A Major Contradiction in the Scriptures?
By David J. Stewart
2nd Peter 3:16, "As also in all his [Paul's] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest [twist], as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction."
A False Plan of Salvation
There's a religious tract published and distributed freely online by evangelicaloutreach.org which teaches a FALSE GOSPEL. The author requires lost sinners to . . .
“Persist in doing good so God will give you eternal life (Rom. 2:7).”
SOURCE: The Lake of Fire or Heaven: Salvation, Eternal Life
Tragically, the author of the preceding statement is woefully ignorant of the Scriptures. Romans 2:7 says, “To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life.” Taken by itself, Romans 2:7 would seem to imply that good works are required for salvation. An even more powerful Scripture that would seem to support this same notion is found in Romans 2:13, “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” Now please careful read Romans 3:20, “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.” We have a 100% direct contradiction here. Indeed, this has confused many people who are ignorant of the Scriptures, including the author of the evangelicaloutreach.org website.
So what is the answer? Which is it... are we justified by obeying the works of the Law or not? Romans 2:13 says, YES. Romans 3:20 says, NO. Why the contradiction? What's going on here?
The answer is quite simple. There were a group of Jews in Paul's time who believed that they could be saved by keeping the Law. This is abundantly clear from Romans 2:17, “Behold, thou art called a Jew, and restest in the law, and makest thy boast of God.” Those Jews were RESTING, or relying upon the keeping of God's Law, to save them. The Apostle Paul goes on, from Romans 2:18 to Romans 3:19, to inform the Jews that they hadn't done a very good job of keeping the Law and were a bunch of hypocrites! He concludes his indictment against them with Romans 3:20, “THEREFORE by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.”
Just as the author of evangelicaloutreach.org errantly wrestles the Scriptures, so also did the Jews foolishly think that salvation requires our own self-righteousness. Paul told the Jews in Romans 2:7-13 that if they were to be justified by the Law, then they would have to KEEP IT
100%;but none of them had, which is plainly stated in Romans 3:12, “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” The Jews were resting in a false hope, thinking that they had kept the Law to God's satisfaction; but Paul clearly points out that they had utterly failed to do so. It is impossible for any man or woman to keep God's Law perfectly. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” Paul makes clear that the PURPOSE of God's Law is to show men their sinful condition, “...for by the law is the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20b).
The Apostle Paul reiterates the purpose of God's Law in Romans 7:13, “Was then that which is good made death unto me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful.” The Law shows mankind his inability to please God in his own self-righteousness. No one can keep the whole Law of God, no one. We all fall short of pleasing God. Mankind tried to keep God's Law and utterly failed. God's Law had served its purpose in showing men their sinful condition and; thus, need for a Savior. God DIDN'T give us the Law to merit or work our way into Heaven. This is what many people foolishly believe. That is self-righteousness. Persisting to do good is NOT a part of salvation as the author of evangelicaloutreach.org teaches.
There is NO contradiction in the Scriptures. Salvation is by God's grace through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Whether or not a person is willing to change their sinful habits has nothing to do with being saved. A changed life is the FRUIT of genuine repentance and not a part of the ROOT of saving-faith. Salvation is receiving; not giving. Eternal life is God's gift to fallen humanity (Romans 5:15; 6:23).
Certainly, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2nd Corinthians 5:17); however, the spiritual regeneration which has taken place (i.e., the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ) doesn't mean that immediate reformation will follow. Growth in grace takes time. 1st Peter 2:2 teaches this Biblical truth, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.” Expecting a babe in Christ to forsake their sinful habits is like expecting a baby to run a marathon. I am not approving of sin or saying it's acceptable for a believer to continue living in sin, not at all; I am simply saying that salvation has absolutely NOTHING to do with cleaning up one's life. The changed life comes AFTER a person is saved, as a result of being saved; and not as a requirement to be saved. That's the big difference that so many people don't understand. Salvation is obtained solely by Christ's righteousness, and not by our own self-righteousness or human effort in any way.
John 6:29, “Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom he hath sent.” The only work which God requires from a lost sinner to be saved is that he or she BELIEVE ON THE LORD JESUS CHRIST.