“Romans Chapter-By-Chapter Series”
“He will render to each one according to his works.” – Roman 2:6
Your works matter to God. By this I mean that they matter to God with absolute objectivity and eternal consequence. We usually don’t evaluate behavior that way. We expect our children to behave, but we understand that they won’t all the time. Or we like our friends for their positive qualities but understand that they have some character flaws too. Or we overlook our own flaws but don’t consider them to be detrimental. “Everyone’s got some quirks,” we might say, “nobody’s perfect, not even me.”
God is not that way. He’s never overlooked anything. He has no quirks. He is, in fact, perfect.
Romans 2:5 predicts a future time when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. On that day “He will render to each one according to his works” (2:6). As judge, God will rule with perfect justice and with perfect knowledge. Even our words are recorded and will be brought as evidence (Matthew 12:36).
Let’s bring this truth closer. Note today’s date, the day you are reading this article. You have performed works, good and evil, TODAY that will appear before God on the day of his judgment. Nothing will slip by.
Paul’s purpose in Romans 2 is to expound the reality that God’s judgment will be impartial. There are no “privileged” people in God’s court. None who have bribed the judge. None with any blackmail leverage. None who run in His social circles. Verse 11 says, “God shows no partiality.”
The Jews of Paul’s day often thought that they were privileged. They stood in arrogant judgment against the Gentile people who lived around and among them. Their self-identity was wrapped up in their Jewish heritage. They relied on the law and boasted in God (2:17). They considered themselves to be “a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, and instructor of the foolish, a teacher of children” (2:19-20). Observe how these phrases set their perception of themselves up against their perception of others. Jews: guides, light, instructors, teacher – God’s chosen people. Gentiles: blind, darkness, foolish, children – stupid pagans.
The Jews had one, little problem: God shows no partiality.
True, the Jews were God’s chosen people, but Abraham’s DNA got them exactly NOWHERE before God. They had a good heritage, but their works damned them! God has never been bamboozled by ethnicity. He has no favorites. He’s never winked His eye at the sin of his friends. “You have no excuse, O man,” Paul says to those exalted Jews, “For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things” (2:1).
God doesn’t prioritize your ETHNICITY! For that matter, He isn’t impressed by your RELIGION either! While the Jews boasted in their heritage and in their religious behavior, they dishonored God and damaged His reputation because of their terrible behavior (2:23-24). The sign of their covenant was circumcision. Their bodies were literally different than the nations around them, but their hearts – and the behavior that came out of those hearts – were no different.
God, through Paul’s pen, exposes the problem before displaying the solution. True “circumcision” happens at the heart level (2:28-29). Outward religion and outward identity cannot save anyone from God’s wrath against sin. Cutting off a bit of skin is no substitute for carving the rottenness right out of the heart. Our works will condemn us is the day of God’s judgment unless something changes on the inside.
How is this to happen? Who can perform this spiritual heart surgery? Who can save us from God’s wrath against our works?
Let me assure you that you can’t do it yourself. Rambo may be able to sew his own stitches, but he can’t do heart surgery on himself. All sinners need inner transformation and verse 29 tells us “circumcision is a matter of the heart, BY THE SPIRIT.” God is the rescuer.
This is stunning! The beginning of Romans 2 taught us that our problem is God’s wrath against our works. We need to be saved from God. By the end of chapter 2, God Himself is the rescuer!