Saving Faith or Legalism.
"Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who do such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man- you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself- that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. 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. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality."
The grammar in Romans 1:5 is key to understanding 2:1-11 in terms of saving faith verses being saved by keeping the Jewish Law. “Obedience of faith” is more clearly translated, “obedience that comes from faith”. “Faith is a subjective genitive modifying the noun, obedience, which means that the noun (obedience) proceeds from faith. Obedience proceeds from the faith Paul is writing about. Saving faith brings with it the desire to obey. Desire to obey the truth is an indicator of saving faith rather than living according to all the Jewish Law such as the food laws and celebrating certain Jewish holy days.
The person(s) that are condemning people in the Roman church are guilty of some of the sins described in Romans 1:22-32. We know that if we break the Law at one point we have broken the whole Law (James 2:10). Condemning another believer for not keeping certain days holy above others or eating or not eating certain foods is wrong (see Romans 14).
Paul gives us the criteria in Romans 2:6-10 by which to determine if a person has eternal life or if a person is under the wrath of God. The criteria applies to Jew and Gentile alike and has nothing to do with holy days or certain foods. The person who seeks to walk in the good works God has prepared beforehand for us to walk in is a person that has saving faith (Ephesians 2:8-10). The person who walks in disobedience to the truth of God’s Word does not have saving faith. We are not saved by the works we do, but rather the works reveal that our faith in the gospel is genuine. It doesn’t matter if we are Jew or Gentile or live like a Jew or like a Gentile. It does matter that we live in obedience to God’s Word by faith in Jesus.
Romans 2:1-5 challenges the condemning person to look at his life and make sure he has saving faith and is not under the wrath of God. Romans 2:6-10 reveals that saving faith is revealed by how we live our lives, not by if we live like a Jew or Gentile culturally. God is not partial to Jew or Gentile (Romans 2:11). God is going to save the person who displays the obedience of faith. In Matthew 7:21 Jesus says the same thing, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father in heaven.”
Does your belief (faith) in Jesus cause you to desire to obey His commands?
Is your desire to obey the Lord revealed by your attempt to obey His commands?
Saving faith attempts to obey the Word of God expecting the Lord to fulfill that attempt with His power (2 Thessalonians 1:11).
Three key questions to ask as we prayerfully read the scriptures:
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