Saved by Grace - Aaron Eby’s Boundary Stones, Part 1

Last week I promised to review a book that I now consider one of the most important books for Christians to read, Aaron Eby’s Boundary Stones. It’s a simple, short book detailing why the Law is important for Christians, and why Christians should consider keeping the Law.

Before we start, I must confess something to you, dear blog reader. As a Messianic Jewish believer in Messiah, I have trouble relating some of these passages to you because Eby deliberately uses Christian terminology and Church-speak, language that now feels foreign and even sometimes cliché to me, phrases that have been used against me when talking about God’s Law. But I figure I can swallow my discomfort in using this same terminology if only to relate to you things of a greater and more important nature.

The opening chapter addresses a subject very dear to Christians: saved by grace through faith alone. (Saved by grace means that you’re saved from sin because of God’s forgiveness, not by good works or other human acts.)


Throughout the book, Aaron Eby works diligently to find common ground between Messianics and Christians; the idea that one is saved by God through faith, rather than through human works, is one such piece of common ground.

I’m glad Eby addressed this issue right off the bat! If there is one recurring argument from Christians against keeping the Law it is this: “You’re not saved by works!”

As a Law-keeper, I quickly retort, “I agree!”

And then everybody walks away in confusion.

Towards resolution, Aaron starts off addressing an issue many Christians are confused about, the idea that the Law’s purpose was to bring about salvation, thus making one saved by the Law, saved by works. Eby addresses this misconception,

People received forgiveness by faith in the Messiah even before He came. Nonetheless, these people faithfully and lovingly continued to observe God’s revealed Law. The Law never served as a means of gaining salvation, but as an eternal guide to a life of faith.

The Law never served as a means of gaining salvation. The purpose of the Law was, and remains, something entirely different.

Eby asks a follow-up question some Christians find difficult,

What about people who died before Jesus came? Have they all gone to hell because their sins were not yet paid for on the cross? Think about the great heroes of the past: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, Elijah. None of these great men obeyed every written commandment, yet in some ways, they must have been forgiven of their faults, even before Jesus’ sacrifice.

What is your response, fine blog reader? Obviously, these men didn’t go to hell. So how did they get to heaven, since Christ hadn’t arrived yet?

A common response from some Christians is that these great men of the past gained forgiveness through animal sacrifices in the Tabernacle and obedience to commandments in the Law. However, this argument is faulty because the book of Hebrews in the New Testament confirms that sacrifices could never make the worshipper clean. The intent of sacrifices was not to take away the sin of the worshipper. The heroes of the faith didn’t obey every commandment, nor were they able to take away their sin through sacrifices.

Think about it for a moment: surely David, Abraham, Moses were all saved by faith, not through keeping the Law, right? The Law never served as a way to save you, otherwise Christ died for no reason. Nor did sacrifices serve to take away sin, otherwise Christ’s sacrifice was pointless. The purpose of the Law is something different entirely.

Eby quotes from Romans, Galatians, and other letters from Paul to support this: righteousness is received by grace through faith. Even the great heroes of the past received their heavenly reward through this same faith, not by doing the works in the Law.

So what’s the point of the Law?


We know what isn’t the point of the Law: it isn’t to take away sin. And it isn’t to save you. So then, why would anyone ever care about doing all these works in the Law? Aaron Eby writes,

In some ways, addressing how pre-Jesus saints were saved raises more questions than it answers. For example, if Moses received grace through faith, why did he also receive the Law on Mt. Sinai?

And if grace was already around in Abraham’s day, why did God dole out all the commandments hundreds of years later?

And if Paul was correct in saying that King David understood forgiveness by grace, why does David write the longest chapter in the Bible as an ode to God’s Law?

This form of questioning to bring about truth…music to my ears!

