The Basis of Judgment: The Universal Internal Knowledge of God's Law (Romans Sermon 11 of 120)
March 19, 2000 | Andrew Davis
The Law of God, Conscience
I. Introduction: The Innate Sense of Fairness in Us
Today we're going to be looking at verses 12-16. The Basis of Judgment: The Universal Internal Knowledge of God's Law. And in dealing with this topic, we're dealing with the issue of fairness. And I think we're all born, I'm pretty sure of it now that I have children on my own, we're born with an innate sense of fairness. When I was a child, and there were two of us wanted to divide what was left of yesterday's dessert, do you know what the technique was? You remember what that was? One of the children would cut it and the other one would choose. And I don't know if there was a laboratory in the world that would be able to tell the difference between those two pieces after the first child had cut it. It was absolutely perfect. And why is that? Because if an arbitrary decision were made and one of the pieces were larger and the other smaller, the other one would say, "Hey," that's what? "No fair." Well, it's a little bit convoluted in that we think it's fair that we've received just as much cake as some other person. That's a whole other theological issue. We'll get to that in another topic. That's not an issue of justice now, is it? That's an issue of grace.
But we have that sense of fairness, and we especially want to have a sense that Judgment Day will be done fairly. And it will. And that's exactly what Paul is getting through to us here in this passage. That justice is impartial. It's perfect. It's done without respect of face, the very thing we were talking about last week. The problem is that doesn't help any one of us, does it? Because we need grace and we need mercy. And that's what Paul is going to describe to us today. Now, we've been seeing in Romans how the gospel of God, this message that we're unfolding week by week, is the only message of salvation available to the human race. Paul says, "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes." And that everyone includes people you work with, people you live with, people who do not know the Lord yet, people that you are responsible to take the message to. None of you should be ashamed of the gospel message either, for Paul said, "I'm not ashamed of this gospel message."
This message is the only message. It's the only power available in the universe to take us from where we are, in Romans chapters 1, 2 and 3, the total depravity, the sin, the wretchedness of our lives, to take us from that to the kind of glory described in Romans chapter 8. I can't wait to describe that to you. The message is suitable and sufficient for all this, to take us from sin to glory. And it's the only message that can. And that's why Paul says, "I'm not ashamed of it. I rejoice in it." And I have a joy in my heart week after week to get to preach it to you. It's a tremendously powerful message. Why? Because it tells us the truth. It's not going to sugarcoat it. It's not going to tell us that we're basically good people. It's going to tell us instead that there is a supernatural power for the salvation of everyone who believes this message and that it's sufficient to take you to glory.
Now, in Romans 1:18-32, we saw described how the Gentiles in particular needed that grace because they had exchanged the glory of God for something less than the glory of God. They acted it out in idolatry and sexual perversion, in all manner of evil, but the central exchange was the glory of God for something else. And all sin just flowed out of that. And then in Chapter 2, Paul then turns and addresses the self-righteous Jews who felt that they were at a higher level. "Of course, the Gentiles are that way. Of course, the Gentiles need the grace of God, but we're the Jews. We have the Law of Moses. We have circumcision. We have all these advantages and benefits." Paul says, "No, you need grace too." "Who are you, oh man, to judge someone else? For at whatever point you judge the other, you condemn yourself, because you who judge the other person you're doing the very same thing." And so he now in Chapter 2 is addressing the issue of the Jews.
And last week, he focused in on the issue of Judgment Day. Judgement Day is coming. It's coming. And what it means for every single solitary human being on the face of the earth is either eternal life or eternal condemnation. One or the other, no third category. Everyone in this room, everyone listening to me right now, you will either have eternal life or eternal wrath on Judgment Day. And so last week, we thought it was reasonable to look at the principles whereby that was given. We saw the first principle in Verse 6. It says, "God will give to each person according to what he has done." It's a judgment of deeds. A judgment according to deeds, and Jesus Christ is able to make that judgment. Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad for a tree is, what? Known by its fruits by the expert fruit inspector, Jesus Christ. Judgment according to deeds.
But then the second principle we got to in Verse 11 is that judgment will be impartial, without favoritism. And we looked at the Greek word there. It meant to receive the face, to look at the outward appearance, to just accept somebody or reject somebody based on that external appearance. That will not happen. Judgment is impartial.
