13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.
1901 ASV Translation:
13 for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified:
The Nestle/Aland 26 omits the definite article ("the") before the word "Law" in both of its occurances in this verse. These two omissions actually "fit" Paul's obvious meaning in the text better than the Textus Receptus' inclusion of them since "the Law" tends to mean "the Mosaic Law" and it is part of Paul's argument that there are a host of people who were never subject to that particular form of "law" -- but will, nonetheless, be judged by "law" in the Day of Wrath.
I. Perhaps the greatest issue of this particular verse is its "apparent" absolute contradiction of Romans 3:20.
A. This "apparent" contradiction is further complicated by James 1:22 and its most obvious truth.
1. James 1:22 exhorts "believers" to be doers of the Word and not merely hearers.
2. This focus upon "performance" finds a rather strong resonance in the minds of men who, typically, are very "into" performing...for the rewards attached to it.
3. But, the typically perceived "rewards" attached to performance are those which have to do with pride issues ("Look at what I can do, and applaud me for being so adept").
4. These "rewards" are actually vanity and extremely destructive to relationships which do not thrive well in the soil of pride.
5. But, regardless of these facts, it is still rather obvious that mere hearing is of no value at all -- which James very pointedly says.
B. The contradiction is, however, only "apparent".
1. Romans 2:13 is in a very clear and specific context.
a. The declaration that only those who do the requirements of "law" will be "justified" is the final statement of how the Day of Wrath will be carried out.
1) This raises this question: What does it mean to be "justified"?
a) The term is used in many places in Scripture.
b) Its roots in "righteousness" signals a definitive link to the issue of the nature of a person's "doings" in specific regard to whether those "doings" have inflicted damage upon anyone. The domain of righteousness is relationships, and the issue of righteousness is the issue of whether any kind of unwarranted damage has been inflicted upon anyone. The operative word here is "unwarranted". It is tied to the question of whether the action a person takes toward another is legitimate in at least two ways: first, is the person who is the recipient of the action a legally legitimate object of that particular action?; and, second, is the action itself a legitimate expression of the person who takes it?
i. The question of "legitimacy in terms of object" is the question of whether the person who is the object of the action is damaged by the action, and, if so, was the damage "deserved"?
(a) If there is no "damage", there is no issue of "righteousness".
(b) If there is "damage", righteousness requires true guilt and "legal" retaliation (does the punishment fit the crime?).
ii. The question of "legitimacy in terms of expression" is the question of whether the person who does the action is properly expressing his/her true identity as a divinely established steward?
(a) "Inflictions of damage", to be legitimate, must be accomplished by a person, or persons, who have a stewardship of responsibility to inflict the particular kind of damage that is in view.
(b) If, for instance, a private citizen executes a criminal for some capital crime without a basis in law, the action, though deserved by the criminal, is "unjust" because the private citizen did not have the credentials required to execute the person.
2) The application of "justification" to Paul's argument: the evaluation of a person's "doings" results in either being "justified" or "rejected".
b. This declaration is designed to be a part of the explanation of Paul's claim that God is no respecter of persons, a declaration that has to have the particular focus on the Day of Wrath to be understood properly.
c. This declaration is also deliberately made in respect to the specific attitude of arrogance identified in 2:1-3.
d. In the light of the impenitence of 2:4-5, Paul lowers the boom with the statement that only the doers of what is right will be just before God. Those who dare to approach God for acceptance based upon the arrogance of their self-deluded sense of "accomplishment" will find out, on the Day of Wrath, that their pride has caused them to be rejected by God because of their flawed performance of the laws under which they lived and deceived themselves. To those who demand of God that He judge them on the basis of their works, God will say "OK" -- and then He will proceed to do that and point out, at every turn, just how flawed were their works. Then, He will assign them their place with the hypocrites (Matthew 24:51) and the proudly self-deluded.
2. Likewise, Romans 3:20 has a very clear and specific context.
a. Romans 3:20 is the summary conclusion of the argument of Romans 1:18-3:19 (carefully including 3:9 as Paul's clear statement of "intentionality" for that material--i.e., "proving that humanity is under sin").
b. Thus, we can see that 2:13 was a statement made within a constricted context and 3:20 is a summary statement of a very extended context.
1) The constricted context says that the doers of law will be justified in the Day of Wrath -- if, in fact, anyone is justified at all.
2) The extended context says that the "if" is actually highly theoretical...no one will be justified by their performance of law.
II. The Particulars of the Statement.
A. When Paul wrote "for [it is] not the hearers of law [who are] righteous before God...", he set his context once again.
1. The "before God" phrase actually means something like "in the face off between God and every individual". This, with its overtones of "Day of Wrath" truth, means that God is the Judge and man is the accused.
2. The word "righteous" means "having done only that which is legally legitimate to others and having refrained from doing anything that does not carry that legitimacy along with it". Its overtones are those of relationships and how the various "works" (as seeds sown into a field of relationship-fruit) affect them.
3. The "not the hearers of law" means that righteous works do not arise from mere hearing. This is not a criticism of hearing as a method for obtaining a correct understanding of the various laws of relational reality. It is, rather, a criticism of what Paul addressed earlier in 2:1-3 -- the notion that knowledge is a sufficient end in itself.
B. Then there is the "...but the doers of law shall be justified."
1. The "doers" are "those who perform unto production". They actually produce the intended result of "law".
2. The "shall be justified" is a proclamation of the result of actual accomplishment.
a. This is not a statement that anyone will be justified on that day.
b. It is merely a statement of the principle that will be in place on that day when the "face-off" takes place.
c. This is a statement that God will acknowledge the "legitimacy" of a person who is found to be "righteous" (without the guilt of unwarranted, damage-inflicting behavior).