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Judgment According to Works in Romans

The Meaning and Function of Divine Judgment in Paul's Most Important Letter

By Kevin W. McFadden

Publication Year: 2013

Giving careful exegetical attention to Paul’s letter to the Romans, Kevin W. McFadden shows that Paul wrote the letter to remind Roman Christians of his gospel because of his vocation as apostle to the Gentiles. The letter simultaneously demonstrates the guilt of the world and calls Paul’s audience to live out the implications of the gospel. The theme of judgment thus appears in two distinct ways. Paul opposes justification by works of law, but simultaneously affirms––as did most of the early Christian movement, McFadden argues––a final judgment according to works. These are not contradictory observations but belong together in a cohesive understanding of Paul’s theology and of his purpose in the letter. McFadden turns at last to the implications of his study for a reassessment of Protestant interpretation of Paul, and of the present impasse in interpretation caused by hasty or inexact generalizations made within the “New Perspective.”

Published by: Augsburg Fortress Publishers

Series: Emerging Scholars

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. 2-7


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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xii

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pp. xiii-xiv

“Judgment according to works” and Pauline theology don’t belong in the same universe for many scholars. Some, simply explaining the troublesome verses away, argue that Paul couldn’t have believed in a judgment according to works, since he believed in justification by faith alone. Others see the theme in Paul’s writings and conclude that Paul’s theology doesn’t cohere logically. Paul ends...

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pp. xv-xvi

This book is a revised form of my dissertation, completed at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. Many have contributed to this study both intellectually and personally. My interest in the topic began with Jon Pratt’s class on Galatians and Bill Combs’s class on Romans. It was stimulated at Southern Seminary by my courses and personal interaction with Tom Schreiner...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-20

The theme of judgment according to works in Paul was the subject of more than ten monographs in the twentieth century. Indeed, if I had known when I became interested in this topic how many of these were written in German, I might have been tempted to find a quieter cove of Pauline theology, where the water is less turbulent. Why has so much been written on one topic? Because...

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2. “The Wrath of God Is Revealed from Heaven” (Rom. 1:18-32)

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pp. 21-42

Previous treatments of judgment in Paul only briefly discuss the presence of the motif in Rom. 1:18-32.1 The initial task of this chapter will therefore be to establish that the passage is the first sustained explanation of the theme of divine judgment according to works in the epistle to the Romans. Next, the chapter will examine the meaning of judgment in 1:18-32, following the elements of...

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3. “God Will Repay Each Person according to Their Works” (Rom. 2:1-29)

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pp. 43-62

Romans 2 gives “one of the fullest descriptions of the final judgment in all early Christian writing,” as N. T. Wright has observed.1 The chapter has also generated a good bit of interpretive debate among scholars in the past few decades. This debate arises from the attempt to reconcile seeming contradictions in the text—namely, how does Paul’s description of Gentiles who complete...

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4. “Is the God Who Inflicts Wrath Unrighteous?” (Rom. 3:1-8)

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pp. 63-82

I have argued that judgment functions as an accusation against the Gentile world in Rom. 1:18-32 and as an accusation against the Jewish people in 2:1-29. Paul draws his accusation to a close in 3:9-20, but first he answers several objections. Romans 3:1-8 is a digression in the larger argument of the letter,1 and thus my discussion of judgment in the passage may strike readers as a...

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5. “No Human Being Will Be Justified before God” (Rom. 3:9-20)

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pp. 83-102

Romans 3:9-20 sums up the first major argument in Paul’s letter to the Romans (1:18—3:20).1 Thus my study of judgment in 3:9-20 will also summarize the meaning and function of the motif in all of 1:18—3:20. In the history of interpretation, most have read Rom. 1:18—3:20 as a universal accusation of sin, but a growing number of scholars now argue that these verses do not make...

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6. “Each of Us Will Give an Account of Ourselves to God” (Rom. 14:1-23)

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pp. 103-120

Paul’s description of the final judgment in Romans 2 reappears again in Rom. 14:1-23.1 Many scholars have observed similarities between these two passages—both speak of the divine judgment in order to address the problem of human judgment, and both use the rhetorical device of diatribe. Some have suggested a close connection between the two passages. However, I will argue...

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7. Judgment and Justification in Romans

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pp. 121-138

Having examined the meaning and function of divine judgment in Romans, I will now examine the relationship between judgment and justification by faith in Romans. My discussion will interact with current debates about justification in biblical and theological studies, but my goal in this chapter is not to discuss these debates exhaustively.1 Nor is it to present a solution to the tension...

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8. Making Sense of Romans 2

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pp. 139-154

Paul’s description of the final judgment in Romans 2 has raised exegetical and theological questions since the beginning of Christian commentary on the letter. Origen pondered how God’s judgment could be according to truth if he also forgives people’s sins.1 Augustine changed his mind about the identity of the Gentiles in 2:14-15.2 And more recently, the interpretive tensions in...

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9. Conclusion

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pp. 155-164

In one of the earliest references to the collection of Paul’s letters, a pastor reminds his Christian readers, in light of the seeming delay of God’s judgment, to “consider the patience of our Lord to be salvation, as also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given to him” (2 Pet. 3:15). It is possible that he speaks of Rom. 2:4, where Paul says that the patience of God...


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pp. 165-184

Index of Names

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pp. 185-188

Index of Biblical and Ancient Literature References

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pp. 189-196

Back Cover

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p. 214-214

E-ISBN-13: 9781451469776
E-ISBN-10: 1451469772
Print-ISBN-13: 9781451465679
Print-ISBN-10: 145146567X

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013

Series Title: Emerging Scholars