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 on the day when God judges people's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.Romans 2:12-16
Here we are dealing with the question of what to do about the people who have not heard the gospel. What about those who live where the Bible is unknown, or those who are in a different religion where there is no reference to the facts of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ? In this passage Paul says that their problem is that they defile their consciences. These people will be judged by their own standards. God judges men, not according to what they do not know, but according to what they do know.
In Chapter 2, verses 9-10, Paul also says the judgment of God is according to light. God is not going to summon all mankind and tell them they are going to be judged on the basis of the Ten Commandments. But people will be judged according to light. That means that God will say to that individual,
What did you think was right and wrong? When the individual answers, God's question then is,
Did you do the right, and not the wrong? By that standard everyone fails. Paul makes that clear:
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law. The fact that such men never heard the Ten Commandments, or anything else that is in the Bible, does not mean they are going to be acceptable in God's sight. They will perish, not because they did not hear, but because what they did know was right, they did not do.
Here we have a revelation of what goes on in the primitive world. Men and women who have never heard anything about the Bible nevertheless are subject to judgment because they have truth written in their hearts. They do know what is right and wrong. They show it in their own lives. People say,
Let your conscience be your guide. That is a recipe for unhappiness. If that is all you have, it is a certain way of plunging into a life that alternates between fear and momentary peace.
Thank you, Lord, that you have provided a way for me to be forgiven from the sins I have committed against my own conscience. Thank you for Jesus!
When we understand the cost of rejecting the light of conscience, does it deepen our gratitude for the price paid for our forgiveness? Do we realize the urgency of spreading the light of the gospel to those who have never heard the message of God's grace?