My question relates to Romans 2:12-16: “All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (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. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.” I have interpreted this to potentially mean that God will judge all people through Jesus Christ on judgment day, and that perhaps these Gentiles will have salvation “credited to them” based on their implicit knowledge and following of God’s law that was written on their hearts, regardless of a public or even conscious profession of faith. Do you think that this is possible, and am I understanding this verse correctly? I think a lot of my questions all boil down to this incomplete understanding of what it means to reject Christ based on our free will. I also realize that not all of these things can even be known or understood and that God is the ultimate judge. Thank you again!
I believe your interpretation is at least partially a correct one. We need to be aware of the context. In the context, Paul is telling the Jews that, although they had a special place with God as his chosen people, all alike are liable to judgment based on their sin. The Jews were liable to think that they were somehow protected from judgment based on being in the covenant of Moses. Paul is telling them that “There is no difference, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin” (Romans 3:9). I believe that based on this context, we should interpret Romans 2:12-16 more as providing reason for LACK of assurance, rather than reason for assurance. What I mean is this. He is not saying what he is saying in Romans 2:12-16 in order to give assurance to Gentiles that they might be saved by their own personal righteousness, but rather to warn Jews that they are no more likely to be saved based on their own righteousness under the Law of Moses than Gentiles are to be assured of their own righteousness based on conscience.
In principle, I agree with your interpretation, but I would be EXTREMELY cautious in applying it. The principle is that God will judge fairly and that each person is judged according to the knowledge given him. Up to that point I agree with your interpretation. However, he ends the section in chapter 3 by telling us that all are lost equally. All are sinners. All must be saved by the blood of Jesus. All are under a curse. “There is no one righteous, not even one.” (Romans 3:10) I do not see Romans 2:12-16 as giving any reason for optimism that they will be saved by their own personal righteousness—whether Jew of Gentile. The principle is that God will judge all fairly. However, all have fallen short, so all are judged and all must come to righteousness through the same gate, which is through the righteousness which comes through the blood of Jesus. Might a Gentile be saved based on salvation “credited to them” based on following their implicit knowledge? I will not deny absolutely the possibility that this might just possibly happen. God can make that judgment, but I see no support for this possibility in Romans CHs 2-3. What I see is that the Jews are told that they are no more likely to be saved by personal righteousness than Gentiles and, therefore, all must come to God through the blood of Jesus and through faith in that blood. “But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.” (not through personal righteousness!).