When Gentiles, who do not have the Law [since it was given only to Jews], do instinctively the things the Law requires [guided only by their conscience], they are a law to themselves, though they do not have the Law.
Those who are not Jews don’t have the law. But when they naturally do what the law commands without even knowing the law, then they are their own law. This is true even though they don’t have the written law.
(·Those who are not Jews [Gentiles] do not have the law, but when they ·freely [by nature; instinctively] do what the law commands, they ·are the law for themselves [or reveal their awareness of God’s law]. This is true even though they do not have the law [C the written law of Moses].
When the Gentiles, who have no knowledge of the Law, act in accordance with it by the light of nature, they show that they have a law in themselves, for they demonstrate the effect of a law operating in their own hearts. Their own consciences endorse the existence of such a law, for there is something which condemns or commends their actions.
He will punish sin wherever it is found. He will punish the heathen when they sin, even though they never had God’s written laws, for down in their hearts they know right from wrong. God’s laws are written within them; their own conscience accuses them, or sometimes excuses them. And God will punish the Jews for sinning because they have his written laws but don’t obey them. They know what is right but don’t do it. After all, salvation is not given to those who know what to do, unless they do it.
When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman. The Message from God that I proclaim through Jesus Christ takes into account all these differences.
For instance, some outsiders who are not required to follow the law often live quite naturally by its teachings. Even though the law wasn’t given to them, in themselves they have the law. Here’s the thing: their lives demonstrate that God has inscribed the law’s teachings on their hearts. On judgment day, their consciences will testify for them, and their thoughts will both accuse and defend them.
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