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Works of the Law
Posted by: SeniorSeeker
Date: October 17, 2011 10:10AM
Works of the Law

Paul says three times in Galatians 2:16 that a person is not justified by "works of the law". What does he mean by the expression "works of the law"? How do these texts (Gal. 2:16, 17; 3:2, 5, 10; Rom. 3:20, 28) help us understand his meaning?

Galatians 2:16-17
16 knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified. 17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not!

Galatians 3:2
2 This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Galatians 3:5
5 Therefore He who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you, does He do it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

Galatians 3:10 The Law Brings a Curse
10 For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."

Romans 3:20
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Romans 3:28
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith apart from the deeds of the law.

Before we can understand the phrase "the works of the law", we first need to understand what Paul means by the word law. The word law (nomos in Greek) is found 121 times in Pauls letters. It can refer to a number of different things, including Gods will for His people, the first five books of Moses, the entire Old Testament, or even just a general principle. However, the primary way Paul uses it is to refer to the entire collection of Gods commandments given to His people through Moses.

The phrase "the works of the law" likely involves, therefore, all the requirements found in the commandments given by God through Moses, whether moral or ceremonial. Pauls point is that no matter how hard one tries to follow and obey Gods law, our obedience never will be good enough for God to justify us, to have us declared righteous before God. Thats because His law requires absolute faithfulness in thought and action - not just some of the time but all of the time, and not just for some of His commandments but for all of them.

Although the phrase "works of the law" does not occur in the Old Testament and is not found in the New Testament outside of Paul, stunning confirmation of its meaning emerged in 1947 with the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, a collection of writings copied by a group of Jews, called Essenes, who lived at the time of Jesus. Although written in Hebrew, one of the scrolls contains this exact phrase. The scrolls title is Miqsat Maas Ha-Torah, which can be translated, "Important Works of the Law." The scroll describes a number of issues based on biblical law concerned with preventing holy things from being made impure, including several that marked the Jews out as separate from the Gentiles. At the end the author writes that if these "works of the law" are followed, "you will be reckoned righteous" before God. Unlike Paul, the author does not offer his reader righteousness on the basis of faith but on the basis of behavior.

In your experience, how well do you keep Gods law? Do you really sense that you keep it so well that you can be justified before God on the basis of your law-keeping? (See Rom. 3:10-20.) If not, why notand how does your answer help you understand Pauls point here?

Romans 3:10-20
10 As it is written: "There is none righteous, no, not one; 11 there is none who understands; there is none who seeks after God. 12 They have all turned aside; they have together become unprofitable; there is none who does good, no, not one." 13 "Their throat is an open tomb; with their tongues they have practiced deceit", "the poison of asps is under their lips", 14 "Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness." 15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood; 16 destruction and misery are in their ways; 17 And the way of peace they have not known." 18 "There is no fear of God before their eyes. 19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. 20 Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin."

With Permission From: http://www.ssnet.org/qrtrly/eng/11d/less04.html

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