Judged by Works or Faith?
The apostle Paul wrote that God, “will render to each one according to his deeds” (Romans 2:6). In this verse Paul is quoting Prov. 24:12 or Ps. 62:12 to declare that people will be judged according to their deeds. This teaching is in harmony with what the Scriptures teach as seen in the following references: Jer. 17:10; Matt. 16:27; 2 Cor. 5:10; Rev. 2:23; 20:12; 22:12, etc. Thus, everyone, will be rewarded or punished according to his genuine life and true character.
Is Paul contradicting himself?
Some have found a difficulty in understanding Paul’s statement in Romans 2:6 with his later statement in Romans 3:28, “man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Rom. 3:28). Paul is not showing here a contrast between faith and works but rather between what a person truly is and what he might claim to be.
Paul upholds that the Lord judges a man according to actual works of righteousness or unrighteousness. And later in Romans, he teaches that mere deeds of law, as contrasted with deeds of faith (1 Thess. 1:3; 2 Thess. 1:11), are not true works of righteousness (Rom. 9:31, 32).
Works will be evaluated at the Judgement
In the last judgement at the end of the world, works are seen as proof of faith. Trust in God’s grace is not a substitute for right actions and godliness. Faith can give evidence to its truthfulness and genuineness only by such evidence. “But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works” (James 2:18). God will give to every person according to his works.
To exhibit faith without works is an impossible act because faith, being an attitude of the mind, will always prove itself in external actions. One who shows an absence of good deeds also demonstrates an absence of right of genuine faith.
For example, demons believe in the existence of God (Mark 3:11; 5:7) and they tremble at the thought of their future punishment at the Judgement (Matt. 25:41; 2 Peter 2:4). Their faith may be mentally correct, but they remain demons nonetheless. No one would claim that mental correctness is faith enough. Genuine faith in God changes the life and transforms sinners into saints. “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 1:2-4).
In His service,