It is impossible to count the number of words that we use and read in one day in tweets, posts, blogs, news reports, emails, and texts. But we often don’t consider the importance of our choices. However, every word counted as the Holy Spirit guided the writers of Scripture. Out passage reminds me that patience and peace are characteristics most people think about these days. The pandemic requires the first, but we often wish we were more peaceful about its restrictions. However, we rarely think of ourselves as honorable, unless we receive a reward or recognition (for our well-doing). Of course, we want to honor God, but what does that mean, if not being honorable ourselves? In our passage today from Romans 2, Paul states that when we seek glory, honor, and immortality in our works, we will receive glory, honor, and peace. “He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. For God shows no partiality.” (Romans 2:6-11) How confusing that sounds to our human ears when we first read it. However, God did not give us the Bible to confuse us but to reveal, teach, convict, and motivate us through his Spirit. Let’s work this out, knowing that God will judge everyone impartially by their works and grant believers glory, honor, and peace because we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit. We have a great reward when we practice our good works as a testimony to Christ’s gospel.
The key repeated idea in Romans 2:6-11, is ‘every human being’ (each one, everyone). The progression is like the Hebrew chiastic structure (ABCCBA). Here is one way to view it:
Each one is given according to their works (v. 6)
Well-doing, glory, honor, immortality, lead to eternal life (v. 7)
Self-seeking, disobedience, unrighteousness lead to wrath and fury (v. 8)
Doing evil leads to tribulation and distress (v. 9)
Everyone who does good receives glory, honor, and peace (v. 10)
God shows no partiality (v. 11) (2)
We will consider each pair of verses and their applications to life today.
“He will render to each one according to his works…For God shows no partiality.” (vs. 6, 11) In Timothy Keller’s book, “Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work,” he writes: “The gospel reminds us that God cares about the products we make, the companies we work for, and the customers we serve. He not only loves us, but also loves the world and wants us to serve it well. My work is a critical way in which God is caring for human beings and renewing his world. God gives us our vision and our hope…The gospel gives meaning to our work as leaders. We’re supposed to treat all people and their work with dignity. We’re to create an environment in which people can flourish and use their God-given gifts to contribute to society. We’re to embody grace, truth, hope, and love in the organizations we create. We’re to express our relationship with God and his grace to us in the way we speak, work, and lead, not as perfect exemplars but as pointers to Christ.” (Katherine Leary Alsdorf) (3) “Verse 11 explains why God judges according to works—because he is impartial. Paul is speaking here of real obedience that is rewarded on the last day—such obedience being the result of the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit, as Paul explains at the conclusion of the chapter (2:26–29). “Here is the wonder of the Christian gospel. On the one hand, it is utterly by grace received through faith—and even that faith is of grace (cf. Eph. 2:8)…But, at the same time and on the other hand, those who are saved by grace through faith are placed on a path of righteousness where they do indeed perform such good works as the world about them cannot even begin to dream.That is why Jesus could say, ‘For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven’ (Matt. 5:20). ‘Righteousness’ in this verse means ‘good deeds.’So the teaching is that the people of God will—if they truly are the people of God—do good works surpassing even the best of the righteous (but unsaved) people of Christ’s day.’” (4). Because we do these works by Christ’s redemption, believers receive glory, honor, and peace while unbelievers receive the opposite.
Romans 2 confirms that “…to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life…glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.” (vs. 7, 10) “There are two things that such a person is described here as doing: doing good and persisting in doing good.There are three things that are highlighted as his or her essential motivation: glory, honor, and immortality… ‘Glory’ refers to the transformation of the believer into the image of God’s Son, by which the glory of God will be reflected in that person. ‘Honor’ refers to God’s approval of believers, as contrasted with the dishonor and even scorn accorded to them by the world. And, ‘immortality’ refers to the resurrection hope of God’s people…Likewise, there are four things that God is said to dispense to such people as rewards for their aspirations: eternal life, glory, honor, and peace.” (5) It is all of God. “Works are not causes of salvation, but are testimonies of faith, and fruits of grace, with which salvation is connected, whether they be found in Jews or Gentiles; for neither grace nor salvation are peculiar to any nation, or set of people.” (6) “Many people find this section of Romans to be extremely difficult, for it seems to be saying that salvation is by good works. If you do good and persist in it, you will be saved. If you do evil, you will be lost. This is not what Romans 2:6–11 is saying, of course. No one is saved other than by the work of Jesus Christ and by faith in him. Nevertheless, it is significant that the inspired apostle does speak of two paths, and he does not encourage us to suppose that a person can reach the goal of eternal life without actually being on the path of righteousness [through faith in Christ].” (7)
This leads us into the last section of our passage, “…but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek…” (vs. 8-9) “…Who contend for victory, and not truth; strive about words to no profit; are quarrelsome, and sow discord among men, and in churches; and do not obey the truth; neither attend to the light of nature, and to that which may be known of God by it; nor regard and submit to the Gospel revelation and so design both the Gentiles, which knew not God, and Jews, and others, who obey not the Gospel.” (8) Shouldn’t we ask ourselves if we are sometimes guilty of being self-seeking, rejecting God’s truth, or doing evil since all these lead us down a path where our works may not survive God’s judgment? Don’t we want all the glory, honor, and peace we can have? “If the Word is going to be sweet and life-giving to me, I must let it examine, search, and warn me. Do you let it?” (9)
Since God will judge everyone impartially by their works and grant believers glory, honor, and peace, we have all the assurance we need to encourage us for these works and use them for his glory. Then we will enjoy the reward of the gospel and practice our good works as a testimony to Christ’s gospel. What the world needs now is not any new philosophy, political strategy, or humane, charitable approach to crises. You don’t need a brilliant exposition of goodness from me, which is good, because I don’t have one. As you see, most of this devotion is borrowed from theologians who have the words of truth according to Scripture. We need to live by God’s truth, not doing works to live, but living to do works, even mundane ones, by the power of the gospel. Let’s counteract all the nonsense and unrighteousness in the world by our quiet little testimonies with our words and deeds that God inhabits with his power. “Whoever desires to love life and see good days, let him keep his tongue from evil and his lips from speaking deceit; let him turn away from evil and do good; let him seek peace and pursue it. For the eyes of the Lord are on the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer.” (1 Peter 3:10-11)
Related Scripture: Proverbs 24:12; Ezekiel 18:4; Matthew 16:27-28; 19:16–21; 25:31-46; Luke 10:25-27; Romans 2:12-16
- The Cambridge Online Dictionary defines honor as a verb as “to celebrate or show respect for.” https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/honor)
- English Standard Version Study Bible Notes, Romans 2:6-11, (digital edition), Crossway, 2008.
- Keller, Timothy, “Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work,” Kindle Edition, Penguin Books, 2012.
- ESV Study Bible Notes, Ibid.
- Boice, Ibid. (For glory see Rom. 5:2; 8:18, 30; 9:23; 1 Cor. 2:7; 15:43; 2 Cor. 3:12–18; 4:17—for honor see Rom. 5:2; 8:18, 30; 9:23; 1 Cor. 2:7; 15:43; 2 Cor. 3:12–18; 4:17 and for immortality see 1 Cor. 15:42, 50, 52–54.)
- Gill, John, “John Gill’s Exposition on the Whole Bible,” Romans 2:10, https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/romans-2.html
- Boice, Ibid, Romans 2:8.
- Gill, Ibid, Romans 2:8.
- Timothy Keller Tweet, 8/19/20
August 21, 2020