"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « TULIP (8) | Main | Man vs. Machine »

    Does Romans 2:13 Prove We Can Be Declared Righteous by Obedience to the Law and Self-Effort?

    In my recent post entitled "Grace Does Away with Free Will Altogether" I had a visitor quote me Romans 2:13 to demonstrate that through self-will we can obey the law and be declared righteous. Lets look at it:

    "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." Rom. 2:13

    My Response: Yes read in isolation that text would appear to be teaching that someone could be saved by obeying the law, apart from grace. And indeed it is true that we would save ourselves if we never committed sin. But such an interpretation completely misses the context of the verse since you conclude we have the moral capacity to obey the law and live. Jesus alone has this honor. Paul is teaching the contrary to fallen humanity.... He (in Rom 2:13) is middle of building his case that Jews and Gentiles alike are both under sin and have thus forfeited their claims to life by means of obeying the law. And he ends the section by saying just this: "For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin." (Rom 3:19, 20). In other words, the purpose of the law is not to show our ability but our inability. And this then shows that Paul means exactly the opposite of what you are trying to make the verse say. Romans 2:13 is not declaring what we can do, but what we ought to do -- and ultimately, as we see later, do in Christ. I fear this is what happens when we read a text in isolation. Rather, in context, it becomes clear that Paul is saying IF you obeyed the law you would be declared righteous. But then goes on for the next chapter and a half to prove that you fail the test.

    Here are two articles on the subject of Rom 2 that may help further illumine.

    Romans 2:13 and the Covenant of Works

    Do Believers "Receive Eternal Life According to Their Works"?

    Posted by John on February 16, 2011 09:21 AM


    The law Paul is referencing in Rom. 2:13 is a law that has been added to the law because of a change of the priesthood. See Heb. 7:12 & Rom. 5:20
    The law referenced in Rom.3:19-20 is the written code given at Sinai. No one will be declared righteous by God by observing the written code. However a law has been added to the law that for the individual who has the faith to obey this law he will be declared righteous by God. The term rightly dividing the word of truth means correctly identifying which law is being referenced.

    You are avoiding the issue.

    Theodore. You said, "No one will be declared righteous by God by observing the written code."

    Any why is it that no one will be declared righteous by observing the law? The Bible itself answers this. "For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them."

    Men are cursed because they cannot keep the law. Anyone who relies on it will die in their sin because they are morally impotent to "abide by all things written in the book on the law."

    Jesus also declares this same principle when he encounters the rich young ruler... "...Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?", he says..."If you would enter life, keep the commandments." Matthew 19:15-17
    But the man goes away sad and Jesus declares the impossibility to doing so when he says it is as difficult for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom... The disciples said WHO THEN CAN BE SAVED? Answer: NO ONE. WITH MAN THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE BUT WITH GOD ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE.

    This is the same principle in Rom 2. If you read the passage IN CONTEXT, Paul is building his case against both Jews and Gentiles who are alike under sin and, as such, will never enter the Kingdom apart from the grace of Jesus Christ alone.

    Well said John. I just finished a study in Galatians and it has been so helpful to understand both what Romans is say in Paul's argument about the law and throughout including Galatians. The misunderstanding occurs when we think we can meet any of Gods requirements for righteousness through any self-effort. It robs the law of its wrath and judgement and it robs grace of God mercy and forgiveness that is complete in Christ.

    The law points us to Christ (Gal 3:21-22) so that we by faith in Christ's finish work we are declared right before God (Gal 2:16, Rom 3:21-28, 4:16, etc) The law is good but met for the lost to show their utter lost-ness (new word to describe how lost we are apart from Christ) so that we would come to Christ who alone fulfilled the requirements of the law.

    In fact we must die to the law (for self-effort righteousness) so we can be joined to a Life, the very Life of Christ, (Rom 7:4, 6)

    I would rather be made right by Christ and His finished work (2 Cor 5:17-21) then be under something that I could never meet, requirements for a right stand before God so I could be fit for heaven now. Salvation is through Christ and Christ alone, for I am saved by His life (Rom 5:10)

    Good news, you bet! For Christ did it all, I by faith in Him have been declared righteous and have received His very Life. Christ lived the perfect life for us, that through His death and burial , we died with Him so that through His resurrection we are raised to life and are new creatures. Gal says in the last chapter his summary of this completed work when he says "But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ", what counts is a new creation. Gal 6:14-15

    Now lets walk in that which we became through Christ a new creation alive a child of God.

    Describe what your term "His finished work" means.

