The Works of the Law

Gal 3:10-12  For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them."  But that no one is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident, for "the just shall live by faith."  (Hab 2:4) Yet the law is not of faith, but "the man who does them shall live by them." (Lev 18:5)

Ga 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."

Rom 9:31-10:5
but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone. As it is written: "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense, And whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame." Brethren, my heartís desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved. For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of Godís righteousness, and seeking to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. For Moses writes about the righteousness which is of the law, "The man who does those things shall live by them." (Lev 18:5)

Note as shown from the above verses that the term "works of the law" are also associated with "the law of righteousness" or "the righteousness which is of the law"

What are the "works of the law"? Note the cross reference Paul gives to Leviticus 18:5. Let's look at that verse and see from its surrounding context what Paul considers the works of the law.

Lev 18 largely contains prohibitions against committing various forms of sexual immorality. But the list continues on in Lev 19

These are some among the commands:
Honor parents
Don't make idols
When you reap your harvest leave some behind for the poor and foreigners
You shall not steal, nor deal falsely, nor lie to one another.
Don't swear by God falsely
You shall do no injustice in judgment.
Don't gossip, nor bear false witness
You shall not hate your brother in your heart.
You shall surely rebuke your neighbor, and not bear sin because of him.
You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people,
but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.
Give no regard to mediums and familiar spirits; do not seek after them,
Respect the elderly
And if a stranger dwells with you in your land, you shall not mistreat him.

He goes on into chapter 20 and on to talk about penalties and ceremonial matters.

Now if we were to summarize what are the "works of the law" they would be:
The righteousness which is of the law is that the man who does those things shall have eternal life by doing these things.

In other words it's a performance based righteousness. Those who view their salvation as contingent upon doing what is right and not sinning are trying to be saved by the works of the law. And that, contrary to salvation by faith apart from the works of the law. Those who are saved by faith are not relying upon their performance to save them. Rather they trust in Christ to save them.

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