What the Law Could Not Do

Romans 8:3–4

Principle for Bible Reading

Purpose clauses (“in order that”) tell us why God does what he does. In this lab, Pastor John looks at why God gave us the law and why he sent his Son to die on the cross. All along, he asks how the Christian should relate to the law after Christ has come.

View the outline.


Introduction/Prayer (00:00–01:00)

How should Christians relate to the law now that Christ has come?

Observations (01:00–03:38)

  1. The righteous requirement of the law is love.
  2. What the law could not do Christ did in order to fulfill the law. The law could not fulfill the law.
  3. When Christ died, we were empowered to fulfill the law.
  4. We fulfill the law when we walk not according to the flesh.

Christ’s Coming and Law-Keeping (03:38–06:31)

What does the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus mean for the Christian’s relationship to God and his law?

Read Romans 7:4–6.

You also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. . . . 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 7:4–6)

  1. We died to the law and have been released from it.
  2. We have a living relationship with Jesus and belong to him.
  3. We belong to Jesus in order that we would bear fruit (love).
  4. So, now, we serve God by the Spirit, not by law-keeping.
  5. The law (“the written code”) cannot fulfill the law.

Conclusion (06:31–09:15)

  1. What the law could not do, God did by sending his Son Jesus.
  2. The law is fulfilled by dying to the law. Law-keeping can no longer be the means of law-fulfilling.
  3. We fulfill the law by looking to Christ — his death and resurrection — and depending on his Spirit.

Study Questions

  1. From Romans 8:3–4, what can the law not do? How does God accomplish what the law cannot do?
  2. In Romans 8:3–4 and Romans 7:4–6, why did Christ die and rise again (“in order that”)?
  3. What is the alternative to trying to fulfill the law by law-keeping?
Piper: “We fulfill the law by looking to Christ and depending on his Spirit.”

‘The Greatest Chapter’ Series

This lab is part of a series through Romans 8. Taking a verse or two at a time, John Piper unfolds the other-worldly realities in these thirty-nine verses, all along pointing out general, practical principles for understanding and applying the Bible’s meaning. Visit ‘The Greatest Chapter’ series page to see all the labs in this series.