In Paul’s Epistle to the Romans 2:6-10 Paul seems to lay out a brief summary of Judgement upon the true and untrue, the unrighteousness and the righteous. In v.7 and again in v.10 he states that on the basis of a persistent pattern of Good in one’s life, one may reap “eternal life”, and “glory and honor and peace”. He expands on the idea in v.14 saying in essence that one may not have “heard” The Law (of Moses?) but still DO according to the good therein, establishing a “law” among themselves that is worthy.

I don’t think Paul quickly contradicts himself in Romans 3:20 but I admit that a simple reading of both arguments would raise such a question.

Jesus Himself seems to say much the same in John 5:28-29 “...the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth; those who have done good to the resurrection of life...”.

Did Paul say that one’s deeds, or persistence in goodness could result in an eternal life of glory and peace?

  • I would suggest that you focus on one text at a time, otherwise your question may be treated as 'too broad' or 'a topic' and may be viewed as 'off topic' on this website. I would suggest an edit and to highlight a single text.
    – Nigel J
    Jul 12, 2019 at 17:54

6 Answers 6


I think you are defining good by a different measuring stick.


““Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or else make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for a tree is known by its fruit.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭12:33‬ ‭

Earlier in the sermon on the mount Jesus compares trees to people

Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭7:17-20‬ ‭

This He said in speaking of false prophets

However this is not limited to false prophets but is inclusive of all men. All men can be known by their fruits.

In the same sermon He says

“For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭5:20‬ ‭

These were Law/Torah abiding men and Jesus is saying they will not enter the kingdom.

In His illustration of the trees, they are equated to a bad tree with bad fruits. It’s only common sense that if they don’t make it into heaven their fruits are bad.

But why? Paul explains later in Romans

“but Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness. Why? Because they did not seek it by faith, but as it were, by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumbling stone.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭9:31-32‬ ‭

What Apostle Paul is saying is they were trying to earn their way into Heaven through good works and all their good works to God are filthy because they are done in the flesh or led by the flesh.

“But we are all like an unclean thing, And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags; We all fade as a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, Have taken us away.” ‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭64:6‬

And to explain further, those who through works attempt to attain righteousness are doing so being led by the flesh, self will, self determination, self ambition, self!

“Therefore, brethren, we are debtors—not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:12-14‬

Now in this context of good, whereby good means to be led by the Spirit of God let’s reread the passage you brought forth.

“eternal life to those who by patient continuance being led by the Spirit (in doing good) seek for glory, honor, and immortality;” ‭‭Romans‬ ‭2:7‬

It is therefore impossible that Apostle Paul intended to say that someone who is walking in the flesh can produce good fruits of the Spirit.

““For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit.” ‭‭Luke‬ ‭6:43‬ ‭

Someone who is not born again, is not IN HIM and does not live by faith being led by the Spirit cannot do good as defined by Jesus.


Your question was caused by a misreading of the text. They do not contradict each other. In Romans 2:12, Paul says that whoever doesn't know the law won't be judged by the law, but will perish apart from the law. In other words, Romans 2:12 says that if you don't know the law, you won't be condemned by your inability to obey the Law and Romans 3:20 says that if you do know the law, you also won't be condemned by your inability to obey the law.


Yes, of course, in the sense that salvation is open to all regardless nationality and tradition! Otherwise, God is only God of Jews and not of non-Jews as well, which Paul denies (Romans 3:29).

Paul asserts that no salvation is possible before coming of Christ, for no-one can overcome the post-lapsarian sinful drive in us but through agency of Christ (Romans 7:24); however a preparation for salvation (which preparation analytically means that those who are prepared, are prepared for participating in salvation in the future) is accessible both for Jews through their Law and non-Jews through the conscience and the Law inscribed in the fleshly tablets of their hearts, through which they know how to tell good from evil and choose the first (Romans 2:15).

Given that, salvation through Christ is available both to Jews and non-Jews alike, but persistence in deeds of Mosaic law for Jews and persistence in the good deeds discerned as such by natural wisdom and conscience for all humans, Jews and non-Jews alike, is necessary preparation for acceptance of Christ, but by themselves are not enough for salvation, of course, lest we abolish the scandal of the Cross and Jesus' self-sacrificial love for salvation of humanity, giving a perilous and soul-damaging illusion to man that he can be saved by his own righteousness and efforts.