    "By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified in His sight, for by the law is the only righteousness God will accept is the perfect righteousness of Christ”. All you have to do is receive it by inviting Jesus into your life, into your inner man. What has God done to attract us to His plan for our salvation? He sent His Son to live a perfect life as an example for us.
    It has for its goal the glory of God and of Christ, and makes a clear distinction before God acquired who Christ is righteous in His sight because of both the imputation of his sin to the imputation of Christ's perfect obedience to him, on which ground he is.
    John 6:41-60 (Phi) At this, the Jews started grumbling at him. “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose parents we know? How can he now say that 'I have come down from Heaven'?"... Jesus answered and said, "I myself am the bread of life. Your forefathers ate manna in the desert, AND THEY DIED! The bread which I give you is my own body, and I shall give it for the life of the world." This led to a fierce argument among the Jews, some of them saying, "How can this man give us his body to eat?" So Jesus said to them, "Unless you do eat the body of the Son of Man and drink his blood, I assure you that you are not really living at all. The man who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up when the last day comes. For my body is real food, and my blood is real drink." ...Many of his disciples heard him say these things and commented, "This is a hard teaching indeed; who could accept that?"
    There is one condition that God has put upon His offer to justify you. And that is that you have complete faith in the sufficiency of what the Lord Jesus Christ has done for you. Justification in God's sight is received by us on the basis of faith alone in Christ alone. As Romans 3:26 says, "that he (God) might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus." And again in Romans 4:5, "But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness."
    Having faith in someone is the issue of placing your complete trust, reliance, or confidence in him; depending solely upon him and his ability to do for you what you cannot do for yourself. And this is just what placing your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ means. This is what "believing in Jesus" means. You depend upon His death payment for your sins as your only means of acceptance with God, and not upon any of your own works.
    When anyone does this, then God counts his faith for righteousness, just as His gospel declares. God freely forgives him his sins and gives unto him the perfect righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. And at that moment he is justified unto eternal life with God.
    Have you received God's gift of perfect righteousness and eternal life? Are you perfectly righteous in God's sight? If you have never settled this issue, we urge you to settle the matter right now. And you can.
    Right now and right where you are, "believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved." God can look upon your heart and He can see your faith. And when He sees it, He will do exactly what He says He will do — He will count your faith for righteousness. If you have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ as your all-sufficient Savior, then the following is now true of you:

    1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
    2 By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.
    The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.
    Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us "co-heirs" with Christ and worthy of obtaining "the promised inheritance of eternal life. “The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. "Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due. . . . Our merits are God's gifts."
    Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.
    When God sees us believers, he sees us in Christ, covered under the blood and cloaked in righteousness. He does not see sin in our lives, he only sees righteousness. When it comes to dealing with other believers we should see them as Christ sees them, perfect and cloaked in righteousness. We are not here to judge anyone as Jesus took all our judgments upon himself on the cross. We should only display love to others because God first loved us.
    No one is perfect, even yourself. When it comes to other believers we should only see the God in them, see them as God’s righteousness. No matter how someone lives their life or acts, we are called to love them with the love of the Lord. If you view someone in their shortcomings, you are viewing them from your sin consciousness, so you would not love them from the fullness of God’s love. Love will not be made perfect in you.

    I came across this page searching for something else, but i am quite confident that you are misunderstanding Rm. 2:13.

    Paul is indeed teaching "by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin," (but which is Rm. 3:20, not 19 as you ref. it).

    Yet this is not opposed to 2:13 as if teaching justification by merit, anymore than "the doers of the law shall be justified," anymore than like statements such as blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom," (Mt. 5:3; cf. Ps. 34:18) or peacemakers shall be called the children of God, (so much for the U.N.) or the meek shall inherit the earth,"(Mt 5:5,9) or that the Lord Jesus is "the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Hebrews 5:9) do so.

    None of these teach salvation by merit, so that they actually deserve heaven by being poor in spirit, rather than damnation for their sins, but such texts describe those who have been justified by faith, a faith which justifies the unGodly but effects obedience, and thus these are characterized by such virtues as meekness (as in Moses).

    Thus it is the doers of the law that shall be justified, for it is those who are justified by faith who, unlike the letter obedience of Pharisees, characteristically are fulfilling its intent by the Spirit (and repenting when convicted of not doing so.

    Thus the same Paul who penned 2:13 declares in 8:4: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)

    Now do to so better and more consistently by faith.


    You must have misunderstood the post. We are not teaching that a person can be made righteous by obeying the law, since we affirm that no one is able to do so. That is the whole point Paul is making in Rom 2. That both Jews and Gentiles both condemned because they fail to obey the law and cannot do so.

    Also, I the post did have both Rom 3:19 & 20... but it showed up on the next line so perhaps you missed it.

    "...Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?...If you would enter life, keep the commandments." (Matt 19:15-17) ... However, "...all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed be everyone who does not abide by ALL THINGS written in the Book of the Law, and do them." (Gal 3:10) "With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." (Matt 19:26)... Thankfully, "God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us..." (Rom 8:3-4) (i.e Jesus kept the covenant of works from our side and thereby fulfilled the covenant of grace )

    You may be interested in this recent post....

    Your are avoiding the issues.
    1. Your have to rule that Rom. 2:13 is a false statement to keep your soteriological assumptive intact.
    2.Your have to rule that Heb. 7:12 is a false statement.
    The word law in Rom. 2:13 is NOT referencing the Sinai code as you assert. Rom. 2:13 is referencing a law that was added by changing the law after Jesus was crucified.

    Paul is saying only those who obey God's law are saved. Why is that so hard to understand today? If we live in will full disobedience, sin, we will not be saved. Only those who walk in obedience are saved. Those who do the commandments enter the city. Those that do good, not evil, inherit eternal life. Those who do not obey the law are condemned because they are walking in sin. If we are under the law, walking in sin, we are of the flesh. If we are walking in grace we are of the spirit and subject ourselves to the law of God, we obey it. This doctrine of disobedienc, faith without works, is dead, is nonsense, is of the devil.

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