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 Works versus Faith (Part 19) – Romans Chapter 2

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PostSubject: Works versus Faith (Part 19) – Romans Chapter 2   Sun Apr 09, 2017 3:52 pm

Works versus Faith (Part 19) – Romans Chapter 2

Of the entire book of Romans, I see only one section that can be misinterpreted as saying that a Christian is saved by works and not by faith.  And, for those who come to that conclusion, they also believe that a Christian can lose his or her salvation because if it is by works then there is no real measuring line to be able to tell if we have done enough works to merit our salvation.  These people can never be secure of their salvation; they can never be at peace.  This passage in Romans is found in chapter 2:5-16, and that is what I would like to cover in this post.  To get a flavor for the tenor, let’s look at some of the verses:  Verse 7 says, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”  Wait a sec!!!! That should immediately raise red flags for the Christian believer who understands that salvation is by grace alone, according to this same author, namely, the Apostle Paul who stated that it is not by works, but rather, it is through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Yet, this same author who wrote Ephesians 2:8-9 also wrote this passage in Romans that we just quoted.  This Romans passage says that those who persist (through their own effort and strength) in doing good works; and by those works, seek glory, honor and immortality, that God will give that person eternal life.  That blatantly (at least, apparently so) contradicts Ephesians 2:8-9.

It doesn’t stop there though.  Romans 2:13 says, “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.”  This verse is talking about being declared righteous.  It sounds like it completely contradicts the Gospel.  In fact, this same writer, the Apostle Paul, says in Galatians, 2:21, “…for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing.” In fact, this same author, the Apostle Paul, in this same book, Romans, in the very next chapter: chapter 3 verse 20, says, “Therefore no one will be declared righteous in His sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.”  And later in verse 28, Paul says, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”  So how did Paul go from contradicting himself from what he said in chapter 2 to what he says in chapter 3?  And lastly, in the chapter that precedes chapter 2, Paul says in Romans 1:17, “For in the Gospel, a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith, from first to last, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith.”  So how does Paul state something that contradicts his statements in both the preceding and successive chapters of his statement?  Perhaps we should look closer at Romans 2 to see what Paul is actually saying.  

If we are to analyze Romans 2:13 onward, we should start at verse 1.  But verse one starts, “You, therefore, have no excuse…”  It is perhaps now a trite statement but it’s still true: whenever you see the word “therefore” in the bible, one should stop to question what it is there for.  That would bring us back to Romans chapter one.  Furthermore, Romans 2:2 says, “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.”  What “such things?” To get the answer to that, we have to go back to Romans chapter one.  So, let’s start at Romans 1:18.  It reads, “The wrath of God is being revealed from Heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.”  The verb here is in present tense.  Every day, God’s wrath is being revealed.  God’s wrath is being built up more and more every day.  This culture is getting worse, not better.  Truth of this nation is subjective: truth is what each person believes is true in his or her own eyes, not what God says is true.  The media and Hollywood has the power to influence the beliefs of the populace surreptitiously, without people realizing that they are being indoctrinated by worldly and demonic agendas.  The culmination of God’s wrath will be unleashed during the Tribulation period.  This verse says that God’s wrath, although it will be unleashed in full during the Tribulation, is right now being revealed in smaller portions.  Although in Luke 13:4, Jesus said that those who died when the tower fell on them: their casualty was not due to sin, it does not rule out the fact that many times casualties are the direct result of sin.  For example, Amos 3:6 says, “When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?”  A nation steps outside the protection of God when they turn away from Him.  

God expresses His wrath when we suppress the truth.  America is blatantly guilty of this.  Again, truth is what God says it is, not what man says it is.  Yet, we are trying to take God completely out of the mainstream of society.  Darwinianism is exclusively taught instead of at least teaching Divine Creation as an alternative theory.  The evils and truth of abortion are hidden and vitiated to a simple choice that people have a right to make.  Will God remain silent?  He says He won’t.  Although society promotes that there is no God, this verse says that God plainly revealed Himself to them.  We only need to look up at the stars: stars that no Big Bang can create.  Look at the perfection of life: if the sun were any closer, the moon any further, DNA worked any differently, food was not self-sustainable on this planet, if we were denied a liver or any vital organ, if the Earth rotated at any different speed, if the ozone layer wasn’t extant, if the air we breathe didn’t have the right composition, life would be impossible.  In a science of probabilities, the only conclusion one can deduce is that God did it.  Hence verse 20 reads, “For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.”  Even though God is spirit, and hence invisible, one way we know of His existence is by observing His creation.  Psalm 53:1 says, “The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

