What Does Romans 2:13 Mean?

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(NASB)

Verse Thoughts

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked and many interpret this verse to insist that being 'doers of the law' equates to keeping specific commandments or obeying certain rules, without understanding the shocking context of this verse. It is the general principle of 'law' and not a reference to specific commandments that is referred to here.. for the Bible, tells us that: by works of the law shall no man living be justified. And yet those that are trapped in legalism insist that this verse requires us to keep the Law of Moses; to maintain strict adherence to denomination rules and regulation or adhere to a self-imposed code of conduct.. in order to be justified. But this is not what Paul is referring to when he says: for it is not the hearers of the law who are just before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

We are not justified by carrying out the ten commandments, adherence to denomination requirements or self-imposed regulation, for in many places Scripture warns us that: by the works of the law will no man living be justified. However we are frequently reminded that we are justified by grace alone through faith alone in the finished work of Christ - alone. For almost three chapters Paul is hammering home this vital truth that nothing we can do can make us righteous before God - nothing. And he insists in many of his epistles that justification is not dependent on what WE do, but rests entirely upon what Christ has DONE - for we have all sinned and we all fall short of His perfect standard.

One by one Paul is laying out hard-hitting principles that no one is righteous before God. His clear, logical argument condemns all. The immoral man, the moral person and religious people are all guilty before God. There are none that do good in the eyes of the Lord, not even one. This indictment of all humanity concludes that every mouth is silenced before the righteousness of God - And THEN Paul starts to give the good news of salvation - that we are justified by believing on the the finished work of Christ. It is by faith in the death, burial and resurrection of the Lord Jesus alone, that man is justified.

Sinful man is blinded to his sin unless convicted of the Holy Spirit.. but God's righteous judgement is according to His Own perfect standard and not founded on man's sinful specifications. Prideful man also boast an unrepentant heart, which magnifies his own rebellion while diminishing (in his own eyes) the weight of guilt upon his proud.. unrepentant heart.

Paul hammers home for three chapters that all men are guilty before God for all have sinned and all fall short of God's unreachable standard. He warns that there is NONE that is good, not even one. He hammers home that God will judge all men according to their works - which will be based on the amount of light each has received. One group will be condemned because they did not believe the witness of nature - for the heavens declare the glory of God, but men worship and serve the creation rather than the Creator. Another group will be condemned because of the inner witness of their God-given conscience. And whether they are convicted by it or ignore its testimony.. by wilfully suppressing its condemnation - all stand guilty before a holy God - for all have sinned and all fall short of His righteous standard.

But the heart of the religious man stands equally condemned before God and yet they try to justify themselves by means of trying to keep the unattainable standards of the Mosaic Law, denominational requirements or self-imposed rules and regulations - all of which Paul warns, convicts the sinner of sin and shuts up the mouths of ALL humanity in the presence of a holy God. For there is NONE righteous - not even one.

What Paul is seeking to get across is that even self-righteous religious people have fallen far, far short of God's holy standard as outlined in the Scripture and are by no means exempt from God's righteous judgement. Trying to keep any type of legalistic rules, whether or not they are the perfect rules of God's perfect Law or the imperfect regulation of imperfect man - it is impossible for sinful, fallen creatures to reach God's impossible standard. Failure to keep the Mosaic Law, church laws or self-imposed laws imposes God's righteous judgement against everyman.. and the same penalty of death is equally imposed on the religious person as those that are condemned by their wilful ignorance of God as Creator.. or those that are convicted through their God-given consciences.

Keeping laws can never justify an unrighteous sinner for it is not the hearers of the law who is made just before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 'Doers of the law' in this passage does not refer to people who strictly keep the ten commandments or other self-imposed rules and regulations as is so often taught these days. Being doers of the law in this context comes right back to FAITH, for without faith it is impossible to please God. And so we read: THIS is the will of God that You believe on HIM Whom God has sent. DOING the law in this verse is connected with FAITH and has nothing to do with keeping any sort rules or regulations - whether they be the the Mosaic Law, man's laws or self-imposed laws.

Jesus answered and said to them, 'This is the work of God, that you believe in Him Whom He has sent'. John 6:29. 'This is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom You have sent.' John 17:3. 'Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus'. Galatians 2:16. 'For we hold that one is justified by faith.. apart from works of law'. Roman 3:28. 'For by works of the law, no human being will be justified in His sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin'. Romans 3:20.

Let us take to heart the shocking context of this verse and recognise what Paul is teaching us here that there is none good - not even one, and that trying to keep rules and laws is not what justifies us in the eyes of God but believing on the Lord Jesus Christ as our sin-substitute. Being doers of the law is rooted in faith in God and Jesus Christ Whom He sent to pay the price for our sins. For whoever believes on Him is JUSTIFIED in the eyes of God but whoever does not believe on Him is not justified, but remains condemned - through time and into eternity.

My Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank You for Your word of truth. Help me to cease from my own strivings by trying to produce works of righteousness, which You have said in Your Word can never justify me in Your sight. Help me to see clearly that the work that You require of me is to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and that being a 'doer of the word' is to trust on Him, Who alone can justify the lost sinner and Who alone is the Justifier of all who believe. Help me to see that being a 'doer of the word' is not carrying out works of the flesh or trying to adhere to works of the law, but refers to the one Who believes on Christ for salvation  - knowing that it by faith in Him and not by works of the law that we are justified .. and that it is our faith that is credited to us as righteousness, in Jesus name I pray, AMEN.

Choose a Verse from Romans 2