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At Romans 2:6-7 Paul seems to say that salvation can be earned by works.

**RSV:**For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life.

**SBL Greek NT:**6 ὃς ἀποδώσει ἑκάστῳ κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ• 7 τοῖς μὲν καθ’ ὑπομονὴν ἔργου ἀγαθοῦ δόξαν καὶ τιμὴν καὶ ἀφθαρσίαν ζητοῦσιν ζωὴν αἰώνιον•

At Romans 4:4-5 he says that justification is received as a gift apart from works.

**RSV:**Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. And to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness.

**SBL Greek NT:**4 τῷ δὲ ἐργαζομένῳ ὁ μισθὸς οὐ λογίζεται κατὰ χάριν ἀλλὰ κατὰ ὀφείλημα• 5 τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ, πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ, λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην,

How can these statements be harmonized.

  • The first verse doesn't mention salvation. Where specifically do you see a contradiction between the two verses? – user2910 Oct 17 '17 at 20:06
  • Eternal life equals salvation. – Pilgrim Oct 17 '17 at 20:09
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    That needs to be demonstrated. The verse doesn't say that. I'm only suggesting you need to walk us through why you think there's a contradiction. – user2910 Oct 17 '17 at 20:11
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    Adding onto @MarkEdward 's point, the OP clearly brings a (heavily Protestant) soteriological focus on the text as a hermeneutic, which is not necessarily what the text is actually talking about (in much of Protestant hermeneutics, everything is about salvation-defined-as-propitiative-justification - even when the text itself has no such baggage attached to these concepts). – Dan Oct 18 '17 at 14:13
  • What is the basis for equating justification with salvation? – user33515 Oct 19 '17 at 0:32
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This question may be taken as not conflating salvation with justification insofar as a 'non-works-based' justification necessary must make way for a 'non-works-based' salvation (and the same if works are necessary): since the direct result (if unhindered) of justification is admittance to the heavenly glory that awaits Christians (ultimate salvation—Heb 9:28).

Forgive the shortcomings of my chart-creation skills, but St. Paul's teaching on salvation conveys the following:


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Thus, Romans 2 and 4 do not contradict:

Romans 2:6-7

For he will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life

While "he will render to every man according to his works" may at first seem ambiguous (i.e. some might take it to refer to some kind 'reward'in heaven), the next part is the explanation of what he means, using μεν as a kind of 'colon' or id est.

Romans 4:4-5

Now to one who works, his wages are not reckoned as a gift but as his due. But to one who does not work but trusts him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness

St. Paul is drawing as sharp a contrast as he can between seeing salvation (which he has described amply elsewhere as including intrinsically, works) as a wage, meaning God in fact owes salvation to you for your good works, which is false (Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:5) and a reward by the mercy of God for following Christ. Salvation is certainly not proportional to any works we can do: how could it be our "due"?

The latter part is cleary not a contradiction of Jas 2:17,26; 1 Cor 7:19; Mt 19:17; 1 Jn 2:4 etc (what faith would make sense which had no fruit? Mt 3:10; 7:19; Jn 15:1-11), but is an emphatic way of saying 'not by works, but trust/faith in God' is how one can access salvation (Titus 3:5). Directing attention to the source and "author" of our salvation (Heb 12:2), rather than the works we are commanded to do by the grace of God.


In other words, St. Paul is railing against any kind of 'works = (proportional to) salvation' instead of the orthodox 'works are necessary for salvation.'

Fuel is necessary for a car to do its purpose; works are necessary to "complete" faith (Jas 2:22), i.e. make it properly speaking 'faith,' a viable means to be justified. But you need an agent in both cases to take the 'fuel'/faith somewhere, i.e. follow Christ/do good works. Otherwise, the faith will be "dead" (Jas 2:17).

This is tied directly to Jesus' teaching that all sin and good comes first from the heart (Mt 15:19-20). Just as Abraham's faith was reckoned as righteousness when 1) he hadn't yet carried out the act of faith (Rom 4:2-3) but 2) was every bit set for doing so (Jas 2:21; cf 1 Macc 2:52), else "had faith" wouldn't be true, since in context, it was to obey the command of God (Gen 22:2).

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There is no contradiction in those two passages. In Rom.4:6, the apostle uses David to show that David also affirms that righteousness is not of works when he speaks in Ps.32:1-2 of the blessedness of the man to whom God credits righteousness [Rom.4:11-12]--thus being justified [Rom.3:28] and forgiven [Rom.4:7-8]) apart from [or, without] works.

But "if you are saved and you know it, then your life will surely show it; and as James (and Paul) point out, genuine faith results in genuine works.

Paul tells the church here, especially the Jews: Because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart [Lk.13:1-9], you are laying up wrath for yourself on the Day of Wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God, as Paul affirms in Ps.62:12: God will give to each person according to his deeds [cf. Rev.20:11-15].

