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Measured Against the Law - Part 2

Tom Pennington • Romans 2:12-15

  • 2015-05-10 AM
  • Romans
  • Sermons


This Friday, I learned a couple weeks ago in the mail, I need to report for jury duty. Now, if I end up having to serve, I just hope it's interesting, because many trials, as you know, are not. And I think often that's because criminals are not always the smartest lot. That was perfectly illustrated a few years ago in San Diego Superior Court.

In the San Diego Union paper, Tom Blair described how that particular trial unfolded. Two men were on trial for armed robbery. Near the end of the trial, a key eyewitness took the stand and in the process of his examination the prosecutor asked the witness a series of questions something like this: "Were you at the scene when the robbery took place?" "Yes, I was." "And did you see a vehicle leave at a high rate of speed?" "Yes, I did." "And were you able to observe the occupants of that vehicle?" "Yes, there were two men."

At this point, for dramatic effect, the prosecutor turned away from the witness and faced the entire courtroom, and then in a booming voice he asked, "Are those two men present in the court today?" In response to his question, both defendants raise their hands. And, of course, sealed their fate.

In a very real sense, there is a courtroom within our souls. And in response to the evidence and the case that is presented, again and again, we find ourselves having to raise our hands and admit that we, in fact, are guilty. It is this courtroom in the soul that Paul describes for us in Romans 2:12-15. Paul is dealing with a troubling question about the culpability of pagans who've never heard the gospel and who don't have the Scripture. His answer to that troubling question can be summarized this way: God has woven the knowledge of His perfect standard into every human heart and as a result of that, all men stand guilty before God, wherever they may live, whatever written revelation they have or may not have been exposed to.

Now, these verses are part of Paul's indictment of the Jews. It runs from chapter 2 verse 1 to chapter 3 verse 8. This entire section is written to prove that the Jews, in spite of their privilege as the ethnic descendants of Abraham, still needed the gospel. In fact, in chapter 2 Paul explains that the Jews and all moral religious people need the gospel and they need it for three reasons.

By the time we're done with this chapter we'll have seen all three of those reasons. So far we've just looked at the first of them, found in verses 1 to 16, and it's this, knowing what is sinful and condemning it in others will not allow you to escape God's wrath. This is what the Jews had decided. According to verse 3 of chapter 2, they had decided that they would escape God's wrath, His coming judgment, because of their special privilege, their special connection to God. They came to that mistaken conclusion because they held some terribly flawed views about God Himself. And so Paul sets out in these 16 verses to correct their flawed views so that they no longer believe they will escape God's wrath because they know and condemn sin in others.

First of all, they had a flawed view of God's justice. We saw this in verses 1 to 3. Secondly, they had a flawed view of God's common grace, in verses 4 and 5. We studied this together. Thirdly, in verses 6 to 16, they had a flawed view of God's coming judgment. They thought that the future judgment would be different for them because of their privileged position. And so Paul, to correct that flawed perspective, he lays out four foundational principles of God's judgment. Four foundational principles of God's future judgment of unbelievers.

The first principle we discovered together is that that future judgment will be "according to our deeds." We saw this in verses 6 to 10. Notice, it's stated clearly in verse 6, "God will render to each person according to his deeds." And then in verses 7 through 10 he develops that idea, as we saw together.

The second foundational principle of God's coming judgment, we discovered in verse 11, is that it will be without partiality, "For there is no partiality with God." God never evaluates, He never judges, based on external factors, based on things that impress us. God never judges either with favoritism or with prejudice. He always does it solely based on the evidence, "there is no partiality with God."

Now, last week we began to examine a third foundational standard of God's judgment, the future judgment of unbelievers will be according to God's Law. Let me read for you this paragraph we're studying. Technically we're only studying verses 12 to 15. I think there's a separate principle taught in verse 16, but because it's part of the paragraph we will read it together.

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 just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 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, 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, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.

