God’s Righteous Judgment Part 2 – Romans 2:6-10
Pastor Mark Hardy January 15, 2012
A cake-mix manufacturer made an instant cake mix that all you had to do was add water and bake. However, it didn’t sell because the buying public felt that merely adding water was too easy. So the company altered the formula and changed the directions to call for adding an egg to the mix in addition to the water. The idea worked and sales jumped dramatically.
Likewise, when it comes to God’s plan of salvation most people think the same way. Although nearly nine out of ten people in the United States say they believe in heaven, according to one poll 53% of Americans believe that good works can earn them a place in heaven. To them, what the Bible says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast” is simply too easy to be true. They think that there is something more they must do to gain God’s favor and earn eternal life. But unlike the cake-mix manufacturer, God has not changed the gospel to make salvation more marketable. Salvation is not by good works, but we will see this morning that good works are important to God. Turn with me in your Bibles to Romans 2.
As we continue on in our study of Romans 2:1-16, we are looking at six principles of God’s righteous judgment on all non-Christians who consider themselves to be good “moral” people. Thus far we have seen the first three principles:
1) God judges according to the knowledge people have (v. 1)
2) God judges according to the facts He knows (vv. 2-3)
3) God judges according to people’s accumulation of guilt (vv. 4-5)
This morning we are going to look at only the fourth principle in vv. 6-10.
The fourth principle of God’s righteous judgment is this:
IV. God Judges according to the Deeds people Do
A. Having already seen last time in v. 5 that the final judgment is described as “…the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,” Paul now goes on to say about the righteous Judge in v. 6: who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS:
1. Paul is probably alluding to portions of Psalm 62:12 and Proverbs 24:12 because the wording is remarkably similar. Psalm 62:12 says, “And lovingkindness is Yours, O Lord, for You recompense a man according to his work.”
2. And Proverbs 24:12 states: If you say, “See, we did not know this,” does He not consider it who weighs the hearts? And does He not know who keeps your soul? And will he not render to man according to his work?
3. This is the principle that God judges according to the deeds people do. Now in vv. 6-10 we see five aspects of this principle; the first three are in v. 6.
4. The first aspect is the certainty of God’s judgment. Paul says, “who will render…”
• The word “render” (apodosei) here literally means “to give back, to recompense.”
• God, the righteous Judge, guarantees to give back to people the exact wages or payment of what is due them. Now that alone should instill a sense of fear within all of us!
5. The second aspect is the universality of God’s judgment. Paul goes on to say, “to each person” (ekasto).
• God’s judgment is not a collective thing, but a personal, individual matter between you and God. One day every single person who has ever lived, regardless of who they are or where they’re from, will personally stand face-to-face with their Creator and give an account of his or her life.
• This same aspect is reiterated in vv. 9-10.
6. The third aspect is the standard for God’s judgment. Paul says that it is “…according to his deeds.”
• This is the heart of this principle. The word “deeds” (erga) refers to one’s works and practices, the overall pattern of their lives.
• The fact that God will judge everyone equitably according to the same standard of their “deeds” is taught throughout the Scriptures. For example:
• God said in Jeremiah 17:10, “I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, even to give to each man according to his ways, according to the results of his deeds.”
• Jesus said Matthew 16:27, “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and WILL THEN REPAY EVERY MAN ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.”
• And again the risen Christ says in Revelation 22:12, “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”
• (Job 34:11; Ps. 62:12; Prov. 24:12; Eccl. 11:9; 12:14; Isa. 3:10-11; Jer. 17:10; 32:19; Hos. 12:2; Matt. 16:27; 25:31-46; Jn. 5:29; Rom. 14:12; 1 Cor. 3:8, 11-15; 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10; Gal. 6:7-10; Eph. 6:8; Col. 3:23-24; 2 Tim. 4:14; 1 Pet. 1:17; Rev. 2:23; 11:18; 20:12-13; 22:12)
7. So one day the all-knowing Sovereign Judge of the universe, who has a comprehensive record of every person’s deeds, will judge each one, Christian and non-Christian alike, accordingly to the standard of their deeds.
