Works of the Law

Hi Robert, I think you are a very intelligent guy and enjoy listening to you. I am a confessional Lutheran and have two thoughts to share with you today 1. Read a lot of your article regarding works of the law it is good to see you deny the argument of only ceremonial law. It seems the argument now is that Paul is talking exclusively that ANY works done w/o grace where we expect payment is denied. Couple of thoughts on that. Romans 3-4 either means:
  • We are justified by faith w/o works of the law (ceremonial)
  • You have denied that argument
  • We are justified by our works done apart from grace
  • We are justified by faith and works done IN and through grace
  • We are justified by faith w/o works even works done in grace
I feel that 4 is the only conclusion for the following reasons We know Abraham was already justified prior to Gen 15. So when Paul is talking about crediting righteousness to Abraham he was ALREADY justified. So Paul says to him who works....and so on. He is referring to the example of Abraham who has obviously done many good works done in grace. In other words at the point of Gen 15 Hebrew11 testifies that Abraham had done many good works IN and through grace. And yet Paul says about Abraham and all of us to him who works...This must include works done in grace.

This is where, I believe, your premise is faulty. In context, Paul is not speaking about works of grace. I think he is clear in Romans 4:4 that he is speaking only about works of debt. If, on a theological basis, you agree with me (which I think you did above) that works of grace and works of debt must be kept separate, then you can't arbitrarily impose works of grace into the discussion of Romans 4:1-8. Yet your above statement fails to maintain the distinction between works of grace and works of debt.

Here's my take: With his reference to the "Law" in Roman 4:14-16, we see that Paul is making a general antithesis between works of a LEGAL nature and faith, which is NON-LEGAL. And as you noted in my paper on "Works of Law," my view is that Paul has deliberately introduced the discussion in Romans 3:28 with "works of LAW," to show us that he IS speaking only about legal works, not grace works, which are also NON-LEGAL just as faith in NON-LEGAL. Thus, if Romans 3:28 and Romans 4:14-16 sandwich the discussion about the KIND of works being negated as salvific in Romans 4:1-8, and they both refer to the LEGAL side of things, then, I believe, we cannot say that Romans 4:1-8 is speaking about works of grace, which are NON-LEGAL. That one distinction makes all the difference in the world. Unfortunately, it's the one distinction I see Protestants failing to make every time they come to Romans 4.

Robert Sungenis, M.A. (Ph.D., cd)
Catholic Apologetics International
April 17, 2002

No comments: