Doers of the Law Will be Justified

Doers of the Law Will be Justified?

What does Romans 2:13 mean?

Posted on May 19, 2022 by Paul Ellis // 10 Comments

Was the Apostle Paul confused when he wrote Romans 2:13? Because this verse doesn’t seem to belong in the Bible:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. (Romans 2:13)

Doers of the law will be justified?!

Was Paul having a senior moment? Did he forget to insert the word NOT?

There is an easy explanation for this strange verse, which we’ll get to in a minute. But first, let’s be clear: we are justified by faith alone and NOT by keeping the law.

Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

Justification by faith is one of the great themes of Paul’s writing. Again and again, he reminds us that we are justified or made right with God through faith in his Son (Rom. 3:28, Gal. 3:24).

Since we are justified by faith, and the law is not of faith (Gal. 3:12), no one can ever be justified by keeping the law.

By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in his sight. (Romans 3:20)

And one more time for emphasis:

We know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. (Galatians 2:16)

Paul could not be any clearer. We’re justified by faith not law. Try to impress God with your law-keeping, and you’ll fall from grace and cut yourself off from Christ:

You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. (Galatians 5:4)

So with such a clear message (faith, not law), why does Paul say doers of the law will be justified?

Doers of the law

Paul was not saying, “Try and keep the law and you will justify yourself before God,” for that would contradict what he says elsewhere about being justified by faith.

He was saying, “hearing the law is not enough, you have to keep it – and none of you can!”

In context, Paul was speaking to people who knew the law (Rom. 7:1). Like many believers, they had been raised on a diet of rules. They thought if they heard the rules, studied the rules, and hung them on their walls, God would be impressed.

Nope.

Going to church and hearing the rules is not enough.

Teaching the rules and condemning those who break them is not enough.

Lobbying for God’s law to be hung on courthouses is not enough.

You have to keep all the rules and no one can.

It is impossible for imperfect man to deliver a lifetime of perfect performance. Paul is not calling us to attempt the impossible; he’s trying to get us to admit defeat.

Doers of the law will be justified, but you are not and never can be a doer of the law.

There was only one Doer of the law who was made right with God and that Doer offers you his righteousness as a free gift.

So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24)

To be justified means God has judged you righteous and not guilty of sin. To be justified is to be made right with God.

You cannot earn the gift of righteousness and you cannot justify yourself before God. The only thing you can do is receive his righteousness by faith.

Want to get right with God?

Start by thanking him for Jesus who was made sin so that you might be justified and made righteous (2 Cor. 5:21).

You are not justified or made right with God because of anything you do, but because of everything he has done.

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Want to learn more about justification, righteousness, and the law? Check out our ever-expanding Grace Glossary.

Read more articles and these frequently-asked questions about the law.

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10 Comments on Doers of the Law Will be Justified?

  1.  Chris C // May 19, 2022 at 5:02 am // ReplyBoy, oh boy, your words… “They thought if they heard the rules, studied the rules, and hung them on their walls, God would be impressed. Nope. Going to church and hearing the rules is not enough. Teaching the rules and condemning those who break them is not enough.” …sure cut to the chase. Too many folks doing this without realizing that that’s the sum total of their ‘faith’. Thank you for continuing to remind us of the gift of Grace and our ever recurring tendency to add our own little bit of ‘doing’ for ‘good measure’.
  2.  Peter Wilson // May 19, 2022 at 5:21 am // ReplyHi Paul!
    I doff my cap to you! You have answered a riddle for me! I couldn’t grasp Rom 2:13 until you’ve explained it in your writing here! Not only that, I also didn’t know this:“Since we are justified by faith, and the law is not of faith (Gal. 3:12), no one can ever be justified by keeping the law!”It matters not how simple something may be. Until the Lord lifts the veil, we are blind to it! I was blind but now I see! 🙈🫣😀 You’ve now removed another stumbling block that anti-grace people can use against us! I give you 12 out of 10 for posting these truths!
    👏👏👏👏👏 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️Thanks Mate! 👍
  3.  Mike Cara // May 19, 2022 at 5:39 am // Reply“ God has judged you righteous and not guilty of sin.” Do you think it’s morally right for a judge to judge you righteous and not guilty of sin when you in fact are guilty of sin? I guess one could say that Jesus paid for that sin, but if he paid for it then we’re not judged righteous… We are judged guilty in the debt paid…
  4.  LJP // May 19, 2022 at 9:22 am // ReplyThe word for law in these verses means God’s instruction or teaching. I would say it’s God showing us His ways…His love, His grace, His completed work. Verse 15 goes on to say “the law written in their hearts”, which I believe further confirms that he’s not referring to Mosaic law. Matthew 4:4 says “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God”. This is how Jesus lived, a living relationship with a living Father, not a dead relationship with stone tablets.
    •  Paul Ellis // May 19, 2022 at 10:00 am // ReplyHi LJP, from the context it seems that Paul is referring to “the Law of Moses” (see verse 12) which the Gentiles do not have (verse 14) except in the form of a moral conscience (verse 15). He’s speaking about the law of the Jews, “The Jews have the Law” (12), and how they boast in their ability to keep it (17). He calls them out on this. “You’re all talk and no action.”It does not help that the law written on our hearts has two different meanings in scripture. When Paul speaks of the Gentiles having a kind of law written in their hearts, he is referring to the conscience we inherited from Adam (Rom. 2:14–15). In contrast, the law that God writes on the hearts of his children refers to the indwelling Spirit (a.k.a. the law of the Spirit of life) and the believer’s union with Christ (Jer. 31:33–34, Heb. 8:10, 10:16). More here.
  5.  megagenius // May 19, 2022 at 10:45 am // ReplyThe law was given to press us into God so we could be justified by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.
  6.  Alex // May 20, 2022 at 2:06 am // ReplyAs Dr. Ellis has written, our salvation (justification) is entirely of God. It is by grace through faith and not of any works. But, after justification, and in our process in being conformed to the image of our Lord Jesus, James (1:22) states we are to be doers of the word and not hearers only. Do we then apply God’s moral laws and righteous character in our lives as we mature and grow in our daily sanctification walk?The root of our salvation is always faith/grace, but then the proof/results of that saving faith is to bear fruit and works that glorify and honor God. I assume our good works manifest in repentance, obedience to God’s word, belief in Jesus, and to love God and our neighbors. So, is there a difference between our justification by faith alone, and then our call to progress in sanctification and to pursue righteousness as we grow into the image of Jesus?Someone has said that we work out what Jesus has worked in. I assume that this is what is meant in Phil 2:12 to “work out your salvation”, and in James 2:24 when it says a man is “justified by works, and not by faith alone”?

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