Works of the Law vs. Works of the Spirit

Romans 3:19-30,

19 Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God; 

20 because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets

22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 

23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 

24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 

25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed

26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus

27 Where then is boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? Of works? No, but by a law of faith. 

28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law

29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, 

30 since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.

From the above verses of Scripture we see that when Paul spoke of being justified by faith and not by works, he was referring to works of the Law. He is saying there is nothing anyone can do to be saved, other than believe in Jesus Christ. 

He says, “apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested.” That is, before Jesus appeared, there was no one righteous, for all had sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. When Jesus appeared, the righteousness of God was manifested in that through faith in Him, we became righteous. For it says, “even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe.”

So we are born anew and made righteous by faith in Jesus. Some say this means that regardless of what we do, God sees us as righteous. This would be true if we were just pronounced righteous and that was the end of it. But that’s not what happened— We were born again and given new life in Jesus by the infilling of the Holy Spirit of God. Our bodies became temples of God.

Because we are now temples of God, the following Scriptures were written, in Romans 8:12-14,

12 So then, brethren, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 

13 for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live

14 For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.

How do the sons of God live? By putting to death the deeds of the body of flesh.

John, the beloved apostle, says, in 1 John 3:2-10,

2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. 

3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure

4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 

5 And you know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin. 

6 No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him. 


The Gospel of John 15:4-6,

 4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 

 5“ I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing. 

 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch, and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”


 7 Little children, let no one deceive you; the one who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous; 

 8 the one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God appeared for this purpose, that He might destroy the works of the devil. 

 9 No one who is born of God practices sin, because His seed abides in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God

10 By this the children of God and the children of the devil are obvious: anyone who does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor the one who does not love his brother

Ephesians 2:8-10,

 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; 

 9 not as a result of works, that no one should boast. 

10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

We were saved by grace through faith and became members of a new creation, the risen body of Christ. And in this new creation, God has prepared beforehand works that we are to walk in. These are works done in the Spirit, and not the flesh; works that spring forth from within, as we follow Jesus in the kingdom of God. These are the works James was referring to in Chapter 2:21-24,

21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered up Isaac his son on the altar? 

22 You see that faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected; 

23 and the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “AND ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS RECKONED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS,” and he was called the friend of God. 

24 You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.

2 Corinthians 2:14,

14 But thanks be to God, who always leads us in His triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.

Jon David Banks, God’s most unworthy servant

Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved.