The Powerlessness of Law (Gospel Preaching and Sanctification, part 9)



We left off discussing our ongoing need for sanctifying grace, i.e., God's work to conform us to the likeness of Christ. We daily need this kind of grace because we are still sinners and to some degree we still fail to see Christ's majestic beauty and our severe daily need for sanctification. We still need to discuss "Christ's majestic beauty," but first I want to round out our discussion of the proper use of God's law in our sanctification. Pointedly, God's law shows us our need for sanctifying grace, but it is never the power of sanctifying grace.

The Christian, if he is to walk by grace through faith, must always remember that God's law commands holiness but does not produce it. It requires righteousness from the sinner but does not provide righteousness for the sinner. 

Question #19. Why must we never treat God's law (i.e., His holy commandments) as the power of sanctifying grace? 

Because law arouses sinful passions rather than kills them.

"For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. [6] But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code." (Romans 7:5-6)
"But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead." (Romans 7:8)
"The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. [11] For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. [12] So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. [13] Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure." (Romans 7:10-13)
"... who has made us sufficient to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (2 Corinthians 3:6-11)

Question #20. Does this mean that obeying commandments is not important? 

NEVER! It means the power to obey commandments does not come from commandments, but only from the Spirit of the risen Lord. It means we look to Christ alone to produce obedience and kill sin within us.

"For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace. [15] What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means!" (Romans 6:14-15)


If we genuinely desire holy obedience, we will look to Christ alone as the power source. We will be desperate for Christ and His sanctifying grace. We will indeed love God's law because it shows us God and shows us our ongoing need for our beloved Savior, ever turning our hearts to Jesus for mercy and Spiritual power.