Romans 2:6-11 Saved by Works

He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,10 but glory and honour and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality.

Saved by Works

Some have argued that those who do not know anything about Jesus can be saved by working really hard.   However, the passage that we read above is in the larger case that Paul is building.  Unfortunately the case is not a positive one.  He is stating that people are ultimately judged on their performance and people receive an F.  In today’s times we read this and think we are all basically doing well.  However, that is a view which was popularized at the time of the Enlightenment.  John Locke and others advocated that we are born a blank slate, or tabula rasa, and the slate is blotted over time.  More recently we just tell each other that someone does bad things but they are a good kid deep down.

Paul lived in a world where it was understood that bad people did good things.  Paul knew that the heart of man is wicked.  Paul knew that people are evil.  In this section he is making the case that the sum total of our works will condemn us.  Either we have underperformed or we have chosen evil.  God damns both the Jew and the Gentile.  There is no escape for anyone based on natural heritage, or nation of birth.

How does that sit with you?  It seems to make an awful lot more sense of the world to me.

Prayer

Father, thank you that you do not require me to be perfect, you just require me to acknowledge that I am not.  I am rightly judged by my life’s actions and they show that I am not righteous, as you are.  I rely upon your mercy.

Questions

  1. Upon what are people judged?
  2. Does anyone attain immortality by their works?
  3. How does the broader context inform this passage?
  4. How have your works condemned you?
  5. How do we convince others that the belief that all people are basically good is in error?
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About Plymothian

I teach at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago. My interests include education, biblical studies, and spiritual formation. I have been married to Kelli since 1998 and we have two children, Daryl and Amelia. For recreation I like to run, play soccer, play board games, read and travel.
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15 Responses to Romans 2:6-11 Saved by Works

  1. I used to wonder where people got the idea that good works will get them to heaven. I didn’t understand why people though that because it was never explicitly said anywhere and it was almost assumed by everyone (those except Christians who know the truth of how we are saved). It wasn’t until recently that I realize why people believed that. We know from the Biblical story of Adam and Eve that it was “bad works” that sends us to hell, so people could assume that “good works” send us to heaven. It is really upsetting to hear non-Christians talk about doing good deeds or being a good person, because it is very likely that they think God will grant them to access to heaven based on those deeds. It is my prayer that Jesus would reveal the wicked hearts of my friends and family members who are unsaved, and that they would realize that there is nothing they can do by themselves to gain God’s favor.

  2. Michael McCardle says:

    Lord,
    Though I am not judged by works, empower me to live by the fruit of your Spirit. Bless me with self-control so that I may live a pure life that is pleasing to you. May my good deeds be for your praise alone. Purge me of the legalism that is inside of me so that I can enter into deeper relationship with you.
    Amen

  3. Something that has really confused me since coming to Moody is the doctrine of the Bema seat judgement. If I understand it correctly, it says that when we get to Heaven, we will be judged by Christ for everything we have ever said, thought, and done and we will be rewarded based upon those things. After learning about this in CDOC and Systematic Theology, I became confused about what I actually believe. I know that good works don’t earn us salvation, but if that’s true, why are we given special rewards in Heaven for doing good works while on Earth?

  4. Emmy R says:

    I think it is interesting how Paul sets this passage up. He is almost saying, if you live the perfect life you will get to Heaven, although due to sin that is NOT possible. The option is there for the taking, although none of us can achieve it. Thankfully, the passage doesn’t end there, and Paul continues by explaining how we can get to Heaven, and thankfully it has nothing to do with us. The grace of God is a concept that continues to blow my mind, for we are FAR from deserving it.

  5. Megumi says:

    1. Their works
    2. NO
    3. This passage refers to people being judged and rewarded for their works but the greater context shows that no one’s works are good enough to merit good rewards
    4. i have sinned, and the wages of sin is death.
    5. You can point to all the evil people do and the bad motives for even the “good” they think they do, but ultimately people must change their own beliefs.

  6. Andrew Moore says:

    1. Their unrighteous works
    2. No
    3. The greater context of the passage shows us that people will be condemned for inability to be truly righteous.
    4. My works have condemned me because I have failed in my attempts to be righteous and perfect.
    5. I don’t think that we can really effectively convince people that humans are fallen. People tend to either be very willing to admit their flaws or unwilling to admit that they are imperfect. I think ultimately it is the Spirit’s work to persuade people of their sinfulness.

