Hebrew Roots/Restoration/Grace & Law/Legalism

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THE LAW[edit | edit source]

The Law of Yahweh God is eternal and unchanging in its principles, however in various cultures and in different situations, there is a need to interpret how to apply the Law to meet those varying circumstances.

This is where the need for teachers of the Oral law came into being in the old covenant, the role of which was taken over in the new covenant by the Holy Spirit. The Oral law fulfilled the function of providing set, laid out boundaries for guidance, but after the impartation of the Holy Spirit, who is our Counsellor, Teacher and Guide (John 14-16), there was no longer the need of the traditions of the Oral law, and they became obsolete.

The Law itself was not done away, but it evolved from the form of a written letter of the Law to a living Spirit of the Law in the hearts of men, "written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God" (2 Corinthians 3:3).

With the Law internalised in the hearts of believers, the Spirit is able to move upon that Word and give the necessary personal guidance as applicable to the believer's needs, without the teaching of man.

"But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you know all things." "But the anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that any man teach you; but that same anointing teaches you concerning all things ... " (1 John 2:20, 27)

THE WINESKIN OF TRADITIONS[edit | edit source]

The "works of the law" had established the Jewish believers in a mold of Torah-observance but the mold, the "wineskin", was inflexible, and gave no room for the fluidity of the Spirit of the Law (Luke 5:33-39). Thus, the old wineskin of Judaism began to crack under the pressure of the new movement because the old form was not conducive to the liberty of the Spirit, although it was preferable to those who had been reared in it. A new wine-skin was needed for the assembly rising up in the new move of the Spirit, but it didn't come right away.

As Yeshua said, "But new wine must be put into new wine-skins and both are preserved. And no one, having drunk old wine, immediately desires new, for he says, 'the old is better'" (Luke 5:38-39)

Many of the Jewish believers were very zealous for the traditions of the fathers, the precepts of which were what Paul refers to as the "works of the law" (Galatians 1:14), which we could interpret as saying, "the operation of the Law", or the way the law works when you put it into practice.

Yeshua Himself continually dealt with this problem as He sought to counteract the legalism which the leaders had brought into the midst of the people through the traditions which they had set in place that were based upon the Law and which they taught as "law", which Paul relates to the "works of the law".

The accusation laid at His feet was, "Why do your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders?", and His reply was that they were teaching the commandments of men as the commandments of God (Mark 15:7; 2-4, 6-9) The authority to teach the people the precepts of the oral law, was God-given (Matthew 23:2), as Yeshua acknowledged, but as well as perverting it by supplementing their own traditions and bringing the people into legalism, they were teaching it as the Word of God, so that the people accepted it as THE Law of God.


This parallelism of the Law of God with the traditions of the oral law became a problem for later generations understanding Paul's inclusion of the works of the law when speaking of the Law. They had been merged as one body of the law, the oral traditions and the written Law of commands and so were regarded as being one.

This is further complicated by the fact that neither in Greek or in English is there the terminology necessary to differentiate different types of law in one word. The result of that is, that ideas and things that are of the 'law' (nomos in Greek) such as by nature lawful, or pertaining to the law, or legalism are all translated as 'law', in the same way that the Law of God is translated from the same word 'nomos', as 'law'. The only differentiation that can be made is by going to the original text, and where the definite article, "the" is in the original, it is identifying a specific 'law' and therefore referring to the Law of God. Where the article is omitted it is indefinite and speaking about any law, or legal type of issue.

This is the reason why some of Paul's statement sound contradictory, where he exalts the Law of God on one hand and appears to say that the law is done away and speaks contrary to 'law' observance. He is not against the observance of the Law of God but against any form of legalism or man-made system of works which is a performance-based system for acceptance with Yahweh God.

So, wherever Paul refers to the "works of the law", in the original the definite article is missing, and it should be translated "works of law", or better expressed as - law-based actions, lawful deeds, or even legalism. So rather than be understood to mean observing the Law of Yahweh God, it is referring to law-based actions, or legalistic observance to obtain righteousness.

Based upon this, Galatians 2:16 should read, " Knowing that a man is not justified by works of law (legalistic observance), but by faith in Yeshua the Messiah, even we have believed in the Messiah Yeshua, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by works of law (legalistic observance): for by works of law (legalistic observance) shall no flesh be justified." This makes the meaning clearer that it is not by doing righteous acts, but by faith in Yeshua that one is saved.

Legalism is the attempt to earn, merit, or keep one's salvation through obedience to the Law of God. The basis of salvation is not upon a man-made system of works (a legalistic system) based upon the Law of Yahweh God.


The issue of the new wineskin became apparent when the Gentile believers came into the kingdom. New wine could not be placed into old bottles. Those coming to faith in the nations could not be placed back into the old structure of Judaism. And so began the conflict between Paul and the Judaisers who were moulded into the old wine-skin formed by the traditions of the oral law.

Paul's letters on the issue of the "works of the law" are the result of the Judaizers who were insisting that the 'Gentile' believers must be circumcised and abide by whole legal system in Judaism to be saved. They discounted faith in Yeshua alone as being sufficient to save them. Paul upheld the true gospel, that we are justified by grace through faith without the "works of the law", to prevent them coming under legalism.

Paul was telling the Galatians that Messiah means nothing to anyone who thinks they are justified by their own works of righteousness. If we are justified by the performance of the Law, then, as Paul said, salvation should have been by the law. "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law." (Galatians 3:21)

That would be to bypass what he's done for us by our own works, or thinking that by our obedience alone (which is a form of works), we can obtain eternal life. The bottom line is that any of our efforts to keep the laws/principles or commandments, can not save us! It is by faith alone!

So if one chooses to believe that by the 'works' of the law, without faith, they will be saved, then they have fallen from grace. "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight" (Romans 3:20)

"Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began" (2 Timothy 1:9)

God's grace in salvation has nothing to do with the Law because it says, "not according to our works". It is entirely by His own purpose and grace, so our works are opposed to the way of salvation by grace through faith.

GRACE AND WORKS COMPARED[edit | edit source]

Grace justifies Titus 3: 7 Works can never justify sin Romans 11: 6

Grace is given freely Romans 3:24 Works makes us debtors to perform Romans 4: 4

Grace gives humility & faith Eph.2:8,9 Works exalts us to be proud Romans 2:17-20

Grace glorifies God Ephesians 1: 6 Works honours man Colossians 2:20-23

Grace says Christ did it all Galatians 5: 4 Works compares our efforts Rom. 3:20