Well, that leads Paul to a question. And Paul is constantly answering questions that people could raise against his doctrine. It's his constant way. You just said, Paul, that judgment is without favoritism and yet we have this one category of people, this small group of people that God seems to have blessed in an incredible way. The Jews. This small group of people have received, for example, the Law of Moses. Now, wouldn't that put them at an advantage on Judgment Day? And if so, then how can you say that judgment will be without favoritism? And so Paul needs to answer that, and I think in the text we're looking at today he gives four answers.
II. Answer #1: Two Equally Certain Ways to Impartial Condemnation (verse 12)
Let's read the text and then let's look at the answers. Beginning at Verse 11, "For God does not show favoritism. 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 the law requires, they are a law for themselves. Even though they do not have the law. Since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them. This will take place on the day when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares."
So what is the question? The question is, how can judgment be impartial or without favoritism if the Jews have, for example, the advantage of the law? How can it be? And the first answer is in Verse 12, that there are in effect two equally certain ways to impartial condemnation. There's no salvation in these verses, have you read that? Look at Verse 12, it says, "All who sin apart from the law will also," what? "perish apart from the law. All who sin under the law will be," what? Saved by the law? No, "judged by the law." There's no salvation in Verse 12. There is only perishing and judgment. It's just that there's two different paths to get there.
There are two categories of people here. Category number one is all who sin apart from the law. This would be Gentiles. Gentile sinners. And their status is that they are apart from the law. Now, the word 'apart from the law' usually could mean lawless or wicked, but I don't think it means so in this context. I think it's just meaning Gentiles here. People who did not receive the Law of Moses. Now, 1 John 3:4. I know says that sin is lawlessness, the essence of sin is turning one's back on the law of God, but here I think he's referring specifically to Gentiles. Paul uses the same kind of terminology in 1 Corinthians 9:20 and 21, he says, "To the Jews I became like a Jew. To those under the law I became like one under the law, so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law, I became like one not having the law." Two categories, Jews and Gentiles, and there in 1 Corinthians 9, he uses this terminology of under the law, not having the law. You see? Jews and Gentiles. And that's what he's referring to here.
The Gentiles never received a written law from God, did they? That was given to the Jews. And we're going to talk more about that when we get to Romans 9, but Paul says that they received the oracles of God, they received the very words of God, he also says in Romans chapter 3, they were entrusted to the Jewish people. This is a Jewish book. The Old Testament was given to the Jews. And so it seems like they have an advantage, and that's what he's dealing with here. But the Gentiles did not receive it. And he says it several times in this passage. Well, that's their category or their status. They are apart from the law. What is their behavior? Well, they're sinning apart from the law. They're sinning apart from the law. They're not righteous apart from the law. There was earlier in this or last century, earlier in the 20th century, the sense of the pure and righteous native untouched by Western civilization, that kind of idea, but Paul says that these who are apart from the law are in the category or the status of sinning apart from the law.
Sin is a universal problem. That's exactly what he is describing. It's a problem for everybody. Romans 3:9, he says, "We've already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin." Jews and Gentiles alike are under sin. Romans 3:22 and 23 says, "There is no difference." Difference between what? Difference between Jew and Gentile, "for all have sinned and lack the glory of God." So everybody is under sin. Well, what's their judgment? All will perish apart from the law. "All who sin apart from the law will perish apart from the law." And it says, "All will perish." Not one escapes. Everyone is condemned. It's not like some of those Gentiles who were sinning will escape judgment, but everyone gets it. Everyone. And it says, they will "perish." This can be nothing other than eternal condemnation in hell. That's exactly what the perishing is here. In Verse 8 of Chapter 2, it says, "For those who are self-seeking, who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger." And then in Verse 9, "There'll be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil. First for the Jew, and then for the Gentile."
