As part of my study on the book of Romans, I'm reading through Exposition of the Epistle to the Romans by Robert Haldane. I found the following quote very helpful in understanding Romans Chapter 2 and Paul's argument that no one is justified through their own works. In his book, Haldane contends that the Apostle Paul is referring to the law, rather than the Gospel, in verses 7, 10, and 13 of Chapter 2. Paul is building his case that adherence to the Moral Law (either through the Mosaic Covenant of the Jews or written in the hearts of the Gentiles) cannot lead to salvation.
First, let's look at the Romans 2:1-16 in context, emphasizing verses 7, 10, & 13:
"1 Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. 2 But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. 3 And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? 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. 12 For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law; 13 (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14 For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: 15 Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;) 16 In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel."
Now let's see what Haldane has written about verse 7 in particular:
"The verse before us, then, which declares that eternal life shall be awarded to those who seek it by patient continuance in well-doing, and who, according to the 10th verse, work good, both of which announce the full demand of the law, are of the same import with the 13th verse, which affirms that the doers of the law shall be justified. In all these verses the Apostle is referring to the law, and not, as it is generally understood to the Gospel. It would have been obviously calculated to mislead the Jews, with whom Paul was reasoning, to set before them in this place personal obedience as the way to eternal life, which, in connection with what he had said on repentance, would tend directly to lead them to mistake his meaning on that subject. But besides this, if these verses refer to the Gospel, they break in upon and disturb the whole train of his reasoning, from the 18th verse of the first chapter to the 20th of the third, where he arrives at his conclusion, that by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in the sight of God. Paul was afterwards to declare the way of justification, as he does, ch. iii. 21, 26, immediately after he drew the above conclusion; but till then, his object was to exhibit, both to Jews and Gentiles, the impossibility of obtaining justification by any works of their own, and, by convincing them of this, to lead them to the grace of the Gospel," (p. 83).
He concludes his argument:
"But if we take the words in their plain and obvious import, and understand the Apostle in this place as announcing the terms of the law, in order to prove to the Jews the necessity of having recourse to grace, and of yielding to the goodness of forbearance of God, leading them to repentance, while he assures them that 'not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified,' then the whole train of his discourse is clear and consistent. On the other supposition, it appears confused and self-contradictory, and calculated not merely to perplex, but positively to mislead, and to strengthen the prejudices of those who were going about to establish their own righteousness. For in whatever way these expressions may with certain explanations and qualifications be interpreted in an evangelical sense, yet unquestionably, as taken by themselves, and especially in the connection in which they stand in this place, they present the same meaning as is announced in the 13th verse, where the Apostle declares that the doers of the law shall be justified," (pp. 84-85).
"But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," (Rom. 3:21-24).