Faith and works
This understanding has some important implications. It may help us to resolve the tension between the principle of salvation by grace and texts such as Romans 2:6, which states that God ‘will render to every man according to his works’. Paul goes on to argue in this passage (12-16) that Gentiles who do not have the law will be judged according to conscience – not condemned out of hand because they have not believed the gospel. It may offer, therefore, a better way of settling the argument about exclusivism, at least inasmuch as exclusion from the covenant community does not equate directly with exclusion from heaven. In any case, it certainly shifts the emphasis from getting to heaven to being an effective people of God now. The church has become far too complacent about its participation in the cultured olive tree of Israel (cf. Rom.11:17-24). The argument reinforces a sense of ethical and spiritual obligation, not least for Christians: salvation simply gets the people of God to the point where they can start doing ‘good works’.