So this word 'perish' is referring to an eternal death apart from God in hell. It's the very same use as in John 3:16. "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not," what? "perish, but have," what? "everlasting life." So perish is the opposite of everlasting life. John 3:16, a complete verse. It's all right there. God sent His son so that we would not perish but rather that we would have eternal life. But here in this verse, they are perishing apart from the law, do you see that? There's no salvation here. So, category one. Sinners apart from the law. What happens? All will perish. Now, category two. All who sin under the law. Their status is that they are under the law. These are Jews who have received the Law of Moses, and Paul uses the manner of speaking that they are under the law. They are under it. In other words, they are bound to full obedience to that written code. They've got to obey it from A to Z. Every letter.
Galatians 3:10, Paul talks about this. He says, "All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." What a burden that is, I'm going to talk more about that over the next few weeks, but what an incredible burden to have to live out every single precept of the law. And they couldn't do it. They couldn't do it. James says in James 2:10, "Whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty," of what? "the whole of it." The whole law. You stumble at just one point, you're guilty of breaking the entire law.
So the Jews were under the law, and the law therefore promised them no salvation but only condemnation, only judgment. There's a beautiful picture of this in John Bunyan's classic, Pilgrim's Progress. Christian is his name, it's an allegory, and he's walking the walk of eternal life as he's seeking out for Christ. He's urged to go through a gate and he begins his pilgrimage. He's got a bundle on his back, it represents his sin, the guilt, guilty conscience, which we're going to talk about later this morning. It's just burdening him, weighing him down, and he wants freedom from it. And he gets some bad advice, and he gets off the road and starts heading toward Mount Sinai, which represents the law, which represents do-goodism, trying to do it by your own strength, obeying the law, this kind of thing. And so he begins, and at first it's a gentle slope, but the more he goes on it gets steeper and steeper until it threatens to topple over on him and crush him like an avalanche. That's Sinai. It offers no salvation. That's the way it was for the Jews. There's no advantage here. There's no advantage from the law in terms of Judgment Day and salvation. None.
Romans 3:20, "Therefore no one will be justified by observing the law." Not one person is going to be justified by observing the law. Rather through the law, we become conscious of sin. Conscious of sin. So what are the Jews' behavior? They are sinning under the law. Their status is that they're under the law, but they are sinning under the law, they're breaking the law. Jesus said so. Jesus said to the Jews in John 7:19, "Has not Moses given you the law? Yet not one of you keeps the law." That's from Jesus' mouth Himself. And He's the judge. He said, "Not one of you keeps the law." The law is not a path to salvation. Not for the Jew. Not for anyone. And what is their judgment? Well, they will be judged by it. All will be judged by the law. All means not one will escape, they will be judged. Not justified, not saved, but judged by the law. Jesus said it this way in John 5:45, "Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set." Moses will stand up and accuse you, and how so? Because of the law that came through Moses. There's no salvation here for anybody, and therefore there's no advantage for the Jews on Judgment Day.
Do you see how Paul's answering that? He's dealing with it, he's saying, "Judgment is impartial." Somebody could say, "Well, wait a minute. The Jews got the law." And he says, "No advantage. It's no advantage." So the difference here is the method of prosecution not the outcome of the trial. A trial, outcome is set. Guilty. Guilty as charged for everybody, Jew and Gentile, but the manner of prosecution is different. Sinning apart from the law or sinning under the law, but either way the outcome is the same. Now again, I just can't go very far without wanting to come back again to the mercy and the grace that God offers to us. It's not justice we'll be crying for on Judgment Day, is it? "Give me what I truly deserve, God, and only what I truly deserve". Will you be saying that on Judgment Day? No. Therefore, I urge you to say today, "God, give me grace, give me mercy in Christ's name. Through His blood, give me grace and mercy." Today is the day of grace and mercy, not that day. There'll be no justification by faith that day. There'll be no faith that day. You'll see it right in front of you. Your eyes will see the judgment. And so there will be no faith, and therefore, there will be no salvation on that day.
Today is the day of faith. And so as I speak, I'm hoping to erect the cross in your mind. And the blood of Jesus Christ is the atoning sacrifice. We're not crying for justice. Now, God is concerned about justice in terms of getting you saved, we'll deal with that in Romans 3. He will be just and justify you at the same time, He can do that. But you're crying for mercy. And it's available in Jesus Christ.
