"Foundations of the Faith" Series

The Just Shall Live By Faith

Identifying Genuine Biblical Belief

By David M Rogers

Published: Spring 2007

Third Edition: March 2011

Table of Contents

Habakkuk 2:4

The Atoning Value of the Blood of Messiah

The Meaning of Biblical Faith

Usage of Faith (aman) in the Old Testament

Emunah in the Psalms

...which, if a man does, he shall live by them

The Faith of Abraham

Imputed Righteousness

"Faith Alone" or "Faith and Works"

Faith as Taught by the Messiah

Faith and Law in the Book of Romans

Martin Luther


According to the Scriptures, faith is the cornerstone to relationship with Elohim (God).  Without faith it is impossible to please Yahuwah (Yahuwah is the Hebrew name for the Creator God).  By Yahuwah's favor, we are saved through faith.  "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."  "The righteous shall live by faith."  Faith sums up the walk - the lifestyle of all who call upon Yahuwah and upon his Messiah.

Unfortunately, most of the doctrines of the Protestant Christian Churches hang off a mistaken understanding of the concept of faith.  Faith, in the mind of Christian thinkers and scholars, beginning with that Catholic priest and protesting reformer Martin Luther, means "just believe Jesus died for you."   In their view it means, "all you have to do is believe that God has done all the work and you don't have to do a thing."  It means, "you don't have to repent or turn from sin.  All you must do is 'come as you are' and God will accept you just the way you are."  Just have faith.  Just believe.

Habakkuk 2:4

Following a despicable time of history when the universal ("catholic") church was forcing everyone to pay money  to the Church to obtain forgiveness for sins (on account of your "indulgences"), and even to pay the Church for forgiveness for sins yet uncommitted, arrived Martin Luther.  Luther had a great revelation: the just shall live by faith - you only have to believe in Jesus.  Sure, he was speaking out against terrible abuses of the Church during his times.  And thus, his "revelation" all the more seems to be the truth of the Bible.

During his time of fasting and prayer and Bible study, Luther came across Habakkuk 2:4:

The just shall live by faith (literally, "the righteous one by his faithfulness shall live").

This is the verse that changed Church history.  For Luther interpreted this verse as follows: you don't have to pay the Church indulgences anymore, nor do you have to ask a priest for forgiveness of sins, nor do you have to obey the instructions of the priest to obtain absolution for sins committed.  Down through the centuries, theologians have reframed this message to suggest that all one has to do is "believe" in God and all will be forgiven and forgotten.

There is an element of truth in what Luther taught.  As the Messiah himself taught (and as reiterated by Paul), no one has to be captive to empty man-made philosophy and the commandments of men anymore.  Because Messiah died as our substitute, we have been set free from the bondage of sin and from the bondage of man-made customs, laws, traditions and practices.  We don't need to look to man anymore to find forgiveness or mediation or guidance.  We need merely to look to the Scriptures for authoritative teaching and obey the Creator's Word.  We look to Messiah who opened the door.  So, the primary thrust of Luther's discovery that the just shall live by faith and his emphasis against "works" needs to be understood in its context.

The "works" that Luther disdained were the works as defined by the Catholic Church.  However, modern Christian teaching has transferred the context of Luther's teaching "against works" of the Catholic Church to a teaching which says that faith is contrary to any "work" - particularly the work or "doing" of Elohim's Law made up of his righteous, eternal commandments.  The phrase, "the just shall live by faith" is broken down by Christian teachers as follows:  "the just" meaning the one who is righteous in the Creator's eyes; "shall live", that is, should live in the here and now, and will obtain eternal life; "by faith", that is, by simply "believing" in God and nothing more.  Just believe it in your mind, and poof - it is so.  It's like magic.  Wave your wand of "belief" and that makes it so.  Never mind the righteous character of Elohim or the fact that in His justice He must eradicate sin from the world.  Never mind that the Creator is just and fair in all his dealings and has given us his commandments as a gift to provide guidance for right living.  Never mind that sin cannot exist in the presence of the Set-apart One.

Christians think that none of that matters.  They think that one can continue to sin and transgress any and all of the commandments of Scripture (which, they say, no longer have authority over us) and still remain in good standing with their "God" on the basis that they "believe" in him.  This is a most astounding illogicality which the most gifted and brilliant theologians just shrug off.  Just "believe" in Jesus and any sin that you have done, are now doing, or intend to continue to do, will immediately be forgiven and forgotten.  And Elohim's reputation and righteous character is still vindicated in spite of his people's continuing transgression and rebellion against him!

Christians are taught that all you have to do is believe in God and believe that "Jesus died on the cross to take away your sins."  If you believe that, they say, then say a simple prayer and, dong!!!, you are now "saved" and a member of God's family for eternity.  Pretty easy, huh?  Well, guess what, Christian?  The devil "believes" and trembles (James 2:19).  Mere "belief" in God or mere "belief" that Jesus died for your sins actually gets you nothing.  The liars and false prophets and false teachers have been spinning their lies again.  They have sold us all a bill of goods that leads to little more than a pile of worthless garbage.  The devil knows far more about God than any of us and he believes it all to be true.  But that doesn't amount to him being "saved."  Satan may be the greatest "believer" in the universe, but no one really thinks he could be saved.

"Faith" cannot simply mean "just believe" because that leads to the most sublimely ridiculous conclusions; such as: Elohim is just and fair even though he doesn't treat sinners justly and fairly.  He is no longer set-apart because he dwells with a people who are constantly in sin and rebellion.  "Just believe" is for fairy tales and self-deluded people and fools who want to believe in getting something for nothing.  They want the status of being good and righteous without actually being good and righteous.  The "just believe" doctrine is welfare for Christians.  It is inanely absurd that the righteous and fair Creator of the universe, who demands righteousness, sinlessness and justice in the world would say that you can have eternal life but you don't have to live righteously, fairly and without sin to obtain it.  This would make him the most unfair being in all the universe!

The Atoning Value of the Blood of Messiah

Sin had separated mankind from a kind and benevolent Creator.  The Creator's character is based in truth, righteousness and justice.  He is light and he is right.  But man's rebellion against his instructions in the garden separated man from the "set-apart" Creator.  The Almighty is set-apart because he is separate from sin and rebellion.  These are contrary to his nature.  And since man has associated himself with sin and rebellion, the Creator had to separate from man.

But Elohim set out to repair the breach between himself and rebellious man.  Because the "wages of sin is death" - which is to say that sin must and always does result in death - rebellious man has to die.  This is the righteous judgment of the Creator.  Righteousness results in life.  Sin results in death.  To illustrate the Law that sin results in death, Elohim provided an animal carcass as a covering for Adam.  The death of the animal was a symbolic reminder that Adam would die on account of his sin.  But the death of the animal (the shedding of its life giving blood) was to provide only a temporary stop gap for man who had sinned.  The death of the animal was accepted by Elohim as a substitute for the immediate execution of the man, due him because of his rebellion.

