The New Perspective and “Works of the Law” (Gal 3:16 and Rom 3:20)

William Barrick | May 19, 2010

The New Perspective on Paul (NPP) differs from a traditional understanding of Paul’s references to the “works of the law .” Traditionally, Paul’s references to such works has been seen in a negative light, but the NPP takes a very opposite view of the works. Pre-NT references to works of the law show that they cannot be limited to circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and dietary restrictions the way NPP advocates propose. Broadly considered, NT references to the same works show the same impossibility. Two crucial passages, Gal 2:16 and Rom 3:20, when analyzed in detail, indicate the grave error in the NPP position. Three occurrences of “works of the law” in Gal 3:20 show that they are the direct opposite of faith in matters pertaining to salvation. The context of Rom 3:20 shows that “works of the law” refer to human deeds to earn merit with God and are not limited to circumcision, Sabbath-keeping, and dietary restrictions. Rather, they simply demonstrate how guilty human beings are before a righteous God. Salvation is by faith alone in Christ alone and not by the “works of the law.”

Vol. 16, no. 2 (Fall 2005)

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Barrick, William. "The New Perspective and “Works of the Law” (Gal 3:16 and Rom 3:20)." The Master's Seminary Journal 16, no. 2 (Fall 2005): 277-92.