Good for the Good, Bad for the Bad

Good for Good, Bad for Bad

Study of Romans as given by Dr. James Montgomery Boice: Romans 2:6-11

6God “will give to each person according to what he has done.” 7To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. 9There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; 10but glory, honor and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. 11For God does not show favortism.

Have you ever been caught in a situation where you were doing something and you know what you were doing is wrong? I have. What is the first things we do? We begin to make excuses for our actions, our behavior. We say, “I didn’t mean to do it” or “But so-and-so did it first.” Or, “You just don’t understand my circumstances.” Maybe we are innocent, but in most cases it is the opposite. Generally speaking, the excuses we make are exactly that, excuses. This is particularly true with our relationship with God. We stand before God accused of repressing the truth and of violating his moral law even as we pass judgement on others for doing the same things, but as soon as we hear the truth we begin to make excuses. Whenever we find ourselves doing this, we need to rediscover the principles of God’s just judgment, which Romans 2 explains. Two principles we need to realize about God’s judgement; 1) God’s judgment is according to truth. 2) God’s judgement is according to our deeds. We cannot plead extenuating circumstances with God, because it is what we do that counts.

  1. Two Different Paths
    1. These verses speak of two different paths: 1) Path of good deeds, the end of which is glory, honor, peace, and eternal life. 2) The path of evil, the end of which is trouble, distress, wrath, and anger.
    2. There is this idea called “principle of proportionality in judgement”. We looked at this in verse 5 when we talked about the wrath of God.
    3. We see people in one of two groups. Those who do good and those who do not do good.
    4. We then reason that in the life to come some should be treated well, some should be treated badly, and the differences should be relative.
    5. Following this line of reasoning leads some to believe that our future existence in heaven or hell will be much like that of earth, a mixture of good and bad.
    6. The text refutes such an error. According to these versus, the two paths are mutually exclusive.
      1. The Path of the Just
        1. There are two things in these verses that a person is described here as doing
          1. does good
          2. persists in doing good
        2. There are three things that are his or her motivation
          1. glory
          2. honor
          3. immortality
        3. Glory refers to the transformation of the believer into the image of God’s Son, by which the glory of God will be reflected in that person.
        4. Honor refers to God’s approval of believers, as contrasted with dishonor and even scorn accorded to them by the world.
        5. Immortality refers to the resurrection hope of God’s people.
        6. The three words define aspiration in terms of the highest reaches of Christian hope.
        7. There are four things God is said to dispense to such people as rewards.
          1. eternal life
          2. Glory
          3. Honor
          4. Peace
        8. Eternal life refers to salvation
        9. Glory and honor are two goals the people describe are striving for.
        10. Peace parallels immortality and therefore points, not to peace with God, but to peace in heaven. It is deliverance from sin and its conflicts.
        11. But here is the big question. Has anyone ever chosen this path by his or her own will and then walked along it by his or her own strength? Does anyone of himself or herself actually do good and persist in it apart from the gospel?
          1. What is being asked is whether any of us actually choose this path and then persist in it of ourselves, unaided by the work of the Holy Spirit?
          2. No one chooses to do good (as God defines it) or seeks glory, honor, or immortality by the path of rigorous morality (Romans 3:10-12)
      2. The Way of Sinners
        1. This is the natural path all persons take apart from God’s intervention.
        2. There are 4 things the wicked are said to be or do.
          1. They are self-seeking.
          2. They reject the truth.
          3. They do evil.
          4. They follow evil.
        3. What is the result of these choices?
          1. Wrath and Anger: Refers to God’s fierce and absolute opposition to all evil.
          2. Trouble and Distress: Refers to the effect of God’s resulting judgment upon evildoers.
  2. The Two Paths in Scripture
    1. Many people find this section of scripture difficult because it seems to say that salvation is by good works. Nothing could be further from the truth.
    2. No one is saved other than by the work of Christ.
    3. Romans 2:6-11 is not saying that if you do good and persist in it you will be saved. It is not saying if you do evil, you will be lost.
    4. Paul is talking about two paths, the path of righteousness and the path of sin/evil
    5. The best example of these two paths is Jesus’ words spoken during the sermon given on the Mount of Olives (Matthew 25:31:46)
    6. Do not be confused, not one is saved by good works. Salvation is achieved by Christ alone!
    7. It is also an equal error, as Paul also shows, to think that one can be saved by faith and then continue down the same path he or she has been treading, doing no good works at all
    8. Here is the wonder of the gospel
      1. On one hand, salvation is by grace received through faith, and even that faith is of grace.
      2. On the other hand, those who are saved by grace through faith are placed on a path of righteousness where they do indeed perform such good works as the world about them cannot even begin to dream.
    9. So the teaching is that the people of God will-if they truly are the people of God-do good works surpassing even the best of the righteous (but unsaved) people of Christ’s day.
  3. Getting on the Right Path
    1. What can you do if you are on the wrong path?
    2. Where are some specific answers:
      1. Recognize that you are on the wrong path
      2. Admit that the path itself will not change.
      3. Turn around and face the opposite direction.
      4. Commit yourself to the Lord Jesus Christ, trusting in his death on your behalf.
      5. Get on with following Jesus and obeying his commands.

Personal Reflection

Sometimes I get lost in this world, and to be honest it’s easy to get lost. To lose focus on Christ and his eternal kingdom has plagued me my entire walk with Christ. So many distractions this world offers me, and I’m easily moved away from the path that has been set out before me. When this happens, I also notice something else that changes. My desire to be compassionate diminishes, my willingness to give of myself in time and resources seem to disappear. In short, the signs of salvation become less and less noticeable, I no longer seek the eternal kingdom. Any good that I do seems empty, shallow. It seems that way because it is. The good I do is about serving me, it is centered around me, not around my service to Christ. It is an empty, void service to alleviate a guilty conscience. A guilty conscience because I know that I am not walking a path of righteousness. I write about this, because this is the path of the unrighteous, the path that leads to the bad for the bad. If it were not for the saving grace from God, the work of Christ on the cross, I would be lost. Thanks be to God who continues to pursue me in all circumstances. When lost, I believe that my salvation is assured through what I do, a works salvation. When I put my focus back on Christ, I realize that everything I do will never be good enough to gain entrance into the kingdom of Christ. As Paul writes frequently, it is through faith that we are justified, and not of our own works, so that no one can boast (Ephesians 2:8-10). This does not free us from doing good deeds, but instead pushes us to do good deeds for our fellow man because we are a new creation. As my old bible teach said, “we are justified and saved by faith, what we do after gives evidence of that salvation and faith.”

Recently, my focus has not been on Christ, and it shows in my struggles with my faith. It shows when I think that when I do something of noble character it will buy me favor in heaven. It is a false notion and I know this. As always, God continues to convict me, never leaving me to my own devices. I know this because my conscience continues to be nudged and pricked by His spirit. My desire is to be in the first group that Paul writes about in Romans 2:6-11. I want to be persistent in seeking glory, honor, and immortality. For the prize in seeking those things is immortality with Christ in the eternal kingdom. Sometimes I am exhausted by this world and its many problems. Only through the grace of God, do I find strength. He is sufficient.


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