Salvation WITHOUT works? Really?

There are many verses in the text that are often quoted as “proof statements” of this or that concerning someone’s theological supposition about what the text is trying to convey.

Many times, people apply their cultural understanding of a word today to the words in the text written 2000 years ago.  This is a BIG problem!  Why, you might ask?

Etymology – the study of the original origins of words and how their meanings can and do change over time, can give us a clue.

Let’s take the word gay. Has it always meant homosexual or lesbian?  No, it hasn’t.  That meaning started in the 1940s.  Originally it meant full of joy – happy – carefree.  It came to mean a style of dress – kind of a pomp and circumstance type of dress (like Hollywood does for their gala events).  The word has a long history.

So, here is what I want you to consider:  If you were reading a text from the 1400s and it said the party was a “gay” affair, would you assume that the writer was writing about a homosexual party?  If you do, you would be wrong.  The writer would mostly likely be stating that people were dressed to the 9s.

Without considering the historical and grammatical origin of the word, you would make a grave error if you wrote a post about homosexual parties in the 1400s using the text above as your “proof statement” concerning the “gay affair.”

We face the same problem in our translations of the biblical text.  Depending on the translation strategy of your particular version, words can be obscured, ignored and even mistranslated (Jerome did this on more than one occasion).

If you come at the text, not to “pull out” (exegesis), but to “read into” (eisegesis), error will almost surely be the product of your endeavor.

One of the ways we can avoid reading our own understanding into the text is to understand the history behind it:  who is writing it, the time they were writing it, significant situations that might have affected them during that time they wrote it – the list if very long.  One of the most ignored and skewed things to consider about the biblical writers is their Jewish identity – their Jewish history – the Jewish Messiah.  And most of all, and not to put to fine a point on it, you would do well to know the following four words that Yeshua used when confronted by the Adversary:

But it also says . . .”

I want you do do a small personal inventory here and try to be as honest with yourself as you can:

When you picture “JESUS” in your mind, do you see the following?

warner sallman Jesus

How about this “blue eyed” version?


For some of you, it may be the Catholic version?


How about his Mormon version?


What does the text say he would look like?

Isaiah 53:2-3 (CJB)

2 For before him he grew up like a young plant,

like a root out of dry ground.

He was not well-formed or especially handsome;

we saw him,

but his appearance did not attract us. 3 People despised and avoided him,

a man of pains,

well acquainted with illness.

Like someone from whom people turn their faces,

he was despised;

we did not value him.

He was Jewish.  He had a Jewish name. He attended the synagogue “as was his custom.”

Would his eyes be blue?  His skin pale? Nice complexion?

Or might he be more like this?


Or this?


Or this?


Or this?


Or this?


Why do I bring these up?  If you already have preconceived notions on the way he looked and it was the former instead of the later, doesn’t that send you a warning flag  – especially since we don’t know how he looked other than he wouldn’t be handsome or well formed . . . . especially since the former don’t depict him as Jewish at all!

We should all be on about the same page now . . .  (or at least in the general vicinity)

Now let’s get back to etymology.  Let’s look at a few verses with etymology in mind.  To do this, I often expound and amplify the text so that we can catch some of the meaning that is obscured culturally in our modern translations.

Let’s look at the following :

Matthew 23:1-3 (Expounded and Amplified)

1 Then Yeshua (which means Adonai Saves),

spoke and proclaimed to the multitude of common people assembled

and to the ones that followed behind him (in his footsteps):

his learners and pupils –  his talmidim (disciples):

2 “The Scribes,

which are biblical scholars and experts in the law known as Torah teachers,

and the “Separatists” which are known as the Pharisees,

sit (which also represents a position of authority)

because they are the Moshe’s successors

and therefore they are the possessors of the authority to

  • teach
  • interpret and translate
  • understand Torah

in the seat of Moshe (Moses) which is also known as the throne of Torah,

3 because of that,

be sure,

and by all means,

perform and do what they command and tell you to do

concerning the commandments.

But, do not act like they act . . .

they talk about good deeds (works)

but they do not do them!”

I have expound and amplified the above text because some, if not most of the versions are unnecessarily confusing here:

Matthew 23:3 (CJB) 3 . . .  take care to do it. But don’t do what they do, . . .

Matthew 23:3 (NIV) 3 . . . do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do,. . .

Matthew 23:3 (HCSB) 3 . . . do whatever they tell you, and observe ⌊it⌋. But don’t do what they do, . . .

Matthew 23:3 (NKJV) 3 . . .whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works;  . . .

Matthew 23:3 (KJV) 3 . . . whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works:  . . .

Matthew 23:3 (NASB) 3 . . all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds;  . . .

Do what they do, but don’t do what they do?!? . . .   hmmmmm, do you see why I expounded it and amplified it where I used the biblical definitions and historical understandings of the words to expound and amplify?

