“For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;”—Romans 2:12
“(For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;)” Romans 2:13-15). This portion of the letter is a parenthetical insertion explaining Romans 2:12. This letter’s immediate, historical and grammatical context was that it was addressed to a local congregation of Jewish and non-Jewish believers in Christ. As far as those who would be judged by the Law, Paul was speaking to those who knew the Law (pious Jews), as well as to those who received the Law but did not know the Law (nominal Jews); but as they were hearers of the Law, they would be judged by the Law. If they were merely professors of Christ without the regenerative work of the Holy Spirit to convert them unto salvation, they would be judged by every jot and tittle of the Law because they received every benefit contained in the Law for their blessing and welfare; yet they denied the Messiah for whom the Law spoke, and denied the Law as a schoolmaster to bring them unto Christ Jesus… for only Christ kept the Law perfectly and fulfilled it completely, both actively and passively. Jesus told the religious, but faith-denying Pharisees, “Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words?” (John 5:45-47).
This applies to us as well; that is, for all who profess to be believers and trust in the Lord Jesus Christ. Just as unbelieving Jews have the Law and trusted in it, we have the Bible, these sixty-six books that point to Jesus Christ; and through its authoritative, Spirit-led, Spirit-illuminated truth, the gospel truth of the beloved Savior is there; for the Scriptures only have eternal life as it is the revelation of who Christ is and what He has done. Revelation 22:18-19 ends with this warning,
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.”
Although the above text speaks of the book of Revelation in particular, most reputable preachers, expositors and commentators agree that it is implied that, since this book is the revelation of Jesus Christ, and every book of the Bible is the revelation of Jesus Christ, in who He is: God in human flesh and the second Person of the Triune God; and also in what He has done: in His incarnation, righteous life, sacrificial death, burial, resurrection, and ascension to the right hand of the Father; then, this warning is to “every man” (Revelation 22:18) who has heard God’s prophetic Word from the pages of Scripture and to “any man” (Revelation 22:19) who has heard God’s prophetic Word from the pages of Scripture.
Yet, someone may ask, “But what about the Watusi or the Hottentots in the deepest parts of Africa who have never heard the gospel message?” Romans 2:14-15 tells us what Romans 1 has already told us: the invisible things of God, since the creation, are clearly seen and understood (Romans 1:20) because God’s righteousness is revealed in mankind’s creation (Romans 1:17), and that God’s wrath against sinful men is revealed from heaven (Romans 1:18); and that there is a consciousness in every man that the sins listed in Romans 1:23-32 are an offense to the Creator, and clearly known in the conscience of these men, until they had become vain in their imaginations (Romans 1:21) and God turned them over to their unclean lusts (Romans 1:24), to their perverted sensualities (Romans 1:26), and to their depraved minds (Romans 1:28) because they suppressed the truth of their conscience in unrighteousness.
One may ask, “Doesn’t that make you want to go out and proclaim the gospel to them?” Yes it does; yet, my motivation may not be what you’re thinking.
“For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law… In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel” (Romans 2:12, 16). There is a judgment coming that is so exacting that it judges the very secret sins that no one else knows or sees except God. Among those who are not in Christ, who have not been declared righteous in God’s sight through justification by faith in Christ alone according to the Scriptures alone, every sin openly committed and secretly harbored, will be made manifest before all. The wicked will be stripped bare.
The hidden things of darkness will be exposed in the light of Jesus Christ’s incredible and awesome majesty; and the entire world will see it! I cannot describe to you the immeasurable shame that will come when every deed is exposed before the Lord of Glory, Jesus Christ, whose brightness surpasses the sun in its strength; and after every witness is brought forth unto condemnation of that soul, the words of the Eternal Son will render His judgment, “I never knew you: depart from Me, ye that work iniquity.”
When that soul is commanded to depart, however unwilling he or she may be, they must go. There will be no weeping over such a one in that Day. For when the veil is pulled away, and the glory of Christ is fully revealed, the attention of all the heavenly host, and especially Christ’s beloved, glorified Bride, will be upon Him in all His majestic splendor rendered in His righteous judgments:
“He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” —Deuteronomy 32:4
“The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.” —Psalm 19:9
“Yea, in the way of Thy judgments, O LORD, have we waited for Thee; the desire of our soul is to Thy name, and to the remembrance of Thee.” —Isaiah 26:8
Some very liberal ministers might impose upon us today to keep our mouths shut concerning the coming judgment because it “isn’t very loving” (these are the very same ones that say that we should not speak of sin as well); yet, God poured out His holy wrath upon His only Son as a substitute for the penalty of the sins of all those He would save. It would be the most spiteful, unloving thing for a minister of the gospel to NOT warn you to flee from the wrath to come.
Beloved, Jesus Christ spoke more on hell, wrath and judgment than nearly any other topic recorded in the gospels. Eternal punishment from the judgment rendered in that Day is a place of weeping and gnashing of teeth, where the worm never dies and the thirst is not quenched. “Will it be a literal fire?” I have been asked once. No; I don’t believe that it is; rather, not in the sense of fire that we know here on earth. That fire could never be hot enough for the sins I have committed against a holy God.
The perfection of God in His Triune Persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the perfection of His work in the Cross of Christ, is so magnificent and so wonderful that to proclaim its salvation is sufficient enough to rescue the vilest offender from a fate of eternal torment; yet, it is so infinitely glorious and perfectly valuable that it is equally sufficient in its demonstration of God’s justice that it could condemn to hell every sinful creature apart from the grace and mercy of God.
There is no need in God. He is sufficient in Himself because He is perfect and complete. He is under no obligation from any force or influence outside of Himself to save any single soul; and He would be perfectly justified to send every man, woman, and child to hell, for that is what we all deserve. That God saves sinners, declares them justified through the sacrifice He has made in His Son, AND that God allows these saved sinners to proclaim the truth of the crucified Christ is something that amazes the angels in heaven.
Listen to the sermon preached on this text, Romans 2:12, “The Just Judgment of a Righteous God,” on August 23, 2009 at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church.
Read the previous article in this series, “The Just Judgment of a Righteous God” (Romans 2:5-11).