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“He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury” (Romans 2:6–8).
JESUS SAID THAT EVERY TREE IS KNOWN BY THE FRUIT IT BEARS. Our outward deeds are important because, in the end, they will have shown the kind of persons we were on the inside, in our hearts. God’s judgment of us will be based on truth, and if the truth is that self-will was the principle we allowed to govern us, we need not fool ourselves that He will treat us the same as if we had lived otherwise. “He will render to each one according to his works.”
Those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality. Unlike the self-seekers in the next verse, these individuals “seek for glory and honor and immortality.” And these things are more than just vague ideals; it is by actual deeds — “by patience in well-doing” — that these goals are pursued. The path of obedience was their choice, and to them God “will give eternal life.”
Those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness. Since salvation is by grace, many question the concept of “obeying the gospel,” as if that attaches too much importance to obedience. But clearly the choice between obedience and disobedience is critical. For those who “do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.”
Like every basic truth, this truth that God “will render to each one according to his works” is both comforting and sobering. It is comforting to know that God deals with individuals, based on their own choices — we don’t have to fear being lost because of someone else’s choices. But freedom of choice and personal responsibility are also sobering. People are not saved on the “group plan.” Each of us must choose individually and personally.
And finally, there is something else that must be said: God’s judgment will be on the basis of our actual works and not merely good “attitudes” or good “intentions.” The lordship of Christ requires more than mere sentiment. “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?” (Luke 6:46).
“You can be certain of this: when the Day of Judgment comes, we shall not be asked what we have read, but what we have done; not how well we have spoken, but how well we have lived” (Thomas à Kempis).
Gary Henry — WordPoints.com + AreYouaChristian.com