Hebrew Roots/Restoration/Grace & Law/Works

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PAUL AND LEGALISM[edit | edit source]

The term "law" in the new covenant scriptures is used to cover all aspects on issues concerning the subject of law. There was only one Greek word that applied (omos) and it was used for: (a) any legal system or laws of dos and don'ts (secular or non-secular); (b) legalism itself; (c) any perversion of the Law of God into works.

Being “under the law” as Paul used it meant several things. In its broad application it meant to be guided by and under the jurisdiction of the law in every way. This meant being under its penalty as well as being under the guidance of the boundaries set by the oral law in the teachings of the leaders interpreting the application of the law for its situations in daily life. It also was used for being under legalism. The precepts of the oral law which set the boundaries for observance of the Law, he calls the "works of the law".

Most people understand the phrase of the 'works of the law' as being the same as the observance of the Law of Yahweh God, and thus they take Paul's use of this expression as being a declaration against the observance of the Law. However, this is not the intention as Paul himself kept the Law and set an example for others in that.

Paul uses the expression, the "works of the law" to refer to the various precepts within the oral law which had served the purpose of being like a guardian that set clearly defined boundaries for the Law of God in Judaism.

Although these set rules had served the purpose of defining the boundaries in the old covenant, they were restrictive to the liberty in the Spirit which came with the new covenant and were no longer necessary as they would have the Holy Spirit to guide them (John 14:15-18,26; 15:26-27; 16:7-15).

Enforcing these precepts of the oral law upon the new covenant believers became legalism and something Paul taught strongly against in his effort to maintain the liberty of the Spirit for the New covenant assembly.

Because of this, Paul often uses the term "under the law" to refer to legalism, as opposed to being "under grace"

Being "under grace" and being "under law" for salvation are opposed to each other, we are either under grace or under law. But what does it really mean to be under either of these conditions? The Greek word "under" (upo) is the key here - it means "controlled by", as in under the control of or in subjection to something.

To be "under the law", is to be controlled by legalism or be in subjection to performance orientated works.

So also to be "under grace" then is to be controlled by the enabling power and blessing of Yahweh God.

It is a choice of being under the yoke which is light and easy or under that which is a burden (Matthew 11:28-30).

His yoke is easy and obedience to Him is not a burden, therefore obeying the Law is not legalism. The difference is that we are not "under" (upo) the Law, but living within (en) the Law - we live within the boundaries set by the Law in the liberty of the Spirit, not as a burden, but as a joy and a delight to do His will. There is no burden in willing service that is born out of love (John 14:15).


"Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those under the law that every mouth may be stopped, and that all may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin" - those "under the law" are not just those under the Mosaic covenant, as it mentions that all will be guilty and no one justified by their own efforts at righteousness. (Romans 3:19)

"Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." (Galatians 2:16)

"For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them" (Galatians 3:10)

"Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law." (Romans 9:32)

"But the scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Christ Jesus might be given to those who believe. But before faith came, we (speaking to Gentiles) were kept under the law, kept for the faith which should afterward be revealed.

Therefore the law is (present tense in the original text) our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified through faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." - the law was not given as the tutor to the Jews only to attain salvation through it (Galatians 3:22-25)

"Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith." (Romans 3:27)

"This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? "He therefore that ministers 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 3:2, 5 )

"Now to him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt " (Romans 4: 4)

`But no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, is evident: for, the just shall live by faith" (Galatians 3:11)

"But if you are led of the Spirit, you are not under the law" (Galatians 5:18) - because when you live out of the new nature you will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh which brings you under the law's penalty for sin.

"For sin shall not have dominion over you for you are not under law but under grace" (Rom.6:14)

"What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? Certainly not! Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one's slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness? (Romans 6:15-16)

"But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons". (Galatians 4:4)

He came to redeem those who were under the law - only those under the Mosaic covenant?

All since Adam are under the law's penalty until/unless they come under grace.

"To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. (Galatians 4:5)

"Tell me, you who desire to be under the law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one of a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. he that was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh (not according to legalism), and he of the freewoman by promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants .. (the one that is according to the flesh and the other according to the Spirit Galatians 4:21)

The subject here is them trying to achieve righteousness by the works of the flesh instead of living according to the new nature which they have received through their adoption as sons.

"To the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win the Jews, to those who are under (the) law, as under (the) law, that I might win those who are under (the) law, to those who are without law, as without law (not being without law toward God, but under law toward Christ) that I might win those who are without law; .." (1 Cor.9:20-21)

Those under law are a different group of people to those he identifies as the "Jews". He is referring here to legalists. The subject is not those who are under the Law of God which were the Jews, but those under legalism.

"Wherefore the Law is holy, even the Commandment is holy, just, and good" (Romans 7:12).

"For we know that the law is spiritual" (Romans 7:14)

"Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city." (Revelation 22:14)