Read Romans 2:12-16
Paul continues to build his case, to show us the bad news before he can tell us about the Good News. In these verses, we find Paul now introduces the Law. Following on from this idea of works-based righteousness where, if we were good enough, salvation would be ours. Specifically that God will reward each person according to what they have done, (referencing Psalm 62:12 and Proverbs 24:12). In today's verses, we see something similar
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. (Romans 2:13)
Not hears of the Law, but doers of the law - will be justified (declared righteous). A very important word in the book of Romans. So, if we keep the law we will be justified, but, only the Jews are under the law. Paul continues the idea and explains that Jews and Gentiles are actually in the same boat in this regard. While Jews had God's Law handed to them through Moses on the mount of Sinai, Gentiles have the law also - written on their hearts. And we do feel this. We have an in-built sense of right and wrong.
Paul references those apart from the law and those under the law, Gentile and jew respectively. The point is that both groups will meet judgement. That there is condemnation, a strong disapproval awaiting them, that awaits all of us. This is the bad news. This really is the bad news. Knowing the law can not protect the Jews, they must be doers of the law! This implies that we are to follow the law completely, without a stumble or slip, without error or fault. The issue of course is we can't. We can't completely follow the law and therefore we have a problem... we can't obey the law and therefore we can't be declared righteous.
Even the Gentiles, who even though we are apart from the law, have an awareness of God's moral law in our conscience. A sense of right and wrong that is built into everyone. Only the Jews have God's written law, but all people have the law of "God".
Jeremiah 31:31-34 says that there will be a new covenant. It won't be like like the covenant God made with Israel, why? Because they broke that covenant. Instead, God will put His law in our minds and on our hearts. He will be our God and we will be His people. He will forgive our wickedness and won't remember our sins anymore.
Paul continues by telling us who will be doing the judging of our wickedness. This will be Jesus Christ, as His gospel declares. Paul mentions something similar in 2 Corinthians 5:10
For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each of us may receive what is due us for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
We will be judged against God's law. The word "law" (nomos - law, or anomōs without law) appears 11 times and refers to the Mosaic law and the Old Testament Scripture. Only occasionally does it mean something wider (verse 14). The idea here is that they replace God's law with their own law. Either way, whether we have the law (under and apart) we will be judged by Jesus when He comes.
God needed to reveal Himself through His Word so that we have a firm guide rail. What happens if we just rely on a moral law? Society gets together and begins to define its own set of rules and regulations. What does this do? It further moves us away from God's creation and God's purpose for you and I.
A good example of this is euthanasia. Euthanasia is when a person wants to voluntarily end their life to relieve their earthly suffering. The challenge with society making the rules is that we'll see a person suffering and with a "poor quality of life" and think it reasonable and accept that the person should end their life. What has the person and society done here? They have set their own benchmark on the quality of life they are to have, they have replaced God with their own expectations and replaced God with themselves. We are all made in the image of God and life is valuable. Society has collectively started to agree that this is acceptable progress and culture and society can do this because it is wishy-washy. Where ever the majority is, the world follows. Where is the benchmark? The line is constantly moving.
So, where does that leave God's judgement over us? If we follow the law of the land, of this world, will it be good enough? No!
We must completely follow God's law! Can we follow God's law completely? Be doers in all aspects? No!
What then happens? Condemnation and Judgement!