Romans - Lesson 10

Romans 2:12-16

In Romans 2:12-16, Paul discusses the significance of the Law, primarily referring to the Law of Moses, in the context of God's judgment. He distinguishes between those who have the Law, such as Jews, and those who do not, like Gentiles. Paul emphasizes that mere possession or knowledge of the Law does not guarantee righteousness; instead, it is obedience to the Law that leads to righteousness. Paul's writing indicates that no one can attain salvation by their own efforts or conscience. God's grace, as expressed through the Gospel of Jesus Christ, is necessary for redemption.

Lesson 10
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Romans 2:12-16

II. The Heart of the Gospel: Justification by Faith (1:18–4:25)

A. The Universal Reign of Sin (1:18–3:20)

1. All Persons Are Accountable to God for Sin (1:18-32)

2. Jews Are Accountable to God for Sin (2:1–3:8)

a. The Jews and the Judgment of God (2:1-16)

b. The Limitations of the Covenant (2:17-29)

c. God's Faithfulness and the Judgment of Jews (3:1-8)

3. The Guilt of All Humanity (3:9-20)

B. Justification by Faith (3:21–4:25)

1. Justification and the Righteousness of God (3:21-26)

2. "By Faith Alone" (3:27–4:25)

a. "By Faith Alone": Initial Statement (3:27-31)

b. "By Faith Alone": Elaboration with Respect to Abraham (4:1-25)