The shedding of the animal's life providing blood in exchange for the sinner's life was a foreshadowing and picture that one day a righteous man would exchange his own life for transgressors to provide a satisfactory punishment for their sin.  This is what the Messiah accomplished by his death on the tree.  The person who sins must pay the penalty for sin, which is death.  But the penalty can be paid by another party, on the condition that the paying party is not also guilty of sin.  Only if that other party is guilt-free can he be a substitute in death for the transgressor.  Messiah Yahusha is that guilt-free, sinless substitute on the sinner's behalf, who died in their place.

Thus, we cannot even begin to talk about how one is counted righteous, until we understand and acknowledge that it is only because of the acceptance by Elohim of a substitutionary blood sacrifice that we can find forgiveness of sin and draw near to fellowship with Him.  Messiah Yahusha is that one and the only one through whom sinners can find acceptance and favor with the Almighty.

So as we begin to discuss the meaning of faith, we assert that Yahusha and his atoning blood sacrifice to take away the sin of the world is the basis for and object of our "faith."

The Meaning of Biblical Faith

Since "faith" cannot possibly mean "just believe," let's find out what it really means.  We have to return to the Hebrew language and the Hebrew culture to understand "faith."  The word "faith" in Habakkuk 2:4 actually comes from the Hebrew word, hn"Wma/,  pronounced e-mu-nahThe Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament defines this word as "firmness, fidelity, steadiness."  The BDB Hebrew Lexicon defines it as "firmness, steadfastness, fidelity."  And the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament (HALOT) says, "steadfastness, trustworthiness, faithfulness, honesty, permanent official duty."

There is nothing in this word emunah that implies fairytale-like belief in something.  Like you could just believe something were so and that makes it so!  Reality check, please!  Emunah does not mean mere mental assent to a thing.  It does not mean "to agree in mind only."  Simply wishing something or fixing one's mind on that thing and "believing" it is so, doesn't change the Creator's mind about sin, rebellion and lawlessness.  He is still righteous, just and set-apart.  And he still requires all who stand in his presence to be set-apart from sin.

Emunah requires action.  It embodies the doing of a thing.  It implies complete steadfast obedience and fidelity to this thing "believed" in.  Thus when it says that "the righteous one will live by faith," it is teaching us that "in complete fidelity and faithfulness the righteous one will live."  It is not enough to just mentally acknowledge the truths that Yahuwah our Creator reveals to us.  We must take action and obey in every detail everything that he commands us.  This is the essence of the covenant relationship we have agreed to.  He is to be our Elohim - he provides health, life, strength, protection.  And we are to obey and do everything he commands us.  If we fail to obey the covenant, we have broken the covenant and are no longer under the protection of Elohim provided under the terms of the covenant.

The word emunah, "faithfulness, fidelity" comes from a very familiar concept.  Its root word is the Hebrew !m;a' "aman" or "amen" and means, "to confirm, support, uphold (Qal); to be established, be faithful (Niphal); to be certain."  We get our expression "a-men" from this, and it means "truly" or "I agree" or "this is a faithful and reliable thing."  Thus, true biblical "faith" should be understood to mean "faithfulness" or "firmness" or "fidelity."  Fidelity to the Creator is what emunah means and not just spewing out a "confession" or an "I believe in you, Jesus."  "The just shall live by faith" means that the one who is declared righteous in Elohim's sight is one who lives his life and walks his "faith walk" with complete obedience to the Covenant and wholehearted faithfulness to his commandments.  To love Yahuwah with all your mind, all your soul and all your strength means to be steadfastly attached to him.  Someone who says he loves Elohim but does not obey his commandments is a liar (see 1 John 1:6; 3:4).  The righteous person lives his life in faithful compliance with Yahuwah.

The biblical analogy of marriage is helpful to our correct understanding of the role of faithfulness in our relationship with Elohim.  When a man and a woman pledge themselves to each other in a marriage contract, they are vowing to be "faithful" to one another.  If one or the other has a sexual relationship with a third individual, the contract is violated.  The "unfaithfulness" is grounds for terminating the marriage contract.  The essence of marriage is that two people "forsake all others" (a reference to having sexual contact with someone else), and pledge complete fidelity and faithfulness and exclusive commitment to each other.  Thus it is with the Almighty.  Faithfulness to Elohim means that we forsake all other gods, worship practices and lifestyles that conflict and contradict the clear instructions (terms of the contract) we have with Elohim.

The usage of these two Hebrew terms, aman and emunah, in the Tanach (the "Old Testament") will serve to show us that they both are best translated along the lines of "faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty, reliability."

Usage of Faith (aman) in the Old Testament

The verb aman in the TaNaCH (Old Testament) occurs many times, only a few of which we will recite here.  In each of the Scripture quotations below, the translation of the Hebrew word aman will be underlined.

Yet they continued to sin against him, and rebelled against Yahuwah in the desert.  They willfully challenged Elohim by asking for food to satisfy their appetite.  They insulted Elohim, saying, "Is Elohim really able to give us food in the wilderness?  Yes, he struck a rock and water flowed out, streams gushed forth. But can he also give us food? Will he provide meat for his people?"  When Yahuwah heard this, he was furious. A fire broke out against Ya'acov, and his anger flared up against Yisrael, because they did not have faith in Elohim, and did not trust his ability to deliver them (Tehillim 78:17-22).

This recounting of the experience of wandering in the wilderness finds Yisrael in rebellion against Yahuwah.  They continually disobeyed the instructions and found themselves disloyal to their Deliverer.  Thus, they did not "have faith" (aman) in Elohim; that is, they were not faithful to him.

This word occurs in the Torah in Bereshith where Yoseph is testing his brothers:

But you must bring your youngest brother to me. Then your words will be verified and you will not die." They did as he said. (Ber 42:20)

Here again the word aman means "faithful."  Yoseph was testing the "faithfulness" of his brothers words.

Later, when the brothers told their father that Yoseph was still alive...

They told him, "Yoseph is still alive and he is ruler over all the land of Egypt!" Ya'acov was stunned, for he did not believe them. (Bereshith 45:26).

Ya'acov did not consider the sons message to him to be reliable or faithful.  In English, we express this thought by saying, "he didn't believe them" as it is appropriately translated here.

When Yahuwah was instructing Mosheh to bring his message to the elders of Yisrael,

Mosheh answered again, "And if they do not believe me or pay attention to me, but say, 'Yahuwah has not appeared to you'?" (Shemot 4:1).

Mosheh's concern was that Israel would not find the message reliable or faithful that Elohim had appeared to him.  We see that "believe" even in the Tanach has this connotation of faithfulness, reliability and steadfastness.

In Devarim, aman is descriptive of Yahuwah:

So realize that Yahuwah your Elohim is the true Elohim, the faithful Elohim who keeps covenant faithfully with those who love him and keep his commandments, to a thousand generations (Devarim 7:9)

Yahuwah is true, reliable, faithful, "believable."

When Yahuwah was instructing the sons of Yisrael when they were about to enter the promised land, he pronounced blessings to those who would obey and curses for those who were disobedient and disloyal.  If you chose to be unfaithful to Yahuwah

then Yahuwah will increase your punishments and those of your descendants--great and long-lasting afflictions and severe, enduring illnesses (Devarim 28:59)

The punishments which Yahuwah will inflict on those disloyal to his Covenant would be "faithful," here translated "long-lasting" and "enduring."