Now, the theme of verses 12 to 15 is this, at the final judgment God will judge all unbelievers against His Law. We discovered in verses 6 to 10, it will be according to deeds, but how will He judge according to deeds? He will measure the deeds of the unbelievers who stand before Him against His Law. Now, in this text I noted for you that Paul divides all unbelievers into Jews and Gentiles, not based on ethnicity, but rather based on whether or not they possessed a written Law from God. Of course, in the first century the Jews had it, the Gentiles did not, by and large.

What does he mean, though, by the Law? Well, in this context, I noted for you in some detail last week that Paul is referring specifically not to the entire Mosaic legislation, the Law of Moses as we call it, nor specifically to the Pentateuch, the first five books of the Old Testament, nor even to the entire Old Testament, even though the word, the phrase, the Law, is used in all of those ways at times. Instead, here, by Law he means the Moral Law of God and I showed that to you in the context. The Moral Law that he codified as part of the Law of Moses along with the ceremonial and the civil aspects of the Law as well. And he gave us a summary outline of God's eternal moral expectations of us in what we call the Ten Commandments.

Now, I don't want to spend long here, but there were several questions that came up last week about the Ten Commandments, and specifically about the fourth command. What about the command of the Sabbath? Is it safe to say that's a permanent command, as I said last week? And the answer is yes and no. There is a timeless principle behind the fourth command. God still is the Lord of our time. He still commands us to spend six days working, both to earn a living and to care for our homes and families, and to set aside one day a week when we worship Him. That is a timeless principle that underlies the fourth commandment.

However, in Colossians 2, Paul clearly sets aside all of the individual Sabbath Laws that were connected to the Old Testament people of God when he says, don't let anyone judge you in respect to the annual feast, the monthly new moon festivals, or the weekly Sabbaths, because those things were shadows. Instead, we are to now worship God on the Lord's Day, not keeping all of those Sabbath Laws, but rather following the principle of the fourth command, which is we're to work six days and we're to set aside a day a week to worship our God. If you want to study that in more detail, I preached two sermons on the issue of the Sabbath several years back, you can go and listen to that if that's a struggle for you, but just in sweeping generalization that's how to answer that issue.

So the Moral Law then is outlined in the Ten Commandments. Christ condensed the Moral Law to two commandments, love God supremely and love your neighbor as yourself. Those never, ever change. Now it's this Moral Law of God that Paul is talking about in Romans 2. As Paul unfolds this third standard of God's judgment, he begins by making the point, as I noted for you last week, that God will judge every unbeliever based on his knowledge of God's Law, based on his knowledge.

Look at verse 12. He begins by dealing with those who don't have God's Law in writing, "For all who have sinned without the Law," this is the Gentiles, as he explains in verse 14, "all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law." They'll be eternally condemned, even though they didn't have the Law. Now, those who had God's Law in writing, verse 12 goes on to say, "all who have sinned under the Law," they've had the written Law, "will be judged against that Law."

So that's the first principle. God is impartial, so God is not going to judge the pagan who didn't have the written Law as if he had the written Law. He'll judge him against what he knew and we'll learn what he knew this morning. But He will judge those who have a copy of His written Law by that written Law, so against the knowledge of God's Law.

The second point he makes, as he unfolds this third standard, is that God will judge every unbeliever based on his obedience to God's Law, not just what he knows, but what he does. Look at verse 13, "for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified." It's not enough to know it, not enough to have it, you have to obey it. So understand then that from the middle of verse 12 and through verse 13, Paul has made the point that all of the Jews will be judged and condemned based on their knowledge of God's written Law and their failure to obey it.

Now, when we hear that, that seems perfectly fair to us, doesn't it? I mean, okay, they knew God's will, they had it in writing, and they blatantly refused to obey it. So it seems fair for God to condemn them. But look back at verse 12, the beginning of verse 12, "all who have sinned without having God's written Law will also perish," they'll be condemned eternally, "without the Law." Even those who don't have the scripture, the Gentiles, but sin, will perish.