  • This lesson offers a deep dive into Paul's Letter to the Romans, revealing its pastoral aims, Paul's intentions to visit Spain, Jerusalem, and Rome, and its relevance to early Christian dynamics and theological inquiries about the Law in Christ's time.
  • This lesson offers a fresh view of Paul's theology, focusing on Romans. It emphasizes the first-century context, highlighting Gentile inclusion and unity in Christ, challenging traditional views. Gain insights into Paul's message and its relevance today.
  • Explore the book of Romans for modern faith conflicts: balance tradition with contemporary practices, learn from history, and grasp Paul's ministry and Gospel's complexities.
  • Follow along with Dr. Moo as he begins a thorough review of Romans 1:2-5. You will learn how Paul emphasizes Jesus' earthly life, resurrection, and his appointment as the Son of God in power. This lesson examines the interconnectedness of faith and obedience, underscoring that while faith initiates salvation, genuine faith inherently entails obedience to Christ as Lord, maintaining a balanced Christian life.
  • By delving into Romans 1:16-17, you'll understand the Gospel extends beyond individual salvation, encompassing God's reign over creation and His establishment of justice. The Gospel challenges worldly powers, offering hope and transformation to all who embrace it.
  • Listen along as the class discusses questions and answers revolving around Romans 1:16-17.
  • In Romans 1:18-28, you learn that all people are held accountable by God, having knowledge of Him through natural revelation but some turn away. This passage highlights the manifestation of God's wrath against sin, the exchange of truth for falsehoods, and the absence of excuses for humanity's actions, ultimately emphasizing God's fair judgment.
  • Listen in as the class and Dr. Moo discuss aspects of Romans 1:18-28.
  • The lesson discusses Romans 2:1-11, it highlights the use of the diatribe device and the transition from focusing on Gentiles to Jews. It underscores the Jewish belief in their special status and their potential misunderstanding of God's judgment. The lesson reviews the focus of the text on key themes such as judgment, righteousness, and the relationship between faith and good deeds.
  • In this lesson, you'll review the significance of the Law, notably the Law of Moses, in God's judgment. Paul stresses that mere knowledge of the Law isn't sufficient for righteousness; obedience is key. The primary message is that salvation ultimately relies on God's grace and the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as human efforts and consciences alone cannot secure salvation. This lesson highlights the importance of understanding these concepts in interactions with people of different religious beliefs.
  • The key takeaway in this lesson is that while being a Jew comes with a great heritage, it doesn't guarantee salvation. Obedience to God's law is crucial, and reliance on religious heritage or rituals won't save you. The lesson emphasizes the universal human condition of being under the power of sin, and people cannot be declared righteous in God’s sight by observing the Law or by the works of the Law. Only through faith in Christ are we made righteous.
  • This lesson explores the New Perspective on Paul, emphasizing that the Law was for Jewish covenant status, not just salvation. It promotes a holistic faith view, balancing vertical and horizontal aspects, Spirit-led obedience, and 1st-century Judaism diversity, enriching Pauline teachings in the church.
  • In exploring Romans 3:21-26, you'll gain insights into the relationship between righteousness, faith, and salvation. Paul highlights God's righteousness, which is accessible to all through faith in Jesus Christ. By weaving together themes of righteousness, faith, and inclusivity, Paul challenges conventional Jewish and Gentile perspectives, emphasizing the continuity of God's salvation plan while underscoring the centrality of faith in Christ for all believers.
  • In this lesson, you will gain insights into the potential challenge in translating Romans 3:23-24, particularly the term "all" and its connection to the debate on universalism in evangelicalism. Dr. Moo stresses the importance of coherence in biblical interpretation and explores the themes of God's righteousness, faith, and grace in justification. The lesson reviews the cultural background of redemption, drawing parallels with the Greco-Roman slave market and emphasizing the need to understand both the problem of sin and the Gospel solution.
  • Embarking on this lesson, you'll gain insight into the historical development and contemporary challenges surrounding the doctrine of justification. Through exploring classic Reformation principles and contemporary reassessments, you'll understand the tensions between Protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives, particularly regarding the infusion of righteousness and the role of grace.
  • The lesson explores the intricate connection between faith and works, justification, and sanctification in contemporary theological discourse. It delineates divergent views on justification, with scholars like Piper advocating for the preservation of biblical distinctions amidst modern theological trends. The lesson examines key questions regarding the meaning, basis, time, and means of justification.
  • Students in Dr. Moo's class ask multiple questions about justification.
  • By studying Romans 3:27-4:25, you gain insight into Paul's theology, where faith, exemplified by Abraham's righteousness, transcends works and ethnicity, emphasizing the universal scope of salvation through Christ.
  • Hear the questions the students ask regarding Romans 3:27–4:25. And discover Dr. Moo's answers to the questions posed.
  • In Romans 5 – 8, you gain insights into profound theological concepts like justification, identity in Christ, and the tension between present reality and future hope, guiding you to embrace your changed identity and hope for future transformation amidst life's trials.