  • Paul did not assert that. Unless you have a different definition of “salvation “. In the text OP’d he plainly states this. Romans 2:7
    – Richard7
    Sep 16, 2019 at 11:59
  • Paul says that the pagans who do not have written law, will be judged according to the law inscribed in their hearts (Romans 2:14-16), that is to say, according to the natural law, or according to human universal understanding of good and bad. Now, if judged by God according to this natural law of their conscience, it means that God will estimate both their good and bad deeds. Without Christ nobody can be saved, but if righteous Jews who centuries before Christ kept precepts of Moses law will be saved by Christ, so also righteous pagans who kept precepts of natural law will be saved by Christ. Sep 16, 2019 at 16:33

Romans 2:1-16 (my translation)

Therefore, O man, you are without excuse. For in whatever you judge another, you condemn yourself: for you who judge do the very same things. And we know of a truth that the judgement of God is upon whoever does such things.

Do you think, O man, that you shall escape the judgement of God, who judge those who do such things, and do the same things yourself? Or do you belittle the bounty of his kindness, and his forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God is meant to bring you to repentance?

Yet according to your hardness, and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and the revelation of the just judgement of God, who shall render to everyone according to his works: to those who, in perseverence in good works seek glory and honor and incorruptability, life everlasting, but to those given to strife, and stubborn toward the truth but amenable with regard to unrighteousness, wrath and fury—tribulation and distress for the soul of every man who commits evil—of the Jew first, and of the Greek also—but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good—to the Jew first, and to the Greek also: for there is no partiality with God.

Indeed, as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law, and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law. For it is not listeners to the law that are just before God, but doers of the law, rather, that shall be justified. For when the nations, who have no law, do naturally the things found in the law, these, though they have no law, are a law unto themselves; who show that the works of the law are written in their hearts, their conscience and their reason bearing witness to the same—accusing or perhaps excusing them on the day when God shall judge the hidden things of man, according to the gospel with which I have had to do, through Jesus Christ.

Keys points being made here by St. Paul here in this passage:

  • God's judgement is impartial, and as such hypocrites who judges others will fall under their own condemnation
  • God's mercy is only provided to give place for repentance, not as an excuse to sin (1 Peter 2:16)
  • Those who do not avail of, but spurn such, have only God's judgement to look forward to (Hebrews 10:28-29)
  • Those characterized by "perseverence in doing good works" will inherit everlasting life, while those characterized by "strife" and a stubbornness to God's truth will inherit hell the "wrath and fury" of God
  • Sin can be committed with or without the law (being explicit), since God's law is at least in some part written on every man's heart; each one is dealt with according to how much he knew (John 15:22; John 9:41)
  • This is because hearing the law in itself does not constitute justice or righteousness, but the doing itself, for which reason good will is the underlying factor (i.e. why someone with or without the law can still sin)
  • Gentiles who do not have the Mosaic law, still know the law of God written on their heart (the law seems to refer to the moral or 'Decalogic' aspect of the law here) and as such can be justified ('excused') or condemned on that basis, though they aren't Jews or explicit believers

I believe it's evident from this passage that, at the least, St. Paul believes that unbelievers could be saved insofar as and only if they are ignorant of the will of God for them ("the law"), not in spite of it, as it were (i.e. he could still affirm 'only Christians will be saved,' insofar as one who has good will but is ignorant might have become a Christian, and thus brings to the table the same good will to believe had by a believer). I could be wrong and by no means want to infer this dogmatically, but I believe it's safe to conclude, all the qualifications carefully observed and in place. One thing that can be concluded is that for St. Paul, good works directly correspond, necessarily, to justification, as do evil deeds damnation. While good works clearly don't earn justification (Romans 11:35), there is no justification without good works (Ephesians 2:10), inasmuch as to be good is to do good, and to be justified, to be good enough to justify from sin; as the other New Testament books and Epistles affirm also:

2 Peter 3:14-16 (DRB)

Wherefore, dearly beloved, waiting for these things, be diligent that you may be found before him unspotted and blameless in peace. 15 And account the longsuffering of our Lord, salvation; as also our most dear brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, hath written to you: 16 As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.

In other words, St. Paul's focus in this passage is about good and evil people. The good, for St. Paul, do good, whereas the evil do wickedly. It is not on doing good 'to be' saved: to be saved implies and necessarily involves goodness—God isn't going to justify you but condemn another sinner: "there is no partiality with God."