  7. Jung Kim says:

    People are judged upon their works, including myself. People think that we are doing well whenever we do “good” things or an act of service. This is very convicting to me as it reminds me that God does not save us or love us because of our works. We do the good things in order to show God that we love Him as we realize the grace of God. My pastor always reminds us that the grace we have received is MUCH greater than the grace we will receive in the future. Lord, may I not forget this truth and continue to worship you in the way that pleases you for your glory.

  8. Maria T. says:

    I have sinned. The consequence of my actions is condemnation. In that way, my works have condemned me. Lately, I have been remembering former sins. I have been feeling very uneasy, wondering if God’s judgment will still fall, even all these years later. But this passage is encouraging because it reminds us that if we were judged according to our actions, the whole human race would be condemned. As it is, I am in Christ. And in Him, my actions no longer have the power to condemn me.

  9. Olyn says:

    This is an interesting passage because it reminded me of something I read somewhere once: It seems like in our generation, we have to convince people of the problem (sin) before we can show them the good news (Christ). People are offended if you say they are sinful, and it is sad to see how much arrogance has pervaded our culture.
    But then I turn it back on myself: I may profess that I believe I am sinful and in need of Christ, but how often do I compare myself to others, or give myself a passing grade? Do my actions reflect the deep gratitude and humility that should come with the belief that I am totally depraved and unworthy, and being carried by faith in God’s grace and mercy alone?

  10. 1. People are judged based on what they do or do not do.
    2. No one can do that.
    3. Paul has just finished elaborating on God’s wrath against sins committed by all people alike and previous to that he acknowledges that men suppress the truth they have been given. God’s judgment is just, but Paul goes on afterwards to recap God’s plan for salvation by bringing the law to be a guardian until Christ.
    4. My works condemn me all the time. I am incapable of not being guilty and have to rely on Christ for His blood for me to be declared not guilt.
    5. This is absolutely the work of the Holy Spirit. However, I think we can be involved by being extremely humble but also extremely honest in how we approach the falleness of man. Firstly, we have to acknowledge our own depraved nature and then we can expand that to the rest of the world.

  11. Christina W. says:

    Something that you said that really stood out to me was when you said, “Father, thank you that you do not require me to be perfect, you just require me to acknowledge that I am not.” It is so important for us to realize that we are not perfect and that we are fallen and depraved sinners without Christ. How often we need to be reminded of this. In a sense, the idea of acknowledging that we are not perfect is hard but it is also so freeing.

  12. Maelynn says:

    In reference to the last question, people need to understand that there is a standard. God has the ultimate standard. Additionally, society has (unknowingly at times) created its own standards as well. Individuals must come to the understanding that according to God’s standards, a person who breaks even the smallest part of His law is guilty of breaking all of it. I think that people who hold to the belief that everyone is basically good are failing to look at things logically. Was Hitler “basically good?” How come you don’t have to teach a two year old how to disobey? They know how to instinctively. These are the things that must come to the surface in this conversation.

  13. Kimberly W. says:

    This is an interesting passage, because taken out of context it does seem that Paul is saying you can be saved by works–and that people are saved by works. As we study the surrounding passages, though, it is clear that Paul is showing the depravity of mankind and that no one is good enough to earn salvation.

    I appreciate the refrain in this passage “first to the Jew, and also to the Greek”, which is continued from chapter 1. Paul makes it so clear that in regards to salvation, God judges and saves everyone in the same way. One ethnic group does not have an advantage over another.

  14. Christa says:

    1. Upon what are people judged? Upon their works
    2. Does anyone attain immortality by their works? No, because the works that we do don’t produce righteousness
    3. How does the broader context inform this passage? It shows that Paul’s message is not salvation by good works
    4. How have your works condemned you? My works prior to salvation condemned me because they were not done in righteousness but unrighteousness
    5. How do we convince others that the belief that all people are basically good is in error? We must look deeper than the surface of humans and look to our hearts, our motives, our desires and see how they do not align themselves with God’s standards of goodness and holiness

  15. Nate Silvieus says:

    The world will be judged by their works.We know from elsewhere in scripture, and the point that Paul is building up is that our works can do nothing to bring about our salvation, even if our good works outweigh our bad, which is very unlikely.I remember reading an article in high school which interviewed Billy Graham and asked him on a scaled of 1-10, how great of a Christian would you consider yourself to be? He answered 3, and I think he meant it, he wasn’t just trying to be a humble Christian by giving himself a lower number than he should have, and I also know that he knew that his life would be an absolute zero were it not for the saving grace of Jesus,He gave himself a 3 because even as a Christian he made mistakes. We consider Graham to be one of the most influential Christians of the last century and he especially knew that all of the good he has done in his ministry would not get him to heaven. It is only through the blood of Jesus.

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