Eby puts our own theologies aside for a moment and, through asking these honest questions, causes us to dig for understanding. Reading through these questions, I found myself jumping up, demanding an answer, “Yeah! Why *did* David write that whole big ode to the Law; he was already saved by grace! And why did God give Moses the Law in the first place if Moses was already saved by faith? Hey, we’re onto something here!”

Eby proposes an answer:

Perhaps we have misunderstood the reason for the Law. I propose the Law was not given to help people become perfect, nor to merit eternal salvation. The ancient people of Israel obeyed the commandments not as a means to earn right standing before God. They knew they could not keep the commandments perfectly, so they turned to Him in repentance, trusting God for forgiveness. They began to obey the Law in faith because it’s God’s revealed will. They kept the Law because they loved God, and because it’s what God asked of them.

Eby tenderly plants the seed: Do you have a heart of faith? Then keeping God’s holy, good, and righteous Law is a natural result of such a heart, a heart that trusts God to know what’s best for us, what kind of life we should live. A person that loves Christ should keep God’s commandments, not out of a misguided attempt to become righteous or be saved by them, but instead he should keep God’s Law simply because he loves God, and because God asks His people to do so.


As Eby reached his conclusions in the first chapter, I was overflowing with joy at this point: happy to hear such a beautiful, simple explanation of something deep inside of me that, for so long, I’ve been unable to articulate. I was overflowing with positive emotion because of this new understanding that is so simple and yet so empirically true: the Law wasn’t meant to save, wasn’t meant to take away sin. We keep God’s Law because we love Him!

Eby summarizes it succinctly, joining Scriptures from Hebrews to prove it: What saved the heroes of the faith long ago saves us still today. Those heroes sinned – failing to keep the Law perfectly – and they needed forgiveness of that sin, just as we do today. Neither observance of commandments nor sacrifices could save them; it was only through faith in the future redemption and the promise of Messiah that God granted them forgiveness. Abraham, Moses, Joshua, David: all of these men were saved by grace, not through keeping the Law.

God didn’t give the Law as a way to earn salvation. Instead, the Law was meant to be a guide for living a life of faith. People kept God’s Law because they loved Him and desired to obey Him.

As the chapter concludes, Eby emphatically suggests action given this new understanding: we as believers in Messiah can learn from these same heroes, this “great cloud of witnesses that has gone before us”. They lived out lives of faith, putting their love for God into practice as they followed the commandments in God’s Law. They were saved by grace through faith. They kept God’s Law.


Saved by grace and keeping God’s Law.

I can’t help but think back to Revelation 12, where the people who overcome are those who hold to the testimony of Christ and keep God’s commandments. It makes sense, doesn’t it? That’s how it’s been all along. All the heroes of the faith were saved by grace and kept the commandments.

In the next chapter, Eby tackles another doozie: the New Testament states that sin is defined by the Law. While many Christians have no issues with this statement, its implications are vast and shaking and life-changing. We’ll discuss this in a future post.


  1. I am really excited by this too, because for some reason, I never quite made the connection between what I know of OT salvation (saved by faith in the coming Messiah, no matter how little known of Him) and our situation today (saved by faith in the come Messiah, with lots known of Him).

    Good stuff to think about. Thanks, Judah, and thanks also, Aaron!r

  2. Hi Nathan,

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting. Glad you liked the post. I encourage you to grab this book, it was really encouraging and helpful to me.

    By the way, I see you're a software developer and frequently blog on faith matters. That makes 2 of us. :-)

  3. Judah,

    I've been meaning to post sooner, but sometimes life gets a little complicated. I'm sure you know what I mean.

    Your two posts regarding the relationship between Torah and grace have reminded me that about a year ago my wife and I purchased the domain name ""

    We were very surprised that it was available. Now I need to put up a blog with that name and start writing!

    Also, I would like to send you a song by Sinai Aviel that I think you might like. I had to buy it from a music store in Jerusalem, but since I wasn't there I had someone send it to me.

    I can give you one of my email addresses so you can let me know if would like the song.

    Good questions, good post.



