Thursday, November 02, 2006

Romans 2:5-8

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 "will give to each person according to what he has done" [Psalm 62:12; Prov. 24:12]. To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, He will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.

Paul continues to drive home the point that everyone is a sinner. He goes on now, suggesting that those who take God’s mercy lightly, those who stubbornly refuse to live a life of repentance are storing up wrath against themselves. That alone is shocking, but the Old Testament quote that follows is most scary. God is going to judge according to works. Paul says this so that people will see that they cannot expect to stand before God in their own righteousness and live; Paul has shown that no one has righteousness in themselves!

Most people think that they are pretty good, and that God is going to grade on a curve. He is going to cut them some slack. And therefore, their hope of salvation rests in the fact that they are relatively nice people with good intentions, and that God will be benevolent in the way He administers His judgment. These people think God will judge them in a general way, looking at their overall good intentions while giving them slack for the mistakes they’ve made. Paul has two stunning surprises for a person thinking that way. First, in v.5, they are building a case against themselves. The people addressed here are God’s agents for piling up wrath against themselves by reason of hardness of heart. This is the same idea as God punishing sinners with more sin. Second, in v.6, God’s judgment is going to be strictly according to deeds. Matthew 16:27 Salvation is by grace, but judgment is by works. Justification is by grace through faith. But condemnation will be produced by our own evil works and in accord with God’s justice.

How does God’s judgment “according to works” fit with salvation by faith? There are two possible answers to this question. One says that eternal life would be based on perfect obedience if anybody had it. But nobody does, and so the only way to eternal life is by faith in Christ. The other answer says that God never promised eternal life on the basis of good deeds, but always makes works the evidence of faith in Christ, Who is the basis of eternal life (His good deeds). The first is wrong: Luke 17:10. The second is right: Romans 3:20.

To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor, and immortality, God will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. Paul again depicts 2 kinds of people in this world: God-centered or self-centered, godly or ungodly, righteous or unrighteous, sheep or goats. You’re either a good tree or a bad tree, a good fish or a bad fish; there’s no in between. You’re either a believer or an unbeliever. It’s final. That’s it.

The believer, the God-centered person, seeks the glory not of worldly success, but of being conformed to the image of Christ, the honor not for the world to approve, but for Christ to approve, the honor whereby Jesus says at the end, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” and immortality, the hope of the resurrection, the hope not of a glorious, honor-filled worldly life, but of eternal life in the presence of God. Notice that this person, the godly person, the believer, is already a believer, is already saved, and now strives for these things. It is not this lifestyle, or these aspirations that make one a believer; rather it is being a believer that makes one aspire to these things. And the ungodly person despises this attitude. The unbeliever wants worldly success, self-seeking glory and honor; the unbeliever rejects God and His law and desires the world. The believer strives to do good for the glory of God (which in the end will be shared by God with us); the unbeliever strives to do good for the glory of self. We’ve already seen how God’s judgment plays out.

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