for not the hearers of the Law are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. Romans 2:13 NASB
Will be justified – It’s hard to escape the obvious implication of Paul’s statement. What matters is doing Torah. Anything less means exclusion from the Kingdom. Paul’s words are a fatal blow to the “only grace” crowd, especially since Paul connects required obedience to the verb dikaioo (“to make righteous, to justify”). The verb in this verse is a future passive. That means that sometime later someone else will offer justification to the subject of the sentence. You and I will be made righteous because we are doers of Torah. There is simply no way to read this verse as if it claims we are already justified by some past action that guarantees our status regardless of our behavior. Grace may invite us in but we are expected to work out our salvation once we accept the invitation.
We should have expected nothing less. Paul (Sha’ul) was a rabbi. He was trained in the school of the Pharisees. He was an expert in Torah. As Neusner says, “for Rabbinic Judaism, ‘Israel’ is always and only defined by the Torah, received and represented by ‘our sages of blessed memory’ as the word of God, never by the happenstance of secular history.” For Rav Sha’ul, Torah is the defining factor of the Kingdom of God. Those who keep Torah belong. Those who do not are excluded.
Yes, I know, Christians choke on these words. Christians have been taught for centuries that the Jewish Torah is irrelevant to their faith. They have followed Augustine and Luther on the path of sola fide (only grace), ignoring the entire context of the Tanakh and the cultural thinking of the New Testament authors. They have drawn a line in the sand where there is no sand. How is this possible? The answer is political, not theological. When Christianity needed to define itself in the second and third centuries, influential Gentile “believers” began to draw hard and fast distinctions between Judaism and their new “Christian” religion. Christianity identified itself as not-Jewish, and since the very heart of Judaism is Torah, Christianity became the religion of not-Torah. Under the persuasion of the early Church fathers and with the assistance of the Roman Empire, Christianity formed a new way of understanding God and His involvement with human beings. That way was anti-Semitic and it has been so ever since. But in order to justify this new religion, the writings of rabbis like Sha’ul had to be reinterpreted. Their Jewish orientation had to be removed. Torah had to be excised. After twenty centuries, the success of this program is obvious. Most Christians today firmly believe that the “Law” is not essential to their faith. Saved by grace is all that’s needed.
And then they read Paul. (One must keep in mind that Romans is Paul’s final word on the matter. Don’t turn to Galatians to overturn Paul’s last thoughts on law and grace.) But they interpret Paul according to the CHURCH. The tradition is more powerful than the text.
Topical Index: justify, make righteous, dikaioo, Law, Romans 2:13
 Jacob Neusner, Judaism When Christianity Began, p. 92.