  4. Efrayim,

    Nice domain name grab! You should absolutely start a blog there. Let me know when you do.

    I would love to hear the song. Email it to me: judahgabriel at gmail.

  5. Hi Judah,

    Forgive my lengthy absence here. (I'm not a daily reader - but I do read your blog from time to time.)

    "Saved by Grace". I haven't read the book, but it is good to be in agreement on that vital point about salvation. I agree with everything in your post - as a Christian who believes that there is an ongoing demand on those who belong to the Messiah to obey the Lord's moral law as it is summarized in the ten commandments.

    I think that where hairs start to get split between the "Messianic Jews" and "Christians" is whether by definition "the law" refers to the 5 books of Moses including ceremonial and ritual laws - or only to the moral teaching and commands. By the first definition I am a flagrant law-breaker - by the second I profess to adhere to it by His power at work in me. I wonder if this book addresses the question of the ceremonial law being fulfilled once-and-for all or being still required by those who profess faith?

    These are vital issues. If someone is living in open disregard of God's moral law - we have every reason to believe that there has never been a true work of His Spirit upon that life - a true conversion & salvation. So, if Christians live in seemingly open disregard for commands that Moses wrote were "forever"...can you question their faith in a similar way? The passover is an example: in the Scripture we are directed to observe it perpetually. The only question is: if the Messiah is our passover lamb as it says in the New Testament - does our celebration of his life, death and resurrection subsume the required obedience to this law of ceremony? I believe that it does. Does that make me a law-breaker? Legally, yes - but spiritually I can also argue complete compliance, by faith. The books of Moses point forward to the Messiah. Christians should take them VERY seriously for all of the reasons that you mention in your post. I just have to be a bit of a thorn in your side today to raise some issues :).

  6. Hey man.

    I'm glad you see the moral law, in particular the 10 commandments, as a Good Thing.

    The Boundary Stones book does address the applicability of the whole law, both what men have divided as "moral" and "ritual". In the coming weeks, I'll review more of this book and maybe we can discuss it in more detail there.

  7. Here is an interesting quote from James Trimm's blog:

    "Yeshua was teaching CHESED, he was teaching Chassidism and he was teaching the values of Antigones of Soko. He was teaching us that we should not keep Torah as one wishing to earn something, but as one who has a sincere heart and inner desire to serve YHWH out of sincere love and respect for our Father."

    "In fact the ironic thing is that by this measure it is Christendom which is hypocritical. Talk to a Christian about Torah Observance and invariably they will respond that they do not have to keep Torah to be saved, and therefore they do not need to keep Torah. They are as ones only concerned with doing what they get paid for, and not as one serving YHWH simply out of love and respect for Him."



  8. Efrayim,

    The point is not "How little can I obey to still be saved" - but "how can I worship the Lord acceptably in Spirit and in truth"? If ceremonial observances have been subsumed in the fulfillment of the Messiah's work for all believers -then we risk offering unacceptable worship to insist on continuing to offer sacrifices for sins. This is the most extreme example, but I think that you make a sweeping judgment on Christians, here.

  9. Hey Brian.

    I want to summarize your post. I don't mean this as an insult. Here we go:

    1. I want to worship God right, "in spirit & truth"...

    2. ...and because Messiah made ceremonial parts of the Law redundant....

    3. ...following the ceremonial parts of the Law may be unacceptable worship.

    Is this what you're saying?

  10. Judah,

    I have started to comment on this post several times, but I keep getting stuck at a particular sentence.

    "A common response from some Christians is that these great men of the past gained forgiveness through animal sacrifices in the Tabernacle and obedience to commandments in the Law."

    It runs so contrary to what I believe, that I find myself wondering which denomination believes that. I must admit I don't know what all the Christian denominations believe, so I would like to look into it a little deeper and find out why they believe that. My first thought was the Catholics, but I wasn't sure...could you point me in the right direction?


  11. Gary,

    I usually hear it disguised as other arguments. I can give you an example if you're interested.

