Posted by: forfreedomalone | 20/07/2017

To work, or not to work, that is the question.

We are justified apart from “works of the law”. We are told this over and over and indeed it is good news, but what does it mean?
Most Christians would understand the term to mean, any actions required by the Mosaic law. It is understood that Jesus nullified or did away with, the Mosaic law in its totality and that to keep any part of it was it “go back under law”, as the “Old Covenant” was based upon a works-based righteousness, or salvation.
The feeling is that as Paul preached against “works of the law” there can be no doubt that such works are not part of the miscalled “New Covenant”.
So where did he preach against the “works of the law” and what was he talking about?
There are only two book in the Bible where Paul talks about “works of the law”; twice in Romans and 4 times in Galatians, a total of 6 verses in the whole Bible mention this subject.(Rom 3:27; Rom 9:32; Gal 2:16′ Gal 3:2,5 & 10)
So can we conclude that Paul was against the law (properly Torah) from these verses? It is certainly what many think, but there is a problem in the shape of 7 more verses, mainly from Romans, where Paul clearly and emphatically states that he is NOT opposed to the Torah. (Rom 7:12, 14, 22; 1Tim 1:8; Gal 2:17) In all of these verses Paul is abundantly clear that he is FOR Torah, that it is good, holy, spiritual, just and a delight.
Towards the end of Paul’s life he stated clearly that he had NEVER offended against the Torah (that is broken or taught against) (Acts 28:17) and indeed the disciples in Jerusalem themselves were fully aware that he walked “orderly and kept the law” (Acts 20:24).
So doesn’t this leave us with a dilemma?
How can he be for it and against it at the same time? Sounds just a bit schizophrenic don’t you think?
In every one of Paul’s uses of the term ‘works of the law’ he is talking about how one is saved, made righteous, justified. So what does that mean?
Justification is the process by which we are made acceptable to the Holy God. It is by grace through faith. God expends the grace, we apply faith to receive it. We cannot earn it, no matter what we do or how well we do it. It is based on righteousness, God’s righteousness, as revealed in the faith of Jesus Christ. (Rom 3:21 & 22) We have faith in his faith and God says we are now in right standing with him.
So if Paul is for the Torah and understands that we are justified by faith only, what are these ‘works of the law’?
Well, we know from what Paul writes in Rom 3:22 that one can be justified by faith and still observe Torah, because they are not two sides of a coin, they are two different coins.
The Israelites in the desert had Torah which they followed scrupulously, but they had not faith, so they could not enter the Promised Land ( a symbol of God’s eternal rest).
Works without faith bears no fruit and faith without works is dead. We need both. Our justification is purely based upon faith, keeping the Torah alone will never earn us righteousness, but once we have righteousness, through the free gift of God, to ignore his moral imperatives and say that his Torah (his teachings in righteousness) is null and void is to go from legalism to lawlessness. It is throwing the baby out with the bathwater.
It is also important to note that in no instance in the Renewed Covenant (NT) does Paul actually say “works of THE law”, he says “works of law”. These are two very different statements.
If I say “works of the charity” and “works of charity’ you can see that in the first instance I am talking about a specific charity and in the second I am speaking about an indeterminate charity.
Paul is talking about ANY legal requirement one puts on one’s salvation, not Torah specifically. So one can throw away all Torah and then say “People can only be saved on a Sunday” and one is under a “work of law”.
He was never against Torah, he was against producing that ‘feel good factor’ within ourselves whereby we convince ourselves we are righteous by what we have done. We are not told we will ever FEEL righteous, we are to BELIEVE we are righteous, by the finished work of Christ. If what we need is a ‘righteous feeling’ then we will work to achieve it and ‘fall from grace’.
Torah was never in question, it’s holiness, purity or value, it was the man-made twisting of God’s teachings into a system of actions to earn our righteous feelings that he was against.
When we reduce God’s words of life to words of law we suck the life out of his teachings and reduce them to death.
If we are doing ANYTHING believing if we do it, do it well enough, do it long enough, or do with self denial and suffering we will earn a response from God, in any form, we are deceiving ourselves. God’s righteous standard is still the same today as it was at the beginning of time, but we now have a helper who has written that standard on our hearts. Although, note, that doesn’t mean WE get to define his standard because of what we feel, we are still limited to what HE says is the way of love.
David Stern, the translator of the Complete Jewish Bible, puts it rather well when he says, ” Paul’s usage of the term works of [the] law means not deeds done in virtue of following the Torah in the way God intended, but deeds done in consequence of perverting the Torah into a set of rules which, it is presumed, can be obey mechanically, automatically, legalistically, without faith, without having to trust God, without having love for God and man, and without being empowered by the Holy Spirit”.
With this in mind he translates Galatians 2:16 thus, “Even so, we have come to realise that a person is not declared righteous by God on the ground of his legalistic observance of Torah commands, but through the Messiah Yeshua’s trusting faithfulness. Therefore, we too have put our trust in Messiah Yeshua and become faithful to him, in order that we might be declared righteous on the ground of Messiah’s trusting faithfulness and not on the ground of our legalistic observance of Torah commands. For on the ground of legalistic observance of Torah commands, no one will be declared righteous”.
Works of law are varied and can be very subtle, but they will earn us nothing but condemnation and misery.
Redefining God’s morality, as laid out for us in his Torah is sin.
The middle ground, the place of safety and growth is found in living in love, as defined by God, powered by grace, obtained by faith.

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