Have you ever heard this before?
All of this comes down to a fundamental statement by the Christian church that the Law is based on works while belief in Jesus is predicated upon faith. And that therefore, the Law itself is not a complete means of salvation, but that it was only a “schoolmaster” to lead us to Jesus (to quote Paul himself in Galatians 3:24).
Let's touch upon the heart of the matter first, and then example it's implications.
First, the fundamental error here is the claim that the Law is invalid because it is predicated upon works. It is invalid in two ways; one, it is invalid because the law is not predicated upon works, but faith. Secondly it is invalid because even if it was predicated entirely on works (which it is not), the fact is that God commanded (us) to perform certain works. They are not optional – The Christian does not get the right to make such a distinction. The Christian who picks and chooses which commandments of God are acceptable to him is really just an apostate Jew.
The Christian usually defines work in some way that provides objectionable grounds:
For example, why can't Jews eat shrimp? We don't really know. Christians object to these laws as laws which were put there to make it very hard not to “break the law” and therefore teach us it would be “impossible to keep”.
For example, Christians often say that without blood there can be no remission of sins (Hebrews 9:22). However there is no such statement in the Old Testament (see: Does God Require a Sacrifice).
Many Christians object to the idea that God is “like a father” in the sense that he gives us rules and regulations to follow. They reject this notion for the idea that “God Loves Us” and would never order us around “like a slave” or would never punish us for something illogical. This is related to the above; Frequently quoted is the death penalty for breaking the sabbath. “Oops, you broke the sabbath! Might as well kill yourself!”
Many Christians use the example of “empty sacrifices” from the prophets or the idea of the “hypocritical rabbi” from Jesus' time (or earlier times as a “type”) to show that Jews who trust in the law are not trusting in God. That is to say, they are trusting in their own mind, their own wisdom versus trusting in God's wisdom. Or they are somehow rejecting God's love to follow a set of rules. I.E. they are trying to “lawyer” their way into heaven, even without believing in God or loving God at all!
Some Christians also believe in a sort of Christian works.
Christan Works are those actions which stem from “a living and active faith in Jesus Christ.” Jesus exemplified those works well in Matthew 25:35-40.“ (-mp) Continuing, “we are saved by grace, through faith, not by works. Works do not result in salvation, but salvation does result in works.”
In this sense, 'works' does not refer to the Jewish Law at all, nor as a foil to Paul's “justification by faith alone (not works).' Hebrews 11 provides an entire list of those saved by faith, not works (-mp).
MP continues, “I believe Jews followed the law because they believed in the lawgiver. This is the same faith resulting in works as we see in the New Testament. We don't believe in God because we obey His law, rather we obey his law because we believe in Him.”
As it is therefore seen, “Christian Works” is considered to be separate from 'works' performed under the law.
Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.2Cor9:7 (NIV)
RG/VP writes, “Actually… wouldn’t “compulsory charity” be more akin to a tax?” “that would also qualify as not charity.”
These statements illustrate vp/rg/mp/etc do not really understand what the law is, or why there is no separation between Christian Works as in “there can be no works without faith”.
Another way that Christians misunderstand the law is shown in Luke 17:9 (this should be moved to another section of this document).
Doth he thank that servant because he did the things that were commanded him? I trow not.Luke 17:9 (KJV)
This statement, of course, stands in direct contradiction to God's word in Deuteronomy 30:19 and in many other places,
At this point the best way to approach the subject is to go back and find out what works really mean, according to the bible.
A work is simply something which God has commanded us to do, such that if we may do it, we may complete our covenant with God. Please analyze this very carefully to avoid making a mistake:
1. Something which God has commanded us to do.
2. To fulfill a covenant.
3. It's optional.
What is often lost here are the two important points that God has ultimate ecumenical authority. A commandment issued by God is not a joke, and you don't even have to agree with it. Luckily God is a very fair and loving God, so he has not forced us to follow his commandments (they're optional). But then why would we want to keep such commandments?
Because God has issued them as part of a covenant. That is, barring anything else, so long as we keep them, we will “go to heaven”, so to speak.
That's it. That's all.
The Christian's argument is essentially by assertion, and is made based on not knowing what the Law says or what “works” really are. A short few examples of the actual laws should dispel misunderstandings 1-3 above; Judaism 101 lists several commandments as follows:
|1.||To know that G-d exists||Ex. 20:2; Deut. 5:6|
|4.||To hallow G-d's name||Lev. 22:32.|
|6.||To love G-d||Deut. 6:5|
|7.||To fear Him reverently||Deut. 6:13; 10:20|
|9.||To imitate His good and upright ways||Deut. 28:9|
We see right away that half the commandments in the first ten alone are appeals to emotion – to love God, to fear God, to imitate the good and upright ways of God, to keep his name Holy – to know that he exists.
What the Christian does not realize in objections 1-3 is that while the Law does contain commandments so-to-speak, these aren't commandments at all. They are statements of faith.
Here are a few more examples;
Against causing others to sin:
Charity for the poor:
To Love all people:
There are more than 20 commandments against specific amoral relationships such as adultery. There are more than 20 commandments against specific amoral business practices such as withholding wages or unfair treatment of employees or cheating on the job.
Based on this some of the criticisms (but not all) against the law, keeping the law, and Jews who try to keep the law are incomprehensible to me. One can say “faith without works is dead”, but one may also say “works without faith is dead”. Indeed it is ironic that these points are being made by the opposite camp; “faith without works is dead,” is a statement from James; where I make the antecedent merely to show that it is true (and therefore the original claim that the law is dead without faith is invalid in either case).
As we have seen, most laws are either common sense morality or statements of faith. The Fact Is, that works are not just works – there is no such thing as “just works” or “empty works”. If you are trying to keep the law by works alone, then you are doing it wrong and you are not actually keeping the law.
There are many examples of this throughout scripture; God warns the Israelites to turn to him and keep the law wholeheartedly. God warns people they are not keeping the law properly. Here are some examples which show that God requires faith, and not works: