospel of justification by faith hardly understood that sanctification is also by faith.  The power of a holy life for victory over the world and the flesh can only be found in an unceasing exercise of faith in the greatness of God’s power in us.  We should not be surprised that one of the great causes of feebleness in the Church today is the unbelief in the mighty power of Jesus.  (Andrew Murray, Receiving Power from God, 93)


To presume that we can crucify our own flesh is vanity.  If we were to crucify ourselves, all that we would have left is self-righteousness.  We do not crucify ourselves, but rather we are crucified “with Christ.”  (Rick Joyner, There Were Two Trees in the Garden, 145)


Trying to pursue holiness in the flesh is like fighting in quicksand. The more you try, the worse shape you end up in.  —Brad Shaw 3-22-05


Every time I think I can fix it [my sin problem or FWS] I lower the holiness of God.  — Steve Brown


Ministries which attack only the surface of sin and fail to ground spiritual growth in the believer’s union with Christ produce either self-righteousness or despair, and both of these conditions are inimical to spiritual life. (Richard F. Lovelace; Dynamics Of Spiritual Life—An Evangelical Theology of Renewal, 214)


In the corporate manifestation of God’s Spirit, we see Him doing the work of unifying believers with Christ and each other (1 Cor 12:12-13; Eph 4:1-6); transforming them (2 Cor 3:18; Gal 5:16-25); granting gifts that build up the church, the body of Christ (1 Cor 12; Eph 4:7-16); giving the church wise plans (Acts 8:29; 13:2; 15:28); empowering the church in an effective witness (Acts 8:29); 1 Cor 2:4-5; Eph 6:18-20); giving Scripture and prophecy (2 Tm 3:16-17; Joel 2:28-32); molding the church and individual believers to holiness and sanctification (2 Cor 3:18; Gal 5:16-25; Eph 5:26-27 [implied]); and always pointing to Christ, the Head of the church (Jn 15:26-27; Eph 3:2-6).  (Steve Brown, Follow the Wind–Our Lord, The Holy Spirit, 24)


The Holy Spirit—His Work in Salvation


¶106            The Holy Spirit is the administrator of the salvation planned by the Father and provided by the Son’s death, resurrection and ascension.  He is the effective agent in our conviction, regeneration, sanctification and glorification.   He is our Lord’s ever-present self, indwelling, assuring and enabling the believer. (2003 Book of Discipline : Free Methodist Church, 10)


When he talks about the new way of the Spirit, he is not talking about the law, he is talking about something that takes place in us.  The new Spirit within me is what makes the difference, and the Spirit of which he is speaking is the Holy Spirit.  We are called to obey the law, not out of a state of spiritual death, but as those who have been made alive by the Holy Spirit.  Our whole response to the law, our whole attitude to the law is the attitude of those who have been empowered from within the Holy Spirit.  (RC Sproul, The Gospel of God: Romans, 120)


Jesus kept both the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.  And the Christian, with the help of the indwelling Holy Spirit, is called to keep the letter of the law and the spirit of the law.  (RC Sproul, The Gospel of God: Romans, 121)


You have heard, no doubt, of the Irishman who, when asked the way to Dublin, scratched his head and said, “Sure, if I was going to Dublin, I wouldn’t start from here.”  In the same way, I must confess that when the agenda is to try to help Christians form the habit of continual repentance, I would not choose to start from here–not, that is, from the cultural milieu of the modern West at the end of the twentieth century.  Everything, humanly speaking, is set against this agenda, in a way that has never, perhaps, been true before.  (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 143)


“Christians who are filled with the Spirt will live ordered, disciplined lives controlled by their minds, which are in turn submitted to God’s Word.  Sanctification and the Word of God are deeply linked . . .The fullness of the Holy Spirit then has more to do with holiness of life than with charismatic gifts.  (Kenneth Prior; The Way of Holiness, 127)


Signs of spiritual growth and sanctification:


  • There is a growing delight in praising God
  • There is a growing instinct for caring and giving, with a more pronounced dislike of the self-absorption that constantly takes without either caring or giving.
  • There is a growing passion for personal righteousness.
  • There is a growing zeal for God’s cause, with more willingness to take unpopular action to further it.
  • There is a greater patience and willingness to wait for God and bow to His will, with a deeper abhorrence of what masquerades as the bold faith. (J. I. Packer; Rediscovering Holiness, 188-9)


So What?:  In our self-centered, self-absorbed, self-gratifying, self-interested culture, there is no interest in sanctification or submitting to the Law of God.  Plan on resistance if you plan on becoming sanctified.  (Mt 5:10-12; Lk 11:49; 21:12; Jn 15:20; 1 Thess 3:4)






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