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A question of faith and works

<p />An observation: I've been reading through the passages of the New Testament where Paul writes about faith and works - Romans and Galatians especially. Whenever Paul needs to cite a work he refers not to the 10 commandments, but to being circumcised. <p />For me, this raises questions about what social and pastoral problems lay behind these discussions in the very early church.It suggests that the controversies were not so much about whether people could earning their salvation by obeying the commandments of the law down to the last letter, but rather about identity - can a person enter the kingdom of God while remaining a Gentile.<p />In all the gospels I can't think of a place where Jesus challenges anybody to give up the futile task of earning their salvation - so maybe it was just not such a big issue.<p />The works that Paul talks about are not the moral works that give people merit before God, but the works that separate Jew from Gentile.<p />There is a scholarly debate about this, I know. I've followed a bit of the "New Perspective on Paul", but got bogged down in the details. These passages were central to the split in the church at the time of the 16th Century Reformation - when earning salvation certainly was a huge issue.<p />But reading the Bible from the perspective of a 16th Century controversy means that we may misunderstand what God was saying to the original readers of Paul's letters, and then misunderstand its relevance for today.
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I do not think it is fair to say the issue was about 'earning salvation'. The perspective that holds faith and works are important to salvation do not believe they are earning anything. Rather, they are receiving grace through those works which strengths their faith so that they may persist to the end.
HI @Last Things,
That's a helpful way of describing the debate today. My question is about what was going on in people's minds in the first century. Was the faith/works controversy about identity or morality?

Clearly it went to the core of what Paul's ministry was about otherwise his words would have been milder (You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you?).
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