A Law Unto Themselves

Sometimes we wonder if there is a double-standard with God based on a couple of passages. One is I Corinthians 5:9-13 as Paul deals within tolerated sin within a congregation. One part of the argument makes it sound like it is okay for some of the world to live one way while Christians are held to a different standard. The other is Romans 2:13-15 where Paul speaks of those who are a law unto themselves, not knowing the gospel of God.

A Law Unto Themselves

We have a tendency to think of God’s word as two parts – the old and the new. This is reinforced by Hebrews 8, where the author speaks of a first and second covenant. The first covenant was specifically between God and Israel based on the obedience of Abraham (see Galatians 3:16), and it was delivered at Sinai after the escape from Egypt. The Old Testament then primarily focuses on that relationship between God and Israel, but Christ came for all nations.

In Hebrews 1:1, we are told that God once spoke to His creation in a variety of ways, and this is evidenced in passages like Genesis 4:3-4, Genesis 5:24, Genesis 6:8-9, Genesis 11:5, and many more, even carrying into the books of history and prophecy. We cannot know how God dealt with every godly individual, but He made Himself known to those who would follow Him, so how does this fit with the passage in Romans 2:13-15?

Romans 1:18-24 describes how much of the Gentile world had originally rejected God despite their opportunity to know Him, and Romans 2:11 reinforces the concept that God does not demonstrate favoritism. Verses 13-15 then refer to a general sense of morality contained within all mankind. Cornelius of Acts 10 is a good example of this. To be a law unto themselves is not citing a self-creation of standards as much as it is naturally following God’s code of morality without being consciously aware of that adherence.

Our Application

In Romans 2:2, we are reminded that God’s judgment is true and just. If I know what God expects of me, then I have the responsibility to follow it. In this context, God has the same expectations for everyone – whether they choose to follow Him or not. How does the reconcile with I Corinthians 5:9-13? Paul is simply reminding us not to be harshly judgmental with those outside the church who may be unaware of God’s expectations, but we should, in fact, be concerned with sin within our walls.

God cares for His entire creation. Remember Rahab, the Canaanite prostitute; Ruth the Moabite idol worshipper; the Assyrians in Jonah; Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel; and many more examples. John 3:16 reminds us that Christ came for all men, and we should have the same concern. Galatians 3:23-29 makes it clear that God sees no racial or gender-based boundaries, and John 14:6 records Jesus stating that all can come to the Father through Him. God’s way is open to all. There is no double standard for Christians and non-Christians. He is no respecter of persons, and He wishes all to repent and follow Him.

lesson by Tim Smelser