He will render to each one according to his works
(Rom 2:6-8 ESV) 6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
“The truth” in Paul is always the gospel. To obey “the truth” is not to “be moral” but to act consistently with the truth about who God is and God’s redemptive mission. It’s hard to see how a non-Christian might meet this standard. Continue reading
Romans 2, from the start
We just demonstrated that if we approach Rom 2:14 starting with Rom 2:29, we find that Paul is not speaking of Gentiles who’ve never heard the gospel. Rather, he’s speaking of saved Gentiles whose hearts have been circumcised by the Spirit. It’s these who “obey the precepts of the law” because the Spirit has re-shaped their hearts to love God and their neighbors — thus fulfilling the law.
(Rom 13:10 ESV) 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.
But we should take another run at Rom 2:14, this time from the start of the chapter, to be sure we get the same result. Continue reading
But if you call yourself a Jew …
(Rom 2:17-24 ESV) 17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast in God 18 and know his will and approve what is excellent, because you are instructed from the law; 19 and if you are sure that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 an instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth — 21 you then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You who say that one must not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law. 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
In this section, Paul bursts the bubble of those Jews who claim moral superiority to the Gentiles. In fact, he accuses them of violating the Ten Commandments despite their superior opportunities due to their having the Torah. Continue reading
In the comments to Part 1 of this series, Keith Brenton has mentioned some additional passages that arguably support the “available light” theory —
(John 3:18 ESV) 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
(Heb 11:6 ESV) And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him.
(Mat 7:8 ESV) 8 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.
Keith further argues,
The question is whether God shows unmerited favor to a person who has lived a life that speaks of faith, even without knowing (fully) the One in whom that faith exists. Continue reading
I’ve written quite a bit on the “available light” theory over the years. But reader and regular commenter Price has suggested I need to do a better job of explaining how Romans 2 fits into my understanding. I think he’s right.
For those new to the discussion, the “available light” theory is that, for those who’ve never heard the gospel, God will judge them based on what portion of God’s will they know and not hold them accountable for that portion of God’s will they’ve not become aware of — either through the Scriptures or from Christians, their culture, their own moral natures, or observing nature.
This much I think is true and clearly demonstrated by a close reading of Romans, especially Romans 5. We are only accountable for so much of God’s will as has been revealed to us. Continue reading