GUILTY AS CHARGED
“All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them). This will take place when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” Romans 2:12-16.
What is this “law” Paul kept talking about? Did he mean that things like not eating unclean foods or not wearing clothes made of mixed fibres would be the standard by which we will be judged? What about all the rigmarole of animal sacrifices, or for how many years we must plant our fields and for how many years we must leave them fallow? All of these things and many more were included in the law.
Is the law he referred to only the Ten Commandments? If the Jews keep all ten commandments, will they be safe from God’s judgment? What about those he called “the Gentiles”, all the people who were not part of God’s covenant people and who did not know the Ten Commandments? How will they be judged? How can God be just if they are ignorant of His standards?
Although the translators used the word “law” to translate “torah”, torah actually means “teaching” and God’s teaching reflects His nature. When God gave His people His torah, He was introducing Himself to them and the telling them what He is like. To the Jews, He gave His teaching and the rest of the world who did not have His teaching, had the law of God written on their conscience as does every human being.
So, Paul made it clear that everyone has a standard by which he will be judged. God has not given us the right to set up our own standards because He is our Creator and we are accountable to Him. The standard for the Jews is the law of God written in stone and expanded in His covenant given to them at Mount Sinai. The standard for the Gentiles who do not have the written word, is the law of conscience written on their hearts. Just as Paul said in Romans 1, people are without excuse.
Since God is absolutely just, He will judge everyone by His own nature, whether His standards are written on stone, in a book, or on the heart. God’s nature has been fully revealed to us in His Son. Jesus came from the Father in human form to show us the Father.
“In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom also He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” Hebrews 1:1-3.
The problem is that, whether we are Jew or Gentile, when we look at Jesus, we realise how impossible it is to live up to God’s standard. Even if it were possible to keep the letter of God’s law perfectly from now on, we are guilty because we have already broken His law, and we have not understood or kept the spirit of the law which is the inward attitude of the heart.
Why is Paul telling his readers these things? Just to make them feel bad? I don’t think so. What would be the point of that? His intention was to show them that there is not one human being who can perfectly reach God’s standard; all are guilty; all are condemned and there is no hope for them if they think they can measure up to God’s demands by their own efforts.
Religion tries to tell us that we can, but God shows us that we can’t. We will have to look elsewhere if we are to have any hope of escaping God’s wrath and experiencing eternal life.
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