Daily Archives: 09/23/2014

Could you please explain Romans 2:14?

COULD YOU PLEASE EXPLAIN ROMANS 2:14?

by Shawn Brasseaux

I would be glad to!

The best way to understand any “obscure” Bible verse is to first look at its general context (the surrounding chapters, for example). Concerning Romans 2:14, let us consider the fact that the first five chapters of the book of Romans discuss salvation by faith alone in Jesus Christ’s finished crosswork at Calvary as sufficient payment for our sins. As we will see later on, Romans 2:14 relates to that general context.

Romans chapter 1 examines mankind’s moral and spiritual deterioration, his various sins of the flesh in which he engaged when he rejected the God of heaven and earth. In that chapter, God is accusing the nations (Gentiles) of the world of willfully rejecting Him and preferring their vain idols, sinful deeds, and so on. Perhaps read Romans chapter 1 on your own in order to grasp the chapter’s thought flow. It sounds just like our local and global news reports!

Romans chapter 2 deals with various objections that man makes in attempting to defend himself against God’s accusations listed in chapter 1 (some spill over into chapter 2). The Jews believed that they were not as sinful as the Gentiles (non-Jews) so the Jews would attempt to argue that God should grant them some leniency when He would judge them—“We are not as depraved as those pagan Gentiles, so do not be so harsh on us!” In fact, some Jews believed that because they were Abraham’s children, they were inherently sinless! However, Romans 2:11 says, “For there is no respect of persons with God.” When it comes to judging sin, God does not treat any one nation or ethnic group different from another nation or ethnic group; no nation escapes because He judges them all in the end. Romans 2:12-16 is a further explanation of verse 11, and this is the passage that contains the verse that concerns your question. With that said as background, we can proceed to looking now at the verse’s immediate context (the surrounding verses).

We read in Romans chapter 2, remembering to note the immediate context of the “enigmatic” verse 14: “[12] 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; [13] (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. [14] 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: [15] 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;) [16] In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”

Verse 12 is talking about how sin needs to clearly be identified. The Ten Commandments are God’s standard of righteousness; we do not have to wonder what God accepts as “good” and what He rejects as “bad.” The Mosaic Law (Exodus chapter 20; Deuteronomy chapter 5) was given to the nation of Israel through Moses as irrefutable proof of man’s sin, in order to prove to Israel that they as sinners could not keep God’s laws, that they could not honor them and they could certainly not obey them (see Galatians 3:19). However, a Gentile at that time did not have the God of Israel as his God (see Ephesians 2:11-12; cf. Exodus 19:3-6; Deuteronomy 4:1-13; Romans 9:4-5; et cetera). In Romans 2:12-16, God is addressing the Jews’ argument that they should be dealt with less harshly because they were (supposedly) “less sinful” than the Gentiles. God is replying to the Jews that the Gentiles are certainly not going to get away with their sins because although they did not have the Law engraved in stone like Israel did, the Gentiles had the Law written in their hearts, conscience. Israel is without excuse because even the Gentiles have some sense of right and wrong. Again, God is fair in judging both Jew and Gentile. The Jew is without excuse (because he had the written law of God in stone) and so is the Gentile (because he had the law of God written in his heart); neither group can blame-shift to the other. They are equally guilty of being law-breakers before God.

Okay, let us return to Romans 2:13-16 and try to summarize. Please note that the verse you are inquiring about is part of a parenthetical statement (verses 13-15) that interrupts the thought flow of verses 12 and 16: “[12] 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; [13] (For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified. [14] 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: [15] 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; ) [16] In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”

It is written in the heart of every person—in the conscience—which beliefs and behaviors are acceptable and which are not acceptable (“their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another”). This very concept of conscience governs any and every society, whether the society is Christian or non-Christian. Conscience is what keeps law and order, even if it is in a very primitive form. The Gentiles know right from wrong by virtue of their conscience, even though they did not have the written laws of God in stone like Israel had. Often, people ask, “What about those who have not heard about Jesus Christ?” Well, the Bible says they have a consciousness that there is a righteous Creator God and they know that they will face Him in judgment (Romans 1:18-20). If they are receptive to this spiritual light that they do have, then they will be willing to hear any missionary or read any Bible they come across in order to learn about Jesus Christ and trust Him to be saved.

When all lost people stand before God Almighty one day to be judged (even those who live in remote jungles), whatever spiritual light they were exposed to, they will be held accountable to God. Revelation 20:11-15 speaks of this “Great White Throne Judgment.” No one will be able to say that they did not have a chance to know the Lord Jesus Christ. As Romans 1:20 says, everyone is “without excuse” in that regard. Those who rejected what spiritual light they did have (a conscience of right and wrong), they actually rejected a chance to later hear or read Paul’s Gospel—1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “Christ died for our sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day.” They do not want to know any further truth. As Peter said, they are “willfully ignorant” (2 Peter 3:5).

CONCLUSION

Romans 2:14 means this—the Gentiles did not have God’s Laws written in stone like Israel did, but the Gentiles naturally have orderly societies that punish murder, theft, adultery, lying, et cetera because the Gentiles have a conscience that leads them to govern themselves. That fact makes Israel unable to use the “we-are-not-as-sinful-as-the-Gentiles” excuse. If the Gentiles act more decent or better than the Jews, and the Gentiles do not have God’s laws written down like Israel, then Israel is that more accountable because they had those laws written down in stone and broke them anyway.

