12 Some people do not know God’s law when they sin. They will not be judged by the law when they die. Others do know God’s law when they sin. They will be judged by the law. 13 Hearing the law does not make a person right with God. People are considered to be right with God only when they obey the law. 14 Those who aren’t Jews do not have the law. Sometimes they just naturally do what the law requires. They are a law for themselves. This is true even though they don’t have the law. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts. The way their minds judge them gives witness to that fact. Sometimes their thoughts find them guilty. At other times their thoughts find them not guilty. 16 People will be judged on the day God appoints Jesus Christ to judge their secret thoughts. That’s part of my good news.
This is a very complex passage. Read in isolation, it seemed to say that those who, not just hear the law, but obey it will be declared righteous in Gods sight (v. 13). But is Paul saying that righteousness is by works? No, Rom 1:17 states that righteousness from God is by faith from first to last. I think Paul is saying that the Jews who are aware of the law of Moses are not to judge the Gentiles according to that law, as they themselves are just as guilty of breaking it. God is the judge over everyone in the end. The gentiles who act rightly despite not knowing the law, prove that they have the law in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.
We also have the Holy Spirit in us and He informs our consciences about right and wrong. We are no longer bound by the letter of the law, we are to hear the word of the gospel and obey it. This is what pleases God.
Lord God may I never take Jesus' sacrifice for me for granted by thinking I can ignore your will. Please reveal your path of righteousness to me through your Holy Spirit and help me to walk in it. Amen
Written by Dimity Milne