It is believed by some that the Apostle Paul’s teaching concerning justification/righteousness is not in harmony with Torah or with the Apostle James. They view Paul as teaching justification by faith alone and that a person cannot be justified by works of the law or obedience to Torah. This study will show that the Apostle Paul is in complete harmony with Torah and with James.

The Problem

The verses that lead to the erroneous conclusion above and which appear to contradict and lack harmony are as follows;

Deuteronomy 6:25 – And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before Yahweh our Elohim, as He has commanded us.

James 2:24 – You see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

As opposed to:

Romans 3:20 – Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

Galatians 2:16  – Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Yeshua Messiah, even we have believed in Yeshua Messiah, that we might be justified by the faith of Messiah, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

Galatians 2:21 – I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.

Galatians 3:11 – But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of Elohim, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

In the last four verses above, Paul seems to be saying that righteousness/justification can come by no other means than by faith. Therefore, the first question we need to answer is, “Is the Apostle Paul teaching that justification or righteousness can only come through faith?” I believe the answer is, “No!” Looking at the whole of his teaching we find this:

Romans 2:13  – For not the hearers of the law are just before Elohim, but the doers of the law shall be justified.

Romans 6:16  Know you not, that to whom you yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants you are to whom you obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

These two verses seem to teach that there is a righteousness that comes through works, that is, works of obedience to the law. Indeed, that is what the next two verses teach.

Romans 10:5 –  For Moses describes the righteousness which is of the law, That the man which does those things shall live by them.                                                                                                                                                                        

Philippians 3:9 – And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Messiah, the righteousness which is of Elohim by faith:


The Solution

Philippians 3:9 above gives the essence of Paul’s teaching on this subject. The righteousness that comes through obedience to the law is NOT the same righteousness that is imputed to believers through the faith of Messiah.  The former righteousness comes from the work of man and the latter righteousness comes from Yahweh.

How, then, can we explain Paul’s meaning in Romans 3:20; Galatians 2:16, 21; and 3:11?”  The righteousness Paul addresses in these verses is a righteousness that can only come from Yahweh. It is Messiah Yeshua’s imputed righteousness through his faith and the believer’s faith in him. Of course, having faith in Yeshua comes through having faith in Yahweh. This kind of imputed righteousness by faith ALWAYS precedes the righteousness that comes through works whether they be works of obedience to the law or works such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, or hiding spies as Rahab did.

In the examples the Apostle James used to show justification/righteousness by works, all the works mentioned were the fruit of people that had faith.

Example #1 – What does it profit, my brethren, though a man say he has faith, and have not works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled; notwithstanding you give them not those things which are needful to the body; what does it profit? (James 2:14-16) 

James is addressing believers who have already received Yeshua and his imputed righteousness. They already have a living faith. If, however, they did not have a living faith, they would not provide the necessary food or clothing. Doing such good works as feeding the hungry and clothing the naked are the fruit of having a living faith.

Example #2  – Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Do you see how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?  (James 2:21-22)

Abraham was already declared righteous before Isaac was even born (Genesis 15:6) based on his faith in Yahweh. Offering Isaac was the fruit of that faith.

Example #3 – Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way? (James 2:25)

The following are the words of Rahab to the spies.

And she said unto the men, I know that Yahweh has given you the land, and that your terror is fallen upon us, and that all the inhabitants of the land faint because of you. For we have heard how Yahweh dried up the water of the Red sea for you, when you came out of Egypt; and what you did unto the two kings of the Amorites, that were on the other side Jordan, Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. And as soon as we had heard these things, our hearts did melt, neither did there remain any more courage in any man, because of you: for Yahweh your Elohim, he is Elohim in heaven above, and in earth beneath.  (Joshua 2:9-11)

Those are the words of a woman who had faith in Yahweh. She heard about Yahweh’s great deliverance of and care for Israel and believed that Yahweh not only existed, but was the true Elohim in heaven as opposed to all the false Elohim she was surrounded by. Her hiding the spies was a fruit of that faith.


Man’s Righteousness

Israel received the law from Yahweh. Moses said of that law;

And it shall be our righteousness, if we observe to do all these commandments before Yahweh our Elohim, as He has commanded us. (Deuteronomy 6:25) 

This kind of righteousness is the fruit of faith. Yahweh showed His mighty works on Israel’s behalf by delivering them from Egyptian bondage. His miracles and care for Israel should have produced a faith in Yahweh by the people of Israel leading to the fruit of obedience unto righteousness. However, within a short time, Israel had committed idolatry while Moses was receiving the law from Yahweh. The majority of Israel would go on to live a life of faithlessness. So much so that Isaiah was led to write:

But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away. (Isaiah 64:6)

The Apostle Paul expounded upon the reason for this as it pertained to Israel in his day.

