I knew it! Salvation is tied to what we do. For so long I've been hearing this wee tidbit about how we are “saved by faith”… but it says right here in Romans chapter 2 that our "works" are the core determinant for either condemnation or eternal life.
I'm not making this up. Look at 2:6. “God will repay each person according to what they have done.” Paul says that if we identify ourself somewhere on the sin-list at the end of Chapter 1, then we will receive what we deserve… wrath and anger (v.5,8). But, ah-ha!, on the other hand, if we patiently endure doing "good" and if we pursue after certain aspects of divinity, then we will receive eternal life (v.7). It says this right here in Romans 2. So what we "do" ensures what happens to us after we die.
For clarity now… let me get this straight. If we serve ourselves, we will be served judgment. If we seek goodness and divine things, we will receive life lasting for ever. Is it really that simple?
~~ Self-Seeking = Condemned-Consequence.
~~ Pursuit of Good + Pursuit of Divine = Eternal life.
So we are saved by our good works then?
Well, yes… and no not really at all.
The truth we learned at the end of Chapter 1 and at the beginning of Chapter 2 is that each of us has already earned the consequence of our wrong actions. Our "works" have already condemned us. None of us can be excused from the sin-list at the end of Chapter 1. We cannot be saved by the thing that has fated us to wrath. We have each served ourselves already… and, therefore, no one is not on this list.
So if we are condemned by what we do, then, yes, our eternal destiny is secure. In fact, we have a whole store-house of self-seeking "works" that point a firm judgment at us.
But what about that whole “eternal life” business in verse 6? Paul seems to suggest that if we just do a couple things right, then we’ll be okay for eternity… somehow skip out on that whole judgment thing.
OK- let’s look at the couple things Paul says we need to “do”:
1) “to those who by patience in well-doing…” – oh man… what does this mean? At first it seems so simple… but as this phrase is given deeper thought it reveals depths upon layers of depths.
2) “seek for glory and honor and immortality.” – Who’s glory? Who’s honor? Who’s immortality are we seeking? We are told in the very next verse that “self-seeking” leads to wrath. So if we are not to seek glory and honor and immortality for ourselves, then for whom do we seek it?
God’s gospel has always been and always will be other-centered. “Patient well-doing” has to do with serving the “other” more than my own self. (Even when the pressure is against me, I will endure patiently in doing good on this earth.) This sums up the 2nd Greatest Command: Love your neighbor. “Seeking for glory, honor and immortality”, then, sums up the Greatest Commandment of all: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind. The “good works” that will “render” eternal life to us are determined by whether or not we are following the greatest commandments. If we seek to bring glory, honor and a sense of God's “everlastingness” to this planet by attributing these things to God and living accordingly, AND if we busy ourselves with serving the best interests of others on this planet according to the patterns set up by the glory, honor and everlastingness of God… then we will know eternal life. This is the Lord's prayer come to life: "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven."
So are we saved by our works or by our faith?
Perhaps the answer lies in the fact that true faith is wholly integrated with true works. We act a certain way in this world because we love God. We love others because we seek to lift-up glory, honor and everlastingness to God. Why? Because God loves us. He is patiently seeking after these things for us. He is actively involved in His own brand of patient well-doing… in order that we might be saved by faith/action/God’s-created-pattern-of-living…
But we still have this problem of having our name on the sin-list. How do we get our name off of the list? Can we pay somebody off? (OK, more on this concept at a later time…)
ROMANS 2:5-8 [NIV] 5 But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. 6 God “will repay each person according to what they have done.”[a] 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.