On Works Of The Law

Yesterday, as I write this, our pastor gave a sermon in which he described an aspect of the hostility that many people have to the law because of the mistaken idea that an affirmation of the continuing worth of the law implies a commitment to earning salvation through obedience to the law.  This is a leap of considerable logic, and it is puzzling to think of how this misunderstanding develops.  To be sure, there are people who believe that one can earn salvation through good works [1], but that does not appear to be the general expectation of people.  It is puzzling to me how people who know the way that laws and authority works in general are so ignorant about how this works out when it comes to the laws of God?

Does anyone expect that one receives the equivalent about salvation by works of obeying the law or the rules in other realms of life?  Not at all.  If I drive and obey the rules, does the government send me a check or say that I qualify for some sort of political office as a law-abiding citizen?  No.  I simply avoid being in trouble with the law.  In school, if I follow the rules, does that mean that I graduate or get a scholarship?  Not at all.  To get good grades or scholarships one has to do well on one’s assignments and tests, and that is a matter of knowledge rather than simply obedience.  And so it is in life.  Doing good works is necessary in life to avoid getting in trouble with police officers, with one’s parents, with employers, with teachers and school administrators, and so on, but one does not receive bonuses simply for following the rules.  Following the rules is the expectation of being a part of any institution or jurisdiction, and is a basic expectation that does not earn one anything.

Indeed, Luke 17:10 tells us exactly that:  “So likewise you, when you have done all those things which you are commanded, say, ‘We are unprofitable servants. We have done what was our duty to do.’ ”  That is what obedience to the laws of man and the laws of God involve.  It does not earn us salvation and has never earned us salvation, it simply means that we have done what God has commanded and that we are unprofitable servants but not rebels against His ways and His laws.  To the extent that we reject obeying God’s laws because we view them as an intolerable burden and restraint upon our behavior, we mark ourselves as being hostile to God’s rule and not His children or His servants at all but rather His enemies.  And remember, these are minimal expectations.  To be profitable servants one must do more than simply obey the commandments but show outgoing love and concern beyond the minimum.  And to be beloved sons in whom our Father is well pleased, it requires still more than that.  And if we resist the imperative to be even unprofitable servants, how can we reach higher levels of trust and commitment with God?

[1] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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