Verse 21: “For although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”  The bible calls such people a fool; in this verse as well.  Whenever man rejects God and attempts to leave God out, God deems such a person a fool.  Our thinking is foolish, and our hearts are set on foolish things.  Our goals and desires are foolish when they leave God out of the picture.  And everything that we have, we have because God gave it to us.  So an unthankful person is also a fool.  Such a person does not realize where his source of sustenance comes from.  Verse 22 says, “Although they claim to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles.”  We have the great bald eagle on our own dollar bill, the idol that most Americans hold to, along with the image of late Presidents.  Our scientists claim to be wise.  They claim to know how the universe works.  According to Psalm 2, God is currently in Heaven, mocking them; laughing at them for their foolishness.  Our thoughts and ideas are infinitely inferior to God’s thoughts and ideas.  Even the great laws of physics that man studies so diligently, God, by His Word can alter, so that water, that is not designed to congeal and stand in mid-air, God is able to split, congeal it to become a wall on one side and a wall on the other side, and then dry up the ground it sat on for centuries in a single second so that he can escort His people through the Red Sea to the other side.  My point is that even the sciences that we think we know, God created those sciences and also has the power to overrule their laws.  Our scientists today are trying so hard to discredit the existence of God.

Verse 24 says, “Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another.”  God created sex.  It is His institution and therefore He gets to set the rules for its expression.  Sex outside of His rules is a degradation of our bodies, and this is especially true for believers because our bodies are the Temple of the Lord through the Holy Spirit who is in us.  When God gives a person over to the sinful desires of their hearts, that means that He is no longer helping them to overcome the temptation (as the person is no longer requesting God’s help).  Remember, God’s grace helps us to overcome temptation.  Giving us over to the desires of our hearts also means that God is departing His presence from us.  God often gives non-Christians over to the desires of their hearts, and with that, comes an absence of God’s presence.  God is also prone to giving over Christians to the desires of their hearts when we live in rebellion to Him.  For God to give a Christian over to the desires of their hearts does not mean that they lose salvation; what it does mean is that they lose God’s active presence in their lives.  Such a Christian can expect their prayers will not be answered.  Such a Christian can also expect for there to be impending judgments and things going wrong in his or her life due to God giving them over to their sin.  We are sealed by the Holy Spirit through faith in Jesus Christ, but that does not exempt us from God’s judgment on our daily lives when we rebel against Him.  For both the Christian and the non-Christian, it is a terrible thing to fall into the wrath of God.  And it is not just God giving us over, for indeed, when we commit vile sin, we are giving ourselves over.  Ephesians 4:19 says, “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every king of impurity, with a continual lust for more.”  

Verse 25 reads, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised.  Amen”.  God is forever praised whether or not you choose to praise Him because one day every knee will bow and give glory to Him both on Heaven, Earth, and Hades/Hell.  In fact, right now, those in Hades know who God is and are giving Him glory because God demands it from His creation.  Paul says that these people didn’t like the Truth, but rather, preferred the lie.  The lie looked better and more rewarding than the Truth.  I am confident that the Reader of these posts knows by now what Truth is.  Truth can be summed up as whatever comes from the mouth of God.  Something is true simply because God said it.  We can reject the Truth, but that doesn’t make Truth any less truthful.  Satan is the father of lies. To reject Truth is to accept Satan’s propaganda.  To make a lie look good, Satan often dresses his lies with some truth.  Since Truth comes from only God, this means that only Christians possess Truth.  The world, which includes the media, operates on a lie and indoctrinates the masses with those lies.  Truth is always on the side of righteousness and against sin.  One of the biggest lies that Satan wants us to adopt is the worship of created things.  Satan wants us to worship money and self (remember, people are created too).  Worship can be subtle.  Most atheists do not realize that they are worshiping something.  To place anything in the place of God is to worship that item.  