Now, if we're honest with ourselves, when we hear that, we don't have exactly the same response that we did to the other; it doesn't seem immediately fair to us. I mean, how could a good God condemn to hell forever those who have never seen the Scripture and have never heard of Jesus Christ? Well, Paul's going to answer that question for us in verses 14 and 15, because here Paul returns to the situation of the Gentiles, and he explains in these verses why it is perfectly just of God to condemn those who have never had the written revelation. Let's look at it together.

The third point that Paul makes here regarding the role of the Law in the future judgment is that God will justly condemn all unbelievers because all have sufficient knowledge of God's Law. Those who have it in writing certainly do, but Paul is now going to argue that even those who don't have it in writing have sufficient knowledge. Notice verse 14, "For when the Gentiles who do not have the Law," in writing, "do instinctively the things of the Law." He says, even those without the written Law, by nature, show some knowledge of the Law because they instinctively do those things.

Now, as I often do, before we look at what Paul means, let's sort of clear the rubble a bit and make sure we understand what Paul does not mean in this statement at verse 14. He does not mean that unbelievers can perform good works that meet God's standard and earn their way into Heaven. The context is very clear about that, go back to verse 12. He's talking about the Gentiles here, "all who have sinned without having the Law will perish." Have all unbelievers, have all Gentiles sinned? Yes. What will happen to them? They will perish. Go to chapter 3 verse 9. Chapter 3 verse 9, "I've already charged," he said, "that both Jews and Greeks," or Gentiles, "are all," what? "Under sin." So he's not saying, in verse 14 of chapter 2, that unbelievers can perform enough good works to somehow meet God's standard and earn their way into Heaven.

Secondly, he's not saying that unbelievers actually please God by their good works. That's a question that always comes up. Well, if unbelievers can do things God requires, does that please God? And the answer is no, it doesn't please God. Turn to Romans 8. Romans 8, Paul is dealing with the contrast between believers and unbelievers and he describes unbelievers as those who are "in the flesh," or who have their mind set on the flesh. Look at verse 7. Here's unbelievers, "the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God," there's how the hostility is manifest, an unwillingness to subject oneself to God's Word, "for it is not even able to do so." And then he adds this in verse 8, "those who are in the flesh," unbelievers, "cannot," the word is dunamai, they don't have the capacity, they don't have the power, to "please God."

No matter what they do, even when they, at times, do the things that the Law requires, it doesn't please God. Why? Because it's not enough simply to do externally what God requires, you have to do it for the right reason. They don't do these good works out of a heart submission to God as their sovereign, to God's authority. They don't do it out of a genuine love for God. They don't do it out of a desire for His glory. Listen, people do good works, even things that conform to what the Scripture commands, for all kinds of reasons: because it makes them feel better about themselves, because they can walk around in pride, because they don't have the affliction of conscience. I mean, there are all kinds of reasons people do good things, but they're not done for those reasons and, therefore, they're not good in God's eyes.

So what does Paul mean then? If that's what he doesn't mean, what does Paul mean in verse 14? He means unbelievers who don't have the Scripture do many things that externally conform to God's revealed will in the Scripture. Look again at verse 14, "For when." The Greek word is actually the word whenever. In other words, it's not that they always do this, it's that they sometimes, intermittently, do this, "Whenever Gentiles who do not have the written Law do instinctively the things of the Law." Note that word instinctively. Literally, the Greek word is, by nature. That is, they do what they do, not because they were taught to do it, not because they were trained to do it, not because they watched their parents do it, instead, they do it because it's how God created them. It's by nature. There's an inner compulsion rather than an external force. It's part of the human constitution.

So, what do they do, instinctively or by nature? Notice verse 14 again, "they do by nature the things of the Law." In other words, they do what the Law demands. They think thoughts the Law demands. They speak words the Law demands. They render behaviors that the Law requires. Those who don't have the written Word of God will often do some of the very things the Law demands. Anthropologists confirm this. Cultures all over the world, in all periods of time, they do the very thing that God's Law demands. They highlight, they exalt, behaviors that the Law demands. Not with the right motive and not in a way that's acceptable to God, but they still do them.

