Are people saved by keeping the law?

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By BibleAsk Team


The question of whether people are saved by keeping the law is foundational to Christian theology. The Bible provides numerous references and insights into this complex issue, emphasizing the relationship between faith, works, and obedience to the law in the context of salvation.

The Role of the Law in Salvation

Purpose of the Law

In biblical theology, God’s moral Law of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) serves several purposes, including:

  • Galatians 3:24: “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.”

This verse highlights that the Law functioned as a tutor or guardian to lead people to recognize their need for Christ and the righteousness that comes through faith.

  • Romans 7:7: “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, ‘You shall not covet.'”

Here, the Apostle Paul explains that the Law reveals sin and its consequences, thereby illustrating humanity’s need for redemption and restoration.

Inability of the Law to Save

Despite its importance in revealing sin and guiding ethical behavior, the Law cannot provide salvation or righteousness on its own.

  • Galatians 2:16: “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.”

This verse emphasizes that justification—being declared righteous before God—is not attained through adherence to the Law but through faith in Jesus Christ.

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

Paul clarifies that no one can be justified or made right with God by merely obeying the Law because the Law serves to highlight sin rather than provide a means of salvation.

Salvation by Grace through Faith

Central Theme in Scripture

The New Testament consistently teaches that salvation is a gift of God’s grace, received through faith in Jesus Christ.

  • Ephesians 2:8-9: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

This foundational passage underscores that salvation is a result of God’s grace (unmerited favor) and is received through faith, not through human effort or adherence to the Law.

  • Romans 4:5: “But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness.”

Here, Paul emphasizes that righteousness before God comes through faith in Christ, not through works or keeping the Law.

Abraham’s Example

Paul uses Abraham as an example to illustrate justification by faith apart from works.

  • Romans 4:3: “For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.'”

Abraham’s faith in God’s promises, demonstrated before the Law was given, serves as a model of faith-based justification.

Faith and Obedience

Faith and Works

While salvation is by faith alone, genuine faith produces obedience and good works as evidence of a transformed life.

  • James 2:26: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.”

James emphasizes that true faith is demonstrated by works, indicating that a genuine faith in Christ naturally results in a life characterized by obedience to God’s commands.

  • Ephesians 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.”

This verse highlights that believers are saved by grace through faith, and their lives are subsequently marked by good works, which God has ordained for them to do.

Obedience as a Fruit of Salvation

Obedience to God’s commands is not a means of earning salvation but a natural outgrowth of genuine faith and relationship with God.

Jesus links obedience to God’s commandments with love for Him, illustrating that obedience flows from a heart transformed by faith and love. Obedience is the acid test for the believer’s love to God.

The Law in the Context of Grace

Christ Upheld the Law

The Savior reaffirms the law as binding upon His followers, and announces that anyone who should presume to annul them either by precept or by example “will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20, NKJV).

  • Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”

The assertion that by fulfilling the moral law Christ abolished that law is not in harmony with Christ’s statement. By fulfilling the law Christ simply “filled” it “full” of meaning. For He gave men an example of perfect obedience to the will of God, in order that the same law “might be fulfilled” in His children (Romans 8:3, 4).

Freedom from the Condemnation of the Law

Believers are freed from the condemnation of the Law through their union with Christ.

  • Romans 8:1-2: “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.”

Through faith in Christ, believers experience freedom from the judgement of the Law and are empowered by the Holy Spirit to live obediently to God’s will.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Bible clearly teaches that people are not saved by keeping the Law or by their own works of righteousness. Rather, salvation is a gift of God’s grace, received through faith in Jesus Christ alone. While the Law serves to reveal sin and guide ethical conduct, it cannot justify or save individuals apart from faith in Christ.

The New Testament emphasizes that believers are justified by faith, with good works and obedience to God’s commands flowing naturally as evidence of a transformed heart and relationship with God. Therefore, while works and obedience are important fruits of salvation, they are not the cause of salvation itself.

Salvation is ultimately grounded in God’s grace, demonstrated through the sacrificial death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and received by faith in Him as Savior and Lord. This understanding underscores the central role of faith in the Christian life and the transformative power of God’s grace in reconciling humanity to Himself.

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In His service,
BibleAsk Team

Categories Law

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