Verse 26-27 states: “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.  Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones [lesbianism]. In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another.  Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion.”

It is popular today to make light of lesbianism and homosexuality.  Hollywood, the media, the sports arena and other venues seek to make homosexuality and lesbianism as something palatable and acceptable to everyone.  Like most issues, what is popular with man, is often an abomination to God.  The world argues that people are simply born that way.  God, our Creator, says that such actions are unnatural.  Leviticus 18:22 says, “Do not lie with a man as one lies with a woman; that is detestable.”  If a Christian tries to argue with someone who purports what the world believes, that Christian will face rebuttals such as: “Man wrote the bible.”; or, “The bible is fabricated,”; or, “That book is outdated.”  People often quote the passages that suit them and their beliefs, but then retort that man wrote the bible when it comes to passages that don’t agree with their world view.  But what God said, sinners should actually find palatable to agree with, and I’ll explain why:  The world argues that people are born gay.  They define the person as gay and conclude that there is nothing they can do about it to change their behavior.  They say that gay people just have to accept who they are.  But God says that being gay is not natural; He says that no one is born gay, so therefore, one has the opportunity to change their thoughts and behavior.  God says that being gay is not who you are (and that should be a good thing to accept by all).  The world labels us; God de-labels us.

Another thing that we can glean from this passage is that God does not view all sins equally. Some sins are abominations in God’s eyes, which leads Him to give the person over to that sin.  Not all sins result in God giving the person over and taking away His presence from their lives.  1 John 5:16 says that there is sin that does not lead to death.  The bible is clear that there are degrees of sin: that is, some sins affect God more negatively than other sins.  Please note that God’s scale of the magnitude of a sin’s offence is not the same as what most people would come up with.  We are not talking about the greatest sins in man’s eyes; no, but rather, the greatest sins in God’s eyes.  Homosexuality and lesbianism is way up there in disgracefulness in God’s eyes, even though it is quite the opposite in the majority of secular opinion.  In fact, in God’s eyes, the sin of homosexuality and lesbianism is deserving of death.  We will get to that in verse 32, but I’ll quickly quote it here: “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death…” I am not speaking opinion; I am pointing out God’s Truth.  God is willing to dispense His grace to the homosexual or lesbian to help them overcome their sin if they would repent.  They must first acknowledge that it is sin and not merely a reflection of their personality.

What I am about to say, I know will not be popular.  But I don’t feel a need to apologize when speaking truth.  God said that homosexuality is not normal; and, indeed it is not normal: the source of it is actually demonic.  There is a gay spirit (demon) that inhabits homosexuals.  This is why they exhibit nearly the same personality: in how they sound when the speak, act, walk, dress and carry themselves.  The reason it is important to identify the true source of why they are the way they are is because such a sin can only be addressed spiritually.  We cannot using worldly techniques to convince a gay person to become straight through counselling or psychiatry.  We cannot beat or bully a gay person into becoming straight.  Those techniques have no effect.  The only way to heal their sin is through Jesus.  They must first accept Jesus as their personal Savior.  Then they must learn of their new identity in Jesus Christ and the Truth of who they really are.  They must pray for the filling of the Holy Spirit, and if necessary, seek Christian leaders to rebuke the evil spirits in them until they leave (which may take several sessions).  

I should point out what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 5:9-10.  It reads, “I have written you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the people of this world who are immoral…” Firstly, note that this verse includes fornication, adultery, and any sex outside of marriage, not just homosexuality.  Also note that Paul is not referring to not associating with a non-Christian who is sexually immoral.  Those people need Christ first, so we are not commanded to distance ourselves from non-Christians because of their sins.  We are commanded to not associate with Christians who are sexually immoral.  This is of course, a last option because other Scripture tells us to rebuke in love and admonish those who sin in order to get them to turn and do right.  So after all efforts to get a sexually immoral Christian to repent, if they still refuse, then we are to disassociate ourselves from them as God Himself, also will depart His presence from that person, leading them into the hands of Satan, which the end goal is to lead them into repentance and back to God.  God uses Satan to discipline us and bring us to repentance.  

