This will be my eleventh and last post on this subject. I continue my critical review of Lee Irons exposition of Romans 2:13. His comments as always are italicized.
We come now to v 14 which is introduced with our third “for.” Like its predecessors, this “for” is designed to provide support for something stated earlier. However, in this case, it links back, not to the immediately preceding verse (v 13) but to v 12a. This is evdent because now Paul is no longer talking about the Jews but the Gentiles. “Those who do not have the law” (v 14) are the same as “all who sinned apart from the law” (v 12a). The best way to see the logical force of this third “for” is to observe that there is a chiasm in our paragraph:39
A. (v 12a) Gentiles (“all who sinned apart from the Law”)
B. (v 12b) Jews (“all who sinned under the Law”)
B.’ (v 13) Jews (“not the hearers of the Law, but the doers of the Law”)
A.’ (vv 14-15) Gentiles (“who do not have the Law”)
Here Irons is to be congratulated on giving what is no doubt the proper understanding of the structure of Romans 2:12-15. I am a little confused as to how what he says here is consistent with his previous statements. Earlier in his introductory abstract he has said, “Option 2 comes in two varieties: (2a) Gentile Christians are in view, or (2b) non-Christian Gentiles.” Later he will say: “This is the most common objection and it is consistent with either the view that the Gentiles of vv. 14-15 are Christians (Cranfield, Gathercole, Wright) or the view that they are non-Christians (Snodgrass).” (page 30)
The problem with this is that there is clearly a third point of view that opposes the hypothetical point of view. Allow me be to designate this view 2c. It is the view that “the doers of the law” in question were Jews genuinely converted by the types and shadow of the gospel found in the Old Testament. It is unaccountable that Irons has omitted this view. It is the most exegetically appealing and acceptable of the variations of the non-hypothetical view. It is also the view of John Murray.
Here I simply want to express my admiration for and agreement with Irons’ interpretation of the Gentiles who do by nature of the law as a reference to unconverted Gentiles who occasionally and outwardly conform to the demands of the law. I also want to concur with his exegetical intuition with regard to the work of the law being, as he says, not what the law demands, but the “the business, effect, or function of the Law.” (28)
I said at the beginning that in arguing for the hypothetical view, I do not want to be understood as saying that there will be no future judgment according to works. It is in fact a part of Paul’s gospel message, since it forms the necessary background against which the message of the atonement makes sense. The good news of God’s grace in Christ makes no sense apart from the bad news that there will be a day of judgment.
This statement is typical of Irons’ desire to avoid the assumed implications of his hypothetical view. I simply want to note here that an essential part of the judgment described in the previous is the repeated emphasis that in that day those who have done good wil be rewarded.
2:7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;
2:10 but glory and honor and peace to every man who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
It seems impossible to me to claim that there will be a future judgment according to works, while denying that half of what such a judgment clearly involves will ever take place. Half of the immediately preceding description of the judgment will never occur according to Irons.
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.