Just have a question regarding faith and works:

A person has eternal life solely by faith in Jesus Christ (as in believing every word Jesus said, including his claims that he is God), but by believing that Jesus is God, the person also believes that following the law is what he/she should do, and thus the person repents; which is why although John and Romans quote salvation is by faith alone, Jesus urged in Matthew, Mark and Luke for people to repent, and James says that faith without works is dead.

According to Protestantism would the above view about faith and works be correct?

  • Your question is unclear: civil law, law of Moses, following the law for salvation, following the law to observe culture?
    – Perry Webb
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 10:05

5 Answers 5


Although it is true that Christians believe salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ, it is not true that Christians believe they are under the Mosaic Law. Jesus came to fulfil the Law and has introduced a new covenant. The new covenant frees us from an obligation to keep the hundreds of laws that were given to Israel. The new covenant is not a covenant of works (obeying the Mosaic Law). Christians have been liberated from the condemnation of the Mosaic Law and have been set free by the grace of God and are “born again” – the spiritual rebirth that gives us life.

For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it (James 2:10).

Therefore no-one will be declared righteous in [God’s] sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin (Romans 3:20).

When people repent, before God, and seek His forgiveness, it is because the Holy Spirit has convicted them of their sinful condition. They realise (as I did, 25 years ago) that Jesus died in order to pay the penalty of sin – of all sin. It is our sins that nailed Jesus to that instrument of torture. God, in His infinite wisdom, grace and love, provided the solution to sin. He sent His one, His only-begotten Son, to redeem us from the penalty of death that comes with our inability to keep God’s laws.

Your question is based on a wrong premise. You say, “By believing that Jesus is God, the person also believes that following the law is what he/she should do.” By believing that Jesus died to pay the penalty of sin (which is spiritual death as well as physical death) the person who repents comes to understand that it is faith that saves us. And, as the Bible says, even faith is a gift from God.

But when the kindness and love of God our Saviour appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:4-7).

The deity of Jesus has nothing to do with following the Mosaic Law. When I turned to God in faith I didn’t even know that Jesus subsists in the One Being of God. It took some time before I fully understood who Jesus REALLY was. That lack of understanding did not prevent me from realising that I had to repent and turn to God and seek forgiveness.

I am a Christian of the Protestant persuasion. I have been set free and have been adopted into God’s family, not because of anything I could ever do, but because I have faith in Christ Jesus, and am eternally indebted to what God, in Jesus, accomplished in order to save a sinner such as me.

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    I think by "law", OP didn't mean the mosaic law, he meant the commandments given by Jesus. Does that change anything about your answer?
    – kutschkem
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 13:22
  • 1
    Until the OP edits the question and clarifies what is meant by "following the law" I shall leave my answer as it is. If he means the commandments given by Jesus, then it would be helpful to know that.
    – Lesley
    Commented Feb 8, 2021 at 13:43

Apart from defining what is meant by "the law", it is also useful to define what is meant by "works".

Obviously, upon believing in Jesus, there are certain actions to undertake: repenting, getting to know God and His message better (by i.a. Bible study and attendance of services), being baptized (according to Acts 2 etc.; I realize many denominations have a different interpretation), etc. Also alms giving, charitable works and ministry. All these examples and many more are "works" in the strict dictionary sense, but not required for salvation - rather arising from salvation. As James states, your faith is "dead" and thus worthless if it does not result in actions. John and many of the other NT writers agree with that, even Paul, if you just take the time to understand what they preach. So paradoxically even if these "works" are de facto expected of believers, they do not result in salvation - salvation precedes them.

So I make the distinction of works that blindly follow each precept of OT or even Judaic law, and works that arise out of love for God and love for your neighbor, which from an outside observer's perspective seem to result in the same outcomes, but have a completely different internal motivation. I think Paul preached against the former when he talks of "(dead) works", while you might recognize the latter from Jesus' preaching, but also from the apostles' exhortation to "(good) works".

On to definition of "law": I think that if a person does not come from a Jewish legal background, s/he should really heed Acts 15 (even these 4 precepts are grounded in Mosaic law, see Leviticus 17 and 18). But Paul notes in Galatians 2 that even believers from a Jewish background (Peter, Barnabas and others) relaxed their observance of Jewish law and calls it dissimulation/hypocrisy when they reverted back to a stricter observance (because it was done in fear of how they would appear, not out of the love principle).

There are many Christian individuals, groups and denominations that argue along the lines of observing the whole of Moses' law, including circumcision, sabbath observance, animal sacrifices, etc. "out of love for God". I'd give my opinion that the examples of the apostles and first believers in the NT seems to contradict this idea. Even some OT prophets had something to say about God not needing animal sacrifices, what He really wants is people acting according to the "love principle", having "circumcised hearts".


