Romans 2 – Thoughts on Accountability and Free Agency

There are many passages in the writings of Paul that point to our free agency and the need to choose God, to repent, and to live the teachings of the Gospel in order to receive the gifts of forgiveness and eternal life. Romans 2 is one relevant passage:

4 Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?
5 But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
6 Who will render to every man according to his deeds:
7 To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
8 But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath,
9 Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile;
10 But glory, honour, and peace, to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Gentile:
11 For there is no respect of persons with God.

The goodness of God leads us – but does not compel us – to repent. And we need to repent, for we will be held accountable for our deeds.

As verse 7 indicates, God gives eternal life “to them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality.” Gasp – that sounds like that dread cult featured in The Godmakers. Can any real Christian possibly think that patient enduring in faith unto the end is expected of them? And what can we say of those lost souls who dare to seek glory, honor, and peace in the kingdom of God?

God, of course, is just. He is no “respecter of persons.” In the end, He is fair to all, regardless of whether they are Jew or Gentile, born before or after Christ, or born in a nation where Christianity exists or not. He does not arbitrarily will some to suffer in hell and others to go to heaven, independent of the choices and actions of humans in response to the gift of grace that He offers.

Romans 2 presupposes that we have at least enough agency to choose God and repent, and to be held accountable for what we do, whether we choose to patiently follow God and receive the gift of eternal life, or to choose to rebel against God and receive something far less. We are accountable, we have agency, and we need to repent and “obey the truth.” Obey?? Ah, there is that hallmark of both modern and ancient cultists: the ever-offensive call to obey, as if our obedience and endurance had anything to do with accepting the grace God offers.


Author: Jeff Lindsay

13 thoughts on “Romans 2 – Thoughts on Accountability and Free Agency

  1. Hey Jeff,

    I’m about to start on my next epistle to Teranno4x4 😉 Obviously I stumbled upon this and I like verse 6 for yet again pointing out that we need to do something. Often called work. Great to see your still around. Hope that you and your family is well.


  2. Ah, excellent! Thank you for kindly facilitating these discussions Jeff; 140-plus comments is erring toward excessive.

  3. Excessive may be but great to discuss these issues. I remember when I first joined the church I had no one to talk to about all the new ideas the church has to offer. Thanks Jeff and Al Gore for the internet.

  4. Jeff,

    This is all very well pointing to passages in the Bible that seem to point toward man’s free agency. I guess my question that I pose to you Jeff is, what do you do with passages in the very same letter to the Romans when Paul talks about the Sovereignty of God as if man’s free agency does not exist – as in chapter 9 of Romans? Jeff, I propose that: man’s free agency CAN work UNDER God’s supreme will, but not the other way around. Situations do not exist that happen on earth where God says, “Oops”. Otherwise, He would not be God as revealed in Scripture.

    Jeff; Anonymous; Russell; BookSlinger; Peter,

    Can I point you to my make-shift blog again? I have posted two sermons. If you the time to listen to only one, choose the first sermon entitled, “Pastoral Thoughts of the Doctrine of Election” – again by John Piper. Again, I could point to others like DA Carson or Tim Keller, but their material isn’t as digitally accessible.

    The sermon highlights the question as to whether people in the church have reversed roles with God – a dangerous state to be in. Very thought provoking =)

    And if you have any time at all, and I acknowledge that you are very busy at this time Jeff, if you could also listen to the second sermon, entitled, “I Will Be Gracious To Whom I Will Be Gracious”.

    Anonymous, you might be interested in this one as Mr. Piper attempts to unravel what exactly is The Glory of God.

    Again, Jeff, thank you for kindly facilitating these discussions. I appreciate you.

  5. Oh, and to be in the same festive spirit as Anonymous, here’s to you Mr. Al Gore. Farewell and thank you for all the fish…

  6. Here again is a doctrine like the Trinty where there is scriptures that support both sides and if we take the scriptures as trying to help us understand the truth then to take only one stand is counter productive. We must think out side the box. How could God set His plan up with absolute control yet give man free agency? Thoughts any one?

  7. Dear Anonymous,

    Look to the Garden of Eden…..

    Adam & Eve could have built a high wall around the tree where they were not supposed to eat the fruit.

    It is a question of obedience to God. They rather chose to take and eat the fruit on advice of the serpent, discarding the advice of God. The whole earth was their playground, but they went close by the tree that they shouldn’t have.

    Free will or God’s control ?

    It is exactly the same (in this respect) today – nothing has changed except that we are outside the Garden, we are under the dominion of the serpent and life is not as sweet as it once was !

    Oh for the soon coming restoration in heaven and the Tree of Life….


  8. Hello again all,

    If anyone is interested, I have temporarily posted a video of someone’s testimony of becoming a born-again Christian through the reading of the book of Romans.

    This person’s testimony is very similar to mine (but different in the way that I was not at all a Mormon) in the way that God is revealed in a new and radical light. The fact that God, ultimately is Sovereign =D

    Opinions anyone? (As ever, click on my username – nm)

  9. Wha?

    *takes a deep breath*

    I guess a somewhat negative reaction is the making of an opinion. In what way was this NOT helpful?

  10. Just kidding. I am still trying to get my mind around how God has complete control yet we still have free agency.

  11. Hello again everybody,

    I found these three wikipeda sites the other day, which make a good go at explaining some of the things that I hold dear. =)

    These sites might be most useful to BookSlinger who has in the past asked me as to which ‘denomination’ I belong to. Well, here are the three sites. Pick at it as you will =)



    Five Solas

    …just be grateful that I haven’t pointed to Mr. Piper again… 😉


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