Rom.2:7 To those, on the one hand, who by perseverance in doing good deeds [Heb.6:10], are seeking the glory (that is from God and not from people [Jn.5:44; I Thes.2:6]; as well as to do all for God’s glory [cf. Jn.7:18]) and seeking to share in honor (as a result of your strong faith [I Pe.1:7] and immortality ([I Cor.15:42,50,53] at His appearing [I Pe.1:7]), He will give eternal life;

v. 8 but to those, on the other hand, who are self-seeking people [Gal.5:19-21] and in disbelief, continuously disobey the truth (of the Word and the Gospel of God [cf. I Pt.2:7-8 & 4:17; Jn.3:36]), but rather obey unrighteousness [Rom.1:18,28-29], He will pour out His wrath and indignation.

v.13 For it is not hearers of law [see Ja.1:22-25] who are pronounced and treated as righteous before God [Mt.25:34-46], but it is the doers of law [Lk.1:5-6; cf. Rom.5:19; or, those who obey it] who will be justified [or, declared righteous]. cf. Ja.4:11//Mt.7:21; Ja.1:21-27

The Romans Epistle itself shows that Paul is not talking about “works of the law” to earn salvation and be justified before God (Rom.3:20; see also Gal.2:16-17; 3:11; 5:4). But he is talking about the "obedience of faith" (1:5; 16:25-26).

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That we will be judged according to our works is clear throughout Scripture. This is affirmed in numerous places in Scripture besides Romans 2:6 (all translations are from RSV):

Psalm 62:12

To thee, O Lord, belongs steadfast love. For thou dost requite a man according to his work.

Job 34:11

For according to the work of a man he will requite him, and according to his ways he will make it befall him.

Matthew 16:27

For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.

Revelation 20:12

And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, by what they had done (κατὰ τὰ ἔργα αὐτῶν - lit. "according to their works")

Revelation 22:12

Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.

as well as the whole of Matthew 25:31-46.

The Greek text of Romans 4:4-5 states:

τῷ δὲ ἐργαζομένῳ

Now to him that works (lit. "the working one")

ὁ μισθὸς οὐ λογίζεται κατὰ χάριν

the reward is not reckoned according to grace

ἀλλὰ κατὰ ὀφείλημα,

but according to debt

τῷ δὲ μὴ ἐργαζομένῳ

but to him that works not

πιστεύοντι δὲ ἐπὶ τὸν δικαιοῦντα τὸν ἀσεβῆ

but is believing in the one justifying (or, making righteous) the ungodly

λογίζεται ἡ πίστις αὐτοῦ εἰς δικαιοσύνην

his faith being reckoned for righteousness

First, we should note that Romans 4:4ff is not talking about works (ἔργα) in general, but rather specifically the works of the law. This is made perfectly clear in 3:28:

For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law.

Second, we should also note that "justify" (δικαιόω - dikaioō) does not mean "save" and that "justification" (δικαιοσύνη - dikaiosynē) is not synonymous with salvation, despite the fact that some lexicon's will even go so far as to translate dikaioō as "declare righteous".* "Save" is one thing (σῴζω - sōzō) in Greek, "justify" (δικαιόω) is another; "Salvation" (σωτηρία - sōtēria) is one thing in Greek, "justification" (δικαιοσύνη) another. We might impute synonymous meanings to these these words in English, but what we may impute to the English words does not affect the meaning of the underlying Greek words they translate.

Once (1) works of the law is understood to be something distinct from works in general; and (2) "justification" is de-conflated with "salvation", no contradiction between the two passages remain.


* e.g. Newman, Concise Greek-English Dictionary of the New Testament

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As Paul says salvation is all of Grace. We are not saved because of our good works. Yet works is faith expressed. Genuine faith is expressed in Good works otherwise it is counterfeit.

To get the whole context let us look at it with othe scriptures:

John 14:10-12

10 Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.

11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.

12 Verily, verily, I say unto you,

He that believeth on me, the works

that I do shall he do also;

and greater works than these shall he do;

because I go unto my Father.

Titus 2:14

14 Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

The works are a token of the work of Grace of God in the believer. The are a token of God's power to transform. The works are a manifestation of the inner change and inner hidden life in Christ after encountering with the saviour. The works are evidence that inner circumcision of the heart by Christ. It's an evidence that you are raised from death in sin and trespasses.

Colossians 2:11-14

11 In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ:

12 Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.

13 And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

14 Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; The works are an evidence of the victory of Christ, who has set you free from the chain's and bondage to sin.

Ephesians 2:1-6

1 And you hath he quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins:

2 Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.

4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us,

5 Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;)

6 And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

The living works of Christ are an evidence that you have translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of His dear sign. It is the evidence that Christ lives in you through merits of His grace.

Galatians 2:20,21

20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. The works are evidence of a life in union with Christ. They are an evidence that you are now a servant of righteousness.

Romans 6:17-22

17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.

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