Friday, November 15, 2019

Does Romans 2:6-7 Teach That We Are Justified By Faith And Works? (Part 1 Of 2)

  • Discussion:
           -Karlo Broussard of Catholic Answers wrote an article interacting with a few claims made by Ron Rhodes on Romans 2:6-7 and claimed that other passages such as Romans 3:28 are not so much  categorically condemning works as contributing to our justification but specifically works of the Mosaic Law. Before responding to the author's claims, it is necessary to provide some background information as to what kind of interpretation of Paul's words that he employs.

           Karlo employs a liberal interpretation of Pauline texts which stands contrary to the conventional understanding of the words of Paul when he rejects the idea of works as being necessary for our justification. This "new" perspective on the meaning of "works" and "works of the law" was not known by most people until former canon theologian of Westminster Abbey now turned Anglican Bishop of Durham named N.T. Wright published a book on the subject titled "What St. Paul Really Said."

           This school of thought maintains that the Apostle Paul never argued against depending on the moral aspects of the Mosaic Law for getting right with God, but rather that he only stood in opposition to observing the dietary and ceremonial parts of the Law. In other words, it is argued by proponents that Paul argued against circumcision, heeding to the Old Testament food laws, and the observance of Jewish Sabbaths. The phrase "works of the law" has been reduced to Jewish ethnic badges or the ceremonial law.

          It has been claimed that conservative Protestant churches have derived their soteriology on allegedly anachronistic interpretations of Scripture made by Protestant Reformers. Proponents of this theology claim that Paul claim that we need to view the phrase "works of the Law" through a different lens of scriptural interpretation in order to reach the conclusion that he was only arguing against boundary-markers. These people claim that the Judaism of Paul's day was not legalistic.

          "Romans 2:6-7 refers to good works that belong to the moral sphere. The “works” that Paul speaks of in Romans 3:28 and Romans 4:5 refer to works that belonged to the Law of Moses, the keeping of which was necessary for Jews (circumcision, kosher laws, ritual washings, precepts governing the offering of sacrifices, etc.)."

           A colossal problem with the above argument is Romans 3:19-20. The Law is treated as something that the entire world is subjugated to. Man is silenced before God as he stands condemned for his sins  Thus, the Apostle Paul gives the Law and "works of the Law" a universal application.

            In 1 Timothy 1:8-10, Paul uses the term "Law" in a sense broader than boundary markers. In discussing their application, Paul pinpoints moral precepts as the "Law." That destroys the distinction that some try to make between "works" and "works of the Law."

            In Galatians 5:1-3, circumcision was not part of the "moral sphere" of the Law, yet Paul said that those who seek after that ritual must obey it perfectly. That point blows the distinction made between "works" and "works of the Law" out of the water.

           "The two verses immediately following Romans 3:28 bear this out. Right after juxtaposing the standards of faith and “works of law,” Paul writes in verse twenty-nine, “Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one.” This is the premise that leads Paul to the conclusion in the next verse that God will “justify the circumcised on the ground of their faith and the uncircumcised through their faith.” If Paul is juxtaposing faith and circumcision here in verse thirty, then we can conclude that circumcision is the kind of thing he has in mind when he juxtaposes faith with “works of law” in verse twenty-eight."

           Paul places faith and circumcision side by side for contrasting effect. It would be wrong to interpret "works of the Law" as referring exclusively to the ceremonial law. Both Jews and Gentiles ("circumcision" and "uncircumcision") are justified by the same means: faith apart from works of merit. That is the Apostle Paul's argument in Romans.

            In the Bible, we never see the completion of any specific charitable deeds as being prescribed as necessary criteria for the forgiveness of sins by God. There is not even the slightest hint of Paul narrowing specifically in on the ceremonial Law throughout his writings. There is no such thing as a distinction between good works that save verses good works that do not save. We are not saved by works of the Law. We are not saved by any good works.

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