III. Answer #2: Hearing the Law Gives No Advantage on Judgment Day (verse 13)
Answer number two that Paul gives us in Verse 13, and that is simply this, "Hearing the law gives no advantage on Judgment Day." The hearing of the law gives no advantage. Look at Verse 13, he says, "It is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God's sight, but it is those," who what? "obey it." It is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
Now, the Jews had a kind of a formal confidence, an external confidence, and it was really rooted in their national heritage and their national being. You could come at this a lot of different ways, but one of them is looking at their first two kings. Their first king was King Saul. And what was noteworthy about Saul? He was a head taller than anybody else there that day. And everybody thought, "Oh, what a great king he's going to make." He's a tall man, right? But David, the second king, he was scrawny at that point, a very young boy, the youngest of his brothers, and despised for it too. And you remember what God said to Samuel? "Man looks at outward appearance but God looks at the heart." The Jews were in the habit of looking at the externals. They rejected Jesus on external basis, "We know where this man comes from but when the Messiah comes no one will know where he comes..." so therefore Jesus isn't Messiah.
Or I heard on CNN recently, a debate with Dr. Muller on Jewish evangelism, and the Jews were rejecting Jesus because the Messiah will bring world peace. And since there's no world peace, Jesus wasn't the Messiah. You see? Missing the difference between the first and the second comings of Christ. Externals looking at external and do the same thing with themselves in terms of Judgment Day. "I'm a Jew, I'm a descendant of Abraham, we received the law therefore we'll be fine on Judgment Day." Looking at the externals. They did it in Jeremiah's time, for example, Jeremiah 7:4, "It's because we have the temple of the Lord, we're going to be safe." Remember, Jeremiah talked about this, "Do not trust in deceptive words and say, this is the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord, the temple of the Lord." Don't do that. And don't say because of that, "We are safe." Jeremiah says, "Safe? To do all these wicked things?" Uh, that speaks a word to American Christianity. We are safe, we're saved to do all these wicked things.
That's a dangerous position to be in. We're not safe to do wicked things. If you're saved, you do righteous things. We talked about that last week, but they were looking at externals. Or because we're children of Abraham, we're fine. John the Baptist dealt with this as we discussed last week, do not say to yourselves, "We are Abraham's descendants. I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham." They're looking at the externals. "Bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance," said John the Baptist. Now the focus of the false claim here is that hearing of the law of Moses was sufficient. We go week after week, week after week to the synagogue and we hear the law of Moses read, we listen to it and therefore we're safe, on Judgment Day. All we have to do is just hear that good word, it's the law of Moses, it really is the law of God written with the finger of God. And because we have this we are safe and secure.
No, it's 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, and James put it this way, "Do not merely listen to the word and so trick yourselves, deceive yourselves, rather do what it says, do what it says." There's no advantage in merely hearing the law week after week in the synagogue. Now how many books were there in the Jewish Bible? Sunday school question, 39 right? 39. I won't make anyone raise your hands. 39 books in the Jewish Bible. How many books are there in the Christian Bible? 66. You see the Jews had the Old Testament and they were under the weighty responsibility of that. We have even more don't we? We have even more of the word of God, even more. And Jesus said when He told the parable of the seed in the soils, remember the same seed went out, but it was different kinds of soils, different kind of outcome, different kind of crop. Right? And after all that Jesus said in Mark 4 He said, "Consider carefully what you hear." We could also say, "Consider carefully how you hear." Hearing is very important in the spiritual life. It's not just a matter of hearing with the ear, but hearing with the heart for obedience and therefore, I say that law hearing in this way actually increases guilt on Judgment Day, doesn't decrease it. It actually increases it.
Listen to what Jesus says, "That servant who knows... " This is Luke 12:47-48, "That servant who knows his master's will and does not do it, will be beaten with many blows. But the one who does not know and does things deserving of punishment will be beaten with a few blows, for everyone who has been given much, from that person, much will be demanded. And from the one who has been entrusted much, much more will be asked." Let me ask you a question, you get a Jewish person in Jesus' day, and an American Christian, been going to church all their lives, who has been given more between those two? We have more of the Scripture, we have Pentecost, the Holy Spirit, we have 2000 years of church history. The fruit, God's looking at the fruit. Law hearing without law obeying actually increases guilt on Judgment Day. It's not an advantage to the Jews. James put it this way in James 4:17, "The one who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins." The Jews knew it, they knew it, and so do we. We hear it week after week, truth of God.