For example, many unbelievers in cultures all across the planet and in all kinds of different time periods, honor and generally obey their parents. Many unbelievers pay their debts, refuse to steal what doesn't belong to them. Others are scrupulously honest in their business affairs. Most unbelievers will never commit murder. Some are generous with their time and their money in helping the poor and the disadvantaged; they build hospitals and they give their lives. I remember meeting a German man who was not a believer who served in Mother Teresa's home for the dying destitute. That's how he spent his life in India.

There are unbelievers who cultivate, or try to cultivate, a spirit of contentment instead of covetousness. Unbelievers often have love for their families and they work in what Scripture would call lawful jobs. That is, they work in career paths that are helpful and beneficial to mankind and that honor God. Here in North Texas we're surrounded by people who do a lot of those things. Those are all things that the Law of God demands. And they do these things, Gentiles who don't have the Scriptures, they do these things not because they've read the Law of God, instead, they do them instinctively, or by nature. The principles of God's Moral Law were ingrained into man from creation and in spite of the fall they still continue and remain.

So what does it show when Gentiles, by nature, do the things of the Law? Look at verse 14, "these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves." Even though they don't have the written Law, they display a knowledge of God's Law in their souls. They are a law to themselves. In other words, the work of the Moral Law is resident within their souls. Their very person is the medium of God's revelation. Paul's point is that the Gentiles possess, by nature, some of what is written in the Law.

Now, here's the key question, where does this inborn, instinctive sense of God's moral requirements, where does that come from? Paul answers that question in verse 15. Here is a key, seminal text in all of Scripture. There are other passages of Scripture that hint at these realities, but nowhere else in Scripture is this as clearly and directly taught as it is here, and it's foundational. Notice what Paul asserts in verse 15, "in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts." He's saying this, when those who have never seen a written copy of God's Law do some of the things that are written in the Law, notice, "they show," or, it's present tense actually in the original language, "they are showing, they are exhibiting, they are giving proof of," notice what it is, "the work of the Law written in their hearts."

Now this phrase, "the work of the Law," is very, very important, it occurs only here in the New Testament. Notice what Paul doesn't say, he doesn't say the Law is written on the heart. In other words, it's not like if you could dissect a person's soul you'd find buried there, somewhere, a list of the Ten Commandments. It's not like everybody's born with a memory of the Ten Commandments that God just, sort of, implanted. It's not what he's saying. He's saying, "the work of the Law." He means the requirement of the Law, the work, or the conduct, that the Moral Law requires of us. In other words, they are born with a moral consciousness of right and wrong. That's the point.

When unbelievers occasionally practice what the Law requires, it proves that the work of the Law is written on their hearts. You understand, the people in North Texas who do a lot of good things, it's not because they're just good people. It's because of what God has done in their very nature. It's because they're born with this sense. And notice, it has to be written on the heart of every man because all men sometimes do what the Law requires. It is this universal awareness of the Law of God that is the foundational argument in C.S. Lewis's book Mere Christianity. If you haven't read it, you ought to read it. But it's this principle that he lays out as the foundation for the entire book.

Now, notice again, back in chapter 2, in verse 14 he says, the Gentiles do these things by nature, and then in verse 15 he says, "it's written" past tense, not past tense, passive is what I mean, the passive sense of the verb, it is something where the person who did it isn't named. But in both cases, by nature and written, he's obviously meaning God did this. God embedded it in the nature and God has written it on the heart. God has implanted this basic knowledge of His will into every human heart, from Adam until the very last human being is born on this planet. Not one person, let this sink into your mind, not one person who has ever lived has been completely ignorant of God's Law.

