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What Must I Do to Be Saved? Paul Parts Company with His Jewish Heritage
Barry D. Smith
Publication Date
May 2007


How can one escape God’s wrath and gain eternal life? On this crucial theological question, Paul differs from other members of the Second Temple Jewish community. Their soteriology is synergistic: for them, though eschatological salvation is due to God’s merciful removal of human guilt, obedience to the law is also indispensable. The divine and the human cooperate.

Paul, however, believes that under such a scheme anything less than perfect obedience to the law is futile. In consequence, if there is to be salvation for sinful humans, it must be a salvation independent of all human effort and achievement, thus solely through faith. Contrary to the recent consensus, Paul’s concern was not primarily the inclusion of Gentiles into the church.

This nonsynergistic soteriology of Paul’s may seem undermined by some of his own statements, that believers must submit to eschatological judgment and that the person without good works will be disqualified from eschatological salvation. But this conclusion is incorrect. For what he holds is that the good works indispensable for salvation are necessarily performed by the believer as manifestations of the indwelling Spirit present in those who have faith in Christ.

Barry D. Smith is Associate Professor of Philosophy and Religious Studies at Atlantic Baptist University, Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada.

The SBL is the North American distributor for Sheffield Phoenix Press. Customers outside of North America can purchase this book directly from Sheffield Phoenix by clicking here.