  • Thoughtful answer. I think this is the right grasp, and is supported by Jesus’s comments in John 3:19-21; in which he says nothing explicitly about “faith alone”. In John 5 again, Matthew 25 and elsewhere the same theme.
    – Richard7
    Sep 14, 2019 at 14:33
  • According to Jesus Christ, both faith and charity can be lost by someone who formerly had them. This speaks volumes about the role of works and/or will in salvation. The only place "faith alone" appears in Holy Writ is where there is an explicit, clear, and outright condemnation of the idea as preposterous and fundamentally contrary to Israel's salvation history. Sep 14, 2019 at 16:42
  • Sola gratia.. Can you expound on that. Are you referring to James May 21, 2020 at 17:01
  • @FaithMendel I'm referring to James when I say, "faith alone" is explicitly condemned as the means of justification in Scripture, and to the whole testimony of Old and New Testament when I refer to the fact that people can have faith and charity and apostatize. May 21, 2020 at 19:09

Romans 2:26So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?

Acts 10:34Opening his mouth, Peter said: “I most certainly understand now that God is not one to show partiality, 35but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him.

The above texts teach that whoever does right is justified by God.

Jews had to act righteously and so did Gentiles. Jews were not exempted from this requirement automatically because of circumcision. No was righteous automatically, not a single people group.

Romans 3:9What then? Are we better than they? Not at all; for we have already charged that both Jews and Greeks are all under sin; 10as it is written, “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE; 11THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS, THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;

The only advantage the Jew had was that he was a bearer of the information identifying Messiah so that people could recognise Him, and follow the right person. Males were circumcised to teach that Messiah would be cut, like the offering was cut in half (Gen 15:10), signifying the penalty would be paid for failure of Old Humanity, the old man in Adam.

Romans 3:1Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? 2Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.

Galatians 3:13Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us-- for it is written, "CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO HANGS ON A TREE "--

Jews were saved and had hope because they would be given bread from heaven, God would reveal that they were now protected, just as he revealed that protection to Abraham and the children of israel in the wilderness.

Gentiles were saved, but did not have tangible proof of it, because the bread was only for the children, to do their job of being oracle bearers for God, His pre-publicists. No bread was given to the dogs, the Gentiles, like the syro-Phoenician woman, because they were not chosen for the vocation of being a Light to the Nations.

Ephesians 2:11Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands— 12remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, 15by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, 16and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity. 17AND HE CAME AND PREACHED PEACE TO YOU WHO WERE FAR AWAY, AND PEACE TO THOSE WHO WERE NEAR; 18for through Him we both have our access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit.

All Scripture references from the NASB.

  • This harmonizes with the passages I am focused on. The Acts 10 revelation is explosive. Very few sermonizers I have heard or read in 40 years really grasp this. Indeed I doubt any mere mortal has properly plumbed that revelation to Peter. “ANYone who fears God and does what is right” is welcome to approach Him, which is an exception to the universal exclusion of the Gentiles. Indeed the “nations” were not merely un-included but locked into servitude of the lesser so-called gods as Moses and Jesus reveal. Yet even then, “none who take refuge in (YHWH) will be condemned”. Ps 34:22
    – Richard7
    Sep 14, 2019 at 14:46

The First Resurrection includes the Bride and the Wedding Guests. the rest of the Dead not in Christ is yet to be resurrected. At the Second Resurrection, at the White Throne Judgment, all the Dead not in Christ will be judged accdg. to their deeds recorded on the books and the Book of Life, Rev.20. It is not explicitly said that all of them will be condemned to Second Death Penalty in the Lake of Fire. In Rev. 21, there will be Kings and nations in the New Heaven and New Earth. Somehow this surmised that there will be Dead not in Christ that will be saved.

The problem with Bible Scholars, they make a doctrine mostly out of their study of the epistles of the Apostles and without reaching up to the end of the story. The Book of Revelation is the end of the story, all Doctrines of Men will be tested in this book.

Let us go back to the Red Letters of the Bible, the very words of our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • Welcome to Bible Hermeneutics SE and thank you for your contribution. When you get a chance, please take the tour to understand how the site works and how it is different than others.
    – agarza
    Apr 12, 2021 at 3:39
  • Yes, Red Letters. Jesus’s doctrines challenge ours, and His word should test all the prophets. The cited passages in John 5 can’t be just sprayed with reformation fragrance and set aside. And Matt 25:31-46 isn’t so hard to understand and act upon, unless one filters it with modern doctrinal innovations
    – Richard7
    Apr 13, 2021 at 13:01

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