Now, having made this assertion, Paul goes on to provide us with the evidence for this assertion. And the evidence of the work of the Law written on the heart comes in three parts, or there are three pieces of evidence we could say. We've already seen the first piece of evidence in verse 14, it's man's behavior. One piece of evidence for the Law, the work of the Law written on the heart, is man's behavior. Verse 14 says, "the Gentiles who don't have the Law do by nature the things of the Law." When unbelievers do what the Law demands it's evidence, Paul says, that this work of the Law has been written in their hearts. That's one piece of evidence, and we've already looked at that.

Let's go on to the second piece of evidence. Not only man's behavior is evidence, but man's conscience is evidence. Verse 15, "their conscience bearing witness." Bearing witness to what? Bearing witness to the existence of this work of the Law written on the heart. Conscience testifies that the work of the Law is written on the heart. Why is that? Because of what conscience is. Now, the Greek word translated conscience literally means, to know together with. Conscience only works when it's informed with information, when it's informed with knowledge.

Now, I thought about spending a little more time talking about conscience today, but we will get to that and deal with it at length in a couple of years when we get to, well maybe a few years, when we get to Romans 14. So I'm not going to do a lot, but let me just develop this a little bit. The word conscience is not a Greek word that appears in the classic Greek literature. In fact, it's a word that shows up just before the time of Jesus. It's not even in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament that was used as the first century Bible. It was translated 100 to 200 years before Christ. This word doesn't show up there. But the concept does show up there.

The concept of conscience has always been true. In fact, conscience showed up on the day (are you ready for this?) of the very first human sin. Genesis 3, Adam and Eve sin; here's what we read in verse 8, "They heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden." What's going on there? Conscience. They know they have sinned and their conscience is accusing them. They don't want to see God because they have sinned against Him.

David shows us the same thing, this idea of conscience, when he sinned. In 2 Samuel 24:10 we read, "Now David's heart troubled him after he had numbered the people." What's going on? It's his conscience. "So David said to the Lord, 'I have sinned greatly in what I have done. But now, O Lord, please take away the iniquity of Your servant, for I have acted very foolishly.'"

Or there's the penitential Psalms, Psalm 32 and Psalm 51, David's penitential Psalms, where he acknowledges his sin. You remember, in Psalm 32, he describes that period of time after he sinned but before he repented, when his conscience was really at play. I love the picture because it's a picture those of us who live in North Texas, not today but normally, can understand. He says, when I was in that state, it's like my soul's "vitality was drained away with the fever heat of summer." That's the work of conscience.

But the Greek word for conscience, while it doesn't appear in the Old Testament, in the Septuagint, it does appear frequently in the New Testament, thirty times in the New Testament. But what exactly is conscience? Immanuel Kant, the German philosopher, called it, "The consciousness of a court within man's being." He's exactly right, because that's exactly how Paul's describing it here in Romans 2. It is a courtroom.

The conscience is a courtroom within our souls where our moral decisions are constantly on trial. The role of conscience is to evaluate us against the standard. So understand then, "the work of the Law written on the heart," that's the standard. What our conscience does is it takes that knowledge of the standard and it compares our actions against that standard. And if it finds that we've kept the standard, it defends us. If, on the other hand, it finds that we have violated the standard, it accuses us, it condemns us.

So, the conduct God's Moral Law requires of us is written on our hearts and our consciences simply measure our conformity to that Law and either accuse us or defend us. Our souls come preloaded with these things, with the basic requirements of the Law and with a conscience that measures us against that Law.

It's like when you get a new computer. You know, you buy the computer and it has hardware, certain hardware to help it function, and usually it comes pre-installed with software to make it functional for you as well. This is exactly how our souls come. We come into this world with a certain set of hardware in our souls and preloaded with software as well. That's what Paul is saying. We were all born with a basic understanding of what is right and what is wrong and with a conscience that measures us against that standard.

Now, just as with a computer, you know, you get that new computer, you can mess up that software that came pre-installed. You can add bloatware and other things that, sort of, slow your machine to a crawl and make it practically non-functional. The same thing is true with a conscience; it's not infallible. Our consciences can be messed up.

