On Gentile Justification and Jewish Jealousy
Former Catholic Timothy Kauffman has written a couple posts about me at his new blog, Out of His Mouth (a blog whose purpose is to “wield the sword of truth in defense of the faith, and refute the errors in which [the author] was once enslaved.” His latest article takes me to task over my “succumbing to Roman arguments about the meaning of Romans 2:13” (a charge which actually thrills me because it demonstrates that both St. Augustine and N.T. Wright are in fact Romanists). According to Kauffman, “The sheep of Christ must not be led astray by Stellman’s inability to see what the passage states so plainly.”
OK, let’s do this, shall we? After highlighting both Paul’s and Jesus’ use of jealousy as a means to rebuke their fellow Israelites, Kauffman writes:
But notice what Jesus says about the Samaritan leper, the Roman Centurion, the harlots and the tax collectors. Although the Samaritan leper was glorifying God, Jesus says, “Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole” (Luke 17:19). The Roman Centurion was known for his love for God’s people, but Jesus highlights his faith (Luke 7:9). Jesus likened the harlots and tax collectors to the first son who “did the will of his father” (Matthew 21:29-31). But when He explained the Parable, He observed that John the Baptist came preaching, and “the publicans and the harlots believed him” (Matthew 21:32). Jesus said of the harlot at the Pharisee’s house, “she loved much” (Luke 7:47), but then he turned to her and said, “Thy faith hath saved thee” (Luke 7:50). On all these occasions, the objects of Jesus’ teaching lessons were performing works in accordance with the law, and in fact were excelling the Jews in their obedience, but He does not point to the Law as the cause of their healing or their salvation. He points to faith. This is the Man from Whom Paul learned his gospel, and it is Jesus who explained the Jealousy Narrative to him in the first place (Galatians 1:11-12). We should not be surprised that Paul takes the same approach in Romans.
I have no real arguments here. Kauffman then shows how Paul is using the “jealousy narrative” in Romans 2 in order to create envy in the hearts of his kinsmen and thereby bring them to salvation. He concludes:
What has Paul done? He has stirred the Jews to jealousy by doing exactly what Jesus did throughout His ministry: he is stating explicitly that believing Gentiles* are better at obeying the law than unbelieving Jews. These unbelieving Jews are “the hearers of the Law,” but the believing Gentiles are “the doers of the Law,” just as Jesus had portrayed them in the Gospel accounts. When Paul says “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified,” he is simply saying that it is the believing Gentiles who will be justified, not the unbelieving Jews. This is simply the parable of the Tax Collector and the Pharisee writ large. It is the tax collector, not the pharisee, who “went down to his house justified” (Luke 18:14). All that remains after Romans 2 is to identify the instrumental means of their justification—faith or works?
We note, significantly, that Paul did not say “the doers of the law will be justified by doing the law.” In fact he denies that explicitly in the next chapter: “by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified … Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3:20-28). Taken together, the message of Romans 2 and 3 is that the doers of the law will be justified by faith, apart from the works of the law. This is justification by faith alone, but speaks powerfully to the transformative effects of regeneration: He “gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:14).
A couple things to note here. First, Kauffman tries to create a distance between law-keeping and justification that the text does not warrant (although Reformed theology certainly requires it). In vv. 6ff, Paul writes:
For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
It sure sounds like Paul sees a causal connection between one’s do-gooding and his final salvation, as well as between another’s do-badding and his final condemnation. This should not surprise us, since Jesus himself made it very clear that on the last Day, “those who have done good” will come forth to “the resurrection of life,” while “the resurrection of condemnation” awaits “those who have done evil ” (John 5:29). This is also consistent with James’ clear teaching that “a person is justified by works, and not by faith alone” (2:24).
The real question, of course, is how, given the sin problem, can it be said that anyone can offer to God good works sufficient to contribute to his final salvation? The answer (on which Paul will expand in ch. 8) is obvious, and is plainly stated in the passage we’re considering: It is by the New Covenant gift of the Spirit that we can exhibit the love of God and neighbor that fulfills the law and pleases the Father. Paul writes:
[Gentiles] show that what the law requires is written on their hearts. . . . For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God (vv.15, 28-29).
This is perfectly in keeping with Romans 8:1-4:
There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
And Galatians 5:4-6, 6:8
You who want to be justified by the law have cut yourselves off from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything; the only thing that counts is faith working through love. . . . If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life.
It simply could not be more Pauline to say that (1) love fulfills the law, (2) love is the fruit of the Spirit, and (3) sowing to the Spirit by loving God and neighbor results in the reaping of everlasting life (and last I checked, there’s not really a more causal relationship out there than that of sowing and reaping). What Romans 2:13 shows, therefore, is that the way the Jews are confounded and moved to jealousy is by watching Spirit-indwelt Gentiles be justified by exhibiting “the obedience of faith” under the New Covenant, which is why Paul ends the letter thusly:
Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith — to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.
Is justification by faith? Yes. Is it by faith apart from the works of the law? Indeed. But is justification by faith apart from Spirit-wrought works of sacrifice and love? Nope. At least not according to Paul. . . .