Breaking the Law
As we read through the fourth chapter of Romans, we will be challenged by the life of Abraham. He was a man who was highly revered by the Jews of the apostle Paul’s day, and Paul appealed to Abraham’s life to teach his readers that salvation was purely the work of God. In the verses 1-8, he has already taught that works cannot save, then he showed that circumcision could not save the soul, v. 9-12. And now in verses
13 -17, Paul is going to reveal to us the truth that
keeping the Law , Gods law, cannot save the soul either?
Sadly, many in our day seem to think that salvation works according to that principle. Many believe that if they do all the good things and avoid the bad things, then God is obligated to let them into Heaven when they die. My dear friends, if you believe that, you are trusting in a false doctrine! The truth of the matter is this: nothing you can do can save your soul!
It is not, nor has it ever been, about what you do. Salvation
has always rested on Christ’s work and not yours!
This is the lesson that God wants to teach us today. He wants us to learn the truth that the Law is a system of works, while Faith is a system that works! He wants us to know that we will never be all that we can believe! If that doesn’t make sense, then think about it like this: You can never become by doing all that you can become by believing. So today, it is my intention to look a little deeper into this matter in this sermon which I have entitled
“BREAKING THE LAW”
First of all let us consider what I’m calling …
THE PROBLEM WITH THE LAW
The key that unlocks the door of understanding concerning these verses is the fact that Paul is referring to a promise the Lord made to Abraham. This promise is found in Genesis 12:1-3,
let us read those verses …
“Now the LORD said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curse thee: and in thee shall all the families of the earth be blessed”
This is basically a three-fold promise. God promised to make him the father of a multitude, to give his offspring the land and to bless all the nations of the world through him. This promise boils down to a promise of salvation that points ahead to the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ 2,000 years later.
The idea that Paul is trying to get across in this verse is that this promise had nothing to do with the Law. In fact, this promise was given 500 years before the Law was given on Mount Sinai. Paul’s point is that the promise and the Law are two separate events and must not be confused.
The promise that Abraham received was not based on his goodness, or on his keeping a series of rules. It was based entirely on his faith in God! God did not look at Abraham and say, ” you’ve been a pretty good guy and you have done all that I asked. Because of that, I am going to bless you.”
In truth, Abraham failed God. He was merely a frail and failing man just like the rest of us. Yet, he received the promise from the Lord. It was not based on his goodness, but, it was based entirely on the goodness of the Lord and it swung on the hinge of faith. Now, if the promises of God do require people to keep the Law of God to obtain them, what does that say about
the Law and about faith?
Paul answers that in three short statements that need to be understood. First of all, he says that the law …
Cripples Faith – “For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:” v14. According to Paul, faith and the Law are mutually exclusive. If the promises of God are given out
on a merit basis, then faith has no place in our lives! You cannot have both at the same time. In other words, if you can get to Heaven by keeping the Law, then you do not need faith. However, if faith alone saves, then; as far as heaven is concerned, it does not matter whether you keep the Law or not!
This is the root of salvation! It all boils down to what a person is trusting in to get them to Heaven. If I believe that I must do certain things and keep certain rules in order to be saved, then I am relying on the Law. Even if I feel that I must do certain things in my life to remain saved, then I am relying on the Law. If I am trusting things, works and rules to get me to Heaven, then I have nullified any faith of which I might boast. However, if I am trusting faith to save me, then I know that it isn’t what I do, but faith in what Christ has done, that makes the difference in my situation. With that in mind, I should say that you can try to get to Heaven anyway you want to. You can try to be good to get there, or you can surely get there by trusting in Jesus. But, you cannot have it both ways! It is either by Law, or it is by faith! You must make up your mind.
Then the apostle Paul adds that the law …
Cancels Promises – “For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none
effect:” v14. If salvation comes about by keeping the Law, then we do not need the promises of God! What is the point of believing? If I can please God by behaving right, then I don’t need Him to get to Heaven, I can get there on my own, just by doing what is right.