Verse 28 posits, “Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.”  Mankind does not think that it is worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God because they believe that they are smarter than God.  As mentioned, every science that we study, God created; except for certain sciences such as psychology, psychiatry, paleontology, and the other –ologies that define truth apart from how the bible defines it.  The bulk of this verse echoes what we covered in previous verses, so we’ll move to the next one.   The next 3 verses are 2 sentences, which state, “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”  Man’s heart is naturally this way.  Only God is able to change us.  Without God, we naturally take on the dispensation of these attributes.  The flesh is always at odds against God.  Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.  Who can understand it?”  I have to add to this verse Luke 18:27, where Jesus says, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” God can do all things.  We cannot cure these things ourselves, which is why we must turn to Him who is able to cure them for us.  

I should warn the Reader before moving on: Many Christians erroneously conclude from Jeremiah 17:9 that it is impossible for a person to have a pure heart.  This same bible says of Job, David, Joseph, Daniel, and many others that they had righteous hearts.  Jeremiah 17:9 is not saying that man cannot become righteous.  It is saying that man on his own cannot become righteous.  It is very important to make that distinction.  There are many Christians with false doctrine who believe that no one can become righteous, and therefore they reason that there is no need to even try to become righteous.  ‘Why pursue an impossible task?’ they reason.  Their favorite verse is: “All have sinned, and have fallen short of the glory of God.”  God does judge Christians for their sins and He gives us power to overcome sin through His grace.  Also, in Christ, our new identity is righteousness, not sinners.  We have been changed.  Jesus exchanged our sin nature for His righteousness.  God has fully equipped us with the power to live righteously: the Holy Spirit, prayer, the fruits of the Spirit, the belt of truth, breastplate of righteousness, helmet of salvation, shoes of peace, shield of faith, the sword of the Spirit, Jesus Himself, prayer, Jesus’ promises in His Word, and a new spirit identity in Christ.  We have more than enough to put away all sin.  I have a lot I could say about these things, but let’s try to stay on topic with Romans.  

Again, Romans 1:29-31 state, “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity.  They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice.  They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”  I like that disobeying parents is on the same list of “doing evil.”  God sees all of these things as evil.  And we just thought that we were having a bad day when we cussed that person out—but God says that such response toward men is evil.  These are all qualities that people naturally take up who do not have God in their lives.  We are born with all of these traits.  Only Jesus gets such things out of us.  That is His goal for His people: to refine us in righteousness and conform us to His image in righteousness and truth.  Be careful to not join in cliques at work who gossip at lunch time.  Some of these things are in us and we don’t realize.  We need to examine ourselves and make sure we are living out the Christian faith, not for salvation sake, but for fellowship sake.  Technically, the group of people that Paul is referring to here are not Christians, but rather “God-haters”: those who reject God altogether.

Verse 32 reads, “Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things, but also approve of those who practice them.”  The Reader may be wondering: “I thought you just said these people Paul is referring to are not Christians.  Then how is it that they know the bible?  How is it that Paul says that they know God’s righteous decrees?”  This is similar to verse 21 where Paul says, “Although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him…”  I find it interesting how much of the bible non-Christians actually know.  They know just enough to quote verses when defending themselves to a Christian.  One type of passage they love to quote is the Old Testament where God commands His people to stone the evil doer among them.  They quote that to try to argue that the God of the bible is not a good God.  Our response to that should be that the God of the bible is very good, and very loving, but also very holy and just.  It would be amazing if He were to choose just one human to be saved when all are deserving of death because all have sinned and have fallen short of His glory.  But He has opened the door for all who are willing to be saved to be saved through the death of His Son—that is love beyond comprehension.  People who argue against us do not understand God’s holiness and our unworthiness.  We all are deserving of death, but God, in His love, has spared mankind from extinction.  They don’t understand that God reached down to an undeserving people and sent His own Son to the cross so that some would be saved.  And the bible even tells us that God wishes that none would be loss, but that all would be saved.  God commanded His people in the Old Testament to purge the sin from among them for the good of the community, so that the majority would not turn astray and become defiled by sin.  1 Corinthians 15:33 says, “Do not be misled: bad company corrupts good character.”  We see that with what we just read because it says that these people not only do these evil things, but they also approve of others who do them as well.  