In fact, as we'll learn when we get to Romans 14, you can have a conscience that's too sensitive or you can have a conscience that's not sensitive enough. Why? Because conscience works with knowledge and so you can misinform your conscience. I tell people all the time, you want an example of this? If you grew up in a home where your parents constantly taught you that it was a sin to wear pink shirts, when you wear a pink shirt you'll feel guilty. Your conscience will say you're guilty because you gave that knowledge to your conscience. You have to reeducate your conscience with the Scripture. On the other hand, you grew up in a home where they said it was okay for you to steal from the rich because this is how it supposed to be and that's morally acceptable, then your conscience isn't going to bother you when it should.

So you can monkey with the mechanism, you can mess up the software, but it's still there, it's still the reality. You can confuse the conscience, it can be perverted, it can even be seared, but we are born with an awareness of the basic requirements of God's Law and then a conscience that uses our awareness of what God requires to sit in judgment on our choices.

If you are human, and I know you are, you have a conscience. God has given you a conscience. J.I. Packer puts it this way, "Human beings cannot entirely suppress their sense of God and His present and future judgment. God Himself will not let them do that. Some sense of right and wrong, as well as being accountable to a holy divine judge, always, always remains. In our fallen world, all whose minds are not in some way impaired have a conscience that at some points condemns them, telling them that they ought to suffer for wrongs they have done, and when conscience speaks in these terms," Packer writes, "it is the voice of God." The conscience shows that there is an objective standard of right and wrong outside of us.

So, the evidences of the Law written on the heart: man's behavior, he does instinctively what the Law requires; secondly, man's conscience; the third piece of evidence is in verse 15 as well, it's man's thoughts, "and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them." Now, at first glance, you might be tempted to think this is just a further explanation of how the conscience works, but it's not that. This is not the conscience because the conscience often functions automatically, without thought. It springs into action when you make a decision, when you don't want it to spring into action, when you're not thinking about the morality of those choices. This is something different. This final line of verse 15 is describing something in addition to conscience. It is a third piece of evidence that God has written the work of the Law on every heart.

Notice, first of all, the words accusing and defending. These are common Greek words that were used in the courtroom. They're the common words for the defense and the prosecution in a courtroom. Now, what's Paul talking about here, these thoughts that either prosecute us or come to our defense? Well, Paul's point is that when we think about our own past moral actions, when we think about those, our thoughts either accuse us, they prosecute us, or they defend us.

You understand this; you have memory of past moral choices. And when you think about those past moral choices your thoughts either defend what you did and say: You know, I think in light of the circumstances, I think in light of what happened, that was okay. Or, your thoughts condemn you: I should never have done that; I feel bad about that; I wish I hadn't done that.

Now, the point isn't that your thoughts are always right, because often our thoughts aren't; we give ourselves the benefit of the doubt. That's not the point. The point is, the very fact that we all try, in our thoughts, to determine the rightness or wrongness of our past actions shows that we have an inward sense that there is an objective standard outside of us, a standard to which we believe our actions should conform. So we think about our own past actions and we either accuse ourselves or defend ourselves in our thoughts.

But I think Paul left this ambiguous because I think he also means our thoughts not only about our own moral choices, but our thoughts about the moral actions of others. We constantly, as human beings, sit in moral judgment on the actions of others. We do it of our family members, we do it of our friends, we do it of our co-workers. We make determinations about the morality of their choices. And our thoughts about what they've done, our thoughts either accuse them or defend them. And again, the point is, the fact that we're even trying to determine whether what they did was right or wrong proves a universal awareness of a moral standard outside of ourselves against which we believe all should be measured. Listen very carefully to this, this is key and foundational, it makes no sense to accuse or condemn someone else's moral choices unless we believe there is a standard of right and wrong.

