In Romans 2, Paul continues his description of condemnation upon the world. He begins the chapter showing that man condemns himself by doing things that he judges against (v.1). Beginning in verse 2 of chapter 2, he shows that man is also condemned by God’s judgments. One of the principles of God’s judgment is found in verses 6-10: GOD’S JUDGMENTS ARE ACCORDING TO WORKS.
“who will render to each person according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also for the Greek, but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
It is important to point out that Paul is not teaching salvation by works here. He is not talking about the basis of salvation in this text, but of judgment. He categorizes two groups of people who will be judged by what they do: Believers (v.7) and Non-believers (v.8).
He says “to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory, honor and immortality, eternal life.” At first glance, this seems a bit odd. Paul is saying that the good works by which believers will be judged is seeking glory, seeking honor and seeking immortality. By doing so they will receive eternal life. But, we know that seeking glory and honor is considered selfish, and prideful. So how should we understand what Paul is saying?
There is a glory which a believer should seek. Above all else, a believer should seek the glory of God in all that he does, but that isn’t what Paul is talking about. There is a sense in which a believer should also seek glory for himself. He does this by looking forward to sharing God’s glory when his salvation is perfected. He should not seek worldly glory that is rooted in pride, but should do good deeds in such a way that he will share in the Glory of God in eternity.
Should a believer seek his own honor? According to Paul, yes. But, again this isn’t the worldly honor that has its roots in pride and boastfulness. It is looking forward to eternity when he will hear Jesus say, “well done.” When a Christian stands before God to have his deeds judged, Jesus will bestow upon him the honor of having finished well. Believers will share in the honor of Christ, so he should do good deeds in such a way that he will hear Jesus say, “Well done.”
How does someone seek immortality? A believer seeks immortality by looking forward to the day when his perishable body will put on the imperishable (1 Cor. 15:53). There is coming a day when this old body of death, this corruptible flesh will become immortal. A believer should do good deeds in such a way that he will receive an imperishable body to replace the one that is perishing!
Glory, honor and immortality. Believers seek these things by looking forward to the day when we will be in the presence of God! Paul says that by doing this, the reward is eternal life. This is not only the quantity of life, even though it will last forever, but it is the quality of life that includes glory, honor and immortality.
So, Christian, let us press on, keeping our eyes fixed on the author and perfecter of our faith as we perform the good works prepared for us! Let us run the race with integrity, knowing that our work is building up treasure in Heaven.
Glory, Honor and Immortality!