Many more examples of the usage of aman in the Tanach could be given.  These should sufficiently demonstrate that aman always means "faithfulness" in word and deed.  It is in the doing of a thing that one can be found to be faithful.  A simple word lookup in a Hebrew concordance will supply you with many additional examples.

Emunah in the Psalms

The Hebrew word emunah, such as is found in Habakkuk 2:4 when used of a man is also almost always translated with the idea of faithfulness or fidelity to Yahuwah's Covenant or when it is speaking of Yahuwah himself, it refers to his reliability.  Note the following citations from the Tehillim (Psalms).  The word translated from emunah is underlined.

Your love, Yahuwah, reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies. (36:5)

I have not failed to tell about your justice; I spoke about your reliability and deliverance; I have not neglected to tell the great assembly about your loyal love and faithfulness (aman) (40:10)

Is your loyal love proclaimed in the grave, or your faithfulness in the place of the dead? (88:11)

I will sing continually about Yahuwah's faithful deeds; to future generations I will proclaim your faithfulness.  For I say, "Loyal love is permanently established; in the skies you set up your faithfulness." (89:1,2)

He will experience my faithfulness and loyal love, and by my name he will win victories (89:24).

I choose the path of faithfulness; I am committed to your regulations (119:30).

All your commands are reliable. They chase me without reason. Help me! (119:86)

You demonstrate your faithfulness to all generations. You established the earth and it stood firm (119:90)

The rules you impose are just, and absolutely reliable (119:138).

This list could go on and on.  The meaning of emunah in the Psalms and in all of the Scriptures is firmly established.

Henceforth, when we see the word "faith" in the Scriptures, we should replace it with the word "faithfulness" or "fidelity," and understand this to mean "faithfulness to the instructions of our Maker and Savior."  The English word "faith" has too much of the old false notions, too much misleading baggage.  If we want to be true to the meaning and usage of emunah in the Tanach, we must understand that "the righteous shall live by faithfulness."

...which, if a man does, he shall live by them

We have come to understand the meaning of Habakkuk 2:4, which has long been translated, "the just shall live by faith," as meaning, "the righteous one will find eternal life by faithfulness (fidelity) to Yahuwah's instruction."  Faith is not a fleeting contemplation in one's mind of thinking good thoughts about the Savior that amounts to salvation (as is taught in most Evangelical Christian churches).  Commitment to the Master and faithfulness as expressed by repentance from sin and wholesale obedience to his commandments is what "faith" in Scripture is referring to.  This is what the whole body of Scripture teaches, from Genesis to Revelation.

The Torah - Law of Moses - teaches that life is attained through obedience to Yahuwah in covenant relationship.  The relationship between Elohim and his people is based upon the agreement of his people to obey Him.  There is no other way to be in relationship with the living Creator of the universe.  The blood atonement makes it possible for humans to stand in relationship to Elohim.  But having been redeemed from sin and cleansed of transgression of Yahuwah's standard, each of us may approach Elohim in the integrity of obedience to his will.

Thus, the instruction of Scripture reads:

You must observe my regulations and you must be sure to walk in my rules. I am Yahuwah your Elohim.  So you must keep my rules and my regulations; anyone who does so will live by keeping them. I am Yahuwah (Vayiqra [Leviticus] 18:4,5).

The Hebrew of this text reads:

`~k,(yhel{a/ hw"hy> ynIa] ~h,_B' tk,l,l' Wrm.v.Ti yt;Qoxu-ta,w> Wf[]T; yj;P'v.mi-ta, 4

s `hw")hy> ynIa] ~h,_B' yx;w" ~d"a'h' ~t'ao hf,[]y: rv,a] yj;P'v.mi-ta,w> yt;Qoxu-ta, ~T,r>m;v.W 5

And a literal rendering of these two verses produces some clarity on the source of Habakkuk's declaration:

My mishpats (judgments) you shall do and my chuks (decrees) you shall guard to walk in them.  I am Yahuwah your Mighty One.  And you shall guard my chuks (decrees) and my mishpats (judgments).  The man who does them even he shall live by them.  I am Yahuwah.

This instruction makes it clear that guarding and doing the decrees and judgments causes the man who does them to live.  It couldn't be any clearer that this is exactly also what Habakkuk is saying.

Thus, life is procured through one's walk and character.  When one conforms to the image of Elohim by keeping the commandments (the purpose of which is to model the character of Elohim), then life is the natural outflow of this set-apartness.

This commandment and principle is repeated in Deuteronomy where Elohim reiterates the walk of "faithfulness" which he instructs his people to follow as they prepare to enter the promised land:

You must keep carefully all these commandments I am giving you today so that you may live, multiply, and go in and occupy the land that Yahuwah promised to your ancestors (Devarim 8:1).

Faithfulness to the commandments of the covenant, and not mere "faith" (mental assent), is what is required to attain life.

This message of the Torah (Law) about fidelity is reiterated by the Prophets:

But if the wicked person turns from all the sin he has committed and keeps all my rules and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die (Yechezqel [Ezekiel] 18:21).

Ezekiel affirms that life is not attained by "faith alone" (mere mental agreement with Yah), but by "faithfulness" to the covenantal agreement in which Yahuwah is to be our Elohim and we, by obeying his commandments, are to be his people:

I gave them my rules and revealed my laws to them. The one who obeys them will live by them!  I also gave them my Sabbaths as a reminder of our relationship, so that they would know that I, Yahuwah, make them set-apart.  'But the house of Yisrael rebelled against me in the wilderness; they disobeyed my rules and rejected my laws (the one who obeys them will live by them), and they utterly desecrated my Sabbaths....  Treat my Sabbaths as set-apart and they will be a reminder of our relationship, and then you will know that I am Yahuwah your Elohim.  'But the children rebelled against me, did not follow my rules, did not observe my laws by obeying them (the one who obeys them will live by them), and desecrated my Sabbaths. I announced that I would pour out my rage on them and fully vent my anger against them in the wilderness (Yechezqel [Ezekiel] 20:11-13, 21).

The one who obeys the commandments is the one who lives.  As James points out, faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself (2:17).  So, fidelity to Yahuwah is the requirement for life.  "Being the children of Elohim" means that we belong to Him and are being conformed to His image.  That means we are obeying his commandments, which mold us into his image.

In a prophetic word spoken through Mosheh to the nation of Israel as they readied themselves to enter the Promised Land, Yahuwah speaks to our generation (to you and me):

When you have experienced all these things, both the blessings and the curses I have set before you, you will reflect upon them in all the nations where Yahuwah your Elohim has banished you.  Then if you and your descendants turn to Yahuwah your Elohim and obey him with your whole mind and being just as I am commanding you today, Yahuwah your Elohim will reverse your captivity and have pity on you. He will turn and gather you from all the peoples among whom he has scattered you (Devarim 30:1-3).

