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Can someone, who does not have the law, be justified in the sight of God? The demands of the law are written in their hearts!


JUSTIFICATION BY THE INTERIOR LAW.  I was talking to a friend at a local restaurant in the Milwaukee area about salvation of those who have not heard the name of Jesus.  Alex told me this story of what happened at a Bible study a few years back.  He asked the very excellent and daring question "What happens to those people on a remote Island who never heard the name of Jesus?   The Apostle Paul says, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom 10:9).   This brings up the obvious question.  How can someone confess with their lips that Jesus is Lord, if through no fault of their own they never heard the name of Jesus?  What happens to them?  Are they destined for Hell because they never heard the name of Jesus?  The people at the Bible study had no answer to Alex's excellent question. 

There is an answer to these questions, if you know where to look.  The Apostle Paul talks about this very issue in Romans.  "All who sin outside the law will also perish without reference to it, and all who sin under the law will be judged in accordance with it. For it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified? For when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus" (Rom2:12-16).

For when the Gentiles who do not have the law by nature observe the prescriptions of the law, they are a law for themselves even though they do not have the law. They show that the demands of the law are written in their hearts...

Here we have the Gentiles who do not have the law and yet are observing the prescriptions of the law and in the end "God will judge people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus" (Rom2:12-16).  What is this amazing law that causes Gentiles to be justified by observing it?  In this case the Gentile does not have the Old Testament laws, the 10 commandments, the two great commandments or the Gospels and yet he too has a law written on his heart and it was not coming from a Jewish or Christian frame work.  It is a law written on his heart and it is this law that, when he observes it, justifies him. Sometimes this is referred to as implicit faith. Can a man be saved if he does not know Jesus in an explicit sense?  The answer is possibly yes.  If he is following the law written on his heart, observing the precepts of the law, in an implicit sense, he does know Jesus.

This Gentile, who does not have the law and yet he is justified by a law written on his heart.  
When I had this discussion with the two Evangelicals, one of the two wrote me off as a liberal watered down Catholic who didn’t know the Bible.  What he didn't seem to realize is that I could believe no other way because of what the Bible says.  He could not grasp that a non-Christian could have the possibility of justification by following this law written on his heart even though that is what the Bible says.  The Evangelical who was disagreeing with me and doing the talking asked the other one what he thought about this. And the other one said, “Interesting, very interesting.” I believe he was beginning to understand it.
                                                      
On one other occasion a person objected because why should she fulfill the great commission and go out and make disciples of all nations if it was possible for a person to be saved who does not embrace Christianity explicitly.  My response to her was that the reason we make disciples of all nations is because Jesus told us too; however, for those people who have not heard the Gospel, these people are not automatically destined for hell. 

If they follow the law written on their hearts, "their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge  people’s hidden works through Christ Jesus" (Rom2:16). 

There are some who will say that these people cannot be saved this way because there is no other person but Jesus who can save them.  What they fail to realize is that these people are being redeemed by Jesus death and resurrection and justified when they observe the law written on their hearts; “their conflicting thoughts accuse or even defend them on the day…”

There are millions of people in the history of the world who do not know Jesus and have never heard the Gospel. I asked one person if these people, who never heard the Gospel, are automatically going to Hell. He begrudgingly admitted that perhaps somehow God in his benevolent goodness may find a way to save some of them. My point to him is this; they do not have a formal law; however, they have a law written on their hearts and by this law they are justified.

The one, who follows the law written in his heart is justified in the sight of God;  “For it is not those who hear the law who are just in the sight of God; rather, those who observe the law will be justified” (Rom2:13).

What is the law written on heart that justifies someone who does not have the law?  In the Old Testament we have 613 laws and the commandments.   In the New Testament we follow the Ten Commandments and the two great commandments in the New Testament. 

How are the gentiles justified?  On the one hand, they don't have the law; on the other hand the demands of the law are written in their hearts.  And "God will judge people's hidden works through Christ Jesus"  (Rom 2:16).  Was Paul coming up with another salvation, by works and promoting another Gospel?

What is this law, written on the heart that causes Gentiles who don't know the law to be justified?

Jesus did not abolish the law but fulfilled it, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill (Mt 5:17). Jesus came to fulfill the law and so what is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets?

Jesus says, “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you for this is the law and the prophets (Mt 7:12).

"On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets” (Mt 22:40)."

Paul says, For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14).

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Rm 13:18).

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:10).


For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Gal 5:14).

Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill the law. Every culture has a comprehension of good and evil and love and hatred.  Pagans, who do not know the law, have a law written on their hearts which justies them or indicts them.   According to the Apostle Paul, this law is love.  "Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law (Romans 13:10)."  The gentiles, are observing the prescriptions of the law written on their hearts when they loving one another.