Another Perspective on Romans and Galatians

In Evangelical circles it is a staple to make sure that you teach people that “salvation” is by faith and not by works. Paul’s contrast in both Romans and Galatians is the foundation for this mantra. Evangelical theologians are wrong however in how they both understand and teach this teaching of Paul. It is often taught that Paul is contrasting what actions we have do in order to receive “salvation” in certain proof texts found within Romans and Galatians. Unfortunately it is better understood that Paul is actually explaining how “salvation” or mankind’s rescue has come about. Paul in Romans and Galatians is hammering away-with a common thought in the early church. That thought was the understanding that the Mosaic Law is a necessary add on for the Christian life. Paul in Romans and Galatians destroys this argument by comparing the Mosaic Law to the faithfulness of Jesus. Its Paul’s understanding that the Mosaic Law is not necessary in order to receive the great blessings God has in store for humanity and that by Jesus’ faithfulness God brought about His original promise of eternal life and resurrection. God’s righteousness or the fulfilment of His promise are not through (Mosaic) works, but by Jesus’ faithfulness (works). It’s also not by our own deeds that the promise is coming, but rather by God’s grace through Jesus only. So establishing that Moses, lineage, and works are not the way the great promise was fulfilled we understand that it is by God’s grace in Jesus that brings the promise about. This is about how the promise comes and not to whom the promise blessing is applied to. Whom then will receive the promise of Eternal Life according to Paul?

“For the righteousness of God is revealed in the gospel from faith to faith, just as it is written, “The righteous by faith will live.”

Romans 1:17 NET

and again he says

“He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness. There will be affliction and distress on everyone who does evil, on the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, for the Jew first and also the Greek. For there is no partiality with God.”

Romans 2:6-11 NET

"By Faith Alone" Usurping "By Jesus Alone"

In an attempt to be faithful in Scriptural teaching many have not only misunderstood Paul in Romans and Galatians, but they also have become guilty of purporting a real works based salvation. The way that many define faith really categorizes it as an action even though they refuse to admit the obvious. When this action of human faith replaces the faith(fulness)of God through Jesus, then works based salvation has become perfected by Evangelical theologians. Some Evangelical and Protestant theologians are hopeful in concreting this belief by the means of the theological system of individual determinism, also know to many as Calvinism. However human faith is not in view in regard to the righteousness of God in these specific contexts as previously mentioned of Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians chapter 2. Therefore trying to mask away works based salvation by saying God gives humans the expression of faith is not a viable solution to keep the new system. So to continue on Paul is arguing that the promise of God is by His grace through the faithfulness of Jesus. In regards to how to inherit the promise He gives the illustration of Abraham who received the promise long ago. By use of this illustration Paul declares that one must do what Abraham did and exercise faithfulness to God. This is the condition Abraham was in when he received the promise. This is to fit in line with how he started the book of Romans declaring that “The righteous will live by (God’s) faith(fulness)” and also that the Mosaic Law can not “justify.” 

Part 3 Early Church Theologian’s Understanding of Faith and Works

The False Dichotomy of Faith and Works (Part 2)

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