I grew up in Mobile and grew up loving and playing football, played high school football, and cheered football, cheered for Alabama when they were playing college football. Sorry for those of you who hate Alabama. You know, I grew up cheering for the Dallas Cowboys because the closest professional team when I was growing up was the New Orleans Saints, and, those of you who are old enough remember, in those days they were the Aints. And so nobody, you know, you wore a brown paper bag over your head if you cheered for the Saints. So we didn't cheer for the Saints, we cheered for the Dallas Cowboys, that's what we did in my home when I was growing up and we still do. And so I love football and I've taught my daughters to love football.

Now, when the Cowboys play and we're watching together, if a member of the other team even appears to breach the rules we all immediately become referees. Either one of us or, honestly, most of the time, all of us, sort of, in unison, Hey, that was a penalty! That was holding! That was pass interference! How could the ref not have seen that? We are sitting in judgment on the actions of those players. The only way that's possible is because there is an objective standard against which we can measure their play and that is the rules of the game of football. Now, of course, they all break the rules; that's why there have to be seven men in stripped uniforms on every play making sure they aren't breaking them.

But in the same way, when we sit in judgment on the moral actions of others, it proves the reality of the work of the Law written in the heart, an objective standard against which we believe people should be measured. Now, those who hate the idea of God try to say, well, we see that, sort of, universal sense, but really all that is, is it's a moral consensus at a point in time. It's, sort of, all what we think together is moral. Well, they don't really believe that, because the very people who say that wouldn't for a moment believe that the moral consensus in 1940's Nazi Germany was morally acceptable.

You see, ultimately, you can only argue that the moral behavior of Hitler or ISIS is wrong, is if there is a timeless objective standard, outside of ourselves, outside of a given culture. It is impossible to defend your moral actions without a similar standard. So you can neither accuse nor defend without an objective standard. So that's what Paul is saying here. And the threefold evidence, of man's behavior, of his conscience, and of his constantly thinking about moral behavior, both his own and that of others, all of those together, prove the existence of this work of God's Moral Law written on the heart.

Now, one other note to make, verses 14 and 15 specifically address the Gentiles, but understand that that doesn't mean the Jews don't have these things. Both Jews and Gentiles have a conscience and have the work of the Law written on the heart. Every human being has this by nature.

Now, what are the results of this? As a result of the work of the Law written on the heart there are certain things that are true. First of all, every person knows his Creator is a law-giver. Every person. Turn back to chapter 1 verse 32. This is, in reality, the application of what Paul actually teaches in chapter 2. Here's the application of it. Although, this is all pagans now, these are people who didn't have the Law, "they know the ordinance of God." They know there's a Creator, because of looking around at the creation, and they know God's ordinance. They know God is a law-giver. How? Because He has put the work of the Law in their hearts. They know it. Every person. There's never been an exception.

Every person, secondly, knows God expects him to obey that Law. That's the whole point of the Law. Notice verse 32, "they know the ordinance of God and that those who practice things contrary to God's Law are worthy of death." So they know that they're expected to obey it. They know God gives laws, they know He expects them to obey.

Number three, every person knows that he has chosen to disobey, to do what is contrary to the will of his Creator. How does he know? Look at verse 32, "they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, and yet they still do the same." So they know they're choosing contrary to God's Law. Same thing is true with chapter 2 verse 15. They know because of conscience. They do it and what happens? Ping! Conscience sounds.

Number four, every person is legally guilty and culpable for his sinful choices. In other words, every person is without excuse, even the person who is a tribal warrior in some deep dark jungle somewhere, because all these things are true of him. Look at chapter 3 verse 19. I mentioned to you, this is really the culmination of the first two chapters and the first half of chapter 3. Here's where Paul is driving, this is the point he wants to make. Romans 3:19, "Now we know that whatever the Law says, it speaks to those who are under the Law." As of today, who do we understand is under the Law? Everybody. The Jews have the written Law and everybody else has the work of the Law written on their hearts.

And then he says, "so that every mouth may be closed." You know, there is a powerful picture here. A lot of people think they're going to have a lot of things to say at the judgment. God says, oh no you're not. Your hand will be on your mouth. You'll have nothing to say in your defense, without excuse.