B. The fourth aspect is the tension this principle creates.
1. The standard of God’s judgment according to people’s deeds has created the tension over what appears to be a contradiction of what Paul teaches elsewhere that salvation is by grace through faith and not works (Rom. 1:16-17; 3:20; 4:5; 10:9-10; 11:6; Eph. 2:8-9; Tit. 3:5).
2. The Bible doesn’t teach that people are saved by their works. Remember that here in Romans 2:1-16 Paul is talking about the principles of God’s judgment not the means of our justification. He won’t begin discussing the Good News of salvation in Christ until 3:21.
3. Salvation is by grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone, but judgment is according to people’s works. And yet, whereas salvation is not by good works, it will assuredly produce good works in and through a believer’s life.
4. For right after saying that salvation is by grace through faith and not works in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul states in v. 10, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”
5. True saving faith will manifest itself in believers’ lives by the good works the Holy Spirit empowers. Whereas outward good works are not the means of salvation, they are the evidence of inner saving faith.
6. Therefore, faith and works are two sides of the same coin. This is why James 2:26 says, “For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
7. The great theologian John Calvin accurately declared, “It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone.”
8. I like how Leon Morris put it, “Works are important. They are the outward expression of what the person is deep down.” (pg. 116)
9. Now there may be periods of time when believers are so fleshly and disobedient that they look like an unbeliever and only God knows whether they are truly saved or not, but if they are evil works will not be the pattern of their lives. And there may be occasions when unbelievers do good deeds, but God calls these “filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6) because they’re not
10. Therefore, it is a person’s overall pattern of works that reveals his character and true spiritual condition of his heart. Remember how King David committed the horrible sins of adultery and murder but the overall pattern of his life was righteous deeds.
11. A true Christian is characterized by his righteous deeds, and a non-Christian is characterized by the absence of righteous deeds. Jesus said twice in Matthew 7, “You will know them by their fruits (vv. 16, 20).
12. This is why a professing Christian who is living in sin should heed 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” Though carnality is a reality it is not a “normal” state of Christian living.
13. William Barclay said it well, “There can be no such thing as faith which does not issue in works, nor can there be works which are not the product of faith. Works and faith are inextricably bound up together. How, in the last analysis, can God judge a man other than by his deeds? We cannot comfortably say, ‘I have faith,’ and leave it at that. Our faith must issue in deeds, for it is by our deeds we are accepted or condemned.” (pg. 44)
C. The fifth aspect is the application of this principle. In vv. 7-10 Paul gives two sets of contrasting parallel sentences showing two categories of people from God’s perspective and how this principle applies to each one.
1. On the one hand, the first category of people is seen in v. 7: To those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immorality, eternal life.
2. Here we see those whose deeds manifest that they receive eternal life. This first category of people is born-again Christians.
3. Notice the phrase “perseverance in doing good.” The word “perseverance” (hupomonen) literally means “to remain under” and refers to patient fortitude and steadfast endurance.
4. Perseverance is the hallmark of genuine believers because Christ keeps them (Matt. 24:13; Col. 1:22-23; Heb. 3:14; 1 Jn. 2:19). This consistency in “doing good” works is not the way of salvation, it merely describes those who are already saved.
5. John MacArthur says about this verse, “True salvation is manifested in a believer’s ‘perseverance in doing good,’ and the highest good he can do is to ‘seek for glory and honor and immortality. Although those three terms seem to be used here almost as synonyms, they carry distinct meanings. Together they describe a believer’s heavenly perspective and aspirations.”
6. Now the word “seek” (zetousin) means to desire, pursue, and strive after. And it being in the present tense in the Greek indicates the habitual desire and pursuit of these three godly things in believers’ lives.
7. The fact that these people seek these things shows that they are truly believers because unbelievers don’t do this. Romans 3:10-12 says: As it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD” (Ps. 14:1-3; 53:1-3).
8. Now look at these three godly things that believers seek: First, is “glory” (doxan).
• This is not some sinful self-seeking behavior, but the pursuit of becoming like Christ, reflecting His character to others, and bringing glory to Him in everything we do (1 Cor. 10:31). This should be the foremost goal of every believer.