IV. Answer #3: The Gentiles DO Have A Law: The Universally Implanted Law of God (verse 14-15)
The third answer he gives in verses 14 and 15 is that the gentiles do in fact have a law. Oh this is amazing. This is something you would not know if Paul hadn't told you, it's something you wouldn't know if God hadn't revealed it to you.
Look at verse 14 and 15, "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, since they show that... " Look at this, "The requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their conscience is also bearing witness and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them." The righteous requirements of the law are written on your heart. It's incredible. Now Paul says two more times here that the Gentiles do not have the law, he means the written law, the law of Moses. What did they miss by that? They missed the Mosaic articulation of the universal law that everyone has, but also some particularities, some aspects of Jewish life, the dietary regulations, the kind of food they couldn't eat, pork, all that, the way they were to deal with their hair. The sacrificial system, all of those things they did not have. And there is, I think a law within the law. There's a core law.
The reason I get this out of Matthew 23, Jesus talked to the scribes and Pharisees as the sevenfold Woe says, "Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites." Then he says, "You give a tenth of your spices. Mint dill and cumin. But you've neglected the weightier matters of the law. Justice, mercy, and faith. You should have practiced the latter without neglecting the former." Saying, you should do it all, but understand, there are some things that are heavy and weighty in the law, there are core values, that's why Jesus was able to boil the whole law down into two great commands, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself." This is the law. So the Gentiles did not have that articulation of the law but they did have something else and that was a law written in their hearts. It says, "When Gentiles do the law by nature," that's an amazing phrase, "by nature," that means naturally, something that is coming from creation, something that's created within you, a law, something from God from the start, something innate and internal.
It's not from culture, it's not from training, it's not from your parents. It's from God, and it's written on your heart. And it says that they are a law unto themselves. Usually when you speak of somebody who is a law unto themselves, it means that they're a very unique and creative individual or very rebellious, something like that. Maybe like a person who won't color between the lines or somebody who just has their own way of doing things. But I think here what it means is that that they have a special law written in their hearts that God gave them. They have a law of their own. And where is that law? It's not written on vellum or on stone even or on anything, it's written into their souls by God. Verse 15 since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts.
Now the Jews got their law... I think also written in their hearts, but also written in stone by the finger of God, The Ten Commandments. I don't know all the precepts. I can't stand here and tell you all the precepts that are written in your heart by God. I don't know what they all are. God knows, and we knew if we weren't truth suppressors, that's what we are. We're truth suppressors, Romans chapter one, we push the truth down, we twist it, we don't want it and so we're so unused to listening to it that we're not quite sure, always what it's saying, but it's in there. It's in there. Now I don't know what these are. Perhaps you should love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength. I don't know if that's written in there, maybe so. Maybe all The Ten Commandments are there. I don't know. But I do know that these verses are teaching of a universal law that all of us have. And because of that, the Gentiles are not at a disadvantage on Judgment Day, for they have this law written in their hearts.
V. Answer #4: Conscience Also Testifies to the Gentile
And the forth answer that Paul gives is in regard to conscience. The conscience also testifies for the Gentile. Now the conscience is a tremendous gift from God. It's part of what God created in you when He made you. The word conscience itself is a Latin word and it means, you take the prefix "con" together with science, it means a kind of knowledge that we have together, a collective knowledge, which, again, points to that universal law. Interesting thing is the Greek word is the same thing, "suneidesis", sun means "together with," "eidesis" is a kind of knowledge, it's a knowledge we have collectively or that we share. A better definition perhaps of conscience, or a full definition is that conscience is that faculty of the soul by which one distinguishes between the morally right and wrong, which urges him to do that which he recognizes to be right and to avoid what he recognizes to be wrong and which passes judgment on all of his actions and executes that judgment in the soul. Taking that long definition and breaking up, we see that there are three functions of conscience. First is what we could call the obligatory, the part that tells you do what you should do and don't do what you shouldn't do. Do you have that inside you? There's part of you that is urging you do what you should do, don't do what you shouldn't do. God put it there, He put it there and everybody's got it.