  • Students as deep questions about Romans 5-8. Hear what Dr. Moo presents as answers to their questions.
  • Through Romans 5:1-11, you'll review the contrast between the Old and New Realms, understanding the essence of living in grace, finding hope amid suffering, and experiencing the assurance of eternal security rooted in Christ's sacrifice and God's love poured into believers' hearts by the Holy Spirit.
  • In Romans 5:12-21, Paul contrasts Adam's sin with Christ's redemptive grace, emphasizing humanity's hope and victory over death through union with Christ, while various interpretations of original sin underscore the universal need for redemption and Christ's pivotal role in restoring humanity to God.
  • Listen to the thorough questions the students ask regarding Romans 5:12-21.
  • The students ask excellent questions of Dr. Moo in this insightful discussion on Romans 6:1-14.
  • Through this lesson, you will gain a deeper understanding of the theological implications of Christ's death and resurrection as explained in Romans 6. You will explore different interpretations of Paul's language regarding the old self and the new self, considering the implications for the Christian life. Ultimately, you will be challenged to recognize your identity in Christ and to actively live according to that identity, rejecting the slavery of sin and embracing servitude to God.
  • Hear the questions the students ask of Dr. Moo regarding Romans 6:1-23.
  • In diving into Romans 7, you'll explore the Law's role in Christian life. Paul's discourse clarifies the distinction between law and gospel, emphasizing the Torah's significance in understanding divine commandments.
  • Class discussion on Romans 7:1-6
  • In Romans 7:7-12, Paul explores the Law's role in intensifying sin and contrasts it with Christ's liberation. His narrative prompts reflection on individual experience and collective identity, enriching understanding of Christian faith.
  • The class discusses the previous lesson on Romans 7:7-12.
  • This lesson covers interpretations of Romans 7:13-25; whether Paul's description is of pre- or post-conversion struggle with the Law.
  • In Romans 8:1-22, discover the Spirit's transformative power over sin, leading to a life free from condemnation, intimacy with God, and anticipation of future glory amid present sufferings.
  • Explore the theological insights on environmental stewardship, emphasizing Christian responsibility in light of Romans 8:19-22.
  • Gain insights into Romans 8:23-27, understanding destined glory despite present suffering. The Spirit intercedes, bridging current and promised futures, offering assurance amid weakness.
  • Romans 8:28 offers profound insights into the nature of God's providence and the believer's journey of faith. Beyond its surface meaning, the verse challenges misconceptions about 'good' and underscores the transformative power of God's grace. It invites believers to trust in God's unfailing love amidst life's trials, anchoring their hope in the assurance of His sovereign care and redemptive purposes.
  • Romans 9:1-5 highlights Paul's profound concern for Israel's salvation and the theological complexities surrounding God's promises. Reviewing salvation history, you'll learn that God's offer of salvation for both Jew and Gentile, fits within the Old Testament narrative.
  • Paul discusses Israel's role in God's plan, emphasizing grace over race. He illustrates divine choices and sovereignty, sparking debates on salvation.
  • Discover diverse views on election, Israel's struggle with faith, and the significance of overcoming theological narrowness in Romans 9:30-10:21. Gain insights into law versus faith in attaining righteousness and the importance of engaging deeply with Scripture for a comprehensive understanding.
  • Gain insights into faith versus works, Christ as the culmination of the Law, and the inclusivity of righteousness through Him. Embrace unity in Christ, transcending cultural divisions, and embodying love and holiness.
  • Gain insight into contrasting righteousness by law vs. faith in Romans 10:5-13. Accessibility of salvation through Christ bridges Old and New Testament teachings, emphasizing unity and continuity.
  • Gain insights into Romans 10:14-21, emphasizing faith, preaching, and Israel's reception of the message. Dr. Moo highlights Paul's use of Old Testament quotes and God's ongoing relationship with Israel, revealing the significance of faith and salvation.
  • Gain insight into Romans 11:11-15. Paul discusses Jewish rejection, Gentile salvation, and Jewish inclusion, aiming to provoke Jewish envy. The phrase "life from the dead" hints at spiritual renewal or future resurrection.
  • Gain insights into the Olive Tree analogy in Romans 11:16-24. Understand humility, faithfulness, and the purpose of warning passages in Scripture.
  • Discover the mystery of Israel's salvation in Romans 11:25-32. Paul reveals unity of Jews and Gentiles, challenging arrogance and emphasizing God's inclusive love.
  • Gain deeper understanding of Christian-Jewish ties, navigate theological challenges, address Israel-Palestine tensions, and embrace God's inclusive grace.
  • Gain deep insights into Romans 12:1-2: True worship extends beyond rituals, urging sacrificial living and transformation in response to God's mercy.
  • In Romans 12:3-8, Paul stresses humility, unity, and diverse gifts within the body of Christ, urging faithful stewardship for the edification of the body of Christ.
  • Gain insights into love's complexity in Romans 12:9-21. Paul urges sincere affection, alludes to Jesus' teachings, and prompts contemplation on love and judgment.
  • Gain insights into balancing submission to authorities with obedience to God. Understand the context of Paul's exhortation to Roman Christians and the complexities of submission, emphasizing humility, unity, and love in the Christian life within God's sovereignty.

