October 17: Two Ways to Die: Law or Conscience

Romans 2:12-13. 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.13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 

The thesis of this letter is that we all need God’s good news (the gospel). Why? Because we will all be judged, and without God’s intervention, we will be condemned. Here in chapter two of Romans Paul will show us two ways to be condemned: by the law of by your own conscience. You can take your pick. If you’ve sinned you will perish. You’re only hope is to be a doer of the law (not just a hearer), or a doer of your conscience.

Thank God we are still in the judgment part of the letter. Paul hasn’t yet begun to explain salvation. This is good. Because the statement that only those who do the law will be justified is really scary. Who among us would say that they have obeyed the whole Law?

Or, if you’re a Gentile, who among us could say that we have listened to our conscience perfectly?

Romans 2:14-16. 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. 15 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 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.

The Gentile’s thoughts are what accuse or excuse them. So now judgment isn’t just by what we do, but also by what we think? Our secrets are also judged? Yikes.

We all have a built in sense of right and wrong (the Knowledge of Good and Evil). For Jews it is confirmed by the Law. For Gentiles, it is confirmed by the conscience. But, as we saw in chapter one of Romans, we all also suppress the truth and choose to believe “The Lie.” The lie that says we don’t need God, and we can worship things other than him, or just overlook him – idolatry.

This is getting worse as we go.

Which is, of course, Paul’s point. He is using the Old Testament Law correctly, and the natural law of the conscience correctly – both condemn.

But there is good news here: according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. 

Christ Jesus is the judge.

“To live is Christ” means that the final judgment, which is the good news of righteousness in and of itself, will be carried out by Christ, the same Christ to whom you are united. In Christ you have heard the law, and done the law. In Christ your conscience is clear. In Christ your secret thoughts are purified by the mind of Christ. The judgment of Christ is, therefore, not a terror, but a glorious reunion of lovers and friends. A day of purification by the holy love of Christ.

Can you see how your law keeping and your conscience (take your pick) condemn you? How does union with Christ free you to look forward to the judgment of God by Christ Jesus? Have you placed your faith in Christ alone for salvation?



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