Last week we dealt with Paul’s diatribe language and his handling of God’s judgment.
- We saw that judgment refers specifically to God’s condemnation – an activity exclusive to God.
- Paul wasn’t referring to an objective judgment of propositions and actions as right or wrong.
- The very thing he was doing in his letter.
- We also saw that to be judged and condemned by God is to come under His wrath – His judging righteousness.
We then tried to understand what it meant to “practice” the things that bring about God’s judgment.
- The meaning of “practice” in context was “to bring about or accomplish something through activity” – BDAG.
The activity in question was described in Romans 1:
- Spiritual corruption.
- Physical corruption.
- Fellowship corruption.
We also saw that the thing brought about or accomplished by this activity was…
- The judgment of God – His wrath – His judging righteousness.
Let’s pickup where Paul left off…
Romans 2:6–11 (ESV) — 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.
“He will render to each one according to his works”
Paul switches gears a little be here and lays out a good news bad news scenario.
- Paul talks about the “apodidomi” of God.
- “Apodidomi” appears as “render”, “reward”, “repay”, and “give” in various translations.
Paul says God is going to “apodidomi” everybody – the Jew and the Greek.
- No one will not receive the “apodidomi” of God.
The exact kind of rendering, reward or repayment depends on the person – the “each one” (vs. 6).
- Paul puts it clearly, God’s “apodidomi” will be “to each one according to works” (vs. 6).
This fits well with a typical Jewish OT understanding.
- Psalm 62:12 (ESV) — 12 and that to you, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For you will render to a man according to his work.
It seems like Paul is saying that eternal life is according to one’s works.
- A concept that appears to contradict justification by faith.
- “Paul asserts that works are necessary for salvation and also that one cannot be justified by works of the law…” – Tom Schreiner.
- More on this seemingly problematic statement by Paul in a moment.
Paul states that the reward will take one of only two forms.
- Paul explains…
“7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek” 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.
Paul contrasts the one whose works seek “glory and honor and immortality” (vs. 7) with the one whose works are “self-seeking” and do “not obey the truth” (vs. 8).
- The one who “does good” (vs. 10) with the one who “does evil” (vs. 9).
- Good works vs. Evil works.
The two different works lead to a difference in what “will be” rewarded – in what the “apodidomi” will be.
- The first will be given “eternal life” (vs. 7) – life in the age to come – resurrection life!
- For the latter, there “will be wrath and fury” (vs. 8).
- Paul is talking about the consummation of the Kingdom of God and what it looks like for each “worker”.
In light of Romans thus far, what are the rewards?
- Reward 1 – God’s saving righteousness in the form of our future eternal salvation.
- Reward 2 – Gods judging righteousness in the form of a future eschatological wrath.
Race is Not the Basis:
Notice that Paul is making it clear that the difference is not found in being Jew or Greek.
- The distinction between Jew and Greek is meaningless.
- “the Jew first and also the Greek” (vs. 9 and 10).
- “God shows no partiality” (vs. 11).
“There is a God who, as creator, is responsible for the world, and he will put it to rights. And when he does so, he will act with complete impartiality, as accords with strict justice” – N.T. Wright.
But – Are Works Really the Basis?
What is the ground level difference between the “those” of verse 7 and the “those” of 8-9?
- We have already seen the difference is not Jew or Greek.
Are their “works” really the difference?
- Or are the “works” indicative of the difference?
- If the latter, what are the works indicative of?
- Answer is coming…
What Paul is not saying!
- “Did Paul believe that some could obtain eternal life by doing good works?” – Tom Schreiner.
- It is incredibly important that we resist hearing our text today with works baggage weighing us down.
- As we saw some time ago, the believer lives in “this grace in which stand” (Romans 5:2).
- Our works, therefore, never merit us any righteousness before God.
As we saw from Romans 1, God’s righteousness is His activity – it is from Him and it is His.
- We are connected to it through faith – not through works.
So what is Paul getting at?
- We have to remember our context – what Paul has been teaching.
- God’s divine activity takes two forms.
- His saving righteousness and His judging righteousness.
So we do not create our own righteousness.
- We act within God’s.
- And the kind of act or “work” we practice depends upon the righteousness in which we walk.
So to answer our earlier question…
- The Christian’s works are indicative of living within the divine activity of God’s saving righteousness.
- They are possible because, and flow from, this fact.
So what exactly is a good work for Paul?
A closer examination of verse 7 will help us understand what is behind a good work.
- Here is the good work – “those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality”
- Or as verse 10 puts it – he who “does good”.
To get at this, we need to understand “hypomone”.
- The ESV translates this as “patience”.
- It appears this is a bit of a misfire.
- Other translations use “perseverance” or “persistence”.
The latter are more accurate.
- In context, the BDAG says “hypomone” means “steadfast endurance of sufferings”.
- Whereas “patience” conveys the idea of “passive waiting for divine intervention” – Robert Jewett.
Peter can help us here:
- 1 Peter 3:14–15 (ESV) — 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, 15 but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect,
We will suffer because of Christ – “for righteousness’ sake”.
- This is the Christian life.
- As we do, we are to actively honor Him.
- In fact, we are to actively give “reason for the hope” we have in Him – the reasons why we do honor Him in the midst of suffering.
Given all this, a paraphrase of Romans 1:7 will help us put it all together:
- The real vs. 7 says a good work is “by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality”.
- The paraphrase would be that a good work is “to steadfastly and actively endure in the faith – especially in the midst of sufferings – seeking for glory and honor and immortality”.
In fact we can shed even more light on what this good work is.
- Because “hypomone” even has military overtones.
- “It includes active and energetic resistance to hostile power” – Robert Jewett.
- Such as “…maintaining ones place in a line of battle” – Robert Jewett.
So a good work is a deliberate and energetic working on our part to actively endure in the faith in the face of suffering and so honor Christ.
And Paul says this active, energetic action on our part is not a one-off thing.
- He couples it with the idea of seeking – “seek for glory” (vs. 7).
- And by that he means, “a sustained and deliberate” activity over time – Robert Jewett.
- So add “over time” to our previous definitions of a good work.
Who are those that will “work” in such a manner – actively honoring Christ in our suffering in a sustained fashion?
- Those who suppress the truth?
- No…Those in God’s saving righteousness.
- Those who in their “hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy” (1 Peter 3:15).
Importantly, then, we are not patiently waiting for God to intervene.
- As we have seen, He has already acted and is daily acting on us with His saving righteousness.
How does this impact how we view obedience and works?
- We have to be careful to exclude our works baggage that skews us toward self-righteousness.
- Something Paul is not talking about.
This means that good works are our striving, out of profound gratitude, to do what God wants of us.
- So we “seek for glory and honor and immortality” in and through Christ (vs. 7)
- We “do good” (vs. 10).
This is the “obedience of faith” Paul speaks of in Romans 1.
- Romans 1:5 (ESV) — 5 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations,
- And it occurs among “all the nations” – not just Israel.
But our striving and doing “good” do count for something – just not our righteousness.
- Paul teaches that “…good works are essential for participation in the coming age” – Tom Schreiner.
- Now what this something is a subject of a lot of debate!
Just know that ultimately, our works count for something only because of the context in which we live as believers – God’s saving righteousness as opposed to His judging righteousness.
- “The works of the Christian that are valid in the judgment are the ‘fruit’ of union with Christ and manifestations of God’s grace” – Douglas Moo.
- “The justification by faith [God’s saving righteousness] granted the believer in this life is the sufficient cause of those works that God takes into account at the time of the judgment” – Douglas Moo.
- Our works don’t secure our future; they demonstrate it is already secure in Christ and God’s saving righteousness.