WHERE THE LAW FAILS, FAITH PREVAILS
Intro: As we continue to move through this fourth chapter of Romans, we have been challenged by the life of Abraham.
He was a man who was highly revered by the Jews of Paul's day, and Paul appealed to Abraham's life to teach his readers
that salvation was purely the work of God. He has already taught us thatworks cannot save, v. 1-8; then he showed us
thatcircumcision could not save the soul, v. 9-12. In these verses, Paul is going to reveal to us the truth that keeping the
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 friends, if you
believe that, you are guilty of believing false doctrine! The truth of the matter is this: nothing you do can save your soul!
It is not, nor has it ever been, about what you do. Salvation has always rested on Who you know!
This is the lesson that Paul wants to teach us tonight. He wants us to learn the truth that the Law is a system of works,
while faith is a system that works! He wants 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. Let's look
into this a little deeper this evening as we think around about the subject: Where The Law Fails, Faith Prevails!
I. V. 13-15 THE PROBLEM WITH THE LAW
(Ill. 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, "1 Now the LORD had 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 shew thee:2
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:3 And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all 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 and 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
2 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, "Abe, you've been a pretty good fellow 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 human 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.)
A. V. 14a It Cripples Faith - 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 it
does not matter whether you keep the Law or not!
(Ill. This is the root of salvation! It all boils down to what a person is trusting 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, 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, the I know that
it isn't what I do, but Who I know that makes the difference in my salvation. With that in mind, I want to say that you can
try to get to Heaven anyway you want to. You can try to be good and get there, or you can try to get there by trusting
Jesus. But, you cannot have it both ways! It is either by the Law, or it is by faith! Which is it for you?)
B. V. 14b It Cancels Promises - 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, your efforts will never work to save your soul! No matter how
good we try to be, we cannot keep the Law perfectly. It just won't work!
(Ill. Suppose I offered you $100.00 to climb up on this building, jump off, flap your arms and fly around the parking lot.
Who will be the first to try it? What if I offer you $1000.00? Or maybe $10,000.00? Let's make it half a million!
Anyone want to try? Of course not! And do you know why? Because it would not matter if I offered you 1 billion
dollars, no one in this room, or in this world could do it. It is an absolute impossibility!)
(Ill. 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 so
the promise is of no effect! It does not matter what reward may be offered, no one can keep the Law of the Lord!)
C. V. 15 It Condemns Sinners - A third 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? If you are trusting your being able to keep the Law to get you to Heaven, you are in a
(Here is the problem with trying to be good enough to get into Heaven. James 2:10, "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. 39 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
(Ill. 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 is kind of 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 simply by faith!)
I. The Problem With The Law
II. V. 16-17 THE POWER OF FAITH
(Ill. Now, Paul reveals the other side of the coin. He tells us in these 2 verses that salvation by faith is far superior to the
Law, because faith does what the Law could never do. Notice these truths with me now.)
A. V. 16a It 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
favor 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.
B. V. 16b It 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
salvation? Absolutely! Notice 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!
(Ill. Think this through this evening. The Bible tells us that no liars will 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? 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 need 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!)
(Ill. 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! Hallelujah, salvation is a reality!)
(Ill. This is the basic problem face by people who teach that one can lose their salvation. How do you lose it? Is it one
sin? Is it 10 sins? Do you have to totally renounce Jesus as Savior? Where do you draw the line? In my opinion, people
who believe that they are responsible to maintain their 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 they have to keep themselves saved are trusting their works and not Jesus
alone! I have doubts about their salvation! If salvation comes by grace through faith alone, then my works have no
bearing on my salvation! If I sin, I will be chastened, 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 as for me, I will trust Jesus to get me to Heaven. If it is up to me to keep myself in the faith, then I'll see you
in Hell, because that is where we will all end up!)
C. V. 17a It 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 anyone who will to come and be saved, Rev. 22:17; Rom. 10:13.
(Ill. 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 would go to Hell. The point is,
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 world, and anyone who will come to Him can be saved!)
D. V. 17b It Acknowledges The Power Of God To Save -
(Ill. 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 was 90.)
(Ill. 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 God Who has the power to
make the dead sinner alive and Who has the power to take that person to Heaven. Not by goodness, but by the power of
Conc: What does all this mean for us this evening? 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 Jesus Christ by faith. Your good works and your good intentions
will not 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 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. Where is your faith this evening? Does it rest
in the futility of the Law and in doing good? Or, does it rest in Jesus Christ and His shad blood? Your eternity hinges on