Romans 2: The Universal Moral Law

This entry is part 115 of 118 in the series 365 Key Chapters of the Bible

God has made Himself known to all people.

No one has an excuse—all of creation declares the glory of God. Even Gentiles have the benefit of looking at the natural world and how it points to God. And their consciences testify to God’s existence, even though they suppress this truth.

Just as Romans 1 shows that the Gentiles are without excuse based on God’s general revelation, so Romans 2 demonstrates that the Jews are without excuse based on His special revelation. Unlike the Gentiles, the Jews have the Law. Even though the Law was not complete under the old covenant—they did not yet understand about Jesus Christ—the Law pointed to Christ.

The Universal Conscience

General and special revelation both point to God. Thus, even those who do not have the Mosaic Law have their consciences to testify for or against them. There is a universal moral law, an underlying set of moral standards, that our conscience recognizes.1 God calls us all to obey Him and walk in His ways.

Paul writes in 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; for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified” (NASB 1995).

There is an inner quality of obedience to a universal moral standard that Paul captures here. Therefore, both Gentiles and Jews are held responsible for not acknowledging God.

The Bad News and the Good News

Paul does not hold back the bad news from his readers: Neither Jews nor Gentiles can keep the Law. For that matter, we cannot even live up to our own moral standards, let alone the moral standard God has revealed to us. We all walk in disobedience to God.

But when we understand the bad news, that’s when the good news becomes really good. After all, someone who is healthy is less likely to listen to a doctor than someone who is critically ill. Knowing our own sinfulness paves the way for us to recognize our need for God. When we do so, He is faithful to supply His own righteousness to us.

This teaching is based on Ken’s Handbook to Scripture

Related Reading:

Series Navigation<< Deuteronomy 30: God’s Merciful CovenantDeuteronomy 32: Learning from the Past >>

Footnotes

  1. C. S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity addresses the idea of this universal law. For Ken’s ideas on this book, check out his book A Taste of the Classics, Vol. 1 or this article on Mere Christianity.