Revelation of the Sin of Good People: Part 3 of 4 (series: Lessons on Romans)
by John Lowe
7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality;
In explaining that judgment will be according to works, Paul says that God will render eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality. As already explained, this does not mean that these people are saved by patient continuance in doing good. That would be another gospel. No one would naturally live that kind of life, and no one could live it without divine power. Anyone who really fits this description has already been saved by grace through faith. The fact that he seeks for glory, honor, and immortality shows that he has already been born again. The way he lives his life shows that he has been converted. He seeks for the glory of heaven; the honor that comes only from God—“How can you believe, who receive honor from one another, and do not seek the honor that comes from the only God?” (John 5:44); the immortality that characterizes the resurrection body—“For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” (1 Cor. 15:53-54); the immortality, which is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading—“To an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you.” (1 Pet. 1:4).
God will award eternal life to all who display this evidence of a conversion experience. Eternal life is spoken of in several ways in the New Testament:
It is a present possession which we receive the moment we are converted. “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life” (John 5:24).
It is a future possession which will be ours when we receive our glorified bodies. “But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life” (Rom. 6:22).
Although it is a gift received by faith, it is sometimes associated with rewards for a life of faithfulness. “Who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life” (Mark 10:30). All believers will have eternal life, but some will have a greater capacity for enjoying it than others.
It means more than endless existence; it is a quality of life, the more abundant life which the Savior promised in John 10:10: “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy. I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.”
It is the very life of Christ Himself. “To them, God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:27).
Here in this passage, Paul is expressing an eternal truth. Obedience to God always does well in every generation; today and all the way back to the beginning. When Cain brought his fruit as an offering and God rejected it, God said, “If thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” (Gen 4:7). Obedience to God in bringing the proper sacrifice would have been doing well. Today, in the age of grace, we do well by placing our faith in Christ Jesus as Savior. So faith in Christ is patient continuance in well doing in this age. This is what will bring glory, honor, and immortality.
8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation, and wrath,
But to those who are self-seeking (self-centered) and do not obey the truth. The moralist is likened to “those who are self-seeking.” Those who think only of themselves create a spirit of antagonism, jealousy or division. Paul says they have indignation (righteous anger) and wrath (a sudden outburst of anger) promised to them.
9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek;
To indignation and wrath, Paul adds tribulation and anguish to the man who does evil. Here again, I must stress that these evil works betray an evil heart of unbelief. These works are the outward expression of a person’s attitude toward the Lord.
The expression of the Jew first and also of the Greek; shows that the judgment of God will be according to privilege or light received. The Jews were first in privilege as God’s earthly chosen people; therefore, they will be first in responsibility. This aspect of God’s judgment will be developed further in verses 12–16.
10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
But glory, honor, and peace to everyone (Jew or Gentile) who works what is good. Paul now indicates that the reward of the righteous is glory, honor, and, instead of immortality as in Verse 7, peace. The expression, to the Jew first and also to the Greek cannot indicate favoritism, because the next verse points out that God’s judgment is impartial. So the expression must indicate the historical order in which the gospel went out. It was proclaimed first to Jews, and the first believers were Jews.
And let us not forget that no one can work good, as far as God is concerned, unless he has first placed his faith and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
11 For there is no partiality with God.
Here is another truth concerning the judgment of God; it is that there is no partiality with God. In human courts of Law, preference is shown to the good-looking, wealthy, and influential; but God is strictly impartial. No considerations of race, place, or face will ever influence Him.
12 For as many as have sinned without Law will also perish without Law, and as many as have sinned in the Law will be judged by the Law.
God’s justice demands from both Jew and Gentile absolute righteousness, which can never be obtained through inadequate human efforts to keep the Law. Good works do not bring salvation; salvation brings good works. All have received some degree of God’s revelation and as a result, stand responsible. “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Rom. 1:20, 21).
As previously mentioned, the judgment of God will be according to the measure of light received. Two classes are in view: those who do not have the Law (the Gentiles) and those who are under the Law (the Jews). This includes everyone except those who are in the church of God (believers and followers of Christ; not church members).
For as many as have sinned without Law will also perish without Law. It does not say “will be judged without Law” but will also perish without Law. They will be judged according to whatever revelation the Lord gave them, and, failing to live up to that revelation, they will perish.
Those who have sinned in the Law will be judged by the Law. Since they have not obeyed it, they too will perish. The Law demands total obedience. The moralist is no better off than the heathen if the moralist has the Law but does not keep it. The reason follows in the next verses.
13 For not the hearers of the Law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the Law will be justified;
Just knowing the Law is not enough. God demands perfect and continuous obedience to the Law. No one is considered righteous simply because he knows what the Law says. The only conceivable way of obtaining justification under the Law would be to keep it in its entirety. But since all men are sinners, it is impossible for them to do this. So this verse is really setting forth an ideal condition rather than something that is capable of human attainment.
The New Testament teaches emphatically that it is impossible for man to be justified by Law-keeping (see Acts 13:39; Rom. 3:20; Gal. 2:16, 21; 3:11). It was never God’s intention that anyone be saved by the Law. Even if a person could keep it perfectly from this day forward, he still would not be justified, because God also requires a sinless past. So when verse 13 says that doers of the Law will be justified, we must understand it as meaning that the Law demands obedience, and if anyone could produce perfect obedience from the day he was born, he would be justified. But the cold, hard fact is that no one can produce this. No one was ever saved by keeping the Law!
14 for when Gentiles, who do not have the Law, by nature do the things in the Law, these, although not having the Law, are a Law to themselves,
In verse 12, we learned that Gentiles who sin without the Law will perish without the Law. Now Paul explains that although the Law was not given to the Gentiles, yet they have an innate knowledge of right and wrong. They know instinctively that it is wrong to lie, steal, commit adultery, and murder. The only commandment they would not know intuitively is the one concerning the Sabbath; that one is more ceremonial than moral.
So what it boils down to is that the Gentiles, who do not have the Law, by nature do the things in the Law … are a Law to themselves. They form their own code of right and wrong behavior from their moral instincts.