God Is a Just Judge
“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. 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 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 2:14-16)
Often Christians can struggle with the justice of God when it comes to unbelievers who have never heard the gospel—the good news of Jesus Christ. What about the native American who died before European missionaries settled in north America? Where did he go? What about people in western nations who grow up in an atheistic home who are taught their entire lives there is no God? What happens to them when they die? Paul answers the question for us saying that when unbelievers “who do not have the law,” i.e., the law of God, the scriptures, “by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.” Unbelievers by their mere behavior do what the law requires even though they are not aware of God’s law. Universally, all people know it is wrong to murder, to steal, to lie, to dishonor one’s parents, to commit adultery, and so on and so forth. Universally, all humans live by the same set of rules. By doing this they “show that the work of the law is written on their hearts…” They inherently know the laws of God, even though they may not acknowledge His existence. This is called a conscience. And when people who have never heard of Jesus Christ or the gospel violate their God-given conscience, they do what they know to be wrong and thus violate the laws of God. It is by this standard, by their innate knowledge of right and wrong, that “God judges the secrets of men.” Unbelievers will be judged not for violating the external laws of God, which they have never heard of, but for violating the internal laws of God written upon their hearts. God is the just judge who will judge them according to what they know.
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