3 . . . because of that,

be sure,

and by all means,

perform and do what they command and tell you to do

concerning the commandments.

But, do not act like they act . . .

However, there is more.  There is more information that is needed to understand all that is being said here – something else that needs to be understood.  That something else is called context.  It is the context that gives us the overall meaning – a context at first that seems to contradict itself:

Matthew 23:5 (CJB)

5 Everything they do is done to be seen by others;  . . .

This first half would be better translated as:

Matthew 23:5 (Expounded and Amplified)

5 All of the good deeds (works) they do is so that onlookers and spectators will see . . .

I realize that if you subscribe to the theological supposition regarding ἔργον ergon or as it is translated into English from the Greek: works as it is presented by Luther, some of this is going to be confusing.  You will have to read some of my other posts on that if you need more understanding or details.

Let’s compare that to the following:

“ . . . But, do not act like they act . . .

they talk about good deeds (works)

but they do not do them!”

The contradiction seems to be do they do good deeds (works) or don’t they?  The text seems to say both – Yeshua seems to be saying both.

On the one hand, we can be sure that Yeshua understands what the job of a Torah Teacher is:

Nehemiah 8:7-8 (CJB) 7 The L’vi’imYeshua, Bani, Sherevyah, Yamin, ‘Akuv, Shabtai, Hodiyah, Ma‘aseiyah, K’lita, ‘Azaryah, Yozavad, Hanan and P’layah explained the Torah to the people, while the people remained in their places. 8 They read clearly from the scroll, in the Torah of God, translated it, and enabled them to understand the sense of what was being read.

Yeshua knows that the people need guidance regarding the text.  It is not like the Pharisees and Torah Teachers are teaching some of the modern heresies like slain in the spirit or Holy Ghost laughter or manifest sons of destiny or _______.  They are teaching the TaNaKh.

So what does the context tell us to help us clear this up?

Read the following chapter so that you will have all of the context before you answer:

Matthew 23:1-39 (CJB) 1 Then Yeshua addressed the crowds and his talmidim: 2 “The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim,” he said, “sit in the seat of Moshe. 3 So whatever they tell you, take care to do it. But don’t do what they do, because they talk but don’t act! 4 They tie heavy loads onto people’s shoulders but won’t lift a finger to help carry them. 5 Everything they do is done to be seen by others; for they make their t’fillin broad and their tzitziyot long, 6 they love the place of honor at banquets and the bestseats in the synagogues, 7 and they love being greeted deferentially in the marketplaces and being called ‘Rabbi.’ 8 “But you are not to let yourselves be called ‘Rabbi’; because you have one Rabbi, and you are all each other’s brothers.
9 And do not call anyone on earth ‘Father.’ because you have one Father, and he is in heaven. 10 Nor are you to let yourselves be called ‘leaders,’ because you have one Leader, and he is the Messiah! 11 The greatest among you must be your servant, 12 for whoever promotes himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be promoted. 13 “But woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! For you are shutting the Kingdom of Heaven in people’s faces, neither entering yourselves nor allowing those who wish to enter to do so. 14 15 “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You go about over land and sea to make one proselyte; and when you succeed, you make him twice as fit for Gei-Hinnom as you are! 16 “Woe to you, you blind guides! You say, ‘If someone swears by the Temple, he is not bound by his oath; but if he swears by the gold in the Temple, he is bound.’ 17 You blind fools! Which is more important? the gold? or the Temple which makes the gold holy? 18 And you say, ‘If someone swears by the altar, he is not bound by his oath; but if he swears by the offering on the altar, he is bound.’
19 Blind men! Which is more important? the sacrifice? or the altar which makes the sacrifice holy? 20 So someone who swears by the altar swears by it and everything on it. 21 And someone who swears by the Temple swears by it and the One who lives in it. 22 And someone who swears by heaven swears by God’s throne and the One who sits on it. 23 “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin; but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torah — justice, mercy, trust. These are the things you should have attended to — without neglecting the others! 24 Blind guides! — straining out a gnat, meanwhile swallowing a camel! 25 “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of robbery and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Parush! First clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may be clean too. 27 “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look fine on the outside but inside are full of dead people’s bones and all kinds of rottenness. 28 Likewise, you appear to people from the outside to be good and honest, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and far from Torah. 29 “Woe to you hypocritical Torah-teachers and P’rushim! You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the tzaddikim, 30 and you say, ‘Had we lived when our fathers did, we would never have taken part in killing the prophets.’ 31 In this you testify against yourselves that you are worthy descendants of those who murdered the prophets. 32 Go ahead then, finish what your fathers started! 33 “You snakes! Sons of snakes! How can you escape being condemned to Gei-Hinnom? 34 Therefore I am sending you prophets and sages and Torah-teachers — some of them you will kill, indeed, you will have them executed on stakes as criminals; some you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. 35 And so, on you will fall the guilt for all the innocent blood that has ever been shed on earth, from the blood of innocent Hevel to the blood of Z’kharyah Ben-Berekhyah, whom you murdered between the Temple and the altar. 36 Yes! I tell you that all this will fall on this generation! 37 “Yerushalayim! Yerushalayim! You kill the prophets! You stone those who are sent to you! How often I wanted to gather your children, just as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but you refused! 38 Look! God is abandoning your house to you, leaving it desolate.

