16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.
1901 ASV Translation:
16 in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ.
The only textual variation between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 is the order of the name "Jesus Christ" (Textus Receptus) as opposed to "Christ Jesus" (Nestle/Aland 26).
I. As Paul wraps up his polemic against the "general" idea of self-righteousness (those of humanity who think salvation is in being able to criticise others -- 2:3), he establishes one final point: God's "judgment" will be of "the secrets of the men who stand before Him in the Day of Wrath".
A. Paul actually makes four points...
1. That God is going to judge the secrets of men.
2. That He is going to do this "in the day" -- identified in the context as the Day of Revelation of His Righteousness (the Day of Retribution/Wrath).
3. That this dogma of the judgment of the secrets is "according to his Gospel".
4. That the "Judge" on that day will be Jesus Christ/Christ Jesus.
B. These points raise these issues...
1. What are the "secrets" of the men?
a. The word is used in multiple texts to refer to "actions" that are taken in such a way that they are not "generally" known as to "who" did them.
1) Some of these texts refer to actions that men take in a concealed manner to avoid seeking to be "honored" because of them (Matthew 6:4-6).
2) Some of these texts refer to actions that men take in a concealed manner to avoid being "blamed" because of them (Ephesians 5:12).
b. But, Paul tends to use it to refer, not to "actions" taken surreptitiously, but to "reasons for actions".
1) In Romans 2:29, he uses the word to indicate that what is "secret" is what is "true" -- a person is who/what he is in the inner realities of the hidden inner man.
2) In 1 Corinthians 4:5, he actually defines his meaning by saying it refers to the "counsels of the heart" (what we might call "the motives").
3) In 2 Corinthians 4:2, he refers to "craftiness" and "deceit" as "secret" (hidden) issues of "dishonesty" -- i.e., making the action taken look like it was for a good cause when it was actually for a nefarious one.
c. Conclusion: Paul is saying that God is going to examine what things men have done in light of what they hoped to accomplish by the doing of them.
2. What, in Paul's words, is "according to his Gospel"?
a. His gospel did include the warning that God will bring all of men's works under His scrutiny.
1) This is the point of 2:1-16's treatment of the eventualities of the "Day of Wrath".
2) This is a part of his Gospel in that he said in 1:1-5 that it was the Gospel that was the subject of this entire letter and, obviously, 2:1-16 is a part of the whole.
3) It was also, apparently, characteristic of Paul, in the preaching of the Gospel, to bring up "righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come" (Acts 24:25) -- unless someone wants to argue that Paul took an unusual tack when he had opportunity to address Felix.
4) It is also true that "Gospel" is weakened significantly when it has no contrasting reality (a fact that universalists seem to overlook without even looking back).
b. But, it is more likely that Paul is referring to the fact that what is "according to" his Gospel is that God is going to do this "judging" through Jesus Christ.
1) In John 5:22, and 27, Jesus said pointedly that the "Father judges no man" because He has committed "all judgment unto the Son" because the Son was willing to become a man -- thus, all men will be judged by the God Man.
2) It was also a point of fact that in Acts 17:31 Paul told the Athenians that God had appointed a day in which He would judge the world "by" the man whom He raised from the dead.
3) Thus, the "Gospel" is not so much about "salvation" from the "judgment of God" as it is about "salvation" from the judgment of the spurned Savior.
a) In Hebrews 2:18, the author makes point of the fact that Jesus is "better" able to help in that he "suffered" the problems of temptation in the same way we do. This means, any "judgment" that He makes, He makes upon the foundation of an experiential "knowing" that will leave men with absolutely nothing to say in contradiction.
b) In Hebrews 4:15, the author makes much the same point in that he claims that "because" Jesus was tempted as we are, He has a sensitivity toward us in our infirmities. This also works as a two-edged sword in that those who spurn His salvation will face Him in judgment "after" He had adequately demonstrated His willingness to save them.