Gospel 41

Undoubtedly, the one passage in Romans that doesn’t seem to “fit” the
standard Reformation explanations of both gospel and justification is
found in Romans 2 and I am clipping a few verses to set our next use of
“gospel” in context:

12 All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. 14 (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.) 16 This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.

Our concern is down in verse 16: Paul declares that God’s judgment will be based in several factors – Jesus Christ, the law, and the gospel.  The Greek text here reads like this: “on the Day when God will judge the secrets of humans according to my gospel through Jesus Christ.” Scholars have not been able to determine convincingly what this expression means with clarity. What is clear is this: God will judge; God will judge according the Torah; God will judge through Jesus Christ – and this is all a part of Paul’s own gospel. In other words, the final judgment factors into what Paul means by “gospel.”

About Scot McKnight

Scot McKnight is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. McKnight, author of more than forty books, is the Professor of New Testament at Northern Seminary in Lombard, IL.

  • David Seemuth

    Scot, Is not the issue that God judges justly according to law as the quotation in Rom 2:6 indicates? Therefore, the issue is not justification by faith but just judgment by the law. In other words, isn’t Rom 2:6 and the OT quotation the key? Perfection yields reward but sin leads to wrath, distress and anger.

  • RJS

    David,
    It seems to me that this whole argument in the first several chapters of Romans needs to be taken as a whole. And the argument is that we are all guilty without exception and subject to judgment, under natural law, under Torah, as a consequence of sin and rebellion. It is necessary perhaps, but misleading nonetheless, divide it into chunks.
    But judgment according to a life lived seems a key part of the gospel of Paul and the gospel preached by Jesus. The good news is that we are put right with God through the faith of Jesus, but the bad news is that God demands nothing less than total commitment to his kingdom in exchange.

  • Rebeccat

    These are the sort of passages which make me wish Paul was a little less brilliant and a little better writer. :)
    To kind of add onto what RJS is saying, I think that we often fail to take into account that there seems to be a positioning which takes place on judgement day. Think of Jesus’ talk of how it will be worse for some, better for others. Or Paul’s talk of crowns. Some men will go through the fire and find everything they have build burnt away, but will still have the foundation of Jesus. Others will be found to have built with gold and jewels and their work will last on into the new world. (my computer’s acting up so I can’t look up the verses – and I’m too lazy to do it the old fashioned way. Hopefully y’all are familiar with what I’m talking about.)
    It seems to me that perhaps part of the problem is with our very western either/or way of looking at things. Perhaps we need to consider the idea that judgement isn’t just about “justified or not justified”. Perhaps the issue is also one of assigning position in the new world to come.

  • Eric

    Originally coming from an evangelical background, I’ve had to rethink my prior understanding issue based on Romans 2 and similar passages (Romans 14.10–12, 2 Corinthians 5.10, 1 Corinthians 3, Matthew 25) (I’ve also wondered why is it that the people most likely to rely on “sola scriptura” are the ones most interested in writing these passages out of the Bible, or rewriting them?) If we believe these passages, then all of us — Christians and non-Christians — are going to be judged based on what we do. So how do we reconcile this with justification by faith?
    Rebeccat, your explanation makes some sense to me, but the langauge in some of the passages seems to suggest that ultimate righteousness and justification — not just our level of reward — is based on works.
    N.T. Wright says that it is a difference in time frame: We are justified in the present based on faith. This is a sort of legal accounting based on Christ’s victory that allows us to be part of God’s kindgom here and now. But in the end we will be judged based on a life of works.
    This resolution isn’t entirely satisfactory to me, but is the best I have heard — it makes some sense based on the language in these passages.

  • Rick

    Eric #4-
    “If we believe these passages, then all of us — Christians and non-Christians — are going to be judged based on what we do. So how do we reconcile this with justification by faith?”
    Hebrews 10 has helped me somewhat with that question:
    “15The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says:
    16″This is the covenant I will make with them
    after that time, says the Lord.
    I will put my laws in their hearts,
    and I will write them on their minds.” 17Then he adds:
    “Their sins and lawless acts
    I will remember no more.” 18And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin. 19Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, 20by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, 21and since we have a great priest over the house of God, 22let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. 23Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. 24And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. 25Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
    26If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, 27but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. 28Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. 29How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? 30For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
    32Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. 33Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. 34You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
    35So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. 36You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. 37For in just a very little while,
    “He who is coming will come and will not delay.
    38But my righteous one will live by faith.
    And if he shrinks back,
    I will not be pleased with him.” 39But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.”
    http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=hebrews%2010;&version=31;


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