The Law was added because of transgressions, as Paul says in Galatians 3. Its entire purpose was to "make" sin appear as dreadful as it really is:

The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. For sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. - Romans 7:10-14

The commandments within the Law are, themselves, Holy, and Righteous, and Good because of the nature of the God from which they proceed but they cannot produce righteousness, holiness, or goodness in humanity because of the nature of they to whom the Law is given since, as Scripture says, "There is no one righteous; no, not one.":

Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin. - Romans 3:19-20

Setting about to establish one's own righteousness by keeping the Law is a trap since the only thing that can be acquired that way is knowledge of sin:

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith. For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. - Romans 3:21-28

This knowledge of sin, then, should lead or drive us to repentance and faith in Christ:

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. - Galatians 3:21-26

Once faith comes, one's nature is changed by the indwelling Holy Spirit working to conform us into the image of Christ:

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.  And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers - Romans 8:26-29

Only God is righteous and the Law given by God represents that single righteousness which is required of us and which we can never become or attain. The eternal Son was "commissioned" by the eternal Father to so identify with us as to become what we are so that we may become what He is:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God - 2 Corinthians 5:17-21

Only in Christ is it possible for the righteousness revealed and required by and in the Law to be fulfilled (and take careful note of the verse below), not by us but in us:

There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. - Romans 8:1-4

The process of this sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit, once begun, will never stop because of God's faithfulness:

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. - Philippians 1:6

How does one enter into this process? Give up! Repent of being an unrighteous sinner trying to ignore God's righteousness or to establish one's own by whatever means and cry out for God to save you in Christ. He will do what He has promised provided you receive the Christ that is LORD:

For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them. But the righteousness based on faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 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 proclaim); because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him.  For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” - Romans 10:5-13


  • "This knowledge of sin, then, should lead or drive us to repentance and faith in Christ" and only by being IN Christ can the repentant believer avoid condemnation. An excellent explanation based on Scripture.+1
    – Lesley
    Commented Feb 22, 2021 at 8:41

OP START Just have a question regarding faith and works:

A person has eternal life solely by faith in Jesus Christ (as in believing every word Jesus said, including his claims that he is God), but by believing that Jesus is God, the person also believes that following the law is what he/she should do, and thus the person repents; which is why although John and Romans quote salvation is by faith alone, Jesus urged in Matthew, Mark and Luke for people to repent, and James says that faith without works is dead.

According to Protestantism would the above view be correct? END

Not exactly. Repent means to change one's mind from one thing to another.

Repent, Repentance:

lit., "to perceive afterwards" (meta, "after," implying "change," noeo, "to perceive;" nous, "the mind, the seat of moral reflection"), in contrast to pronoeo, "to perceive beforehand," hence signifies "to change one's mind or purpose," always, in the NT, involving a change for the better, an amendment, and always, except in Luk 17:3, 4, of "repentance" from sin. Vines

In the Gospels when Jesus said to repent, then the question would be repent from what to what?

For the Old Testament, the "contract" was that by following the law, you could be declared righteous (in right standing with God).

And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before the LORD our God, as he hath commanded us. Deut 6:25

So, the repentance would be to change one's mind from the law as righteousness to Christ as your righteousness.

Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, 1 Tim 1:9

When the same message of repentance was preached to Gentiles, the same idea is present. If you as a Gentile are relying on your good works to be right with God, you will fail. You need to repent and believe Jesus is Messiah, your righteousness.

For if by one man's offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Romans 5:17

For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. Romans 10:4

Once you are in Christ our righteousness, you do/are this.

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: 1 Tim 1:5

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. 1 John 4:7

So, repent from working for your salvation. Believe that salvation is a gift from God through faith in Christ. From there, your works are not for salvation, but for love.


I think a lot of people get confused by this. Faith is central to Christianity, but where do works fit in?

A lot of religions are built around rules (or law). You keep the rules and something good happens as a result. But Christianity turns this type of model on its head. John 3:16 does NOT say

For God gave us a lot of rules, that whosoever keeps them all will go to Heaven

but instead says

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

We call this concept Grace. It bridges the gulf between our depravity and God's standard. The Bible explicitly tells us that we cannot keep the rules to God's satisfaction

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
Rom 3:23

Where do works fit?

Your question asks

by believing that Jesus is God, the person also believes that following the law is what he/she should do, and thus the person repents

But that misses the point of everything in my first section. The Christian walk (repentance and works) puts the love of Christ first. Understanding what Christ did for us should prompt us to love Him in return. When we love God, we want to please Him. The purpose of the law (or rules) is to tell us what we should not do so that we don't hurt ourselves. That is the real cost of sin: we hurt ourselves and so hurt God in the process (which is what God forgives us of when we accept Christ).

In other words we keep the law (works) because God loves us (faith), not the other way around.

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