Since I presented my essay, “Justification, Judgment & Behavior: Judgment Day’s Coming Verdict Now Announced in the Gospel,” during the recent ETS meetings in Atlanta, I have been working almost daily at recasting it with a view to publishing it. (It will bear a different title when published.) In preparation for writing today, I awoke early, around 4:45 am. Prior to rising a half-hour later, I resumed my thoughts from yesterday and composed the following paragraphs which constitute a footnote, a rather significant footnote, so important that I may find that I need to promote it out of the notes field and into the text field.
I welcome your comments, insights, and criticisms of my reasoning.
In Rom. 4, to argue his case that Abraham was justified not from works (ἐξ ἔργων ἐδικαιώθη) but that his faith was reckoned to him for righteousness (ἐλογίσθη . . . ἡ πίστις εἰς δικαιοσύνην), Paul plays the imageries of bookkeeping (ὁ μισθός οὐ λογίζεται κατὰ χάριν κτλ.) and the courtroom (πιστεύοντι ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ λογίσεται κτλ.) off one another. Yet, is it not excessive to reason that Paul’s claim here, “to the one who works, the reward is not reckoned κατὰ χάριν ἀλλὰ κατὰ ὀφείλημα,” renders theoretical his positive assertion, “God will recompense each one κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ” in 2:6? That “God will recompense each one in accordance with one’s works” does not mean that God’s reward will be “in accordance with debt” instead of “in accordance with grace.”
In Romans 2 and 4 Paul comes at the issues from very different angles. As Paul reasons in Rom. 4, there is a kind of “worker” (τῷ ἐργαζομένῳ) who regards God to be the debtor versus another who, by implication, is in debt to God and thus is the “non-worker” (τῷ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ) who believes (πιστεύοντι) upon God as “the one who justifies the ungodly.” Accordingly, in Rom. 4 his argument concerns the sinner’s posture before God. The sinner “who works,” by implication to be set right with God, regards him as an employer who makes good on a debt (κατὰ ὀφείλημα) rather than one who is gracious (οὐ . . . κατὰ χάριν). To the sinner, like Abraham, “who does not work but believes upon the One who justifies the ungodly, this faith is reckoned for righteousness” (4:4-5).
Prior to his use of the participle in 4:4 (τῷ ἐργαζομένῳ), Paul uses it in Rom. 2:10 to depict a kind of “worker” whom God impartially will reward with eternal life, which is to say he will bequeath the reward κατὰ τὰ ἔργων αὐτοῦ but not κατὰ ὀφείλημα. In 2:6-11 his argument concerns God’s “righteous judgment,” which is to say, the impartiality and inviolability of the correlation between God’s recompense and human behavior truthfully assessed (κατὰ ἀλήθειαν). In 2:6-11, Paul’s insistence that God will recompense each human κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ hardly is to argue that humans obligate God by putting him in their debt, either actually or theoretically. On the contrary, the apostle’s argument is that precisely because God will recompense everyone “in accordance with one’s works” (κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ) is essential to establish his thesis that “in the gospel God’s righteousness is revealed” (1:17). Since God’s judgment is integral to his gospel (2:16), Paul punctuates his argument in Rom. 2:1-11 with the following distinct assertions to make it clear that his concern is to advance his thesis concerning God’s righteousness (δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ): (1) τὸ κρίμα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν κατὰ ἀλήθειαν (2:2), (2) δικαιοκρισίας τοῦ θεοῦ (2:5, (3) ἀποδώσει ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ (2:6), and (4) οὐ ἐστιν προσωποληψία παρὰ θεῷ (2:11).