Romans 2:6-7: 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;
In the book of Romans, Paul begins to explain the gospel in Rom. 1:18 by first giving the bad news of the unrighteousness of men before God. He continues through Rom. 3:20 with the bad news of the sinful and helpless state of all men, both Jew and Gentile. After explaining the condition of all men before God in Chapter 1, he turns his attention to the Jews in Chapter 2. Although the Jewish people had the law of God, Paul makes it clear the law condemns them because they were unable to keep it. Thus, Jews and Gentiles are both in trouble in their standing before God.
In Rom. 2:5 Paul states that they are storing up wrath for themselves for the day when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed. He also says the Gentiles are in the same boat because, although they do not have the law, they by nature do what the law requires. In other words they have a God given sense of right and wrong. In Chapter 2 of Romans, Paul has not yet gotten to an explanation of grace alone through faith alone; therefore, he is talking about unbelieving Gentiles and unbelieving Jews. He is talking about unregenerate sinners who have not been saved by grace. In Romans 2:6, Paul explains their works will determine their eternal state. In verse 7 he is clearly talking about obtaining eternal life by works. This of course is a mission impossible as Paul goes on to state in Romans 3:20. Therefore, no one will be saved by their works and no one will be saved by Romans 2:7 since no one can merit eternal life through patience in well doing.
Once Paul begins to introduce the gospel beginning in Romans 3:21, he explains how Christians who have been regenerated and are in Christ by faith will NOT have their eternal destiny determined by their works. Believers will have eternal life based on being in Christ through faith (Romans 8:1), and not by their own works. They will be covered by the righteousness of Christ and justified by His righteousness. If they stood before God’s throne clothed in their own righteousness for judgment, they would suffer the same fate as unbelievers who do have to stand before God with their own righteousness.
Yet, many assert that Romans 2:7 is referring to both unbelievers and believers. They state that unbelievers will fail to have the works to receive eternal life, whereas believers will have works that demonstrate their faith is genuine. However, you cannot get away from the fact that this text in context is judging works for eternal life and not the genuineness of a person’s faith. So, to assert that this passage includes a believer’s works of sanctification is to say that God judges the genuineness of faith by works and awards eternal life based on works of sanctification. This is wrong, as eternal life is all grace and is a gift from God without works (Eph. 2:8-9). Certainly genuine faith comes from regenerated believers who produce works, and there is also a false dead faith as James explains in James 2:14, but Romans 2:7 is referring to God giving eternal life based on works. Paul explains to unsaved Jews in verse 12 that everyone who attempts to justify himself under the law will be judged by the law [works]. He states it very clearly in Romans 3:20 which launches him into explaining justification by faith alone.
Since the reformed faith holds that God knows those who are His (Romans 8:29-30) and affirms justification by faith alone, God certainly does not need to judge works of sanctification to determine who are truly elect. If Romans 2:7 could save even one person Sola Fida is untrue, and Paul would not have said in Galatians 3:2-3 Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? (3) Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Later in Romans 8 Paul explains fully that the law kills and the Spirit gives life. Romans 8:1-2 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. (2) For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. Being in the flesh and approaching God through one’s own works is spiritual death, but being in Christ sets one free from the law and being judged by one’s own works.
Justification is by faith alone and this precludes God’s judgment of works for eternal life through Romans 2:7 from applying to regenerated blood bought believers who are covered in the righteousness of Christ. TRUE FREE GRACE saves sinners totally and completely.
Any other thoughts?