The One Who Does Them Shall Live by Them?

Leviticus 18:5 says, “You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the LORD.” And Paul quotes this text in Galatians 3:12, “But the law is not of faith, rather ‘The one who does them shall live by them.’”

So does this mean that salvation was by works in the old covenant? You can read what I think about it here.

6 replies on “The One Who Does Them Shall Live by Them?”

  1. Dr. Hamilton,

    Well written article. I wrote you an email last semester asking you a few questions similar to this article, to which you quickly responded. Thanks for your help. I do have a couple of questions about this article.

    If the law was to be kept, it had to be kept by faith.

    Q: “Kept by faith” in the coming Messiah?
    Were they setting their faith in a Messiah who would come as we have faith in the Messiah who has come and will come again?

    The faith in view here is explicitly faith in Jesus (Galatians 2:16)

    In its Old Testament context Leviticus 18:5 is a statement
    that the one who keeps the requirements of the Mosaic
    covenant by faith will not be slain by the holiness of Yahweh
    in the midst of the people. Observing the covenant by faith
    guarantees acceptance before Yahweh, now and in the age
    to come.

    Q: “keeps the requirements of the Mosaic covenant by faith” in the coming Messiah?

    Am I wrong to say that the OT believers were putting their faith in the coming Messiah?

    They were relating to YHWH by faith in the Messiah to come?

  2. Dusty,

    Thanks for your note. I think your basic question is: saved by faith in what in the old covenant? My answer is: saved by faith in the promises that God has made to the point in salvation history that they find themselvs. Or maybe, saved in the promises of God which have been revealed to them. In my view, these promises are messianic promises, beginning from Genesis 3:15, and, I think that Gen 12:1-3 can be read messianically. So while I am not claiming that they could foresee exactly how things would turn out with Jesus, I do think that they were trusting that God would raise up a deliverer for them who would overcome the serpent and his seed and renew edenic conditions (cf. Gen 3:17 with 5:29). I think the “rest” looked for in the birth of Noah is hinting at the rest lost when Eden was lost. . .

    There is an essay on my faculty webpage on the Messianic Music of the Song of Songs where some of this is fleshed out, and I hope to get more posted.

    Thanks again for your interest!


  3. Saved by faith in the Messianic promises as revealed in salvation history up to that point–progressive revelation of the Messianic promises. Each person who would be saved believed, had faith, set their hope, in the coming Messiah that they knew of–which had been revealed to their time.

    I agree!!! I’ll read Messianic Music of the Song of Songs.

    Thanks so much!

  4. Dr. Hamilton, thank you for posting so many of your resources. I have a question: If OT believers were ‘kept by faith’in Messianic promises and the Law was their guardian until the full revelation of Christ, weren’t believers always under grace? Why does Paul to say we are “no longer under the Law but under grace” if salvation always came through faith in the Messiah? I am probably just missing something that should be readily grasped.

  5. Ched,

    I’m wrestling with you here to understand Paul. It’s difficult, but here’s my attempt to put these things together: Paul says in Rom 4:16 that the promise came to Abraham by grace through faith (ESV Romans 4:16 “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring- not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all,”).

    In Rom 6, responding to those who say his gospel would lead to unrestrained sinning, he says that sin shall have not power over us for we are not under law but under grace (6:14). This is perhaps clarified by Rom 7:11, where he says that sin seized the opportunity afforded by the commandment.

    So here’s what I come up with: when an unregenerate nature is confronted with the law, more sin results as the unregenerate nature desires to do the forbidden, or to look righteous, or any other myriad of ways that we corrupt the good, holy, righteous law in our sinfulness.

    Those who are under the power of grace are those who are regenerate. I think Old Covenant believers were regenerate but not indwelt by the Spirit. So I think the “not under law but under grace” statement in Rom 6:14 is not so much an “old covenant/new covenant” assertion as it is an assertion that those who are under the power of grace by the Spirit can put to death the deeds of the body (Rom 8:13).

    I’m in process on this stuff, and I don’t claim to have Paul mastered, but this is my attempt to put his various statements together. I reserve the right to change my mind!

    Thanks for pushing me to think,


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