Also see:
» What happened at the Tower of Babel? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Why did God create the nation Israel? (LINK TEMPORARILY UNAVAILABLE)
» Were Gentiles saved before our Dispensation of Grace?

Were there people “in Christ” before Paul?

WERE THERE PEOPLE “IN CHRIST” BEFORE PAUL?

by Shawn Brasseaux

Were there people “in Christ” before Paul? Would that make them members of the Church the Body of Christ, too? We reply, “For what saith the Scriptures?”

To start off, we need to realize the weightiness of the questions at hand. Critics of Pauline dispensational Bible study object to its doctrine by claiming that there were people in Christ prior to Paul. They aim to diminish Paul’s special ministry and cause the Body of Christ to start outside of his ministry (this is ingenious, because then they could take non-Pauline doctrine and apply it to the Body of Christ, us—they want to steal Israel’s verses and will do anything to get, or attempt to get, that permission!). Their argument can be summarized as Paul not being the first member of the Church the Body of Christ because he himself acknowledged that there were people “in Christ before [him].” Romans 16:7 reads in full: “Salute Andronicus and Junia, my kinsmen, and my fellow-prisoners, who are of note among the apostles, who also were in Christ before me.” Certainly, the Bible is clear that there were people “in Christ” before Paul, but what does “in Christ” mean? Yea, that would make all the difference in the world!

The phrase “in Christ” has a particular meaning in the context, and in this context, it obviously does not refer to the Church the Body of Christ. To use this single verse to teach that people were in the Body of Christ before Paul, is to ignore many other verses that say that Paul was the first member of the Church the Body of Christ. We should not take one enigmatic verse and cast doubt on clear verses—unless we want to advance a denomination or cult’s doctrine, or defend a church tradition that we have heard all of our lives and assumed must be right!

Actually, in the Bible, the phrase “in Christ” is not always a reference to the Church the Body of Christ (this is a misconception on the part of the critics of dispensational Bible study). To be “in Christ” is a transdispensational doctrine—regardless of the dispensation, every saint is “in Christ.” Every lost person is “in Adam” and every saved person is “in Christ”—it is this way throughout the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. No matter what dispensation, if someone is not “in Christ,” that would mean he or she were headed for hell!

Now, here, please be very careful to not misunderstand. In the Bible, not all believers are members of the Church the Body of Christ. Those saved prior to the Apostle Paul were not members of the Body of Christ, and those who will be saved after our dispensation ends, they will not be part of the Body of Christ either—the Body of Christ will be taken to heaven via the Rapture to end our dispensation, and the Body of Christ is not destined to experience God’s wrath (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Thessalonians 5:9).

In the Old Testament Scripture, we read about how the nation Israel must be “in the LORD” if she is to be saved unto eternal life, justified before God, forgiven of her sins, ransomed from Satan’s kingdom, et cetera; “in the LORD” is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek “in Christ” (“Christ” and “LORD” [JEHOVAH] are the same Person). Isaiah 45:17 explains: “But Israel shall be saved in the LORD with an everlasting salvation: ye shall not be ashamed nor confounded world without end.” Verses 24-25 continue: “[24] Surely, shall one say, in the LORD have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. [25] In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory.”

The nation Israel and the Church the Body of Christ are two separate entities; to confuse them is to only confuse ourselves. Israel is made of Jews only, whereas the Church the Body of Christ is made up of Jews and Gentiles who are technically no longer Jew or Gentile, but “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15), “a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

The nation Israel and the Church the Body of Christ are two separate entities; to confuse them is to only confuse ourselves. Israel is made of Jews only, whereas the Church the Body of Christ is made up of Jews and Gentiles who are technically no longer Jew or Gentile, but “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15), “a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17). We would do well to remember that Paul is still our apostle (Romans 11:13), that the distinction between Jew and Gentile was done away once he was saved and began his ministry, and that we should not take Israel’s verses (this would include Matthew through John, and early Acts [pre-Acts 9]).

So, in conclusion, were there people “in Christ” before Paul? (Yes, Romans 16:7 says so.) Would that make them members of the Church the Body of Christ, too? (No, “in Christ” is not a term exclusive to the Church the Body of Christ.) When Romans 16:7 says that Andronicus and Junia were “in Christ” before Paul, it simply means they were saved unto eternal life prior to Acts chapter 9, before Paul’s salvation. Andronicus and Junia were Jews who had recognized and trusted Jesus as their Messiah sometime prior to Paul’s salvation. The same Jesus Christ who saved Andronicus and Junia, saved Saul/Paul sometime later! Whether us (the Church the Body of Christ), or redeemed Israel, there is one Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ, who is paying the sin-debt; the same blood shed on Calvary that saves us, is the blood that will save the nation Israel (see Hebrews 10:1-31; 1 Peter 1:18-19). Andronicus and Junia did not join the Body of Christ before Paul, for the Body of Christ did not begin until Paul. (See our study at the end of this article.) Yes, the Bible becomes so clear when we simply let it speak for itself.

Also see:
» When did the Church the Body of Christ begin?
» Was Paul saved by the Gospel of the Kingdom?
» Did Peter and Paul preach the same Gospel?