He will render to each one according to his works… There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil…but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good…
(Romans 2:6,9,10 – ESV)
(Romans 2:6,9,10 – ESV)
We all must address the ultimate issue. Paul has just told us that all the Gentiles are under the wrath of God and has indicted the Jews and the moralists as well, saying that none of us are righteous and that all of us are without excuse. But now he tells us that we need to pursue goodness and the path of righteousness in order to inherit eternal life, and that if we do not, we will have eternal wrath. Is Paul saying that we are all going to hell? Yes, unless there is a remedy, and that remedy is the gospel, the righteousness we need to inherit eternal life. We need to face the ultimate issue, and we can do so without fear if we have Jesus.
The Jews and the Gentiles are in the same boat. The judgment of God will be applied in the same way using the same standard. God will be just. It doesn’t matter if you are a Jew or if you are a Gentile, all persons are going to be judged according to the same standard. That standard is perfection (Acts 17:31 / Romans 2:16). No amount of goodness by any individual in history is enough to justify them. No one has been or will be holy enough to merit eternal life; only Christ was and is perfect. Man left to himself can never climb his way out of his own heart. He will sink into the depths of his own depravity, unless God in His common grace restrains him, and until God in His saving grace rescues him.
Paul is showing us once again the need for the gospel; “each” means all individuals regardless of class, race, gender, location, nationality, or the like. The eternal life of everyone depends on the kindness of God, not our goodness. But it is not something we can presume upon. He gives it to those whom seek it with repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).
This text is saying the only path to eternal life is the path of righteousness. But what Paul has said before this and in the New Testament and our lives and the world all reveal to us that none have or ever will walk it except Jesus. But we can follow Him on that road by faith. We will not walk it perfectly, but His walk not our walk is what saves us. That is the gospel and out of gratitude for it and love for Him we attempt to walk that same path, knowing that our walk will be imperfect and that we will stumble and fall, but that God will pick us up and if we will get up and want to walk again He will empower us to do so. Like a child learns to walk so too we learn to walk and we grow stronger as we walk, but we must be careful to keep our eyes on the One who walks before us and that is what under girds us and keeps us from stumbling. Humbly look at the goodness of God, and repent of straying from or staying off of the path. Follow Jesus.
Someone who is saved does not presume upon the goodness of God, they act in accordance with it. The Jews whom Paul was chastising here were God’s called out people, they knew about God; they weren’t like those people in Romans 1. They knew they were called out ones, and yet they presumed this meant that they could just coast along, and they are wrong, dead wrong. God is calling you out; you must answer the call with humility and repentance and not with hypocrisy. Just because you know the truth doesn’t mean you are trusting in it. Those that do not walk the path at all are saying that they have no faith. Wrath or mercy, which do you want? Follow Jesus, and you will have mercy, follow your heart and you will have wrath.
THAT is the ultimate issue.