That brings us to Romans chapter 2.  Basically, Romans 1-3 is God’s case against humanity.  God is telling us why we are guilty before Him.  We have no excuse to be an atheist was chapter 1’s main point.  And God judges and hates sin is the other main point of chapter one.  Recall that chapter 1 was directed primarily towards non-Christians.  Romans 2:1 reads, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.”  This is much like what Jesus said: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.  For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you” (Matt. 7:1-2).  It is important to understand the entire context of that passage in Matthew.  Jesus was not saying do not judge, but rather, He was saying to not judge hypocritically.  He later goes on to say that after we take the log out of our own eye, then we will be able to see clearly to judge our brother legitimately.  Paul tells us that the Church is supposed to judge those within the church, and not non-Christians outside of the Church (1 Cor. 5:12-13).  God will judge non-Christians.  Christians are supposed to keep fellow Christians accountable to the Word of God, but in doing so, we need to be sure that we first do a self-assessment so that we do not speak hypocritically.  So Romans 2:1 is speaking of people who do not undergo this legitimate process of judging and who accuse others just because they want to see the downfall of others.  God will judge the person, in this life and the next, who act this way.  

Romans 2:2-4 states, “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth.  So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?  Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance, and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”  When God judges, His judgments are based on Truth, not on assumptions, malice, heresy, discrimination, etc.  We are not mind-readers, but God is.  And because God is filled with mercy, He often does not give us what our offenses deserve.  When He forgives us, He does that so that His kindness will lead us to repentance.  God’s intent is that when we realize His forgiving mercy, that we will become so grateful that we will repent of our sins and cease committing them.  Oftentimes we may be angry with someone’s offense that God has forgiven.  This can be true even within ourselves.  We may be bashing ourselves for something bad we have done in the past where God has forgiven us for that when we repented a long time ago, and is now waiting for us to forgive ourselves.  We see in Romans 2:4, that God would rather forgive us than to punish us for our sins.  But to get to the forgiving part, we must first repent.  If He does not punish us, that means that He is giving us more time to repent.  If He still does nothing, then Hebrews 12:8 says to check your salvation because only non-Christians get off in this lifetime without discipline.  

Verse 5 reads, “But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the Day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed.”  God has a Day for both the Christian and non-Christian.  These are not the same “Day”.  One day, all Christians will have to stand before God and give an account of our lives to Him.  God will play back the recorded tape and pause at each moment for us to defend ourselves and to point out our infractions.  All we can say, or all we should say, is “I admit my wrong; please, through your Son, forgive me of what I did.”  There is no legitimate excuse for our sins and us falling short of His demands that we will be able to offer on that Day.  God favors the one who admits their wrong.  He judges more harshly those who still don’t think they upset His laws and kindled His wrath.  If sin did not bother God that much, then He would have never sent His Son to the cross.  Sin bothers Him that much!  

Again, Christians will stand before the Beamer Seat of the Judgment of Jesus during the 7 year Tribulation, starting at the Rapture of all living Christians on the Earth.  The “Day” for all non-Christians will be just after the Tribulation period.  So the “Day”, or time period of judgment is different for Christians versus non-Christians, but be sure of this, each person will experience his or her “Day”.  For Christians, Jesus will reward us for the good things we did for Him and His Kingdom during our lifetime, and will inform us of the rewards He is taking away from us and of the disciplinary action He is taking because of our neglect for the Kingdom based on our lack of faith and sinful actions.  Some, He will make rulers over cities.  Others will be poor, without any eternal reward.  As I often hear people say when I’m teaching: “At least I’m in Heaven.”—that is not a good response.  It irks me to hear Christians respond that way.  When the bible speaks of a “Day”, that literally means, “a short period of time.”  We now know exactly (not the exact date, of course) when this short time will be for the believer and unbeliever: Tribulation period for the believer; the Great White Throne future event for the unbeliever, occurring after the 1,000 year Millennium rule of Jesus.    