What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believes on him shall not be ashamed. (Romans 9:30-33)

Israel sought righteousness through their own works of obedience to the law and not through faith in Yahweh or in the means of justification that He provided for them, namely Yeshua, the stumblingstone. Paul puts it another way in Romans 10:3.

For they being ignorant of Elohim’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of Elohim.

Yeshua himself said the same of the Pharisees.

And he said unto them, You are they which justify yourselves before men; but Elohim knows your hearts: for that which is highly esteemed among men is abomination in the sight of Elohim. (Luke 16:15)

And he spoke this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, Elohim, I thank you, that I am not as other men; extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week. I give tithes of all that I possess. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, Elohim be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased; and he that humbles himself shall be exalted. (Luke 18:9-14)

Ezekiel says of those who trust in their own righteousness:

When I shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he has committed, he shall die for it. (Ezekiel 33:13)


Yahweh’s Imputed Righteousness

All men are sinners (Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:23; 1 John 1:8-10). We have all walked in unrighteousness at times in our lives. Therefore, our works of righteousness through the law are, at best, inadequate. Yahweh is looking for our faith in Him and Yeshua so that He can impute righteousness to us. Those that receive His Son Yeshua as their Savior receive Yeshua’s righteousness imputed to them which is a righteousness given as a gift from Yahweh and not a righteousness earned by works.

For if by one man’s offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Yeshua Messiah. (Romans 5:17)

This kind of righteousness (imputed righteousness) has always existed throughout history. We first read about it concerning Abraham in Genesis 15:6.

And he believed in Yahweh; and he counted it to him for righteousness.

Other references to imputed righteousness are as follows:

Psalm 132:9 – Let thy priests be clothed with righteousness; and let thy saints shout for joy.

Isaiah 1:27 – Zion shall be redeemed with judgment, and her converts with righteousness.

Isaiah 54:17 – No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against thee in judgment thou shall condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of Yahweh, and their righteousness is of me, says Yahweh.

Isaiah 61:10-11 – I will greatly rejoice in Yahweh, my soul shall be joyful in my Elohim; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.  For as the earth brings forth her bud, and as the garden causes the things that are sown in it to spring forth; so Yahweh ELOHIM will cause righteousness and praise to spring forth before all the nations.

Jeremiah 23:5-6 – Behold, the days come, says Yahweh, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.  In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, YAHWEH OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Jeremiah 51:10 – Yahweh hath brought forth our righteousness: come, and let us declare in Zion the work of Yahweh our Elohim.

Daniel 9:24 – Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

Hosea 10:12 – Sow to yourselves in righteousness, reap in mercy; break up your fallow ground: for it is time to seek Yahweh, till he come and rain righteousness upon you.

The writer of Hebrews acknowledged this kind of righteousness when he wrote:

By faith Noah, being warned of Elohim of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

It was Noah’s faith that produced his work of preparing an ark. Every man that the Bible speaks of as being “righteous” was righteous because they had faith in Yahweh. That faith led to acts of righteousness and to a righteousness that would be seen of men.

Yeshua said of the scribes and Pharisees:

For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:20)

If Yeshua’s hearers must have a righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the Kingdom, then the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees was so defective that it will keep them out of the Kingdom. Their righteousness was based on an external observance of the law and not on a heart full of faith. A righteousness that exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees can only be based on faith; not only one’s own faith in Yahweh and Yeshua, but Yeshua’s own faith imputed to the believer. Even the believer’s works of righteousness will be far more preferable because they are born out of faith. It is a living faith that produces good works. Such works will be done by those who are justified by faith.

That if you shall confess with your mouth the Master Yeshua, and shall believe in your heart that Elohim has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved. For with the heart man believes unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. (Romans 10:9-10)

This is the righteousness that leads to the “justification of life”. (Romans 5:18) It is the kind of righteousness/justification that Isaiah prophesied about.

He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. (Isaiah 53:11)



In conclusion, the Apostle Paul taught justification/righteousness must initially be imputed to a person from Yahweh through/by faith. That faith should then produce the fruit of good works which is a righteousness in the sight of man spoken of by the Apostle James. The righteousness imputed by Yahweh as a gift is the only righteousness unto eternal life.

 “But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that comes to Elohim must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) 

“…, but the just shall live by his faith.” (Habakkuk 2:4)

Eternal life can only come through faith. It is believed that the word “faith” here should be translated “faithfulness”. Even so, faithfulness must begin with faith. Without faith there can be no faithfulness. The “just” or the “righteous” will be granted not just a corporeal life, but a spiritual life of oneness with Yahweh and eventually eternal life. This will be granted through faith and not through works of law.

“For therein is the righteousness of Elohim revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.” (Romans 1:17)