• This transformation will progressively take place throughout our entire lifetime until it is finally complete in heaven (Ps. 17:15; Rom. 8:18, 21, 30; 2 Cor. 3:18; 4:17; Phil. 3:10-14, 20-21; Col. 3:4; 2 Thess. 2:14).
• Paul says in Colossians 1:27 that your glory as a Christian is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” It is uniquely Christ’s glory, but there is an element of ethical glory that He bestows on us as we become more like Him (Jn. 17:9-10, 22, 24).
9. Second, is “honor” (timen).
• This refers to seeking what is highly prized and valued by God. It is seeking God’s honor not man’s.
• It is putting the Lord Jesus above everything else in your life (Matt. 6:33), and living your daily life faithful to Him according to heavenly eternal values not worldly temporal ones (Col. 3:2).
10. Third, is “immortality” (aphtharsian).
• As believers we seek this when we eagerly look forward to the day of Christ’s return at the Rapture of the church when we will receive our resurrected and glorified bodies and no longer be subject to corruption.
• We are told in 1 Corinthians 15:53, “For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.”
11. Only Christians characteristically, though not perfectly, manifest their salvation by persevering in a lifestyle of doing good by the power of the Holy Spirit in seeking glory, honor, and immortality. This is why the end of v. 7 promises that God will render to them “eternal life.”
12. Although “eternal life” is a quantity of life in that it will last forever throughout the eternal state, it is also a quality of life that begins the moment we put saving faith in Jesus Christ. It is to right now know “the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom [He has] sent” (Jn. 17:3) and experience the life of God in our soul by the indwelling Christ (Gal. 2:20), which will go on throughout eternity.
13. Now believers will be rewarded according to their deeds at the Bema or Judgment Seat of Christ, which will take place between the Rapture and the Second Coming of Christ to the earth with His saints. In 2 Corinthian 5:10 we read, “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.”
14. This judgment doesn’t concern the believer’s sins, since these were already paid in full by Christ on the cross (Eph. 1:7). It concerns whether believers will receive or lose eternal rewards base on how faithful we have been in our service to Jesus Christ.
15. But praise God, even if true believers lose eternal rewards for being unfaithful, they will never lose their salvation. For 1 Corinthians 3:15 says, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”
16. Since every believer will one day give an account to the Lord (Rom. 14:12), may we all commit ourselves afresh to faithfully serve Him! For this life will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.
D. On the other hand, in stark contrast to the Christians, the second category of people is non-Christians. We see three things that characterize all unbelievers in v. 8: But to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
1. Here we see those whose deeds manifest that they are the recipients of God’s wrath. Notice first that they are “selfishly ambitious” (eritheia).
• Since the word was used of a “hired worker or hireling” who worked solely for their own benefit, the word is better translated “selfishly ambitious” or “self-seeking” (Phil. 1:17; 2:3; Jam. 3:14, 16), instead of “contentious” as in the KJV. Actually the NKJV and NIV translate it “self-seeking.”
• This is the fundamental sin that exalts people and their desires above the Creator and manifests itself in sinful works.
2. Secondly, motivated by this self-seeking heart they “do not obey the truth.”
• Because of their selfish unbelief, unbelievers continuously “do not obey” (apeithousi—present tense) or disobey God’s truth in creation and His Word. They don’t want anything to do with God’s standards and values and rebel against Him.
3. Third, they “obey unrighteousness.”
• Instead of obeying God’s truth, unbelievers continuously “obey” (peithomenois—present tense) “unrighteousness” (adikia), which encompasses everything that is dishonoring to God. Unrighteous deeds are the habitual pattern of their lives.
4. And because of this, the end of v. 8 promises that God will render to them “wrath and indignation.” “Wrath” (orge) refers to God’s settled attitude and abiding determination to oppose everything that is evil.
5. And “indignation” (thumos), though not essentially different from wrath, reflects upon its violence and passionate outburst.
6. Both words are also used together in Revelation 16:19 and 19:15 to describe God “fierce wrath.” Together these words describe the intensity of God’s displeasure that He will pour out upon all unbelievers at the final judgment.