He is speaking about us!  We are the ones who have experienced the blessings and the curses.  We are being invited to return to Him with our whole mind and being and obey him just as they were invited to do so thousands of years ago.  He goes on to say:

Even if your exiles are in the most distant land, from there Yahuwah your Elohim will gather you and bring you back.  Then he will bring you to the land your ancestors possessed and you also will possess it; he will do better for you and multiply you more than he did your ancestors.  Yahuwah your Elohim will also cleanse your heart and the hearts of your descendants so that you may love him with all your heart and soul and so that you may live.  Then Yahuwah your Elohim will put all these curses on your enemies, on those who hate you and persecute you.  You will return and obey Yahuwah, keeping all his commandments I am giving you today.  Yahuwah your Elohim will make the labor of your hands abundantly successful and multiply your children, the offspring of your cattle, and the produce of your soil. For Yahuwah your Elohim will once more rejoice over you just as he rejoiced over your ancestors, if you obey Yahuwah your Elohim and keep his commandments and rules that are written in this scroll of the instruction. But you must turn to him with your whole mind and being (Devarim 30:4-10).

The people in our day (you and me) who repent and return to our Elohim with all of our heart are being instructed to obey Him and keep all his commandments (the commands that were given at Sinai!).

Then, he talks about the commandments.  He does not describe them as "difficult or impossible to keep" as some Christian denominations teach today.  On the contrary,

This commandment I am giving you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it too remote.  It is not in heaven, as though one must say, "Who will go up to heaven to get it for us and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?"  And it is not across the sea, as though one must say, "Who will cross over to the other side of the sea and get it for us and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?"  For the thing is very near you--it is in your mouth and mind so that you can do it (Devarim 30:11-14).

The commandments under the "Old Covenant" (as it is often called) is NOT too difficult to keep.  In fact, it is described as "very near you - in your mouth and in your mind - so that you CAN do it."

This should ring a bell for anyone who has read and studied the apostle Paul's letter to the Romans (you know, the book that is so often quoted as being the case for "righteousness by faith alone").  Paul writes,

For Mosheh writes about the righteousness that is by the Torah (law): "The one who does these things will live by them."  So the righteousness that is by faith says: "Do not say in your heart, 'Who will ascend into heaven?'" (that is, to bring Messiah down) or "Who will descend into the abyss?" (that is, to bring Messiah up from the dead) (Romans 10:5-7, quoting Devarim 30:11-13).

Keep in mind that Paul is here describing "righteousness by faith."  This righteousness that was revealed through the Law is that one and the same righteousness by faith(fulness/fidelity).  Paul then asks concerning "righteousness by faith":

But what does it say? "The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" (that is, the word of faith that we preach), because if you confess with your mouth that Yahuwah is Yahusha and believe in your heart that Elohim raised him from the dead, you will be saved.  For with the heart one believes and thus has righteousness and with the mouth one confesses and thus has salvation (Romans 10:8-10).

Listen and pay attention!  Paul's message of "righteousness by faith" is one and the same as the message given by Moses to the children of Israel!  He quotes Devarim 30:14 where he notes that "it is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart"  He is talking about the righteousness that was revealed at Sinai!  That righteousness that was revealed through the Law at Sinai is the righteousness by faith that Paul is speaking of!  It is near you and in your mouth and in your heart.  Righteousness is attained by faithful obedience to the Creator.  Faith, by its very definition, means "fidelity/faithfulness" to the Elohim we serve.  This is the message that brings us life!

"Look! I have set before you today life and prosperity on the one hand, and death and disaster on the other.  What I am commanding you today is to love Yahuwah your Elohim, to walk in his ways, and to obey his commandments, his rules, and his right-rulings. Then you will live and become numerous and Yahuwah your Elohim will bless you in the land which you are about to possess (Devarim 30:15, 16).

The message of the covenant given at Sinai, and the message given by Paul in the book of Romans is one and the same.  Salvation is made possible by the atoning blood sacrifice of the lamb of Elohim and is confirmed in the follower by his faithful obedience to the covenant commandments and his lifestyle walk.

But the converse is also true.  Life is forfeited through disobedience to the commandments which amounts to "unfaithfulness" toward Yahuwah.  Death is the result of this rebellious disobedience, as the Scripture says.

However, if you turn aside and do not obey, but are lured away to worship and serve other elohim,  I declare to you this very day that you will certainly perish! You will not extend your time in the land you are crossing the Yardan to possess.  Today I invoke heaven and earth as a witness against you that I have set life and death, blessing and curse, before you. Therefore choose life so that you and your descendants may live!  I also call on you to love Yahuwah your Elohim, to obey him and be loyal to him, for he gives you life and enables you to live continually in the land Yahuwah promised to give to your ancestors Avraham, Yitzchak, and Ya'acov" (Devarim 30:17-20).

The call to all who will hear his voice is to "choose life" by "obeying him and being loyal to him" because "he gives you life and enables you to live...."  Thus, Paul's "righteousness by faith" is the eternal, unchanging gospel message that "the revealed righteousness of Elohim" is attained by "faithfulness" to his covenant and expresses itself through obedience to his commandments.

The Faith of Abraham

The "faith of Abraham" is held up high by Christian preachers and teachers as the model which all of us should follow after.  It is thought by most Christians that Abraham is the prime example of (their understanding of) "faith" because Abraham walked with Elohim "before there was any Law of Moses."  If this is so, then Abraham walked with Elohim and pleased Elohim all his life, and was "counted righteous" without regard to any Law that existed.  Thus, they say, by Abraham's "belief in God alone," he pleased Elohim and therefore is the example for each of us.

Let's look at the testimony of Scripture with regard to Abraham.

After these things the word of Yahuwah came to Avram in a vision: "Fear not, Avram! I am your shield and the one who will reward you in great abundance."  But Avram said, "Adonai Yahuwah, what will you give me since I continue to be childless, and my heir is Eliezer of Damascus?"  Avram added, "Since you have not given me a descendant, then look, one born in my house will be my heir!"  But look, the word of Yahuwah came to him: "This man will not be your heir, but instead a son who comes from your own body will be your heir."  He took him outside and said, "Peer into the sky and count the stars--if you are able to count them!" Then he said to him, "So will your descendants be."  Avram believed Yahuwah, and He counted it for righteousness (Bereshith [Genesis] 15:1-6).

This is the account and the text (verse 6) which Christian theologians use as "proof" that one only has to "believe" and that one never has to "do" anything to merit a standing of righteousness in Elohim's sight.  The statement, "Avram believed Yahuwah and he counted it for righteousness" is cited by Paul several times in his letters.  Christians insist that "just believing on Jesus" will merit you righteousness and salvation.

But is that really what the testimony of Scripture is saying about Abraham?  The Hebrew word here translated, "believed" is the same word we noted above.  It is !m;a' (aman).  The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament defines this word as "to confirm, support, uphold (Qal); to be established, be faithful (Niphal); to be certain.  The BDB Hebrew Lexicon defines it as "confirm, support, made firm, sure, lasting,  confirmed, established, sure."  And the Hebrew and Aramaic Lexicon of the Old Testament defines aman as "to be firm, trustworthy, safe; to occupy oneself constantly with; to prove to be firm, reliable, faithful" as well as "to think, to believe."