Verse 6 says, “God will give to each person according to what he has done.”  Each person means everybody: believer and non-believer.  All are judged according to what they have done during this lifetime.  I recently had a discussion with someone who made the comment: “All sins are equal to God.  Sin is sin to God, and therefore, God judges all sins equally.”  I tried explaining to this person that for God to be just, He would have to view sins on different degrees of flagrancy.  Any just judge would not put a person in prison for murder, and then give the same prison sentence to someone who only committed a white lie.  If crimes were judged the same, that would not be just.  God does have degrees of sin that offends Him, and throughout His Word, He defines which sins are worse than others.  The sin of homosexuality, adultery, idolatry, and murder are all near the top of God’s list for offensiveness.  God’s scales of flagrancy are not the same as ours.  For God, disobeying one’s parents deserves the same punishment as committing murder.  Most people would not hold to such a notion, nevertheless, God defines what sins are worse than others.  John says in 1 John 5:17, “All wrongdoing is sin, and there is sin that does not lead to death.”  Some sin deserves death, but some does not.  It is not important what sins offends us the most; it is only important, for our judgment sake, which sins offends God the most.  God’s righteousness puts all sins on the same level of falling short of His glory, but God’s justice distinguishes each sin on differing degrees of infraction.  We will see in Romans 2:7-8 that verse 6 could be a good or bad thing.

Now we are at one of the verses we questioned in the introduction.  Verse 7 states, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.”  That is not the prescription for eternal life according to many other Scriptures.

No matter which version you grab, this verse says the same thing: “[verse 6: “[God], who will render to every man according to his deeds:] to those who by perseverance in doing good seek glory and honor and immortality, eternal life…” That’s the NAS version.  So it says, that if we persist in doing good, and seek glory, honor, and immortality, that God will give us eternal life.  We are to seek whose glory?  And whose honor?  Obviously, we are to seek God’s glory and honor, even though many people (even Christians) live to seek self-glory and honor, and even church folk.  If you are in the choir, and you are singing to try to receive the applause of man, you are seeking self-glory.  But, if you are singing, without care of the applause, but doing your best so that God receives the glory and honor, then you will be rewarded.  It says we are to seek immortality.  How do we do that?  Paul, are you saying that by seeking immortality, God will give us eternal life?  Thank God for the rest of the bible; and, thank God for the rest of Paul’s writings.  If this was all we had, this would be the conclusion we would have to make.  But that wouldn’t make sense, now would it?  There are many Buddhists who seek immortality.  Many other religions seek that, but they do not have eternal life.  Many atheists seek that through technology and medicine.  And furthermore, the previous verse seems to say that God is giving this eternal life based on our deeds.  Okay, it’s time for us to look closer to understand what these verses are really saying.

We know that salvation is not by deeds.  The very next chapter: Romans 3:28 says, “For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”  Salvation is by faith, not deeds.  First of all, I see a layered meaning for these confusing verses we are covering.  That is, I see it having the same truth when applied to a couple of scenarios/ situations.  Firstly, it appears that God is explaining the way things are.  I know that statement does not initially make sense, but please bear with me as I try to explain:  Remember, God is pleading His case against humanity, explaining that all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God.  First, I’ll quote verses 7-13 together and then try to explain my point:

“[7] To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.  [8] But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.  [9] There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; [10] but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. [11] For God does not show favoritism.  [12] All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law.  [13] For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.”  

I think that in order for us to understand verse 7 that we have to continue reading to at least verse 13 where he makes the point that I think he was getting at, which really started in verse 6.  His point in verse 13 is that one has to obey the entire law in order to be declared righteous.  That’s the same point that James made when he says in James 2:10, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.”  What God is saying [through Paul] is that God’s law can make the person receive eternal life, if he is able to keep it all, which no one can.  That’s what I meant when I said that Romans 2:7 is explaining the way things are.  It is true, that to those who by persistence in doing good, by their deeds, and seek glory, honor and immortality, that he or she would earn, by their works, eternal life.  The problem is that no one is able to do that.  Only Jesus was able to do that and He did do that for us.  He earned eternal life for us.  God’s requirement is perfection.  That’s the way things are (that is, God’s nature).  If you can be perfect, He would reward your perfection with Eternal Life.  However, we happen to be imperfect humans, who have inherited imperfection through our ancestor Adam.  I hope that makes sense.  I always say “I hope that makes sense” when I am not sure if I explained it well enough.  Please feel free to reply to any of my posts.

I am pretty confident that I have a passing interpretation.  For example, let’s read Romans 2:13 and Romans 3:28 together back to back: “For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.  For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law.”  Now if that doesn’t flip your mind…  Those statements together look like a flagrant contradiction of each other.  Since Scripture has no contradictions, the only legitimate conclusion we can make is that Paul is speaking of 2 different things from Chapter 2:7-13 to 3:28.  

