Herman Hoeksema was the first editor of the Standard Bearer.
Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath. Romans 2:6-8
The apostle is still addressing man. He is still addressing the man to whom he had spoken in verse 1. No longer is he addressing the Gentiles. Nor is he exclusively addressing the Jews. But he is addressing man—any man, man in general, and yet every man individually. Not all men, but each man, the apostle is addressing, both in the context and ‘in the text.
This man is addressed as a sinner, such as he is in the sphere of this present world. The apostle has told him that while he exalts himself as judge over the deeds over others he himself is doing the same things. Therefore, he is his own judge, while he pretends to be a judge of others. This is characteristic of the sinner.
The apostle asks this man two questions, in order to obtain an explanation from him. The first question is: “Thinkest thou this, O man, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God, because thou judgest others in the things which thou doest thyself?” Is this the explanation? Is this the reason why you assume that attitude in which you judge others in the things you do yourself? In other words, “Thinkest thou that by making thyself judge, thou shalt not be among the condemned?” This is one possibility.
Or, and this is the second possibility, “Despisest thou the goodness of God? That goodness of God, which becomes manifest in lovingkindness, forbearance, and longsuffering. That goodness of God which becomes manifest in this, that God loves the righteous and hates the wicked. That goodness of God which leads to repentance. Despisest thou that goodness of God, not knowing it?” Is this the explanation?
But the apostle means to say, “Whatever may be the explanation, thou that judgest others and doest the same things art continually busy in heaping up wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” This is true. Therefore, in the text the apostle speaks of the righteous judgment of God.
What is that righteous judgment of God? What will be its procedure? How is it possible? In what possible state can a man stand in that righteous judgment of God? What must be the possible verdict? What must be the verdict of Him who will reward every man according to his deeds? Then the apostle knows of but two possibilities. On the one hand, they “who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.” On the other hand, it is possible that a man has been contentious and, therefore, did not obey the truth; he shall be judged worthy of indignation and wrath. These are the only two possibilities. There is no other possibility, because God is the only standard. God is the Judge, but He is also the only standard according to which that judgment shall be.
We have in the text, therefore, the truth of the righteous judgment of God in its revelation. It is not the judgment of God of which the text speaks. The judgment of God takes place always. God always judges the deeds of men. But the text speaks of the revelation of this judgment of God.
A Revelation of All the Evidences
The evidences which are brought into that court, the text says, are the works, the deeds, of men. These deeds are not the objects to be judged. They are the evidences. The one to be judged is man. What must be made plain of every man is what he is worth. Or rather, it must be made plain that every man is worth what God judges him to be worth.
God has no need of a day of judgment. He does not even have need of our works as evidence. God knows our works from eternity. In this sense, God has no need of a day of judgment. He knows who is worthy of eternal life and who is worthy of indignation and wrath. But the purpose of the day of judgment is that everyone may justify God when He judges. God knows what every man’s spiritual, ethical value is. But if God is to be justified, that is, if in the consciousness of every moral creature God is to appear as just when He judges, so that every man may be exposed as a liar and God become manifest as true, then the day of judgment must come. If this day is to be a. revelation of the righteous judgment of God, God must produce His evidences. This He will do. He will produce His evidences, not to Himself, but to us, to every moral creature, to men and angels.This evidence will be the works of man. The works of man will be the evidence by which his worth will be shown. God will render to every man according to his works. These works of man are all his activities between the hour of his birth and the moment of his death. They are all his activities in connection with his position, his occupation, and his relations.
These works are not limited to what is seen by men. They are not only the outward works which we see. No, they are all that man does between the hour of his birth and the hour of his death in the sense of speaking, seeing, hearing, thinking, willing, and desiring. They include the works which man never knew or which he conveniently forgot. We do this. We do a certain evil, and then we conveniently forget about it. We like to remember our good deeds and talk about them. But our evil deeds we like to forget. Did you never notice that when you commit a sin, you let a day go by before confessing that sin before the Lord? It does not seem so raw then. We forget about these evil things. But all these sins God will produce.
He will produce them to your consciousness. He will convince you that they are yours. You will never say in that day, “I never did that.” There will be no denial in the day of judgment. They will be brought to us as our works. God has a way of doing this. He will bring those works as evidences before our consciousness and before the consciousness of all moral creatures, angels, and men. The Lord says that what has been done in secret will be preached from the housetops. That is, your works will be made perfectly plain to me and to all the world. He will expose your and my works to the world. Exposing them, He will cast the light of His own judgment upon them in order that the answer to the question as to the purpose, the motive – why did you do it? may be plain.
A Revelation of Every Man Who is to be Judged
The apostle says that God will judge every man according to his works. Notice, not the deeds are to be judged. But man will be judged. Every man will be judged according to his deeds. That is, the real value of every man will be exposed as God sees his worth by the evidence of his works.
How is this possible? Why are a man’s works evidence of his worth? The answer is that they are in relation to man as fruit is to the tree. By their fruit ye shall know them. As you know a tree by its fruit, so you can know man by his works. These works are his gruit. Accordingly, God will use all these works to show what you and I really are, and what we are worth. This must be reavealed.This day must come. It is coming. If this is the case, how shall we appear? In this revelation of God’s righteous judgment, there will be only two possibilities with regard to those who are to be judged. The reason is that God is Judge, and He is the only standard by which man shall be judged. There are 6nly two possibilities, namely, that we stand before Him as righteous, or as unrighteous.