    In your view, what's the purpose of the Law, Gary?

  12. Judah,

    Well sure I am interested, else I wouldn't have asked. :) Am I to understand that you don't know this to be the direct belief of any Christian denomination, but what you interpreted indirectly? Again, the reason I ask is that it is contrary to the clear teaching in Hebrews.

    My view of the purpose of the Law is irrelevant; it's what the Bible says that counts.

    It is spelled out clearly in Romans 3:19-20, 4:15, 5:20-21; Gal 3:24.

  13. You're right it's what's in the Bible that counts. That's why I think all of Scripture, including the Messiah and the apostles, upheld the Torah. Messiah in his fundamentals of the faith teaching in Matthew 5, James 1 and 2, 1 John, Revelation, Isaiah, Psalms, to name a few. Rather than take a handful of choice quotes from Paul that seem to suggest he's at odds with Messiah, it's better to read the whole of Scripture and fit Paul within that context.

    It is disturbing that some Christians base such an upheaving theology on a few sentences from 1 disciple, interpreted in such a way as to make Paul contrary to Messiah and the rest of Scripture.

    Look back in Acts. The disciples came to Paul and said, "some people are saying you're telling folks to stray from the Law. Is it true?" His response was keeping the Law, taking a Nazirite vow with other men in the Temple in front of the whole assembly, in order that "this rumor be put to rest." I think that speaks loudly of where Paul was really at with the Law.

    Gary, you asked,

    "Am I to understand that you don't know this to be the direct belief of any Christian denomination?"

    Gary, in the post, I said that some Christians suggest these heroes of the faith were forgiven through the works of the Law, including sacrifices. Please note I did not say "all Christians".

    That said, here's an example of a Protestant Christian organization that comes right out and says the Old Testament people received forgiveness of sin through animal sacrifices.

  14. Judah,

    Thanks for the response, I found the link interesting. They seem to be equating atonement with forgiveness.

    You asked a question and I provided an answer. Actually I have considered the whole of scripture. I also choose to rightly divide scripture between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant.

  15. Gary, fair enough.

    Regarding the dividing of Scripture, I deliberately used mostly New Testament Scriptures in support of the believe that God's commandments are still relevant and good and holy. I don't believe that the Old Testament has passed away, been abolished, nor even is entirely fulfilled (yet).

    We probably disagree on those points. Clarity is better than agreement, and I think it's clear where we both stand.

    I hope you comment on the next part of the Boundary Stones review. Eby talks about some stuff that I think you'll actually agree with.

  16. Judah,

    I was referring to Old and New Covenant, which isn't the same delineation as Old and New Testament. The New Covenant went into effect at the death of Jesus (Hebrews 8 and 9). Jesus lived and taught under the Old Covenant with a view to the Covenant to come at His death.


  17. Ah, I understand what you mean now, thanks.

    The covenants of God is an interesting topic. I want to write a blog post on sometime.

    For example, there isn't 1 "old covenant". There was the Adamic covenant, the Noahide covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, for example. Usually when Christians refer to the old covenant, they're speaking of the Mosaic, usually in an effort abolish it in some way.

    Another interesting note is that new covenents never abolish the old covenant. For example, the God's covenant with Noah -- that He would never again destroy the earth with flooding -- wasn't abolished when the next covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, came around. Likewise, the Davidic and Mosaic covenants didn't abolish the Abrahamic covenant where God promised Abraham his descendants would be as numerous as the stars in the sky.

    Yet another interesting bit is that the New Covenant isn't here yet. Or rather, it's partially here, but it's by no means fully here. Jeremiah 31 describes the terms and conditions and effects of the new covenant, and a great number of those things have yet to occur.

    And yet another interesting bit is that God's covenants are almost always with Israel or progenitors of Israel. For example, even the New Covenant described in Jeremiah 31 is a covenant between God and the 2 houses of Israel.