"And all the world may become accountable to God." That's a powerful expression. We'll look at it more when we get there, but basically Paul is saying this, you have already been found guilty, you have already been sentenced, and you're just on death row awaiting the execution. That's what Paul is saying. Every person is legally guilty and culpable for his sinful choices, without exception.

Number five, every person knows that he deserves God's judgment. Back in chapter 1 verse 32, "they know that those who practice such things are worthy of death." They know it deserves God's judgment.

And number six, every person knows that the day of judgment is actually coming. We'll see this next week in chapter 2 verse 16 where Paul links the work of conscience, and the thoughts that man has, with the coming judgment. You see, every time an unbeliever's conscience afflicts him, every time it pronounces him guilty, every time it holds court in his mind, it is like a faint echo of the coming reality of a real courtroom. He knows the day of judgment is coming, through conscience: the accusation, the condemnation, the guilt.

Now, what's the application of all this? Very quickly, for the believer, give thanks to God for these realities. Thank God that these things are in the souls of every person, because this is part of how God restrains evil in the world. Just imagine for a moment, a world without the work of God's Law written in the heart, where men truly don't know anything God requires. Imagine a world peopled by those who have no accusing conscience, ever, for anything. Imagine a world of people with no internal restraint on their sinfulness.

Listen, we see some awful sinfulness played out on the front pages of our paper in the actions of ISIS. Listen, those people still have the Law written on their hearts as well. They still have consciences. Imagine how bad it could be if they didn't. Imagine how desperately wicked this world would be without this internal restraint. You better thank God every day for these realities.

Secondly, believer, understand that these realities within the souls of every person you share the gospel with are your allies. Every time you go to share the gospel, that person knows there's a God, he knows from creation, he may be suppressing that knowledge, but he knows. He also knows there's a law-giver. He knows God expects him to obey. He knows he's disobeyed. He knows there's a coming judgment. He knows all of that, however much he may be trying to suppress it. So when you're sharing the gospel, you don't have to prove all that stuff, just communicate the gospel. Of course, answer legitimate questions. Just understand that you're not arguing with someone who really is convinced of the other. He knows. You have allies within his soul.

If you're here this morning and you're not in Christ, understand that God has hardwired a conscience and a basic knowledge of right and wrong into your soul, and as a result of that, these things I've just listed are true of you. You know there's a law-giver. You know He expects you to obey. You know that you've chosen to disobey. You know there's a coming judgment. Listen, all of that is intended to drive you to Jesus Christ, to the gospel. He's your only hope. Because that conscience that keeps you awake at night, that wakes you up during the night and confronts you with the choices you've made, that reminds you of the evil you've committed? That is like a faint echo of the coming reality and it's God's mercy to you to call you to repent of your sins and to believe in Jesus Christ. You need to do that today.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank You for this amazing passage. Thank You for giving us this revelation. Lord, we sense these things, but to have it so clearly taught is so helpful.

Father, thank You, that You have so hardwired every human being on the planet, that these things are a reality. Father, we thank You. We thank You for how it restrains evil in the world. We thank You for how Your Spirit can then use the conscience even, under the work of the Spirit and Your special revelation, Your word, to bring conviction of sin and to bring a person to repentance. Father, we thank You for these good gifts.

Father, thank You, and I pray that You would help us as believers to thank You for these things that keep the world at the level of civility it is. Lord, we can't even imagine what it would be like if You had not done these things. Father, help us as well to see these things as allies as we communicate the gospel, knowing that within the souls of the people we talk, these things resonate.

And Father I pray for those here this morning who are not in Christ. O Father, help them to see. I pray that from this day forward, every time their conscience afflicts them, every time they think about past moral actions, O God, remind them that those are but previews of coming attractions. Father, I pray that they would repent of their sins and put their faith in Jesus Christ. We pray it in His name and for His sake. Amen.