Who are the righteous? Notice how the apostle describes the righteous. He describes them as those who seek for glory and honour and immortality. This first of all. In the second place, they are those who seek for these things in the way of patient continuance in welldoing. This man, who from the moment of his birth to the hour of his death has sought for glory and honour and immortality in the way of patient continuance in well-doing, this man shall be righteous.
When the apostle says that they seek for glory, honour, and immortality, he does not mean to say that this man seeks for any glory, honour, and immortality. In a way, all men seek for glory, honour, and immortality. But the apostle means real glory, real honour, and real immortality. If we seek this, we shall surely find it.
Real glory is essentially the glory of God. This is the only glory there is. If we seek this gory, glory being the radiation of good, then we seek God and His glory as our own. We may say therefore, that if we seek glory, we seek God.
Honour is not any kind of praise. But honour belongs to God. If we seek the honour of God, we seek that honour of God by which He approves of us.”Immortality” is a weak translation. The original means “incorruptibleness.” If we seek incorruptibleness, we seek God and that blessing by which we may be incorruptible before Him. This is why the text says that we can seek this only in the way of patient continuance in well-doing. Well-doing is that which is in harmony with the will of God. If we do the will of God, we seek Him. Continuance in well-doing means continuous, uninterrupted seeking of immortality. Patience means that we walk in that way no matter how much we suffer.
If we meet the day of the righteous judgment of God in this way, it will be all right. If from the moment of our birth to the moment of our death, we have never sought anything but glory and honour and immortality; if we have never sought anything but God’s face and fellowship, we will be righteous. Then, when we face him in the judgment day, it will be all right. This is one possibility.
The other possibility is expressed in verse 8. They who are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, “indignation and wrath.” They are the unrighteous.
The word “contentious” in our Bibles rests on a mistaken translation. The- original word really means “partisanship.” What is a partisan? Let me illustrate. Take, for example, in the evil sense, a politician. He is one who uses the position in which he is supposed to serve the community, not because he wants to serve the community but to advance himself. This is a partisan. This is awful, but it is quite common in our day. Such a man uses his job for himself.
God has given man a position. His position is that he is king. God has appointed man to be king in creation. Why is man appointed king? In order that he should seek the glory of God. But he is a partisan. He uses his position in, creation, not to the glory of God but to oppose Him and to seek self. This is the principle from which he lives. In this principle, of course, he disobeys the truth.
This is the other possibility. A third there is not. We shall appear in that judgment according to that one class or the other.
Which will it be?
When God exhibits your and my works, and you see those works, and you say of the, “Yes, they are mine,” what do you think it will be? Will it be one long way of seeking for glory and honour and immortality? Or, which is the other alternative, will our works reveal that we have been partisans? Will they reveal that we have sought the world, not for God but for ourselves?
Which will it be?
A Revelation of the Final Verdict
The apostle does not answer. But the apostle says that God will reward every man according to those works. To them who have been unrighteous, have been contentious, and have disobeyed the truth, to them God will give the reward of indignation and wrath.
When God gives His wrath to anyone, it means that He gives him the complete operation of His wrath and indignation. It means that He pours out the intense heat of His wrath upon all who have been contentious and have disobeyed the truth. All will admit that this judgment of God is just.
We can see this now. God is God. As God, He says, “Love Me.” This is good. All else is evil. God says, “Love Me.” The sinner says, “I will not.” He turns his’ back upon God until he stands before the face of God, and God shows to him that he is worthy of indignation and wrath, that he is worthy of hell. The sinner will say, “This is right, this is all that I am worthy of.” All who deny this here make God a liar. But there it will be different. There will be no denial there. All will admit that God is just. All the world will say that His verdict is right.
On the other hand, they who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honour and immortality will receive eternal life. Eternal life means that life which Scripture always pictures, not only as everlasting, but also as the highest life. It is perfect fellowship with God.
You say, how is this possible? My answer is that it is impossible. If you ask, how can anyone come to eternal life?—the answer is that it is impossible. It is impossible to come to eternal life, if one from the moment of his birth to the moment of his death must, in the way of patient continuance in welldoing, seek glory and honour and immortality. The apostle means exactly to say that it is impossible.
Because it is impossible, the apostle is still thinking of the main subject of the context: I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ. There was only one among mankind who sought, in the way of patient continuance in well-doing, glory and honour and immortality. That was not a mere man. That was Immanuel, God in our human nature.
God did it!
Jesus Christ, from the moment of His birth until the moment of His death, sought glory and honour and immortality, in the way of patient continuance in well-doing. Finally, He said, “It is finished.” He did so as the revelation of God’s righteousness for His people.
Therefore, when we have seen that the case of man is hopeless, God comes to us with the gospel. He proclaims a righteousness which is His and which He has realized in Christ.
I am not ashamed of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the heart of which is: the righteous shall live by faith.