A question on Romans 2 and the exclusivity of the finished work of Jesus

Discussion in 'Baptist Theology & Bible Study' started by ChosenByGod7, Jun 29, 2006.

  1. ChosenByGod7

    ChosenByGod7
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Jun 25, 2006
    Messages:
    4
    Likes Received:
    0
    The other night, my wife and I watched The Last Samurai on AMC. Throughout the film, we see the lifestyle that this people live. It's a life of discipline and compassion and respect. Everyone is everyone else's servant. The home is a home that would be in line with what Paul teaches in Ephesians 5. THese people's lives reflected the law and commands of Scripture in as perfect a manner as any human can, and they had never heard the gospel.

    Upon finishing the movie, my wife said to me something to the effect of, "I have a hard time believing that people like that are burning in hell...people who have never heard the gospel but are faithful like that to a life that mirrors Christian principles." So we started talking about the exclusiveness of Jesus' claims and then I remembered a passage of Scripture about Gentiles and the law. Here is the passage; my thoughts and question will follow.

    For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (Romans 2:12-16 ESV)

    From the reading of this passage, it appears as though there is some sense in which there is redemption for people who have never heard the Gospel story. Not like a universalist idea, but an idea that someone who is faithful to the law but doesn't have the law is excused while those who live lives that aren't faithful to the law are accused.

    In light of this, have we become too exclusive about who Jesus' work applies to? I am a Calvinist, and I do believe in a particular atonement. I believe that only the elect have their sins atoned for (or only those who have faith in Christ have their sins atoned for). Is it posssible, though, that, in our zeal to spread the Gospel, we have made Jesus' work and mission here more exclusive than even He did? Could Jesus' finished work on the cross be more inclusive than we normally preach it?
     
  2. J.D.

    J.D.
    Expand Collapse
    Active Member

    Joined:
    Feb 21, 2006
    Messages:
    3,553
    Likes Received:
    8
    Hello Chosen, looks like nobody wants to touch this one or are to tied up with Brobob and Webdog and their rantings against the TULIP. Anyway I'd like to take a stab at your issue.

    First of all, in regards to the upright lifestyle your seeing on the show, they're probably not telling you the whole story. You should think about sending a PM to JohnofJapan to get a better insight into eastern asian cultures.

    Secondly, let's accept your perception of these people as true. This would illustrate something that was on my mind today. We have to always be careful not to equate moralism with saving faith. Being a full 5 point calvinist myself, and fully believing in perserverence, and that good works are the means by which we grow in confidence in the Lord; nevertheless we calvinists must earn our antinomian accusations by separating the moral works of man from the inner heart-workings of God.

    Let me describe it further this way:

    1. The saved man (regenerated and converted) can not walk continuously in sin (I John)

    2. Therefore, we expect the saved man will be moral.

    3. But the converse is not necessarily true. The moral man may not be saved.

    4. So the acid test of salvation, if there were one, would not be moralistic achievement. I would think rather that it would be one's BELIEF AND WORKS, not just works.

    5. Law is a universal witness against man. Wherever their is law (and that is everywhere), man rebels against it. This is the law which condemns the Gentiles even though they didn't have the revealed divine law of Moses.

    6. Strict discipline may make a people bend to the law, but will not necissarily make them love it. This is why God has to give us new hearts of flesh.

    7. The heart of the most moral man may be black with sin.

    8. Also, you touched on an interesting subject to me. There is a doctrine that says that God has, and always has had, elect people in all nations throughout the world. It goes that these people are are regenerate and are saved for the eternal kingdom of God whether they ever hear the gospel or not. This must be possible, for if God can only save by means of the gospel, how would infants or those with undeveloped minds ever be saved? So then regeneration is the direct act of God apart from means, and the gospel conversion is a blessing to those whom God has chosen for this blessing. The regeneration by the Spirit is the invisible work of God in our hearts, while subsequent to that the Gospel salvation is our knowledgable, visible, awakening to that invisible work. The Primitive Baptists are champions of this doctrine but many other calvinists accept it also.

    So I believe gentiles can be justified by God even though they may not have the gospel, but in no case are they justified by law.

    Jesus' work on the cross is as inclusive as He desires it to be, and all He desires, without exception, will be justified and saved.
     
  3. russell55

    russell55
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    2,424
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think the idea in this passage is that even those without the law know instinctively what they ought to be doing, and sometimes they do it, which shows that they have some idea of what the right standard is, and when they don't do it, they know it's wrong.

    No one keeps the law perfectly--or even their own standards perfectly, so everyone--even those who don't have the law--stands condemned. Romans 3:23 tells us this. All (and in context that's those with the law and those without the law) have sinned.

    Those who are justified are justified not by keeping the law (because everyone breaks it), but through the propitiation of Christ, which comes through faith (Romans 3:24ff). So it's only those of faith who are justified through the propitiation of Christ.
     
  4. Tom Butler

    Tom Butler
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 20, 2005
    Messages:
    9,031
    Likes Received:
    0
    Russel55, to follow up on your post, the fact that they cannot live up to their own moral code will be the basis of their condemnation.

    Another BB member, Joseph Botwinick holds that the basis of their condemnation very well could be that they rejected the Creator who reveals himself in the creation--the Creator being God the Son (John 1:1ff).

    Either way, they are without excuse.
     
  5. russell55

    russell55
    Expand Collapse
    New Member

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2002
    Messages:
    2,424
    Likes Received:
    0
    I'd say rejecting the Creator is breaking commandment #1, and what Romans 1 is telling us is that even those who've never been exposed to a written version of God's law know there is a creator God to whom they are obligated to give glory and thanks. They purposefully choose to worship something more creature-like than the eternal invisible "wholly other" creator God they know exists.

    In response to that God gives them up to other sins, and those other sins add to their condemnation (Romans 1:32).
     
    #5 russell55, Jun 30, 2006
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 30, 2006
  6. Dave

    Dave
    Expand Collapse
    Member

    Joined:
    Jan 23, 2004
    Messages:
    275
    Likes Received:
    0
    I think that we need to be careful not to pick a piece of Paul's legal argument in Romans out of its context. Paul is developing an argument through the first few chapters of Romans that culminates in Romans 3:23.

    As others have posted, the statement in Romans 2 that you cite is not saying that those who keep the moral law are saved, but rather is making the point that when they keep the moral law, they are witnesses against themselves that God put the law within their hearts.

    Remember that it is impossible to keep the law perfectly. Even if you followed the letter of the law precisely (as if even that were possible), you would fail in the spirit of the law. Even one single lie, or selfish thought would condemn to an eternity of hell. That is why all have sinned. All need the savior. He is the only way that man can have fellowship with God.
     

Share This Page

Loading...