Dr. Douglas Moo, from Wheaton College Graduate School, offers an exegetical examination of the book of Romans. This course was recorded during a D.Min. seminar at the Carolina Graduate School of Divinity in May 2012.

Please note that the audio mp3 file numbers on downloaded files are two greater than each lecture number beginning with number 15.

Dr. Douglas Moo 
Romans 2:12-16  
Lesson Transcript


Romans 2:12-16

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.


A. The Law: 

Paul in verse 2:12 introduces for the first time in Romans this important word law, in Greek nomos/νόμος. We have to get our bearings by noting that when Paul is using this word in Romans it fundamentally is talking about the Law of Moses. Sometimes I think that it is even helpful here so that we remember what Paul is talking about in using the word Torah, which of course is the transliteration in English of the Hebrew word for Law as used in the Old Testament. Using the word Torah can sometimes help us remember that what Paul is talking about is a very specific thing that was central to his world. The Law God gave the people Israel through Moses, and this is fundamentally how he uses the word. 

So, in verse 12, he talks about people who sin apart from the Law, that is Gentiles who don’t have God’s Law, and those who sin under the Law, Jews who have been given Torah. In each case Paul says however, there is going to be judgment for them. So, in other words, the Jew should not think that because they have the Law, that they are going to go free at the judgment. As Paul says in verse 13, it is not just because you have the Law or hear it; it is those who do it, who obey the Law who will be declared righteous

Then he introduces the Gentiles, and here the question again arises, what kind of Gentile is Paul talking about? On the one hand, it is possible that he is talking about Gentile Christians, in which case, we would draw an arrow from verse 14 up to the end of verse 13. “It is those who obey the Law who will be declared righteous.” And Gentiles, even though they don’t have the Law, when they come to Christ, do by nature the things of the Law, they have the Law written on their hearts in accordance with the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:31-34, the famous New Covenant prophecy. So, in this view, Paul would be describing Gentile Christians who do not by nature have the Law. In other words, they didn’t grow up knowing Torah or learning Torah, but now that they have come to Christ, God by His Spirit writes the Law on their hearts, and they are people who obey the Law. So, in this view we would draw the arrow differently.


B. Jews Have the Torah and the Gentiles also Have a Law: 

The other option which I prefer is to see these Gentiles as non-Christian Gentiles. In that case what Paul would be talking about this phrase and his point would be to say, you Jews don’t brag too much about your possession of Torah because Gentiles have the Law in some form also.

The tendency of the Jews in Paul’s day would be to make a strong claim to exclusivity; to say - we of all the nations of the world have been given Torah. We have a revelation from God; we know His Law and no other nation has that opportunity. Whereas Paul would be saying here that in a sense they are right in that only Jews have Torah, but Gentiles also, as Paul says, are a Law to themselves. They do things required by the Law. The requirements of the Law are written on their hearts. Here would be a passage then that argues that Gentiles as well as Jews have access to God’s moral will, not just Jews but Gentiles also. 

One of the things that Paul is clearly trying to do in this chapter, is to level the playing field between Jew and Gentile. He is saying to the Jews that they do have certain privileges: God has chosen you, gave you His Law and brought you into this Land and God has done many good things for you. But you have taken those privileges too far; you have distanced yourself too far from the Gentiles who also have some of these things, like the Law. 

So, in the NIV, we try to reflect this way of reading the passage by putting verses 14-15 in parentheses. That is the point we are making here so that the main line of Paul’s discussion runs from ‘those who obey the Law will be declared righteous’, verse 16, ‘this will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ as my Gospel declares.’ Verses 14 – 15 are somewhat parenthetical in which Paul wants to come back in a sense, qualify this simple distinction of having the Law and not having the Law as equating to Jews and Gentiles.


C. One Such Popular View of Salvation and Judgement: 

Say you have somebody who has never encountered the Gospel, for no reason or problem of their own. In the last days conceivably could this passage give you warrant to say they will be judged according to their consciences, and their consciences will excuse or accuse them, and conceivably they will be saved on the day when God judges everyone’s heart. Have you ever heard of that idea? What do you think of that?

Dr. Moo:
Yes, it is a fairly popular view, particularly when you look at verse 15. You can see how people could say if this is talking about non-Christian Gentiles, then Paul says that their consciences might defend them, not just accuse them. And so, you have this idea that God will judge people according to how well they have lived up to the light they have received. This is the way you sometimes hear it. There are people who have received different degrees of the knowledge of God or different light in terms of what God expects of them, and God’s judgment will be tailored to how well they have lived up to that light, as it were. 

This is a popular view; it is certainly held by some evangelicals in some form and is particularly popular in terms of what we might call the preparatory stage of the Gospel. This is where people respond to the light they have been given and so seek out God or Christ and find the Gospel in that way. 

I taught Bible college, and we had African students who would ask this question all the time – what about our ancestors? This was the only passage I had that would even suggest anything. It was a pretty good question.

Dr. Moo:
It is, it is a difficult one to deal with, no question about it.  As we’re going to see as the week moves along, part of the answer to that has to lie in our understanding of the way God’s grace operates in terms of the way He works in the lives of humans, all humans, some humans, in terms of turning their hearts from their natural, hardened state into hearts receptive to the gospel.

