"This will take place on the day when God will judge men’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares" (Romans 2:16)
This is quite a statement! In the past few verses, Paul has unequivocally proven that humans are excuseless before God—both Jews, who have the Law, and Gentiles, who have the essence of the Law written on their hearts. As everyone has an intuitive knowledge of God and His standards, we also have a knowledge of our condition apart from God.
As everyone has an intuitive knowledge of God and His standards, we also have a knowledge of our condition apart from God.
At the end of time, when those who do not believe in Jesus stand before God for final judgment, there will be no excuse available. God will judge using their secret, hidden thoughts. Even if they manage to disregard and suppress the knowledge of God in the present world, all secrets will eventually be revealed. Our conscience bears witness of the need for Jesus (Rom. 2:15), and so this will be proof enough to condemn.
Humanity Is without Excuse but Not Without Hope
“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 the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them” (Romans 2:14-15)
If the purpose of Law is to bring the realization that we need a savior because its standards were impossible to fulfill (Gal. 3:24), what happens when someone is not familiar with the Law, the Prophets, or even the Bible? How do they come to the same realization?
What happens when someone is not familiar with the Law, the Prophets, or even the Bible?
This is an important question, and one Paul must address as he is writing to a wide audience, most of whom are unfamiliar with the requirements of the Jewish Law. This passage is specifically speaking about Gentiles, people outside of the Jewish faith with no knowledge of the Law, the Prophets, or even of God. Paul observes that even though they may have no knowledge of the Law, its requirements are written on their hearts through their conscience.