 Jeremiah 22:5 (CJB) 5 But if you will not pay attention to these words, then I swear by myself,” says Adonai, “that this palace will become a ruin.”’

39 For I tell you, from now on, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai.’”

 Psalm 118:26 (CJB) 26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of Adonai. We bless you from the house of Adonai.


They tie heavy loads onto people’s shoulders – Good deeds (works)?

won’t lift a finger to help carry them. – Good deeds (works)?

they make their t’fillin broad  – Good deeds (works)?

their tzitziyot long, – Good deeds (works)?

they love the place of honor at banquets  – Good deeds (works)?

the best seats in the synagogues,  – Good deeds (works)?

they love being greeted deferentially in the marketplaces – Good deeds (works)?

being called ‘Rabbi.’ – Good deeds (works)?

You go about over land and sea to make one proselyte; – Good deeds (works)?

This could be . . . remember, all of heaven rejoices when one sinner turns . . .

 Luke 15:7 (CJB) 7 I tell you that in the same way, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who turns to God from his sins than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need to repent.

 But alas, Yeshua doesn’t see it that way:

when you succeed, you make him twice as fit for Gei-Hinnom as you are!

You say, ‘If someone swears by the Temple, he is not bound by his oath;

but if he swears by the gold in the Temple, he is bound.’ – Good deeds (works)?

‘If someone swears by the altar, he is not bound by his oath;

but if he swears by the offering on the altar, he is bound.’ – Good deeds (works)?

You pay your tithes of mint, dill and cumin; – Good deeds (works)?

This could be  . . . remember the blessings that Adonai will pour out?

 Malachi 3:10 (CJB) 10 Bring the whole tenth into the storehouse, so that there will be food in my house, and put me to the test,” says Adonai-Tzva’ot. “See if I won’t open for you the floodgates of heaven and pour out for you a blessing far beyond your needs.

Alas, again Yeshua doesn’t see it that way.

but you have neglected the weightier matters of the Torahjustice, mercy, trust.

These are the things you should have attended to — without neglecting the others!


These are the keys!!!  Why?  Because it is about the heart – why you do them . . .

Let’s go back in the text a little bit to gain some insight and understanding contextually from Isaiah:

Isaiah 1:10-14 (CJB)

10 Hear what Adonai says, you rulers of S’dom!

Listen to God’s Torah, you people of ‘Amora! 11 “Why are all those sacrifices offered to me?” asks Adonai.

“I’m fed up with burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened animals!

I get no pleasure from the blood of bulls, lambs and goats! 12 Yes, you come to appear in my presence;

but who asked you to do this, to trample through my courtyards? 13 Stop bringing worthless grain offerings!

They are like disgusting incense to me!

Rosh-Hodesh, Shabbat, calling convocations—

I can’t stand evil together with your assemblies! 14 Everything in me hates your Rosh-Hodesh and your festivals;

they are a burden to me—

I’m tired of putting up with them!

15 “When you spread out your hands,

I will hide my eyes from you;

no matter how much you pray,

I won’t be listening;

because your hands are covered with blood.

The question is why?

Why is Adonai fed up?  Why is it disgusting to him?  Why won’t he be listening?

The answer is similar to the one Yeshua is stating in Matthew:

Isaiah 1:16-17 (CJB)

16 “Wash yourselves clean!

Get your evil deeds out of my sight!

Stop doing evil,
17 learn to do good!

Seek justice,

relieve the oppressed,

defend orphans,

plead for the widow.

You see, these deeds:

  • do good
  • seek justice
  • relive the oppressed
  • defend orphans
  • plead for the widow

are the good deeds (works) that Adonai expects.

These are the good deeds Adonai requires.

What was it again that Yeshua said?


Look familiar?

These are works.  You can NOT be righteous without these works.

Let me ask a little clearer,

 Is Heaven in your future if you show no justice?

 Is Heaven in your future if you show no mercy?

 Is Heaven in your future if you show no trust?

Make no mistake.  You did nothing and can do nothing to earn your salvation.  That is a gift from God and God alone based upon his chesedh – his loving-kindness known as grace.

