Romans 2:12-16
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12 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; - Romans 2:12


Question: What does Paul mean when he speaks of the law? What is the law?


We spoke about this in an earlier article but "The Law" is the expression of God's character resulting in decrees or rules men are required to follow. God, motivated by love, instructs His people in ways of wisdom and knowledge. Much like rules we set for our children, God's law was given for our good, its regulations, both positive and negative were intended for our protection and prosperity.


"The Law" when it's called that in the bible refers to rules or commandments given to men in one of three ways. The first is the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20. The second is the Torah which is the Hebrew word for "Law". The Torah, while referring to the law also refers to the first 5 books of the bible in which not only the Ten Commandments are found in, but the 613 Mosaic laws as well (or law of Moses). Lastly there is the Tanakh, or as Christians view it, the old testament. Because the laws of God stem from the character of God, His laws (or rules) are simply a byproduct of His character and therefore when God speaks of what men should do, it is not merely a suggestion. Therefore the law in this regard encompasses more than the Mosaic law but encompasses what was written in the book of the Prophets as well. In 1 Corinthians 14:21 Paul referenced Isaiah 28:11 as being from "the Law". To sum up, the law then is a set of rules derived from the perfect and omnipotent God, who in His goodness decreed the way men and women ought to conduct themselves. Jesus said the entirety of all these rules that are found in the Law and the Prophets depend on two all encompassing commandments.


36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the great and foremost commandment. 39 The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” - Matthew 22:36-40


When you read through the Mosaic law you can see the intent of the Ten Commandments woven through them. Now, in light of this revelation, when you read the whole law, including the Ten Commandments and the Prophets, you can see these two commandments not only woven throughout but as their foundation.


As parents when we set rules for our children we usually set forth penalties that are incurred if those rules are broken. Sometimes we even give rewards if those rules are followed. However, most of the time the reward to the child is that which is derived from keeping the rule. For example, a rule of "don't do drugs" is instantly rewarding to the child because they don't kill brain cells... not to mention the myriad of other consequences that can result from being under the influence. I remember when I worked at the PD and did my first tour of the jail, the sheriff said that 80% of everyone that's in there wouldn't be in there if it wasn't for something they did while under the influence. In other words, they may have not done what they did if drugs weren't involved.


Question: If we love our children and our children continually break the rules, what do we do? We up the consequences. Why do we up the consequences?


Because we want to encourage them to follow the rules in the strongest way we know how. Fear. In Exodus 19:18-19, just before giving the Ten Commandments for the Israelites to follow God descended on Mount Sinai in fire and the mountain billowed smoke like a furnace. At the same time the mountain quaked violently and there was what sounded like a trumpet growing louder and louder and when God spoke with Moses it came with the power of thunder and the Israelites observed all this from where they were camped at the base of the mountain. Moses returned from God to the Israelites at the base of the mountain, delivered to them the commandments of God, and there reply was this.


18 All the people perceived the thunder and the lightning flashes and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking; and when the people saw it, they trembled and stood at a distance. 19 Then they said to Moses, “Speak to us yourself and we will listen; but let not God speak to us, or we will die.” 20 Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” - Exodus 20:18-20


In 2001 there was much quarreling in the U.S. But when the twin towers were hit on 9/11 the nation did something that I had never seen before. They sobered up, gathered together and joined in a National Prayer Service. The president lead us, as a nation, in prayer to God. It's not that the towers being hit were a good thing, I'm not saying that, I'm just observing that fear drove the nation to collectively, though briefly, seek the Lord.


Punishment then has behind it the intent to provoke someone to good (Rom. 7:12). The greater the concern we have for a child in an area the more we want to motivate them to stay clear (Gen. 2:17). In society we do something similar. If a person murders another and the judge, in delivering a harsh sentence, did so to make an example of them, he essentially is trying to instill fear, to shake those who may consider doing the same crime to be fearful in doing it or else face the consequences.


This brings me to my next question. What is sin? At it's simplistic definition, sin is when man acts in opposition to the way they ought to according to God.


Coming full circle back to Romans is it possible to act in opposition to what God wants even if you don't know what God wants? Yes it is. Romans 2:12 then Paul is arguing that a person who commits sin whether they know it's sin will still incur consequences. For example, if there are two children in a house and one is taught not to touch the fireplace when there's a fire but the other was never taught that. Will they not both incur consequences if they touch the fireplace?


As we discussed previously God cannot look upon sin, nor does He tolerate sin, not even in the least (James 2:10). God doesn't want any man to die but rather that they repent and live (Eze. 18:23, 32, 33:11). If a person has sin in their life even without knowledge of sin, they will still perish as is the consequence of sin (Rom. 6:21, 23). Those however who knew what they should or shouldn't do but acted disobediently, they will suffer additional consequence according to the law (2 Peter 2:21). The one who knew the right thing to do and chose not too, he will face a greater consequence since he knew the right thing to do and chose not too. How many times have we heard parents say (or maybe we said to ourselves) "you knew better!".


13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. - Romans 2:13


Having knowledge of the law and being aware of what is required of a person does not in that knowledge justify someone before God. Rather it's those that are doers who always keep the entire law (Gal 3:10) who are justified before God, and as we'll see in the next verses this applies even to those who haven't been educated on the law.


14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, - Romans 2:14-15


This rules out anyone who would like to use the excuse "I didn't know". Before I was a Christian I remember things I did that I knew were wrong even with nobody was telling me they were. I didn't need a law to tell me murder was wrong or that stealing was wrong. I also knew the right things to do such as loving my neighbor, thus I was showing the law "instinctively" written on my heart. Paul is saying here that anyone who does instinctively the things of the law, even not knowing or having the law, become a law to themselves. In other words, morality. Morality exist in every human though some have a seared conscience (literally "cauterized" and rendered insensitive). We are born with a conscience and know right from wrong though as we grow up that understanding is swayed and shaped by those around us (1 Cor. 15:33). In having a conscience, knowing right from wrong, our thoughts then, much like the law, judge our actions as right or wrong before ourselves. If you, like me, understand this, you've likely accused yourself of violating what you knew to be the right thing to do. In that moment I've became a law to myself and found myself in violation. If you feel the same, know that you're not alone. No man has always done what even himself knows is the right thing to do (Rom. 3:9-18).


16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus. - Romans 2:16


In our last study we spoke of judgment day. Before that we spoke about God looking at the inner man. Here Paul is making it clear that God will judge even the secrets of men. Our own conscience will defend or else accuse us before God. Think about it. If we've ever judged someone else... and we ourselves violate the same thing, need God do anything else but point that out? In that moment we are disqualified by our own conscience. There's not a person on earth who hasn't been convicted by their own conscience. God who judges the secrets of men... will revisit that violation on judgment day.


10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. - 2 Corinthians 5:10


On judgment day, when we appear before the judgment seat of Christ, unlike human courts, we will not get to use the excuse "Oh God, but that wasn't what I was thinking". I like how Chuck Smith puts it, "Hey Gabriel, project on the screen what they were thinking when they were doing that".


"according to my gospel". The word gospel literally means "good news", we're headed there. What we've read so far, while it may not seem like it yet, is part of that good news. We'll learn as we continue into the rest of this chapter and into the next that we're all disqualified because of our disobedience to what we knew to be the right thing to do.


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