One of the most difficult subjects to get a grasp of
is how faith and law exist together. Faith and
law are both a big part of the scriptures.
Without faith we would not know how to approach God,
but without law we would not know what God's
standards for our lives are. There must be a
purpose for both, after all, God created and
endorsed both. The purpose of this article is
to discuss the relationship between faith and law,
but first, we will identify their purpose.
The law was given to Moses on Mount Sinai. It
contains over seven hundred statutes, judgments, and
commandments all organized under the ten
commandments. The purpose of the ten
commandments and all supporting statutes and
judgments are simple, they tell us how to act.
Solomon clearly stated so when he said, "Let us hear
the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and
keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of
man" (Eccl. 12:13). It is our duty as men and
women created in the image of God to keep His
commandments. The question many ask is, which
commandments do we keep? Are we to keep all of
the commandments, or just some?
The Messiah made this clear when He said, "Whosoever
therefore shall break one of these least
commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be
called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but
whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be
called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 5:19).
The Messiah here emphasizes the importance of
following even the "least commandments" and not just
the ones we like. The result of how we
practice God's law is simple. It determines
our place in the "kingdom of heaven." From
this verse alone we can determine two things, the
law of God is to be kept in its entirety and the law
of God was not to bring salvation. Salvation
comes by different means.
The Apostle Paul tells us more about the law by
saying "the law was our schoolmaster to bring us
unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith"
(Gal. 3:24). This word schoolmaster can cause
confusion. It is the Greek word
paidagōgos which means "a boy leader, that
is, a servant whose office it was to take the
children to school" (Strong's Concordance G3807).
This schoolmaster was not the teacher, but a
disciplinarian. Their job was to make sure the
children were on their best behavior while at school
and away from home. This makes sense for just
a few verses earlier Paul references the curses of
the law (Gal. 3:10). The purpose of Galatians
chapter three is to point out how the Messiah
redeemed us from the curse of the law. Just as
a schoolmaster would discipline children to act and
represent the family correctly, so the law of God
disciplines us with curses to act accordingly.
These curses are intended to bring us to the
From the previous paragraphs we can conclude three
things; the law was intended for us to follow, we
are to follow all of it, and the penalties that come
from not following it are to direct us to the
Messiah. This is the purpose of the law.
It defines how we are to act and disciplines us
accordingly. With this understanding of the
law, lets look at faith.
Faith, according to Hebrews 11:1, is "the substance
of things hoped for, the evidence of things not
seen." Faith is our personal conviction or
belief that something is true, even though we do not
see it. The Greek word for faith is pistis
which means "persuasion, that is, credence; moral
conviction" (Strong's Concordance - G4102). It
is related to the word translated believe,
pisteuō, which means "to have faith (in, upon,
or with respect to, a person or thing), by
implication to entrust" (Strong's Concordance -
G4100). The scriptures use these two words as
synonyms. The idea is that one's strong
personal conviction and belief moves them to action.
You believe something so strong, even though you
don't see it, you act upon that belief.
In relation to the New Testament, faith is the means
by how we approach God. Sinful man cannot
approach a sinless God. Before we can, our
sins need to be dealt with. This means we must
be justified and declared righteous. This is
done by faith (Rom. 3:28). We cannot even
approach God without first having faith. The
question to ask then is, faith in what? As we
have already seen, faith is a "moral conviction and
persuasion," but what are we convicted and persuaded
by? The Messiah answered this for us when he
said, "repent ye, and believe [have faith in]
the gospel" (Mark 1:15). The answer is simple,
we are to have faith in the Gospel.
The Apostle Paul defines the Gospel as the death,
burial and resurrection of the Messiah to pay for
our sins (1 Cor. 15:1-4). The faith that
allows us to approach the living God is the faith
that His Messiah died, was buried, and rose again to
pay for our sins. Having a strong moral
conviction about this fact gives us righteousness
and justifies us before God. Now, with this
strong moral conviction, we can approach a sinless
The proper place for each:
Now that we know what the law is and what faith is,
how do they fit together? The answer is more
simple than you might think. Believe it or
not, faith is one of the laws of the Torah.