Sadly, our efforts will never work to save our soul! No matter how good we try to be, we cannot keep the Law perfectly. It just won’t work!
Supposing that I offered you £100.00 to climb up on top of this studio building, to jump off, flap your arms and fly around the car park. Who will be the first to try it? What if I offer you £1000.00? Or maybe £10,000.00? Anyone want to try? Of course not! And do you know why? Because it would not matter if I offered you a million, no one listening me here in town, or in this world could do it. It is an absolute impossibility!
So it is with trying to obtain salvation by keeping the Law. No person can keep the Law of God 100% of the time! It doesn’t matter how hard you try, you cannot do it! The Law promises life to those who can keep it, but no one can keep that law- so the promise is of no effect! It does not matter what reward may be offered, no one can keep the Law of God.
Then Paul adds that the law …
Condemns Sinners – “Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression” v15.
The problem with the Law is that it is the basis of our condemnation before God. Basically stated, the demands of the Law are impossible for us to keep! Therefore, the more God demands from us, the more we fail. The more we fail, the greater our guilt. The greater our guilt, the greater God’s wrath against us. In other words, we are in deep trouble because we cannot keep the Law. A Law that stands
in judgment of the sin that is in our lives! The bottom line is that if you are trusting your being able to keep the Law to get to Heaven, you are in a hopeless situation.
Here is the problem with trying to be good enough to get into Heaven. James 2:10 reads; “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” Simply stated, if you only break one area of the Law of God, then you are guilty of it all! Suppose for an instant that you steal something. You might think that you have only broken the eighth commandment, Ex. 20:15, “Thou shalt not steal.” However, a closer look at the Bible reveals that in fact, if we have stolen, we have violated the entire Word of God.
Notice what Jesus said, “Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 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. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Matt 22:36-40
I remember a time when I broke a window with a rock. All I did was knock a small hole in one corner of the window.
I only broke a part of it, but the entire window had to be replaced. You see, there is no such thing as a “little sinner”. There is no such thing as a “moderate sinner”. That’s like saying that a woman is just a “little bit” pregnant! In the final analysis, we need to understand that if we have broken the Law of God in just one point, then we are guilty of breaking the entire Law. God requires nothing less that absolute perfection from you and me.
Therefore, we should praise the Lord that salvation does not come by keeping the Law, but by faith!
So then this is The Problem With The Law, it cripples faith, it cancels promises and it condemns sinners.
Let us focus now on Faith, that which breaks the law, or breaks with the law, and brings us into relationship with Jesus.
Look first if you will at THE POWER OF FAITH
Now, Paul reveals to us the other side of the coin. He tells us in the next 2 verses that salvation by faith is far superior to the Law, because faith does what the Law could never do. Lets read again from Romans 4, verses 16 & 17 …
Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all, 17 (As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
Firstly Faith …
Admits The Need For Grace – Faith realizes the human inability to keep the Law. It realizes that salvation must come about by the grace of God, or it will never happen. You see, grace is the unmerited love and favour of God towards sinners. Since salvation is undeserved, (we are sinners!), and is based entirely in the grace of God, (Eph. 2:8-9), it totally rules out the idea of working or of performing to obtain salvation.
Then Faith …
Assures The Soul Of Salvation – The problem addressed here is one of assurance. If salvation is produced by keeping the Law, then no one can ever be sure that they
are really saved! Is it possible to be sure of our salvation? Absolutely – yes! Look at what the apostle John writes in 1 John 5:13. “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God.” This verse is clear! It is possible to be sure that you are saved. However, if I must keep the Law to be saved, then I can never really know for sure. The only real way that I can ever be sure of Heaven and of my salvation is by faith!