If we understand the statement of Bereshith 15:6 with this concept, the meaning begins to emerge.  Here is my amplified version of verse 6: "Abraham was confirming and supportive of Yahuwah's statement by being faithful to what he said, and He counted it for righteousness."  Another way to put it is this:  "And Abraham in faithfulness to Yahuwah found the declaration to be reliable and committed himself to it, and He counted it as righteousness."  Or even, "Avram counted as trustworthy what Yahuwah promised and acted in faithfulness to His declarations, and He counted this for righteousness."  It was more than just superficial belief on Abraham's part that Yahuwah saw that He credited this as righteousness.  Abraham had a track record which testified to his fidelity to the promises of Yahuwah.

Abraham was already in the habit of obeying the instructions given to him from his Maker.  When told to leave Ur of the Chaldeans, the Scripture says Abraham immediately left and went to the place which Yahuwah was to show him.  Avram, when instructed to do so by Elohim, left his father's household and his family and his place of residence and became a tent-dweller in a foreign land.  Abraham always obeyed the commandments given to him from Elohim.  So, when the Scripture says that "Avram believed Yahuwah," it is speaking not just of a mental acknowledgment or agreement about what Elohim was saying.  Avram obeyed the voice of Yahuwah, he acted positively on the commandments of Yahuwah and he complied with all Elohim's instructions.

This testimony is confirmed several times in the biblical account of the life of Abraham.  When the three visitors came to Abraham (and one of them was Yahuwah), the three were having a discussion:

When the men got up to leave, they looked out over Sodom. (Now Avraham was walking with them to see them on their way.)  Then Yahuwah said, "Should I hide from Avraham what I am about to do?  After all, Avraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all the nations on the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using his name.  I have chosen him so that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of Yahuwah by doing what is right and just. Then Yahuwah will give to Avraham what he promised him."  (Bereshith 18:16-19)

Elohim had chosen Avram to fulfill those promises to him because He saw in Avram a willingness and faithfulness to obey Yahuwah's instructions.  And because so, Abraham would teach and command his children to do the same - to do what is right and just.  "Doing what is right and just" is another way of saying "he will obey all my righteous and just commandments."  And Abraham was always "keeping the way" of Yahuwah.  This means fidelity to the instructions and faithfulness to the path Yahuwah commands him to walk in.  And this instruction he was to pass on to his children so that they, too, would inherit righteousness by faith (faithfulness and loyalty to Yahuwah).

Another testimony about Abraham's faithfulness and fidelity to Yahuwah comes in the form of a promise being made to his inheriting son, Yitzchak:

Yahuwah appeared to Yitzchak and said, "Do not go down to Egypt; settle down in the land that I will point out to you.  Stay in this land. Then I will be with you and will bless you, for I will give all these lands to you and to your descendants, and I will fulfill the solemn promise I made to your father Avraham.  I will multiply your descendants so they will be as numerous as the stars in the sky, and I will give them all these lands. All the nations of the earth will pronounce blessings on one another using the name of your descendants.  All this will come to pass because Avraham obeyed me and kept my charge, my commandments, my rules, and my Instructions."  (Bereshith 26:2-5)

Just as the promises were given to Avram on account of his fidelity to Yahuwah, these same promises are passed on to his son Yitzchak because of Abraham's faithfulness.  It says that he "obeyed me," literally in the Hebrew, "he shema'ed my voice" (heard or obeyed my voice).  And he "kept my charge" which literally means "he guarded my guardians" (here the commandments of Yahuwah are described as "guardians" because they act like a protective fence for those who obey them).  And Abraham obeyed the chukim and the torot (the rules and instructions) of Yahuwah.

But someone will argue: "There were no laws before the giving of the Law by Mosheh."  Yet here we have described Abraham obeying the commandments of Yahuwah by the same Hebrew terminology which is used later on of the Instructions of the Torah of Mosheh.  There is sufficient evidence in the numerous references to the Law of Elohim early in the book of Genesis to conclude confidently that Yahuwah's laws, rules and instructions were well known in those ancient times and put into practice by those who feared (loved) Yahuwah, creator of heaven and earth.

So with all this testimony about Abraham, it is incumbent upon us to conclude that the "faith" of Abraham should be understood to mean his implicit trust in Yahuwah which was demonstrated by his fidelity to the commandments and instructions given to him by the Creator.

Imputed Righteousness

The testimony of Paul in the book of Romans is that

it is not those who hear the Torah who are righteous before Elohim, but those who do the Torah will be declared righteous (Romans 2:13).

Here it is clear that he is teaching that doing the Law and keeping the commandments is an essential element in the obtaining of righteousness.  It is not enough to have and know the Law.  One must DO the Law and perform the commandments in order to be declared righteous.

But in another place, Paul writes

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.  (Romans 3:28)

Now which is it?  You cannot have it both ways.  You cannot teach with authority two exclusive ways of obtaining righteousness.  He says that those who "do the Torah will be declared righteous" and then he says that "a man is made righteous (justified) by faith apart from observing the law."  This is an apparent discrepancy in Paul's teaching.  Thus what appears to be what Paul is saying must not really be what he is teaching.  Our understanding of his words and teaching must be adjusted.  Is it possible to reconcile these seemingly contradictory statements?

The solution is in coming to understand the usages of the term "law" in Paul's time.  We must understand the cultural context of Paul's writings.  It is clear that Paul was a Pharisee and that he left Phariseeism when he attached to Messiah.  The Pharisees (and Rabbis ever since) understand that there are two torahs (law codes).  The one is that which Moses wrote in the Bible and the other torah is that which allegedly was passed on through the generations by word of mouth.  It is the latter law - the "oral law" - which got the Pharisees into so much trouble with the Master.  The oral law actually consists in the interpretations and traditions and commandments of men.

When Paul says that one MUST DO the Torah to be declared righteous, he is speaking of the Torah which was written by Moses, because these are the very words which proceeded from the mouth of Elohim, and as such, they carry the authority of Elohim.  And when he says that no one can be justified by observing the law, he is referring to the oral law of the Pharisees.  These man-made laws are not authoritative at all!  The only authority they carry is that of men.

So what is Paul teaching regarding the obtaining of righteousness?  Paul talks about righteousness being "imputed" to individuals "who believe."  To "impute" means "to ascribe to or charge (a person) with an act or quality because of the conduct of another over whom one has control or for whose acts or conduct one is responsible."  Christian theology teaches that the imputing of righteousness means that righteousness is attributed to someone without regard to conduct.  Normal usage of "impute" is just the opposite - it is ascribing a quality based on one's actions.

Paul also writes that

to the man who does not work but trusts Elohim who justifies the wicked, his faith is credited as righteousness (Romans 4:5).

So when Paul argues that Abraham was imputed with righteousness by simply believing what Elohim said to him, even before he underwent circumcision, what is he teaching?  Is he saying that obedience to the Word of Elohim has no connection to the righteousness of Elohim which is credited to the one who "believes Elohim"?  The answer is "No."