7. This is the Great White Throne Judgment described by the apostle John in Revelation 20:11-15. John says in vv. 11-13, “Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books (plural) were opened; and another book (singular) was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books (plural), according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds.”
8. Notice that there are “books” recording all mankind’s deeds and the one “book of life.” It doesn’t matter how good and moral an unbeliever may be, since his sin is recorded and God’s standard is perfection, his name will not be in the book of life and he will be sentenced to eternal death.
9. For vv. 14-15 say, “Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.”
10. Horrifying! Yesterday was the funeral of a guy I played baseball with in high school who died suddenly of a heart attack.
11. He didn’t know Jesus Christ as his Savior. If you were to die today would you go to heaven or hell?
E. Paul then reiterates in vv. 9-10 these two categories of people and their contrasting eternal destinies in reverse order. He begins by describing God’s judgment of unbelievers in terms of how they experience it in v. 9: There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek.
1. Unbelievers will experience God’s wrath and indignation as “tribulation and distress.” These two words used together emphasize the magnitude of the pain they experience.
2. The word “tribulation” (thlipsis) refers “to pressure to the point of breaking.” It is speaks of the overwhelming pressure of their dire calamity and affliction.
3. The word “distress” (stenochoria) literally means “narrowness of space.” It speaks of their torturing restriction and confinement and their extreme internal anguish.
4. Part of hell’s eternal torment will be people’s absolute isolation and lonely confinement with no hope of release or escape.
5. Notice that Paul again states the universality of this in saying, “…for every soul (or individual person) of man (or mankind) who does evil.” The word “does” (katergazomenou) means “to work, produce, or achieve” and is in the present tense, meaning they continuously work evil.
6. Although God’s righteous judgment is all-inclusive, it is individually dished out according to every unbeliever. And to reinforce the universality of God’s judgment both ethnic categories of mankind are brought in.
7. Notice that Paul says, “…of the Jew first and also of the Greek,” which refers to all non-Jews or the Gentiles. Since the Jews were first in their opportunity for salvation as God’s chosen people in covenant relationship with Him and possession of His law, they will also be first in their responsibility for judgment.
8. Since Israel was given greater spiritual light and privilege she will receive more severe punishment (Jer. 25:29; Amos 3:2; Lk. 12:48).
F. Then in stark contrast to unbelievers experience of hell, Paul says what believers will experience in v. 10: But glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
1. The very things that Christians continuously pursue in this life are promised to be fully experienced in heaven for all eternity. “Glory” in that we will be completely like Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 3:2).
2. “Honor” in that by our faithful service to Christ we will hear Him say those cherished words, “Well done, good and faithful servant…enter into the joy of your master” (Matt. 25:21, 23).
3. Instead of “immortality” Paul substitutes “peace.” We will receive immortality in that we will receive our perfect resurrected and glorified bodies, but Paul probably means for peace to encompass this.
4. William Hendricksen says it well, “Here the terms ‘immortality’ and ‘peace’ may be viewed as being, at least to a considerable extent, synonymous….The word ‘peace’ should be interpreted in its broadest sense, as indicating salvation full and free, joyful and never-ending participation, with renewed soul and body, in all the blessings of the new heaven and earth.”
5. All of these things speak of the totality of bliss and blessedness that we as believers will experience in heaven throughout all eternity. And again Paul states the universality of this experience for all true believers in saying, “to everyone who does good.” The word “does” (ergazomeno) also means “to work, produce, or achieve” and is in the present tense, meaning that they continuously work good because the Holy Spirit within them is producing these righteous works.
6. And this promised eternal blessedness is “to the Jew first and also to the Greek.” Every Jew and Gentile believer has this blessed hope to look forward to. Do you?
In closing, we have seen the principle that God judges according to the deeds people do. By the overall pattern of your life will you experience eternal life or God’s wrath and indignation? Eternal life is promised only to those who have a life characterized by the righteous deeds produced by the righteousness of Christ.
No one is good and moral enough in themselves to earn salvation. It comes only by receiving Jesus as your personal Savior and Lord. Only then will you receive His righteousness and possess the Holy Spirit who will empower you to produce the righteous deeds, “…which God prepared beforehand so that [you] would walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).