Works old versus new


IIf not good works, what kind of, not by works, as indicated below is St Paul addressing?

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not by works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).


Paul is referring to works of the Mosaic Law



Paul is referring to works of the Mosaic Law.

What are the works of Mosaic Law. I assume they are not the 10 commandments.
Thank you for your help.


But St. Paul must have known that the works according to Mosaic Law (Torah) are to be practiced because they are commanded by G-d and explicitly for the benefit of others as well as self here on earth. They never were and are not now meant to be practiced for the purpose of achieving eternal salvation.


The Torah/Pentateuch (Mosaic Written Law) consists of the first five Books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament). These are an elaboration of the Ten Commandments (better translated as Ten Statements or Ten Words). They discuss moral values and rituals within all aspects of earthly life. However, even the Torah does not go into exceptional detail and there are omissions in the form of elliptical passages. That’s where the Talmud (Oral Law) comes in: to fill in the gaps found in the Torah. The Talmud is somewhat equivalent to the Oral Tradition of the Church. Some (Orthodox) Jews also use the Kabbalah to interpret more profoundly the meaning of certain Torah passages.


Yes - undoubtedly Paul knew that…but Paul also knew something else. That People can get caught up in the “details” of trying to follow the law and lose the point of it all. He expresses Like this…
Romans 13:8-10
8Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. 9The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
Paul, and Jesus have reduced all of the Mosaic law to just a single word. Love - Agape in the Greek.
In another place Paul clearly states the absolute necessity of love…
1 Cor 13
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.
So the point Paul is making is that making the Law your central focus avails nothing for this does not necessarily lead to Love. Making love of God and neighbor your central focus will, by it’s very nature, lead to the keeping of the law (the spirit of not the letter).

That is my take on it anyway…



This is how I understand it and I’ve taken it a little differently than previous posters, I think… We can never get to heaven by just doing good things (works) or our righteousness. We must have faith in Jesus Christ to get to heaven. Jesus is the way the the truth and the life… We can’t say Oh I did all these good things so that will get me to heaven… Our belief in Jesus Christ will bring us to heaven. And that goes along with God not taking the unwilling… We must be a willing participant in Gods grace.

In the OT describing Righteous acts…They will never get someone to heaven…

Isaiah 64:6 All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.

And so we can never boast about what we do as getting us into heaven, it is Jesus who gets us into heaven… Though faith without works is dead or meaningless because if we’re not acting on our faith, it’s dry faith, which means we haven’t opened our hearts up to Jesus Christ.


I think you might find this book interesting: *Biblical Catholic Salvation: “Faith Working Through Love” * by Dave Armstrong.


The Jews living in Rome were telling the Gentile Catholics that they were not the people of God because they did not have the past to support it, the ancestral blood of Abraham in their veins, the Prophets in their heritage, circumcision by the Jews to become a Jew, etc. But instead the Jews were telling the Catholic Gentiles in Rome that they were nothing but heathen sinners, from a people that practices all kinds of vile things.

The Gentile Catholics were becoming disheartened and word got to Paul, who then wrote his letter to the Gentile Catholics in Rome. He wrote to stop the discouragement.

He pointed out that the Jews who were discouraging them from feeling justified in saying “We are the People of God”, these Jews were basing their value as the People of God on the past rather than on the present promise. It is much like people who do genealogy searches for their ancestry and somehow feel they have a special value as a person because of the notoriety of an ancestor. Or like people who think they are special because they ran the winning touchdown at Homecoming when they were in High School. But neither has any real personal virtue as a person.

So Paul brought up the memory of Jacob and Esau to remind them that a person’s value in God’s sight is by a promise God makes to you, and not by your ancestry or birth order. Jacob received the blessing as it was stated he would before he was born, even though it was not the normal order of succession for receiving the blessing. And he spoke of Abraham simply trusting God and journeying to Hebron without any human reason to think he was somehow a Special Person, but only his God’s word on it. (Abraham did “work” - he journeyed over 800 miles. But he did not “work” - did not present God with a pedigree nor winning performance from his past that would require God to choose him).

That is how Paul answered the attempt at dissuasion by the Jews in Rome - You have the promise just as Abraham and Jacob, so you are Justified in knowing yourselves as the People of God. Then he had to remind them of what the non-believing Gentiles are like, recall it to their memories, because they were losing sight of what they used to do as Gentile sinners before they renounced their sinful ways to follow Christ. He tells them this is what you used to be like, and details all the depths of depravity. But now that you are the People of God, shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? No way! We are the People of God and we will live that way, And from this you can see how he made all his moral exhortations to them, to continue in the new life they have found in being the Church, the body of Christ, etc. And he also expresses his longing for his fellow Jews to come about and see that life is not had in an inheritance of the past, but in a present promise from a living and active God, a promise that is delivered in the present moment by those sent to deliver the promise (the Church, the Apostles).

“dead works” from the past versus “good works done in fulfilling your calling”.


In Christianity the Law is only fulfilled authentically to the extent that it is fulfilled according to the two greatest commandments; merely fulfilling it is not enough IOW; how it’s fulfilled is the essential difference between the old and new covenants. And this new Covenant is only “fulfillable” by grace. Rom 13:8 underscores this teaching:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. 9 The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.


This same interpretation of the Law was made by Rabbi Hillel the Elder a generation before Rabbi Jesus: “the Law consists of two commandments, to love G-d and to love one’s neighbor, and all the rest is commentary. Now go and study.” The Oral Law adds to this: “Studying is not the ultimate, but the doing.” IOW, for Judaism, love in action is the key to following the Law, much as the Catholic Church states. Finally, the Law itself asserts that the practice of the commandments must be done sincerely rather than merely going through the motions. The point of disagreement that we have is the concept of grace. Judaism believes that mankind is capable of choosing the correct path due to its G-d-given innate potential for doing good, whereas Christianity focuses on the fallen nature of mankind and, therefore, its need for G-d’s grace to choose the path towards morality and salvation.


Yes, I agree with this.


Paul is speaking about contractural works for the purposes of earning salvation and pointing out that no one can earn salvation, although he is not ruling out that one must still do a fully christian work in order to be saved.

eg: note both the question and the answer given in John 6:28:

What must we do to do the works of God ?
This is the work of God, that you believe in the one whom he sent.

So; notice in the passage I cited that there is an explicit contrast between works (plural) and a singular/unified work called “Faith”. In earlier versions of the Greek, the ones not corrected to be in accordance with the Latin Vulgate, un-like the later TR Stephanus 1550 used by the protestants in the KJV; it’s far easier to pick out in earlier manuscripts St. Paul’s distinction between the work of a Christian (singular/unitive), and the works (polygamous,etc.) of the world for he maintains a pretty consistent habit of condemning things in the plural – and blessing them in the singular. But … alas … in later versions of the Greek manuscripts, the copyists of the bible got lazy and changes creep in because they didn’t notice the distinction.

Bottom line: There is a difference between a uniting/godly work, which Christians do in communion with God – and works done independently of God and for which a person might try to demand payment for.


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