Paul is describing the factor which causes Elohim's acceptance of a person.  At the instant that a person "believes Elohim," that is to say, when a person repents in his heart and accepts and agrees with Yahuwah's ways - at that very moment when his attitude is transformed and from the inner being says "yes" to Yahuwah - that is the moment of "belief" that Yahuwah credits as "righteousness."  Even before that person ever does any act of obedience such as keeping a Law or complying to a regulation, Yahuwah sees that his heart is "right" with Him and He sees that person as being in a "state" of righteousness.

This is why "Avram believed and he counted it as righteousness."  Avram, in his inner man, agreed in spirit with Yahuwah's way and plan.  And Avram determined in his mind that he was going to comply with and obey Yahuwah's declaration of truth.  In his heart, at that moment, Abram was walking in the will of the Almighty.  The testimony about Avram is that after he "believed" Yahuwah,

he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of Elohim, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to Elohim, being fully persuaded that Elohim had power to do what he had promised.  This is why "it was credited to him as righteousness" (Romans 4:20-22).

What does it mean that Avram did not waver?  It suggests that he did not disobey.  He henceforth walked in perfect faithfulness to Yahuwah's will.  He was strengthened in his faith - in his faithfulness - by obeying what Yahuwah told him.  And "this is why it was credited to him as righteousness"

The true "belief" in Elohim and in the Messiah always results in "faithful" obedience to Elohim's Word.  If someone claims to have "faith in Elohim" but does not obey his word, his faith is not genuine.  That person is a liar and the truth is not in him, according to the teaching of 1 Yochanan:

We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands.  The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But if anyone obeys his word, Elohim's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Yahusha did. (1 John 2:3-6)

Abraham believed Yahuwah, and he walked faithfully in his commands.  This heart attitude and walk of fidelity was what the Almighty saw in Abraham's heart, "and he counted it for righteousness."

"Faith Alone" or "Faith and Works"

Many Christians have stumbled over the apparent discrepancy between Paul's declaration of righteousness by faith alone and James declaration of righteousness by "faith in combination with works."  Paul writes:

For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law (Romans 3:28)

But James says:

You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone (Ya'acov [James] 2:24).

So who is correct?  Is it possible that both could be correct?

It must be that both James and Paul are correct.  There is no discrepancy in what they teach.  Paul is speaking from the perspective of the exact moment and event when Elohim accepts the "believer".  James is speaking from a practical, visible, verifiable point of view.  Paul is teaching about the reality that Elohim sees the heart and not just the outward man.  James is speaking from the human perspective - what we can all see and verify.  Thus, Paul is right to say that its the change of heart in the moment of repentance that Yahuwah credits as righteousness, while James sees that same act of repentance as resulting in a visible change in the walk of the believer - he begins to keep the commandments.

The letter written by Ya'acov (James), the brother of Yahusha, affirms our conclusions above.  Ya'acov is compelled to argue that faith alone - the kind of faith that modern Christians promote and teach - is dead:

So also faith, if it does not have works, is dead being by itself.  But someone will say, "You have faith and I have works." Show me your faith without works and I will show faith by my works.  You believe that Elohim is one; well and good. Even the demons believe that--and tremble with fear.  (Ya'acov 2:17-19)

"Faith" or "belief" in Elohim, all by itself, is worthless.  Christians should not be insisting that "all you have to do is believe" because this notion is flatly contradicted and declared to be false by Ya'acov.

But "faith" (trust, true belief), when it is accompanied by works (obedience to Yahuwah's instructions) is commendable.  Ya'acov clarifies the Scriptural meaning of "faith (emunah)" by insisting that "I will show faith by my works"!  It is only in the doing of the will of Elohim and the performing of the commandments that "faith" is demonstrated to be true.  There is a kind of "false faith."  And Ya'acov illustrates this by noting that "even the demons believe"!  But demons do not practice Scriptural "faith" which is to be understood as "faithfulness to Yahuwah" or "fidelity to the Covenant" or "obedience to Yah's commands."  Demons practice this "false faith" - a mere belief in God - but this does not merit them salvation or righteousness.  True faith/fidelity (to Yahuwah) produces righteousness, because obeying the commandments of Elohim is "practicing righteousness."

Following this, Ya'acov refers to Abraham as the prime example of the point he is making that "faith" all by itself is dead:

But would you like evidence, you empty fellow, that faith without works is useless?  Was not Avraham our father justified by works when he offered Yitzchak his son on the altar?  You see that his faith was working together with his works and his faith was perfected by works. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Now Avraham believed Elohim and it was counted to him for righteousness," and he was called Elohim's friend (Ya'acov 2:20-23).

If Abraham had "mentally acknowledged" that what Elohim was saying to him was true and trustworthy but had not walked in the instructions Yahuwah gave him (i.e. "go to the land I will show you"), he would NOT have inherited the promises and he would NOT have been commended.  It is in the doing of the thing that "faith" (trust) is proven.  Faith without the walking/doing would go for naught.  Nothing would be accomplished by that and Yahuwah's will would not be performed.

Ya'acov explained that the Scripture that says, "Avraham believed Elohim and it was counted to him for righteousness" was fulfilled not just by Abraham "believing" what the Creator said, but in his doing of what Yahuwah said to do. And so Ya'acov emphatically concludes:

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. (Ya'acov 2:24)

One additional illustration from Scripture and one practical observation concludes Ya'acov's diatribe about "faith":

And similarly, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another way?  For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead. (Ya'acov 2:25, 26).

Faith and "doing" are like two sides of the same coin.  You can not have one without the other.  Genuine "faith" does not exist in a vacuum.  Scriptural faith is demonstrated by being in compliance with the will of Elohim in the doing of the commandments.

Faith as Taught by the Messiah

It is helpful to understand "faith/faithfulness" as Messiah Yahusha explained it.  Certainly, what the Master said about "faithfulness" and what he taught about the requirements for being commended before Elohim, must inform our understanding of "faith."  Since Abraham's emunah was counted for righteousness, let's see what the Messiah said about righteousness and "faith."

The very first teaching as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount in Mattityahu 5 gives us the first hint at what Yahusha taught regarding righteousness:

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Torah or the prophets. I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill them.  I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth pass away not the smallest letter or stroke of a letter will pass from the law until everything takes place.  So anyone who breaks one of the least of these commands and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever obeys them and teaches others to do so will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness goes beyond that of the experts in the Torah and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven (Mattityahu 5:17-20)

At the outset of his public ministry, the Messiah set forth the tone of his teaching ministry.  He explained in no uncertain terms that the Torah of Mosheh is not going to be done away with at anytime, neither by him nor at anytime while heaven and earth remain.  The Torah (Law) is still the standard of righteousness that Elohim requires of his people.  Any of Yahusha's disciples who break even the very least of the commandments will be called "the Least" in his kingdom.  And his disciples will not enter his kingdom apart from being more righteous than the religious leaders of that day.

With that being said, what did he teach are the requirements for obtaining eternal life?

Now a certain ruler asked him, "Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"  Yahusha said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except Elohim alone.   You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'"  The man replied, "I have wholeheartedly obeyed all these laws since my youth." (Luke 18:18-21)

Here Yahusha confirms the Torah and the Prophets in teaching that the only way to secure eternal life is in obedience to the Law of Mosheh (as summed up in the "ten commandments").  The writings and teachings of Mosheh are replete with instructions regarding the necessity of obedience to Yahuwah in order to remain in good relationship with him.  Yahusha merely affirms these same teachings when asked by the ruler.

