The Obedience of Faith in the Letter to the Romans Part II: The Obedience of Faith and Judgment by Works -- By: Don B. Garlington

Journal: Westminster Theological Journal
Volume: WTJ 53:1 (Spring 1991)
Article: The Obedience of Faith in the Letter to the Romans Part II: The Obedience of Faith and Judgment by Works
Author: Don B. Garlington


The Obedience of Faith in the Letter to the Romans Part II: The Obedience of Faith and Judgment by Works

Don B. Garlington

The previous study of the obedience of faith in Romans was an attempt to determine exegetically the meaning of Paul’s unique phrase ὑπακοὴ πίστεως. It was concluded that the phrase is deliberately ambiguous, denoting simultaneously the obedience which is faith and the obedience which is the product of faith. Because of its essentially two-sided character, it was suggested that the notion of faith’s obedience provides the link between present justification by faith alone and future judgment according to works. Since faith, obedience, and judgment generally in Paul are such well-worn territory,1 the scope of this article is restricted to an examination of the relation of the obedience of faith to final vindication (justification) in the day of judgment. In particular our attention will be focused on the theology of Rom 2:13.

In his seminal study of “The Eschatological Aspect of the Pauline Conception of the Spirit,”2 G. Vos comments that the biblical idea of “salvation” is, strictly speaking, a future condition (“immunity from the condemnation of the last day”) which has been projected back into the present. Similarly:

Justification is, of course, to Paul the basis on which the whole Christian state rests, and in so far eminently concerns the present, and yet in its finality and comprehensiveness, covering not merely time but likewise eternity, it presents remarkable analogies to the absolute vindication expected at the end.3

The impact of Vos’ remarks is that justification, as any other facet of soteriology, transpires in stages, corresponding to salvation inaugurated and salvation consummated. The problem, however, is not so much the recognition of this basic datum as is the presence of biblical—particularly NT—passages which ground eschatological justification in the works of the individual. We think, for instance, of Jesus’ warning to the Pharisees: “I tell you, on the day of judgment men will render account for every careless word they utter; for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned” (Matt 12:36–37). All the more striking because of its author is the pronouncement of Rom 2:13: “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before ...

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