‘All the World’s A Stage’ has Biblical Origins
For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
Sometimes there is a section of scripture that brings up controversy or a big question. This is definitely one of those! This passage has been thrown around in discussions about evangelism and missions work for centuries. Instead of addressing any of that, let’s look past that for something else in this passage.
There are two types of people mentioned early on:
- Hearers of the law
- Doers of the law
Through holidays, sacred assemblies, sabbath day celebrations, and more, plenty of people have heard the law. Moses, Joshuah, Saul, David, Nehemiah, and more made sure that everyone in Israel heard the law at some point. The law was a way of life as well as rules and laws. It instructed people on how to live and how to make decisions. But that is not what brings about righteousness.
Doers is a funny word. Poietes is the greek word and it would be better if we just gave up doer and used poietes. It means a performer or actor, like one that performs a poem or a play. It’s the performer of the Law, the one that acts out the way of life given from God, that is righteous.
That means that Paul had in mind that there is an audience and there are performers. The audience of the Law can’t claim that as an act of righteousness. The audience never experiences the awesome life of performance. The performers, the ones that are doing the Law, living the way of life, onstage for all of the world to see, they are the ones living real life.
Regardless of how Jesus’ perfect judgment works out, life for now is better if you actually live out the way of God instead of just hear about it. This is why we are always trying to get people on teams, to talk about the Bible, and make everyday living an act of worship.
Even stagehands of the Law are doing something beyond the audience. Let us put this way of life on display for this hurting world, so as to recruit more performers.