No Law, No Transgression—Romans 4:15

“...because law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15)

What a marvelous statement!

What a heretical statement!

For the Jews living in Paul’s day, for the Gentile Romans to whom he writing and also for Christ-followers today, this is a shocking statement!

Here is the Juli summarization of what Paul is saying: Living as a rule-follower makes Jesus’s sacrifice worthless. Rules only bring punishment…but if there are no rules to follow, then we can never be guilty of breaking them (Rom. 4:14-15).

Is anyone uncomfortable now?

Admittedly, it is easier to have a list to follow of the things we should or shouldn’t do. It certainly makes it more apparent if we’re doing okay before God. But following the rules to simply follow them actually changes the way we want God to relate to us. We are asking Him to deal with us according to what we’ve done instead of what He’s done.

The result, wrath—yikes!

Remember, there were certain reasons the law was given, and none had anything to do with righteousness. (Need a refresher on the purpose of the law? You’ll find some links below describing its purpose).

In summary, the law’s purpose was to show what sin was, condemn us, and to release God’s wrath against it so we would look for help. (This is one of the major themes in the Book of Romans.)

How amazing that Paul observes, if there is no law, then there cannot be any transgression.

What?

But remember, this how God dealt with humanity before the law was given? (Rom. 15:13). Why are we surprised that this was part of His plan when Jesus came to complete and fulfil the law (Matt. 5:17-18, Rom. 10:4).

And if there is no transgression of the law, then there is no wrath against sin either because all sin has been paid for. See Heb. 7:27; 8:12; 9:12, 14, 26, 28; 10:10, 12, 14, 18, 22; 1 Pet. 3:18… yes, I put a many references here because I want to be clear. Am I?

Here’s the bottom line: We DON’T need a list of do's and don’ts to tell us how to live, as in Christ we have God’s very own righteous showing and enabling us how to live. Paul summarized this best when he said, “The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love,” (Gal. 5:6b).

Let’s let what love requires instead of rules lead us in our relationships and actions.

We can now relate to God on the basis of faith in what Jesus did for us. When we trust in His goodness, we will never experience His wrath, only His kindness and, as the scriptures say, His kindness is what leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). If there is sin in our lives, then only God’s kindness can ever truly bring about changes in our heart and behavior.

Where today has following the rules disconnected you from God?

What would it look like to trust in His grace in the areas where you struggle?

Where can you let love for God and others lead your behavior?

Previous: Romans 4:14  Next: Romans 4:16

Original article published July 7, 2009.

The Purpose of the Law

  • To show what sin is: Rom. 3:20, 7:7, 13
  • To arouse sin: Rom. 7:8-9, Gal. 3:19
  • To condemn: Rom. 7:10, Gal. 3:10, 23
  • To crucify sin nature: Gal. 2:20
  • To bring us to Christ: Gal. 2:19, 3:24

Articles I've Written About the Law's Purpose

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