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.