what is your take on Romans 2:13-16? Doesn't this support the notion that all humankind, regardless of whether they read or have access to God's word, shares a common moral sense at some level?Romans 2:12For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law; 13for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. 14For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, 15in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, 16on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
Matthew Henry says:
Three degrees of light are revealed to the children of men:
1. The light of nature. This the Gentiles have, and by this they shall be judged:
As many as : have sinned without law shall perish without law: that is, the unbelieving Gentiles, who had no other guide but natural conscience, no other motive but common mercies, and had not the law of Moses nor any supernatural revelation, shall not be reckoned with for the transgression of the law they never had, nor come under the aggravation of the Jews’ sin against and judgment by the written law; but they shall be judged by, as they sin against, the law of nature, not only as it is in their hearts, corrupted, defaced, and imprisoned in unrighteousness, but as in the uncorrupt original the Judge keeps by him. Further to clear this (v. 14, 15), in a parenthesis, he evinces that the light of nature was to the Gentiles instead of a written law.
He had said (v. 12) they had: sinned without law,: which looks like a contradiction; for where there is no law there is no transgression. But, says he, though they had not the written law (Ps. 147:20), they had that which was equivalent, not to the ceremonial, but to the moral law.
They: had the work of the law.: He does not mean that work which the law commands, as if they could produce a perfect obedience; but that work which the law does. The work of the law is to direct us what to do, and to examine us what we have done. Now, (1.) They had that which directed them what to do by the light of nature: by the force and tendency of their natural notions and dictates they apprehended a clear and vast difference between good and evil.
They: did by nature the things : contained in the law.: They had a sense of justice and equity, honour and purity, love and charity; the light of nature taught obedience to parents, pity to the miserable, conservation of public peace and order, forbade murder, stealing, lying, perjury, etc.
Thus they were a: law unto themselves.: They had that which examined them as to what they had done:
Their : conscience also bearing witness.: They had that within them which approved and commended what was well done and which reproached them for what was done amiss. Conscience is a witness, and first or last will bear witness, though for a time it may be bribed or brow-beaten.
It is instead of a thousand witnesses, testifying of that which is most secret; and their: thoughts : accusing or excusing,: passing a judgment upon the testimony of conscience by applying the law to the fact. Conscience is that candle of the Lord which was not quite put out, no, not in the Gentile world. The heathen have witnessed to the comfort of a good conscience...
Their: thoughts the meanwhile,: metaxy allelon: among themselves,: or one with another. The same light and law of nature that witnesses against sin in them, and witnessed against it in others, accused or excused one another...according as they observed or broke these natural laws and dictates, their consciences did either acquit or condemn them. All this did evince that they had that which was to them instead of a law, which they might have been governed by, and which will condemn them, because they were not so guided and governed by it. So that the guilty Gentiles are left without excuse. God is justified in condemning them. They cannot plead ignorance, and therefore are likely to perish if they have not something else to plead.
2. The light of the law. This the Jews had, and by this they shall be judged (v. 12): As many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law.: They sinned, not only having the law, but: en nomo: in the law,: in the midst of so much law, in the face and light of so pure and clear a law, the directions of which were so very full and particular, and the sanctions of it so very cogent and enforcing. These shall be judged: by the law;: their punishment shall be, as their sin is, so much the greater for their having the law.
I agree 100% with this. To say it more simply and with poorer words, the Apostle Paul has made two references to the fate of the unregenerate and to God's revelation to said unregenerate in chapters 1 and 2.
In chapter 1, he says:
18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, 19because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them. 20For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. 21For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks, but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.
24Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
26For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is unnatural, 27and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing indecent acts and receiving in their own persons the due penalty of their error.
28And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
The Apostle Paul says that God's existence is known to all, b/c God has made it known to all. B/c of their wickedness, they suppress the truth that He exists and has given a moral law, à la John 3: 18“He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. 19“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. 20“For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. 21“But he who practices the truth comes to the Light, so that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.”
All people also have the light of conscience, in Romans 2. The Jews have the Law, so that convicts them of sin. The Gentiles don't have the Law, and yet they are a law unto themselves b/c God wrote the requirements of the Law on their hearts. Their consciences defend them, or accuse them, depending on what the man's self-examination yields, but it's never the case that a given man will 100% of the time be "acquitted" by his conscience. We all have guilt and shame over what we've done, and we can either uncomfortably ignore it, ask God for forgiveness for what we've done, or sear our consciences with a hot iron to the point that they don't bother us anymore.
Perhaps the most misunderstood part of these 2 chapters is that Paul is laying out the problem until the very end of chapter 3. He is not giving us the solution - that starts in 3:21. The light given here is a light unto condemnation. Men know that God exists, and yet what comes of that? Idolatry, homosexuality, further descent into wickedness (chapter 1). Men have the law written on their hearts, but what comes of that? Their thoughts accuse them, and God judges them (chapter 2). The solution is unique and singular - the good news that Jesus Christ gives the free gifts of forgiveness of sin and eternal life through repentance and faith in Him. But that good news doesn't come to all, and for those to whom it does not come and even more acutely for those to whom it does come and who reject it, wrath and judgment await. May the Lord be pleased to save all who read this from such a fearful destination!