Concerning righteousness He taught that

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.... Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to them  (Mattityahu 5:6,10)

Righteousness is defined as "right living."  According to Mosheh and the Prophets, right living is walking in obedience to the Torah - the Instructions Yahuwah gave through Mosheh.  Yahusha is saying that those who "live right" (i.e. obey the commandments) are going to inherit the kingdom.  And in summarizing the way his disciples should live, Messiah said,

But above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well (Matt 6:33).

Eternal life, blessing from Yahuwah and the kingdom of heaven are all obtained by right living/obeying the commandments, which is righteousness to all who belong to him.

With that in mind, what does Yahusha teach about "belief"?  To his disciples he said,

Do not let your hearts be distressed. You believe in Elohim; believe also in me (Yochanan 14:1).

We would certainly not understand this "belief" in Elohim to be on par with the devil's belief in Elohim.  This trust that we have in Elohim and in his Anointed One is a profound dependence upon him which finds us in complete compliance with his will.  A few verses later, in that same discourse, Yahusha said to those who "believe" in him,

If you love me, you will obey my commandments (vs 15).

True "belief" in Elohim and in his Anointed always is accompanied by loyal obedience to his instructions.

Yahusha also addresses the people of Israel with the term, "you of little faith":

And if this is how Elohim clothes the wild grass, which is here today and tomorrow is tossed into the fire to heat the oven, won't he clothe you even more, you people of little faith?  (Mattityahu 6:30; see also Matt. 8:26; 14:31; 16:8; 17:20; Lk. 12:28).

This phrase calls to mind the numerous instances when the nations of Israel and of Yehuda were found guilty of wandering from the Covenant commandments of Yahuwah: they didn't "believe" in him (see explanation above "his anger flared up against Yisrael, because they did not have faith in Elohim, and did not trust his ability to deliver them" (Tehillim 78:22).  So again, the meaning of "faith" is more in line with showing faithfulness to Elohim.

In another encounter, Messiah used the term "faith" to describe the faithful response of a woman who implicitly trusted in him:

When the woman saw that she could not escape notice, she came trembling and fell down before him. In the presence of all the people, she explained why she had touched him and how she had been immediately healed.  Then he said to her, "Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace" (Luke 8:47,48).

The woman's "faith" is commended because she believed the prophesy in Malachi about the healing in the wings (tsitsit) of the Messiah, and she acted on that "belief."

Nearly every instance when Messiah speaks of a person's faith, he is addressing one's willingness to take action to obey the instructions of the Creator.

Faith and Law in the Book of Romans

Next, we come to the difficult task of explaining Paul's use of the term "faith" in his writings.  It's actually not a hard as you might think.  For centuries, Christians have been utilizing sound bites taken out of context from Paul's  letters to "prove" that simple "faith" alone gets a person into the family of "Jesus."  But Christians who have inherited lies from their fathers don't understand Paul's rabbinic background and the situation and context of his teaching.

Understand that there was no issue in the 1st century of the Common Era among the disciples of the Messiah regarding the Torah of Scriptures.  Yahusha had made it very plain that he had not come to destroy the Torah.  Thus, his first century disciples did not have any problem with obedience to Messiah and to his eternal Law.  The debate in that day was with reference to the oral torah of the Pharisees - their traditions, commandments and takanot (laws that supersede the commandments of Yahuwah as written in Scripture).  Nearly every time Paul addresses the issue of the "law" he is referring to either the Scriptural Law (Torah) or the oral law (Pharisaic regulations) or to natural law (the law of sin, the law of the flesh, the natural inclination of sinful man).  The key to understanding Paul is to know when he is talking about Scripture Law and distinguishing that from when he is talking about man-made law or natural law.

The English Bible translations do us no good in making this distinction.  There are two reasons for this.  First, the Greek manuscripts which we have of the "New Testament" writings are themselves copies of translations.  There is strong evidence that the original writings of the disciples of Messiah were done in Hebrew (or Aramaic).  Thus, where the Greek uses nomos (Greek word translated "law"), we have to determine by the context of Paul's argument which law he is referring to.

Even to this day, though nearly no Christians are aware of this, there is a clear distinction in the thinking and teaching of the Jewish rabbis between oral law and written law.  The written law is that which is found in the first five books of the Bible.  The oral law, sometimes referred to as the Talmud (and others), is that which was allegedly passed on from Moses orally (by word of mouth) to his descendants.  This oral law has been interpreted and changed for thousands of years.  This is man's own interpretation of Scripture based on what was allegedly passed down through the generations.

The rabbis always interpret the written Scriptures by their own oral law, which consists of their concocted traditions, practices and customs.  Messiah rebuked the Pharisees over and over again regarding this practice of putting greater weight of authority on their own laws and customs which (in their view) superseded the written Scriptures.  When Yahusha was asked by the Pharisees why he ignored their own commandments,

he answered them, "And why do you disobey the commandment of Elohim because of your tradition?  For Elohim said, 'Honor your father and mother' and 'Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.'  But you say, 'If someone tells his father or mother, "Whatever help you would have received from me is given to Elohim," he does not need to honor his father.' You have nullified the word of Elohim on account of your tradition.  Hypocrites! Yesha'yahu prophesied correctly about you when he said, 'This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.'" (Mattityahu 15:3-8).

The Pharisees of that day, like the Rabbis of today, and like contemporary Christians of all denominations, are guilty of putting their own man-made commandments above the commandments of Yahuwah.

So, when we read Paul's writings, we see this same problem that he was addressing in his day.  The Jewish religious authorities would try to convince the followers of Messiah to obey their oral law.  But Paul's argument in Galatians and in Romans and in his other letters always amounts to making a distinction between the scripturally mandated need to obey Yahuwah's commandments to please Elohim, and equally the need NOT to submit to the oral laws, traditions and practices of the religious hypocrites of those times.  It is utterly futile to practice the commandments of men because they always lead you away from keeping the commandments of the Almighty.

This is why Paul's writings and teachings about "law" can sometimes be so confusing!  On the one hand, he makes bold, positives statements about the Law.  In each of these statements, he is talking about the written Law which are found in Scriptures.  These are the commandments of Yahuwah which we ARE to obey:

For it is not those who hear the Law who are righteous before Elohim, but those who do the Law will be declared righteous (Romans 2:13).

You who boast in the (oral) law dishonor Elohim by transgressing the (written) Law! (Romans 2:23).

Do we then nullify the Law through faith? Absolutely not! Instead we uphold the Law (Romans 3:31).

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? Absolutely not! Certainly, I would not have known sin except through the Law. For indeed I would not have known what it means to desire something belonging to someone else if the Law had not said, "Do not covet" (Romans 7:7).

So then, the Law is set-apart, and the commandment is set-apart, righteous, and good (Romans 7:12).

For we know that the Law is spiritual--but I am unspiritual, sold into slavery to sin (Romans 7:14).

For I delight in the Law of Elohim in my inner being (Romans 7:22).