The Apostle Paul tells us plainly in Romans 3:27.
This law is identified by the Apostle Paul in
Galatians 3:6 when he said, "Abraham believed God,
and it was accounted to him for righteousness."
One of the over seven hundred statutes, judgments,
and commandments is a law called faith.
Probably the best way to describe this relationship
is to use an example, and the best example I can
think of is that of Abraham.
In Galatians 3:6 the Apostle Paul defines the law of
faith. He quotes Genesis 15:6 as that law.
Here the scriptures state that "[Abram] believed in
the LORD; and he counted it to him for
righteousness" (Gen. 15:6). This is the point
in Abram's life where he received his justification.
Abram put his faith in God and he was declared
righteous. This is the law of faith. We
must place our faith, our trust, our belief and
moral conviction in the Messiah before we can have
any relationship with God. Shortly after this
God changed Abram's name to Abraham and Sarai's name
to Sarah (Gen. 17:5). The difference between
these two names is very significant. God
simply added the Hebrew "hey" to the end of
their names. The letter "hey" appears
in the name of God twice. In ancient Hebrew
pictographs this letter is represented by a man
standing with his hands towards the heavens ()
and means "behold,
look, breath, sigh and reveal or revelation"
(Ancient Hebrew.org, Hey, Jeff A. Benner).
This letter gives reference to the rûach
(spirit of God). Note the significance.
At this point in Abraham's life is when he received
the rûach (spirit of God), which is
demonstrated by their name change. This law of
faith is nothing new. It was clearly explained
with Abraham in the book of Genesis and the New
Testament re-explains it more thoroughly. So
the law of faith brings salvation and is evidenced
in Abraham's life and throughout the New Testament,
but where does the rest of the law fit?
The answer is a few chapters later in Genesis.
In Genesis 26 God tells Isaac why He blessed his
father Abraham. God tells Isaac to, "Sojourn
in this land, and I will be with thee, and will
bless thee; for unto thee, and unto thy seed, I will
give all these countries, and I will perform the
oath which I sware unto Abraham thy father;
And I will make thy seed to multiply as the stars of
heaven, and will give unto thy seed all these
countries; and in thy seed shall all the nations of
the earth be blessed" (Gen. 26:3-4). God gave
all these blessing to Abraham and was going to
continue to give them to Isaac, but why? The
answer is in the next verse, "Because that Abraham
obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my
commandments, my statutes, and my laws" (Gen. 26:5).
God blessed Abraham because Abraham "obeyed" all of
God's "commandments, statutes, and laws."
This is the relationship between faith and law.
Abraham received his salvation and was justified by
faith in Genesis 15:6, but he received the blessings
of God by practicing His laws in Genesis 26:4-5.
Abraham is the example that God used to explain this
By faith we receive our justification. It is by faith that we are declared
righteous before God. This is the covenant of
Promise that was given to Abraham 430 years before
the law (Gal. 3:17). After this promise God
gave His law. Paul's point in Galatians 3:17
is that the law does not remove the promise of God.
God promised to give us our righteousness based on
our faith. The law does not change this. However, after we become
righteous before God, our duty is to perform on His
covenant and follow his "commandments, statutes, and
laws." This is where the law comes in.
The law of God is our sanctification while the
promise of God is our justification. If we
want a blessed life here and now, we need to
practice the law of God, but first we need to have
faith in the Messiah. It is by faith in the
Messiah that we can even approach the living God,
but it is by practicing
God's law that we will receive God's blessings rather than
curses. This is the New Covenant. It is
the merging together of the Promise of God (Gen.
15:6) with the Law of God (Ex. 19:7-8, Gal. 3:17).