Thoughts on the Epistle to the Romans (36)

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God … will render to each one according to his deeds: eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honour, and immortality; but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath.

Romans 2: 6-8.

Nobody will be excluded from a just recompense or retribution for all that man has done on earth; it applies to each one.

What strikes us is that two groups of people are clearly distinguished here. The Bible frequently uses the terms the “righteous” and the “unrighteous”. For their “deeds” they receive either “eternal life” or everlasting “indignation and wrath”.

Now one might wonder whether the “righteous” could have any standing before God on the ground of their own good works. Didn’t chapter 1 show the exact opposite? Didn’t Paul stress that the righteousness of the lost can come exclusively from God and is granted to whoever believes? That is indeed the case, and it will be underlined again very clearly in chapter 3, where it even states that no-one seeks God of his own accord (v.11).

However, if anyone has received the gospel, repented and put his faith in Jesus, his life has undergone a fundamental change; it is marked by very different moral qualities than before. And this is true, even though “born again Christians” are not yet perfect.

How anyone can be saved and how God changes a life is not explained in these verses of chapter 2. Here the matter in hand is that God’s righteousness will be revealed in the just way that God renders to everyone for his deeds.