For instance …
The Bible tells us that no liars will be allowed into Heaven, Rev. 21:27. Now. Let me ask you a question? Have you ever told a lie? What does that mean for you? Or, does it all hinge on how many lies you have told? Is it 1 lie, 2 lies, 100 lies that will keep you out of Heaven? Are little “white lies” alright? Then what about stealing? Have you ever stolen anything? Ever cheated on your taxes? Have you always given God an honest tithe? The Bible tells us that stealing breaks the Law, Ex. 20:15! Well, if that is the case, then how much stealing is enough to keep you out of Heaven? £10? £100? £1,000?
Let’s look at it from the other side. How much good do you have to do to be sure that you are saved? How many good deeds need to be performed for you to be sure that you are saved? Do you see the point? If salvation comes about by the Law, then you can never know for sure where you stand! Praise the Lord! Paul tells us that the grace of God makes God’s promise of salvation through faith “sure”! You and I can know! Our salvation can be a reality!
This is the basic problem faced by some denominations who teach or preach that one can lose their salvation.
How do they lose it? I ask …
Is it one sin? Is it 10 sins? Do you have to totally renounce Jesus as Saviour? Where do you draw the line? In my opinion, people who believe that they are responsible to maintain there salvation are in the same shape as these people to which Paul was writing. They feel that their salvation hinges on their being able to keep a certain set of rules and regulations. It is my opinion that people who really believe that they have to keep themselves saved are trusting in their works and not in Jesus alone! I have doubts about their salvation! If salvation comes by grace through faith alone, then my works have no bearing at all on my salvation! If I sin, I will be chastened or disciplined, but I cannot lose my salvation, because it is not mine to lose!
I am kept by the power of God and nothing can change that fact. You can believe anything you want to believe about this matter, but for me, I am trusting Jesus to get me to Heaven.
Then Paul shows that Faith …
Allows All Who Will, To Be Saved – Paul draws from Genesis 17:5 to make this point and he reminds us that God promised to make Abraham the father of “many nations”, not just to the Jews. Since it is by faith, salvation is available to every person in the world. There are no prerequisites. There are no additional requirements. God has thrown open the doors of salvation and invites whoever will to come and be saved. Rev. 22:17; Rom. 10:13.
If there were restrictions on salvation then certain people or groups of people would be left out. If it were just for the rich, the poor would go to Hell. If it required an advanced education, then the uneducated and simple would go to Hell.
Thankfully, salvation is for all people, from every walk of life, in any situation and circumstance. When Jesus died on that cross, He died for the sins of the whole world, and anyone who will, can come to Him and be saved!
Finally, Faith …
Acknowledges The Power Of God To Save –
Faith works because it rests in the power of God!
Paul describes the Lord in 2 ways.
1.) He makes the dead to live, &
2.) He speaks and things which have not existed become a reality. When Abraham placed his faith in God, he was made alive in God and he received things from God that were impossible from a human standpoint. He saw a son born when he was 100 and his wife Sarah was 90.
This illustrates the basic problem with the Law: the Law cannot change the sinner and it cannot make him alive. All the Law can do is point out our weakness and remind us of impending judgment. This also illustrates the power of faith. Faith saves because faith looks beyond the weakness and sinfulness of the man, and looks to a Loving God who has the power to make those dead in sin, to become alive in Christ, and who has the power to take those believers to Heaven.
NOW THIS FINAL WORD
What does all this mean for us? Simply this: If we ever hope to reside in Heaven, then we must learn the valuable lesson that it will only happen as we trust in Jesus Christ by faith. Your good works and your good intentions will not ever save you.
However, when your faith is placed in Jesus for salvation, you are declared righteous by God, you are accepted by God, you experience something that the Law could never produce. At the moment of your salvation, you are given the very life of Christ, Gal. 2:20, and God begins the work of changing you from the inside out! Keeping the Law demands outward change, but it can never change the heart. Salvation, on the other hand, changes the heart, which produces outward change with little effort on the part of the child of God.
The Hymn writer could say:
My Faith has found a resting place
Not in devise or Creed
I trust the ever living Word
His wounds for me shall plead
I have no other argument
I need no other plea
It is enough that Jesus died
and that he died for me.