Do not confuse God’s gift of salvation with the responsibility that goes with being a child of God.

Works are not required” for salvation may be a preferable theology because it doesn’t require anything from you.  Let me just ask you this, did that work for the Pharisees that Yeshua addressed that day?  I mean, we are not talking about that many Pharisees – Josephus writes that there were about 6000 total.  We know some of those were believers such as the ones in Acts and Nicodemus.

There is calling and there is response to that calling.  Works are a response to the calling.  LOVE is a response to the calling, because the calling itself was LOVE in the first place!

If this is too difficult to grasp, I leave you with the following from the half-brother of Yeshua:

James 2:14-17 (CJB)

14 What good is it, my brothers,

if someone claims to have faith

but has no actions to prove it?

Is such “faith” able to save him?

15 Suppose a brother or sister

is without clothes and daily food, 16 and someone says to him, “Shalom!

Keep warm and eat hearty!”

without giving him what he needs,

what good does it do? 17 Thus, faith by itself, unaccompanied by actions (works), is dead.

I realize that this is hard stuff – hard to hear, hard to grasp, and hard to accept.

I will let the text ask you a question that is hard to ignore:

Matthew 15:1-9 (CJB)

1 Then some P’rushim and Torah-teachers from Yerushalayim

came to Yeshua and asked him, 2 “Why is it that your talmidim break the Tradition of the Elders?

They don’t do n’tilat-yadayim before they eat!”

3 He answered, “Indeed, why do you break the command of God by your tradition?

4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone says to his father or mother, “I have promised to give to God what I might have used to help you,” 6 then he is rid of his duty to honor his father or mother.’ Thus by your tradition you make null and void the word of God! 7 You hypocrites! Yesha‘yahu was right when he prophesied about you,

8 ‘These people honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far away from me. 9 Their worship of me is useless,

because they teach man-made rules as if they were doctrines.’”

You see, everyone wants to attack the Pharisees.  THEY are the bad guys right?  And yet, when we do the same exact things, we rationalize our own behaviors as being okay? That our own traditions are good but that theirs are bad?  That smells of hypocrisy . . .

doesn’t it?

There is nothing new under the sun . . .

Kids, the sooner we accept that, the sooner we can accept that we are not better than the Pharisees.  The sooner we accept that, the sooner we can accept that we are guilty of the very things they were guilty of.  You see, we are all sinners. . . them, us, everyone!

Ironically, the Pharisees are the bar. Yes, you heard me right –

they are the minimum standard.  Don’t believe me?

Matthew 5:20 (CJB) 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness is far greater than that of the Torah-teachers and P’rushim, you will certainly not enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

NO HEAVEN unless your righteousness SURPASSES . . .

Do you know what righteousness is in the Hebrew text?

Acts of kindness, giving to the poor, mercy, justice, defending the orphans, pleading for the widows . . .


In Hebrew it is called ‏צְדָקָה‎ tsedhāqāh  –  and it is not optional for the Pharisees, for me, or for you.

Be blessed and love your neighbor as your self.

This is righteousness.  This is justice.  This is works.

This is the 2nd most important command.

This is Torah.

About Even If Ministries

Dani'el 3:17-18 (CJB) 17 Your majesty, if our God, whom we serve, is able to save us, he will save us from the blazing hot furnace and from your power. 18 But even if he doesn’t, we want you to know, your majesty, that we will neither serve your gods nor worship the gold statue which you have set up.”
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4 Responses to Salvation WITHOUT works? Really?

  1. I would agree if you add one small element. Isaiah 64:6 tells us that in ourselves, all good works are like filthy rags. It would be like washing the dishes with a bacteria-filled kitchen sponge. It may look clean, but it sure isn’t clean and it contaminates everything it touches. There is something about salvation only Jesus could do: remove the contamination we all inherited from Adam.
    As soon as we allow Jesus’ blood to cleanse our garments, it is only fitting for us to live out our original created purpose to DO things pleasing to God and helpful to His kingdom.
    Without Jesus’ cleansing, our world would be just as well off, or better with us just sitting on our hands.

    • Thanks for the comment Cheri! I didn’t state it but I have in other posts and maybe I should here to – it always comes back to our heart for God.

      If i sell everything i have and give it to the poor, but do not have love – useless!

      good deeds without love are a filty rag – useless – because Adonai weighs the heart behind the deed 🙂

    • and of course the text tells us there can be no forgiveness of sins without the shedding of blood – Yeshua HaMashiach – the lamb that takes away the sins of the world!!!

      • It’s a tricky subject. Personally, when I realized what Isaiah was saying there, I was awed. It’s so easy to understand we were created for good works but they do us no good without Jesus using this analogy. So, I pull out this verse any time good works vs. Jesus’ salvation comes up!
        I’m glad you agree. 🙂

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