Paul has many positive things to say about the Law of the written Scriptures.  The Law is set-apart, righteous, spiritual and he delights to do it.

On the other hand, there are numerous statements Paul makes which makes it sound like its a bad thing to obey the law!  And this is true, because in each of these instances, Paul is talking about the oral law of the Pharisees - man-made law, if you will.  Thus, each of the statements below are true, because man's laws are worthless when it comes to salvation:

For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law (Romans 3:20).

For we consider that a person is declared righteous by faith (ie, faithfulness) apart from the works of the law (Romans 3:28).

For if Avraham was declared righteous by the works of the law, he has something to boast about--but not before Elohim (Romans 4:2).

So, my brothers and sisters, you also died to the law through the body of Messiah, so that you could be joined to another (Romans 7:1).

Man-made law cannot save you, and no one is declared righteous by doing the works of man's law.  It is to this law that we who are in Messiah have died.  Man's law can never save, but obedience to it can bring us into the knowledge of sin because it causes us to break the commandments of Yah!

Paul's argument, where he distinguishes between the two laws, is summarized on Romans 3:

For no one is declared righteous before him by the works of the law, for through the law comes the knowledge of sin.  But now apart from the law the righteousness of Elohim (which is attested by the Law and the Prophets) has been disclosed-- namely, the righteousness of Elohim through the faithfulness of Yahusha Messiah for all who believe (Romans 3:20-22).

Paul is here saying that no one is ever declared righteous in Elohim's sight by doing man's works ("the works of the oral law").  In fact, by doing man's works (the works of the oral law) comes the knowledge of sin.  This is because when we follow after man's works, we inevitable break Yahuwah's commandments.  Just as the Pharisees broke the commandment of Elohim by keeping their own tradition, whenever we keep man's laws, customs and commandments, we invariably are breaking one the commandments of Elohim.  Thus, a knowledge of sin is acquired through obedience to man's laws.

But the righteousness of Elohim is now disclosed.  This is the same righteousness which was revealed through the Law and the Prophets.  We discussed this righteousness as revealed in the Law and the Prophets in the section above entitled, ...which, if a man does, he shall live by them.  This righteousness comes through FAITHFULNESS of Messiah for all who are loyal (faithful) to him.  Messiah showed us faithfulness on earth by obeying all of the commandments.  He showed us that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of Elohim.  By living this life of faithfulness to Yahuwah, we may enjoy life in Messiah.

(For a more detailed discussion of Paul's teachings and distinctions between the two laws, see my commentaries in this website on the book of Galatians.  This is currently a work in progress.)

Martin Luther

In the year 1517, the German monk Martin Luther nailed his ninety five theses to the door of Wittenberg Church. This is usually identified as the event which launched the Protestant Reformation.  It is commonly thought that the basis of the reformation was Sola Scriptura, a phrase which means "Scripture only."  Sola Scriptura lifts the authority of Scripture over that of church councils and the concept of Papal infallibility.  However, while calling themselves Protestants, mainstream Christianity continues to adhere to pre-reformation church tradition that is in direct opposition to the written Word. While reformation did occur in the 16th century; the proclamation of it, as being Sola Scriptura in nature, is misleading.

Very few Protestants have not heard of Luther, but most have no idea what those theses addressed. They have been led to believe that the goal of Martin Luthers reform was to separate from the Catholic Church; and to replace it with what is now recognized as Protestantism. This is simply not true.  Martin Luther unequivocally rejected the Old Testament.  Luther says so himself: 

"We dont want to see or hear Moses. How do you like that, my dear rebels? We say further, that all such Mosaic teachers deny the gospel, banish Christ, and annul the whole New Testament. I now speak as a Christian for Christians.  For Moses is given to the Jewish people alone, and does not concern us Gentiles and Christians. We have our gospel and New Testament. If they can prove from them that images must be put away, we will gladly follow them.  If they, however, through Moses would make us Jews, we will not endure it.."

"...Therefore Moses? legislation about images and the Sabbath, and what else goes beyond the natural law, since it is not supported by the natural law, is free, null and void, and is specifically given to the Jewish people alone."

Luther's disdain for the Law of Moses contributed to his misunderstanding from the book of Habakkuk.  Where it is clear that the Hebrew emunah means "faithfulness, loyalty", Luther's clouded thinking resulted in his teaching that faith, a mere mental acknowledgement of Elohim, and not faithfulness, the covenant loyalty to Elohim, is the key to life.  In fact, the pernicious lie that one does not have to obey the word of Elohim but that one only has to "believe" something to be so, is the underlying cause for the deception of millions of people for hundreds of years.  What does one say to this?

Martin Luther is not the great teacher many have portrayed him as.  He has been a major contributor to the lie that is leading the whole world away from fidelity to the covenant which Yahuwah has offered his people.  That lie is leading the many who travel the broad road into destruction.  Those who have the impression and belief that they don't really have to "do" the commandments may find themselves on the other side of the conversation in which the Messiah says, "Depart from me, you workers of Lawlessness.  I never knew you."

Near the end of his life, Martin Luther warned that those studying his work should "read my earliest books very circumspectly"  He goes on to explain:

"I too was a monk, and one of the right frantic and raving papists. When I took up this matter against Indulgences, I was so full and drunken, yea, so besotted in papal doctrine that, out of my great zeal, I would have been ready to do murder at least, I would have been glad to see and help that murder should be done on all who would not be obedient and subject to the pope, even to his smallest word."

While Luther and others did achieve a certain degree of reformation,  no reformation was necessary for the faithful remnant of his day - those who kept "the commandments of Elohim and the faith of Messiah."  But Martin Luther was no friend of those who hold the Old Testament Scriptures as authoritative, and of those who are faithful to Elohim and to his Messiah.  No wonder, with a misguided leader and role model such as Luther, that the popular Christianity of our day is so sated in false doctrine and wrong thinking!


Christians are fond of saying that there are two types of people in the world: unsaved and saved.  But I think its more accurate to say that there are three types of people: unbelievers, believers and those who DO the will of God.  The unbelievers are those who don't believe in God and have nothing to do with the values and principles of the Scriptures.  Then there are those who are believers - who believe in God and in the Messiah and believe that Messiah died on the tree to provide atonement for the sins of the world.  These don't do any "works" because they think it foolish to try to "earn their salvation."  They are duped by their systematic theology taught by their pastors and teachers and will be told by Messiah at his return, "Depart from me you workers of lawlessness.  I never knew you."

And finally there are those who both believe in Messiah's atoning work and DO the commandments because of their fidelity and attachment to the Almighty.  They understand that to love God will all your mind, soul and strength means to obey him.  And Messiah said, "If you love me, you will obey my commandments."  These are they who will be ushered into the glorious Messianic age to rule and reign with Messiah.

Yahuwah is looking for a people who will do his will.  He wants his people to be faithful to him in covenant relationship.  He promises to be an Elohim to us - to provide everything we need and to protect us.  Our job is to remain faithful to Him.  Thus, "the righteous one will live by faithfulness."  Those who are pleasing to Yah are going to be faithfully obeying his voice and doing his commandments.  May it be so for you and me.