Now I said that I see layered meanings in this passage in Revelation chapter 2.  Interestingly enough, it fits well if we insert what we just went over into our study of the Sheep and the Goats, which I tried to explain is the same event of Revelation 14:14-18.  That judgment regards only those who are still on Earth post-Rapture.  After Jesus Raptures His Church (in the near future), the Tribulation period immediately begins.  At the start of the Tribulation period, no one is saved because all saved people got Raptured off of the Earth.  But from what Christians left behind (books, CDs, tapes, bibles, etc.) there will be 144,000 Jews who get converted to Christianity who God will seal for protection for 3 ½ years.  They, along with the 2 prophets, Elijah and Moses who God will send, will convert some more into a saving faith in Jesus Christ.  Many of them will be Christian martyrs because they will refuse the Mark of the Beast.  All who refuse the Mark of the Beast will be sought out and killed and the survivors will not be allowed to purchase food.  Revelation 14:14-18 describes the last “rapture” where God will send His angels to rapture out the true Christians from the then established Roman Catholic Church.  At this time, His “rapture” will include false believers.  They will be judged together.  And their works during this time will be stressed during this post-grace dispensation.  We saw in the sheep and goats passage where Jesus said those who did this and that were saved for eternal life, but those who did not do this or that were condemned into the lake of fire that was created for the Devil and his angels.  That judgment is not the judgment of Christians today, nor of the non-Christians today, unless the Tribulation begins really soon.  And we saw that regarding non-Christians, that that judgment was specifically regarding religious non-Christians who professed the name of Jesus.

Regarding that event (the Sheep and the Goats; Revelation 14:14-18), the passage in Romans 2:7-13 is a perfect description.  If it describes any other event, then it contradicts Ephesians 2:8-9, among many other passages that teach that salvation is by grace alone, through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ; this not of yourselves; it is a free gift, not by works, so that no one can boast.  Also, note Romans 2:16, which says, “This will take place on the Day when God will judge men’s secrets, through Jesus Christ, as my Gospel declares.” Note that this says that the preceding statements will take place on a particular “Day”.  We know from our close study that Christians and non-Christians will not be judged on the same “Day”, except for the Sheep and the Goats judgment.  Besides the Sheep and the Goats, there will be 2 separate judgments on 2 separate “Days”.  All non-Christians will be judged at the Great White Throne Judgment as described in Revelation 20.  All Christians will be judged at the Beamer Seat of Christ, which will take place in Heaven, during the Tribulation period on Earth.  Those are 2 different “Days”.  The only single “Day” that includes both non-Christians and false believers is described here in Revelation 2, and also the Sheep and Goats and Revelation 14.  

Finally, I want to close out this session by looking at one last peculiar passage in Romans 2.  I find verses 14-15 to be very interesting.  It reads, “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature, things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing them, now even defending them.”  Wow, that’s pretty deep.  What about those Gentiles who have never even heard about God’s law?  This is the bible, not my opinion.  The bible says that those who do not have the law will be a law unto themselves based on what they obviously know what is right and wrong that is written on their hearts.  God will judge them based on that law instead of the law ascribed in His OT law.  God is so just and merciful that He will judge everyone based on what they know.  This is true for the believer and non-believer.  The non-believer’s judgment for their existence in Hell will be based on their knowledge and capacity for truth of right and wrong.  This is true for the believer’s judgment whose place will be Heaven.  Luke 12:47-48 reads as follows: “That servant who knows his master’s will and does not get ready and does not do what his master wants will be beaten with many blows.  But the one who does not know and does things deserving punishment will be beaten with few blows.  From everyone who has much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked.” God will not judge the one who does not know as harshly as He will judge the one who does.  But don’t be tempted to stop learning about God and His Word, because you will be judged for that decision, and by the mere fact that one would consider doing that, reveals that he or she knows about God’s Word and therefore will be judged by what they neglected to know.  

This concludes our study on Revelation 2.  There are some more random verses of misinterpreted Scripture that I need to cover.  
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Works versus Faith (Part 19) – Romans Chapter 2
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