And then there's the judicial side, which weighs your actions, it looks backward on what you have done and it either tells you that you did well, or you didn't do well. Either tells you that you did well or you did badly or you did poorly and then it executes the judgment in your soul. It tells you, be happy because you did well or be miserable because you didn't do well. And there's all kinds of people walking around with defiled consciences. They cannot shake that feeling of guilt. And there is one freedom from it, isn't there? The blood of Jesus Christ. That's what makes it so powerful. The Bible tells us more about conscience. Conscience as Paul uses it here proves this internal law because you have part of you that's pointing the finger at you and saying you've done wrong, it testifies to a future Judgment Day. If there's part of you that's saying you did wrong or you're a sinner, how much more will the Creator do it? And so again Gentiles are not at a disadvantage. Conscience sometimes accuses. If the conscience sometimes accuses, then how will it be for the Gentile on Judgment Day?
The New Testament frequently speaks of conscience in terms of the non Christian. In Titus 1:15 it says, "To those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact both their minds and their consciences are corrupted." It's possible for the conscience to be corrupt. If you don't listen to it, if you disobey its edicts, if it's plugged into a faulty system of right and wrong, it becomes corrupt. And that leads to guilt, a guilty conscience. Hebrews 10:22 speaks of a guilty conscience. The Jews had the guilty conscience. In Hebrews 9:9 it says, "Religious ceremonies, going to temple, worship, all that, could not cleanse the conscience of the worshipper," there was no freedom from it. Just like people try to come to church and try to do various things, and there's no freedom from a guilty conscience that way. Religiosity, religious service, no freedom, but salvation through the blood of Jesus Christ, now that is capable of clearing the conscience, Amen?
The freedom of a pure conscience, you can walk out of here today with a pure conscience. Do you realize that that's possible though the blood of Jesus Christ? You can walk out of here with a completely clear conscience. It says in Hebrew 9:14, "How much more then will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death so that we may serve the living God." Praise God for His salvation. "What a great salvation it is," the writer to Hebrews says. A great salvation which can cleanse the impure conscience, the defiled conscience, and make it clean again and enable you to serve the living God. And Paul had a clear a conscience, didn't he? The apostle Paul. And he said, not only do I have a clear conscience through the blood of Christ, but I strive every day to keep it clear. Acts 24:16 he says, "Because of the final Resurrection and Judgment Day I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and man." Are you doing the same, Christian? Are you striving day after day to keep your conscience clear before God and man? Conscience is a gift from God.
Now there are limitations to conscience. First of all, conscience has to be plugged into a proper system of right and wrong. You need a proper assessment of truth because the conscience is separate from the internal law. Look at verse 15, it says, "Since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts their consciences also bearing witness." You see the word also. That means conscience is different than the internal law. It's a different thing. And their thoughts now accusing, now even defending. That internal law can be twisted. You can have a wrong set of values in there. Look at for example, the stone age tribesmen in Irian Jaya, worshipping idols, brought up from a little boy to sacrifice to his family idols. And one day just out of sheer laziness he doesn't do it. He doesn't do it. And he feels what? Guilty. He feels guilty for not sacrificing to that idol. See, conscience can be twisted. It's telling him to do what he thinks is right, but what he thinks is right isn't right. So there's limitations to conscience.
Consciences can also be seared. 1 Timothy 4:2, speaking of false teachers it speaks of hypocritical liars whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. If you touched a hot iron again and again, after a while the skin would be dead. You didn't feel anything anymore. And there's some people that are involved in all kinds of wicked behavior, they don't feel anything. They don't feel it. It's like they don't have a conscience. Their conscience has been seared. It's like it's not even there anymore. And even for Christians, may I say, that conscience is an imperfect guide. 1 Corinthians 4:4 is a very important verse in this. 1 Corinthians 4:4, Paul says, "My conscience is clear but that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges." Do you see what Paul's saying? It's very important. I've had people tell me, "Well my conscience is clear." I say, "Well that doesn't make you innocent." And neither does my clear conscience make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges. We are not good judges of ourselves, are we? And so conscience can be, can miss sometimes. "My conscience is clear," says Paul, "But that does not make me innocent. It is the Lord who judges me."