On this verse though, it seems to me that there is little basis - I don’t see it at least - as providing the basis of the idea of persons being saved by living up to whatever light they have received. I think the way Paul puts things in verse 15 rather suggests that human beings, in the judgment of God, when faced with judgment, will examine their consciences, and find some of their thoughts accusing and some excusing. 

The question then becomes, what is the standard for God’s salvation? If eighty percent of our thoughts accuse us and twenty percent defend us, is twenty percent enough? Is thirty percent enough? Is fifty percent enough, whatever percentage we try to set it at. 

My understanding of what Paul is saying ultimately in Romans 1-3, as a pastor of mine used to be fond of saying, God does not grade on the curve. Any falling short of His glory creates an estrangement between that human and God.


D. Nobody is Saved Apart from the Gospel: 

Unless the obedience is one hundred percent, thoughts will never defend us in such a way as to present us acceptable before God in Christ. That is precisely why it requires a special operation of God’s grace in the Gospel to bring human beings into that situation. 

Now what I would say is that I don’t think Scripture clearly rules out (I want to be very cautious because at this point we have to acknowledge we are moving beyond clear, plain teaching of the Scriptures) that Scripture does not rule out, it seems to me, the ability of God to manifest himself and the Gospel to human beings, apart from a written or proclaimed word. In other words, could God appear to a human being through a dream, through a vision, or manifest Himself to an individual, in a sense, proclaim Christ to the individual through the vision to the extent that the person could respond and be saved.  I don’t see anything in Scripture that would rule that out. 

But for me, again, I am more of an exclusivist, to put myself into a category that we typically use, that wants to say no human being is saved apart from the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is what Paul is driving at in these chapters of Romans ultimately in talking about all human beings, Jew and Gentile alike, being under sin’s power, unable to be saved by what they do. Therefore, Paul goes on and talks about the Gospel, the righteousness of God, Jesus Christ as the response God has made to that situation human beings find themselves in. 

But again, you have competing views of that these days certainly. It is an issue that we who are trying to be faithful to Scripture, need to grapple with because it is so important. Particularly in our interaction with other religious options it becomes really important that we know where we stand in terms of Scripture so that we can have appropriate interaction with other folks.


E. God Has Put a Monitor Into the Hearts of People: 

Can we revisit the consciousness piece?  It sounds more vocational: that which you know, you do, rather than, am I thinking that either the grace of God is absent, or it’s eliminated by not doing what you know. 

(Dr Moo requested to rephrase)

Consciousness has to do with the idea of being conscious in the heart or in the head. If you’re conscious in the head alone, is your response to that consciousness, to do something about that, and to try to attain that head-knowledge as such?  And what effect does that attainment, or the fruition of that full consciousness, to me in a vocational sense, what effect does that have on the grace of God, or even the salvation that God provides?  

Dr. Moo:
Paul doesn’t use the word consciousness here; he uses the word, conscience.  For Paul, the conscience is sort of the monitor that God has built into humans. It is sort of like a gauge that says how well you are doing in terms of what is morally right and wrong. You can look at yourself in regards to an action you have performed or a thought that you have had; where does that fall on the scale, is that a good one or bad one? It is a kind of monitor that God has put into all human beings’ hearts. I think when he talks about Gentiles here, he is saying that even though these Gentiles don’t have the Law, they don’t have God’s Torah to measure themselves against; they do have a conscience. They have an inbuilt monitor that God puts in all humans that tells us whether something was good or bad. 

So, you can look around the world and find that it is almost universal that cultures condemn murder, condemn stealing. There are certain things that are sort of built into human beings by God, whether they have had exposure to the biblical God or not. I think that is the sort of thing that Paul is talking about.  

It is not a fault as much as it is a barometer? 

Dr. Moo:
It is that which God builds into us that enables humans to gauge how well they are doing; whether they have transgressed or whether they have done well that God uses to evaluate humans and enables humans to evaluate themselves. 

How does the culture dynamic fit all of this? 

Dr. Moo:
There is evidence when you look at cultures over time that certain kinds of things in virtually every society and culture are condemned, certain kinds of things are commended. That may prove to be evidence of this conscience that God has built into humans just because they are human, wherever they live or whatever culture they are in, or whatever era they have lived in.