Who will render to every man according to his deeds:…
That the anticipation of a judgment rises naturally in the mind is shown by the present testimony of conscience - a law recognized as in, yet above us, and by the utterances of heathen writers on morals. The Scriptures corroborate and clarify this conception. The apostle asserts of the future what Abraham felt of the present Providence, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? Will he slay the righteous with the wicked?" Note some particulars confirming the righteousness of God's judgment.
I. THE RECOMPENSE WILL BE PROPORTIONED TO MEN'S DEEDS. Not their professions, but their acts, will determine their destiny. And the character and number of their acts will be reckoned. There is no conflict between this statement and other Scripture passages which speak of the reward as one of grace, not of merit, and as a gift bestowed on all Christians. For the reward will be immensely greater than men's deeds deserve, and will not be earned by them, but conditioned by their conduct. The gospel comes not as a substitute for, but as a help to realizing, practical righteousness; and whilst every justified believer will be saved, each will have the praise that is his, according to his works of faith and labours of love.
II. THE JUDGMENT WILL TAKE ACCOUNT OF MEN'S AIMS IN LIFE, The one class seek "glory, honour, and incorruption," and also "peace." Their choice does them credit; they selected what is fair and lovely and permanent, what is opposed to the rule of the flesh, and is unaffected by the ravages of time. Their goal is not the "vain pomp and glory of the world;" not simply success, but to reach a position of pure, lasting excellence. And they shall receive in fullest measure what they desire. "Eternal life' comprehends all blessedness - deliverance from the thraldom of sin; no need to gather up the skirts lest defilement ensue, for the very streets of their city shall be of pure gold; enwrapment with the Divine splendour; walking in the light of God; manifested as his sons by the likeness they wear; elevated to princely employments and regal dignities. The objects for which the other class strive are not definitely stated, but may be gathered from antithesis and from the unrighteousness to which they yield themselves. They seek not "peace" and "truth," and their harvest likewise is the multiplied outcome of the seeds they have sown. No description of hell can transcend the awful picture of" wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish," resting upon the soul; that, clasping unrighteousness to its bosom as a prize on earth, finds it sting like a serpent and burn with fiercest remorse when allowed full sway in its "own place."
III. THE AWARD WILL BEAR RELATION TO THE METHODS BY WHICH THE OBJECTS OF EARTHLY ENDEAVOUR HAVE BEEN PURSUED. A righteous aim can be permanently attained only in righteous ways. The recognition of this stamps the government of the universe as moral. The "patient continuance" of the one class could only be practised by the well-doing. It includes passive endurance and active perseverance; the stationary posture of the caryatides, and the carrying of a burden in the face of wind and storm. The other class are described as "factious," quarrelling with their lot, coveting pleasure and notoriety, "working evil." Refusing to bow to the yoke of truth, they become the slaves of unrighteousness; and a hard master and terrible paymaster does unrighteousness prove. The judgment of God will proceed on easily intelligible principles. It is not difficult for men to decide whether they are working good or working evil. It is not reaching a conclusion after abstract speculation, nor holding a creed with multitudinous details. Only an omniscient Judge, however, could bring to light the hidden deeds of darkness, the secret thing, good or bad.
IV. THE JUDGE WILL OBSERVE RIGOROUS IMPARTIALITY. With him "is no respect of persons." Jew and Greek shall be tried with due regard to the presence or absence of religious light (cf. Acts 10:35 in the history of Cornelius). It is impossible to bribe the almighty Arbiter or to overawe his tribunal. The anticipation of a Divine judgment has been a comfort to the oppressed, remembering that "One higher than the high regardeth;" and it will be a terror to the worker of iniquity, and an incentive to all noble deeds. "Knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men." None can complain that their condition makes it impossible to be patient in well-doing. Christ, our Pattern and our Power, offers his "very present help" to all who find the stress and strain of life too severe for mortal strength. - S.R.A.
Parallel VersesKJV: Who will render to every man according to his deeds: