Is There a Future Justification by Works at the Day of Judgment? # 9

by | Apr 29, 2010 | Systematic Theology

Thank you, gentleman, for your interest and comments.  They are most instructive.  After some interruption I continue hear my critique of Irons’ paper entitled, Is Romans 2:13 Coherent? The page numbers are reference to his online paper.

Page 13

Here is a summary of the various scholarly responses to the apparent contradiction:

A. Paul isn’t coherent

B. Paul is coherent

(1) Rom 2:13 is hypothetical (an empty set)

(2) “Doers of the Law” (positive) ? “works of the Law” (negative)

(a) Gentile Christians

(b) Non-Christian Gentiles

This summary (as Irons himself admits on page 10) is far from comprehensive.  Hed leaves out an important view.  The one which I hold!  (Following John Murray)  Romans 2:13 is on my view clearly referring to godly Jews and is related to verse 12b in an explanatory fashion..

Page 19

We can summarize this paragraph in the following way:

v 6: “God will render to each person according to their deeds”

vv 7-10: Jews and Gentiles alike: Those who do good eternal life Those who commit evil wrath

v 11: “For there is no partiality …

In view of the broader context that we have been examining in chapters 1-4, I would argue that Paul is not – at this stage in his argument – describing real people. He is not saying that there will be people who do good and who, on that basis, obtain eternal life.

Here we learn that in spite of Irons’ earlier attempts to mollify concern about the hypothetical view taking the entire passage as hypothetical, the entirety of verses 7-11 or at least anything that they say about people who do good are also hypothetical.

Page 19-20

For if we take the positive statements in v 7 (“to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, [he will give] eternal life”) and v 10 (“glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek”) as denoting actual individuals, then any Jews and Gentiles who have not responded in faith to the message of the gospel but who have lived moral lives would be saved.

This is a remarkable argument.  It is striking because it forgets that for Paul a truly moral life (or perseverance in doing good) is solely a result of faith in Christ.  Later in chapter 3 Paul will specifically say that outside of faith in Christ there are none who do good or seek God.  Romans 3:10-12 affirms:  “as it is written, “There is none righteous, not even one;  There is none who understands, There is none who seeks for God;  All have turned aside, together they have become useless; There is none who does good, There is not even one.”  On the other hand, those with faith in Christ as a result actually persevered in doing good as a result of the grace of the gospel.  Thus, Paul says in Romans 6:14:  “For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace.”  Additionally, Paul asserts in Romans 8:13: “for if you are living according to the flesh, you must die; but if by the Spirit you are putting to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”  Thus, in 2 Corinthians 5:10 he affirms:  “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”  Similarly, in Galatians 6:7-9 Paul makes clear that some will reap what they have sown to the Spirit, and this is described as doing good:  “Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap.  For the one who sows to his own flesh shall from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit shall from the Spirit reap eternal life.  And let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we shall reap if we do not grow weary.”  Such Scriptures must be wholly ignored and perhaps themselves consigned to a hypothetical status if Irons’ argument here is to be accepted.

This is a good place to note another problem with Irons’ hypothetical view.  As noted above, Irons’ view requires that a hypothetical interpretation be placed on the quotation from Psalm 62:12 which Romans 2:6 clearly echoes this.

The difficulty with Irons’ view is the citation of the same Old Testament text and sentiment in Matthew 16:27.  Both Romans 2:6 and Matthew 16:27 may also allude to Proverbs 24:12.  But this makes little difference for the present point.  For it would be difficult to establish any clear distinction between the language of Matthew 16:27 and that of Romans 2:6.  And this is the problem for Irons’ hypothetical interpretation of Romans 2:6Matthew 16:27 clearly speaks of the same judgment as that described in a somewhat parabolic way in Matthew 25:31.  Notice the parallel elements of the judgment described in Matthew 16:27 and 25:31.

Matthew 16:27 “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.

Matthew 25:31 “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.

There can, therefore, be no real doubt that Matthew 16:27 and 25:31 describe the same judgment.  But this causes a significant problem for Irons because it is clear from Matthew 25:31 that the good deeds upon which the judgment is based in the case of the righteous are not hypothetical.  Rather, it is clear that these good deeds have an explicit relation to the Christ and the gospel.  These good deeds are gospel good deeds, and these gospel good deeds are the mark of Christ’s people (Matt. 25:35-40).  Finally, those in this category are twice described as righteous (vv. 37, 46).  The righteous deeds, then, of Matthew 16:27 are not hypothetical, but very real deeds done out of love for Christ.  How strange, then, to affirm that the same principle and Old Testament passage which in Matthew 16:27 is very real is, however, in Romans 2:6 to be understood as hypothetical!

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