The question of whether we are saved by faith or works is one that has challenged believers for some time.
Years ago, when we evangelized door-to-door, this was an often discussed topic. People generally see themselves as a good person, and they have difficulty receiving a message that is contrary to their own self-image.
God doesn’t see us the way we see ourselves, and He established the Law–not to save us—but to reveal the truth of our sinful nature.
The Apostle Paul wrote: I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, YOU SHALL NOT COVET (Rom 7:7).
When the Law was written in stone, people thought all they needed to do was obey the Commandments and live. The problem is that our human nature wants to disobey. Paul summarized that our sinful passions were aroused by the Law…to bear fruit for death (Rom 7:5).
Think of it in this context: When your mother told you to stay out of the cookie jar all you could think about was how you could grab a cookie and not get caught.
Have you ever told a lie, been angry with someone, dishonored your parents, or desired a neighbor’s possessions?
James, the half-brother of Yeshua, wrote: For whoever keeps the whole Law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all (Jas 2:10).
In the Gospel of Matityahu (Matthew), Yeshua teaches that whoever is angry with a brother is guilty as if he committed murder; whoever looks upon a woman with unclean thoughts is guilty as if he committed adultery in his heart; and whoever divorces his wife, except for reasons of sexual immorality, is guilty of sin (Mat 5:21-32).
So, then, it is clear that we are convicted by the Law not saved.
Under the sacrificial system, administered by the Levitical priesthood, people could present a burnt offering as an atonement for their sins; and blood flowed from the Temple twenty-four hours a day.
Prior to the Babylonian captivity Judah’s sin had become so great that God rebuked them through His prophet, Isaiah:
I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams…And I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls…Bring your worthless offerings no longer. Incense is an abomination to Me. New moon and sabbath, I cannot endure iniquity. I hate your festivals and feasts, they have become a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them (Is 1:11-14).
[Temple sacrifice ended in A.D. 70 when the Romans destroyed the city of Jerusalem.]
But thanks be to God, in His divine grace and mercy, that His Son, being the unblemished atonement, gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma (Eph 5:2).
This is the new covenant announced by God’s prophet, Jeremiah:
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers…My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them…I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people…for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jer 31:31-34).
The witness of John the Baptist:
Look upon Him, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit. I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God (Jn 1:29-34).
Next: Why Christ Died