The bottom line here in Romans is the mere existence of conscience, shows the truth of a universal sense of right and wrong. The gentiles are not at any disadvantage on Judgment Day any more than the Jews, but all are under judgment. And all need what? Grace and mercy and forgiveness through the blood of Christ. Isn't that what Paul's doing here, in Romans 1, 2 and 3? We all need Christ, Jews and gentiles alike. To summarize, Paul's been dealing with this question of how is Judgment Day impartial if the Jews have the law and the gentiles don't. His first answer is we're dealing with two equally certain ways to impartial judgment. You can sin apart from the law or you can sin under the law. Either way it leads to judgment.
His second answer is that hearing the law gives no advantage, only doing it. And because of the corruption of our hearts we're not doing the law. And so that's no advantage on Judgment Day. The third answer is the bomb shell. The amazing truth that they do have a law written in their hearts. Now let's take a step back for a moment and summarize what God has said is in the heart of every person, even those who live on the distant shores, who've never heard of Jesus Christ. People always ask, "What about those who haven't heard of Christ?" Let's talk about what they have. Romans 1:18-23 says that they know that God exists, that He is eternal and powerful 'cause they can see it every day in what has been made. They know He exists. Romans 1:32 says, "They know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death." In other words, they feel the decree of death for sin in their hearts. They know of Judgment Day and they know that they're under judgment. And now in verse 12-16 we have this internal law. Internal right and wrong, which they suppress, which they twist, but it's there. Everybody has it. Isn't that amazing?
And what that does, it gives us an advantage in preaching the Gospel. We go out and we're saying, "You know that there's a God. You know that there's a Judgment Day. You feel the right and wrong in your heart. Now let me tell you how to be free from the guilt you feel." You're already almost there. You're 2/3, 3/4 of the way there in preaching the Gospel. I'm not saying they'll acknowledge that they feel these things, but they're in there. And you can reach out for them.
VI. Judgment Day: All Secrets Exposed (verse 16)
Paul's fourth answer is that conscience also bears witness that we deserve judgment. Now the final verse here in verse 16 he says, "This will take place, all of this will take place, when God will judge men's secrets through Jesus Christ as my Gospel declares." The final word here in verse 16 is, "Bring our minds back to that great day." The day he already talked about. That day is Judgment Day. Act 17:31, "God has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed." That day is... The date is set. God knows when it is. We don't know. But He knows. And He's chosen the judge. Who is the judge? It's Jesus Christ. Jesus will do the judging. And what is the content of the judgment? Well here in this verse it's human secrets. Human secrets. Secret actions, things done in secret.
Matthew 10:26, Jesus said, "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed or hidden that will not be made known." That's why Paul says in Ephesians, "Live as children of the light for the light makes everything visible." Live out in the open all the time constantly because everything you do will be openly revealed someday. "God will judge men's secrets," it says here. Secret actions, and that's positive or negative. Jesus says in Matthew 6 about your prayer life. God sees what is done in secret and He'll reward you. Do good things in secret. How about that? Don't do evil in secret. Do good things, give alms in secret, pray for people in secret. Do things and don't ever tell anyone about it. Do those things in secret. Don't do dark things in secret because someday, everything will be revealed, everything. And not only secret actions, but secret motives. We always talk about our good deeds but what's the motive? That'll be revealed, too. God will test the motive of the heart. It says in 1 Corinthians 4:5, "When the Lord comes, He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of men's hearts. At that time, each will receive his praise from God."
I guess my final question to you is, are you ready for that day? Are you ready? Have you given your life to Jesus Christ and, are you living like you gave your life to Jesus Christ? Are you striving day after day to keep your conscience clear before God and man? Do you see in Jesus and in the cross of Jesus Christ the only solution to your dilemma of the guilty conscience? Do you see that? Do you see the blood of Jesus Christ? Because I want to close today by portraying Jesus Christ plainly crucified. Why was Jesus lifted up on that cross? Why was He nailed to that cross? Why was His blood shed? Why did He suffer under the wrath of God? He had done no evil. He committed no sin, no deceit was found in His mouth, but He suffered in our place, that we might have clear consciences and power to live out the kind of life that God commands us to live. Have you come to Christ? You can walk out of this room today with a pure conscience. Don't miss that opportunity. Let's close in prayer.