“Who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them” (Romans 2:15).
The context concerns Gentiles (Romans 2:14). The Gentiles did not have the law (the Law of Moses). However, some of them did by nature (their character or habit) the things in the law (the Law of Moses). They did this, not because they were under the Law of Moses, but because they were “a law to themselves” (Note: This does not mean that they were left to create their own religious and moral standards. It means that they were a people of law, though separate and apart from the Mosaic system).
There were some teachings that they had received which were also contained in the Law of Moses. Consider: (1) Murder (Genesis 9:6 cf. Exodus 20:13); (2) Fornication/Adultery (Genesis 38:24; 39:7-9 cf. Exodus 35:2 cf. Exodus 20:4-5); (3) Idolatry (Genesis 35:2-3; Exodus 20:4-5); (4) Blood (Genesis 9:4 cf. Leviticus 3:17; 7:26-ff; 17:12).
Some Gentiles had the work of the law written in their hearts (Romans 2:15). Please observe: This does not say “The law of the heart,” but “the works of the law written in their hearts.” Roy Deaver Commented, “When the Gentiles, who did not have the Mosaic law, but did have divine (revealed) law, did by nature the very things which Mosaic law demanded, …they showed the very works which were demanded by the Mosaic law were written in their hearts. These works (which God required of them) were written in their hearts because God had revealed His will to them – that which he wanted them to have and to know” (Deaver, Romans: God’s Plan For Man’s Righteousness, p. 78). The words “written in the heart” in no way implies that God directly infused His will into each of their minds. Consider: (1) God’s word was to be in the hearts of the Israelites (Deuteronomy 6:5-7; 11:18-19). Yet, God’s word had to be taught (Deuteronomy 6:7; 11:19). (2) God’s word is to be in man’s heart today (Jeremiah 31:31-33 cf. Hebrews 8:8-12; 10:16-17). Yet, Christianity is a taught religion (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:14-16; Luke 24:47; John 6:45; Acts 20:20-21, 27; 2 Timothy 2:2; Hebrews 5:12-14).
Again, some of the Gentiles had God’s law written in their hearts. Therefore, they could, by their consciences, examine themselves in light of God’s revealed will.
Roy Deaver suggested, “The conscience involves: (1) possible course of action, (2) information, (3) moral judgment, (4) urging – the prodding, the prompting – of the conscience, (5) the action, and (6) the approval or the condemnation by the conscience” (Deaver, pp.80-81). He cautioned, “It is possible, of course, for one to have a good conscience, even in doing or in having done wrong. It is possible for one to have an offended conscience, even in doing or in having done what is right. It is an erroneous concept that the conscience can be or ought to be one’s guide. The real guiding factor is the information. If the information is incomplete, or if it is not accurate, then the judgment formed (based upon that information) could be wrong” (Deaver, p. 81).
Is God’s word in your heart? Can you correctly discern His will?