In verses 13 through 15, Paul, using debater’s technique, refutes the idea that salvation can be appropriated by keeping the Mosaic Law. He does this by first making a false assumption that a person can be justified by keeping the Law and then showing that it is impossible.
For not the hearers of the law begins with the explanatory conjunction Greek word “gar,” used to express the cause or reason. Plus Paul uses the strong negative Greek word “ouk” and the plural subject from “akroates,” which means those who sit in the congregation and listen to teaching - a student in that sense. It refers here to Jews being taught the Mosaic Law. Merely learning the Mosaic Law is not adjusting to the justice of God. Therefore, merely to be a student of the law was non-meritorious.
Are just before God is the Greek “dikaios,” which means adjusted to the justice of God or properly related to the integrity of God.
But the doers of the Law is the Greek word “poietes” and is correctly translated doers, plus the Greek word “nomos” for Law. The words “the doers of the Law” is the assumption. It is a reference to the hard-core self-righteous person who is not a student but is “a real hustler and worker for God.” They try to be justified before God by a system of good deeds, which they have developed from the Law. Like the rich young ruler, they are proud of their self-righteousness and human good. So great is the arrogance of such a person that he/she assumes that the justice of God will give him/her salvation on the basis of doing the Law. So Paul assumes this to be true, when in fact it is not true. (“But assume even though in fact – Not!”)
Will be justified is the Greek word “alla,” plus the future tense of the Greek word “dikaioo.” Therefore, it should read “in fact the doers of the Law shall NOT be justified” (though we are “assuming” they can be). The doers of the Law will NOT receive justification because they have NO relationship with God.
Translation: “For you see, the hearers of the law are not just before God; in fact the doers of the law shall not be justified (even though we are assuming they can be).” So we have the student and the doers. Both are using the law and distorting the law and both groups are rejected.
The refutation is directed toward the assumption of verse 13 that the doers of the law will be justified before God and not the hearers. However, neither group is ever justified - cannot be adjusted to the justice of God.
For when Gentiles who do not have the law is a reference to self-righteous unbelievers (not all Gentiles) who have never heard nor seen the Mosaic Law, but they still have an equivalent righteousness to Jews who have the Mosaic Law. Therefore, the Law is not necessary for salvation if an equivalent righteousness can be produced by the self-righteous unbelieving Gentiles.
Do instinctively the things is the Greek word “phusis,” which means natural endowment, condition, natural characteristic or instinct. Instinctively is a good translation of this Greek word. There are certain things that come naturally to every human being. A sense of order, right and wrong and treating others the way you want to be treated should be a natural instinct for every person. The Gentiles judge each other by a norm and standard which is inherent in their minds.
Of the law means the Gentiles didn’t do anything contained in the Law because they didn’t have the Law. But, they did something equivalent to it. In other words, to translate this “contained in the law,” as in the King James Version would imply that they have the Law. But they didn’t have the Law, so you can’t say “contained in the Law.”
These not having the law: the moral Gentile minus the Law instinctively does those things that are right. The Greek word for Law, “nomos,” minus the definite article emphasizes that the Law is perfect. Just because people distort it doesn’t detract from its perfection. The emphasis is on the fact that the Gentiles minus the Mosaic Law can accomplish the same righteousness as the Jews with the Law. So then, the Law is not an issue in salvation. This is Paul’s logic at work showing these arrogant self-righteous unbelieving Jews that they are misusing the Law by distorting it into a system of works for salvation.
Are a law unto themselves means there have always been Gentiles who did not have the Law and yet they had an equivalent righteousness as produced by Law-keeping Jews. In other words, without the Law they had a Law “unto themselves” (in their minds, instinctively).
Translation: “For every time that Gentiles, who do not have the Law, do instinctively those things from the Law, these, not having the Law, are a Law unto themselves.”
In that they show is the Greek verb “endeiknumi,” which means to demonstrate something to someone, to manifest, to display or to give an outward proof of something. We could translate it “demonstrate.”
The work of the Law is the Greek word “ergon,” meaning deed or accomplishment. It refers to the deeds of the Gentiles, minus the Law but exhibiting a consistent moral character just as if they had a Law. Plus we have the Greek word “nomos,” which is referring to the Mosaic Law.
Written in their hearts which means that these Gentiles do not have the Mosaic Law, but they instinctively have a Law in their souls. “Graptos” is the Greek word for written with a prepositional phrase, “en” plus the Greek word for heart, “kardia.”
Their conscience bearing witness begins with the Greek word for conscience, which is “suneidesis.” “Suneidesis” means to know with. There is also the Greek pronoun “autos,” referring to the category of Gentiles without the Law compared to Jews with the Law. Bearing witness is the Greek verb “summartureo,” which means to testify, to bear witness with, to testify in support of something or someone or to confirm (their conscience confirming the testimony).
Their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them begins with the Greek word for thoughts, “logismos,” which means their reasonings among themselves. Then we have the Greek word for accusing, “kategoreo,” which means to speak against. They have a system of norms and standards that either accuse them of wrongdoing or, on the other hand, defend them for doing good. This system is a Law in itself – it just isn’t written. With this system, the unbelieving self-righteous Gentile can produce an equivalent righteousness as the unbelieving self-righteous Jew. Therefore, the conclusion is that being a doer of the Mosaic Law does not produce a righteousness that is acceptable to God. The purpose of the Mosaic Law was not to provide salvation for those who kept it. Keeping the Law of the conscience (being moral) will not produce a righteousness that is acceptable to God either.
Paul will go on in the following verses to explain that the Law of Moses demonstrates to the individual Jew that he is condemned before God, which is illustrated by the very Law that he claims to know and practice.
The heart is the inner being, the whole person, which includes thoughts and emotions – the mentality of the soul.
The Bible “heart” has eight different parts:
1. The frame of reference, which is the area for retention of metabolized doctrine.
2. The memory center, which circulates doctrine to the various parts of the soul under the principle of recall.
3. The vocabulary storage, which is the new language of biblical theology learned after salvation.
4. Categorical storage where classification of doctrines are located.
5. The conscience, which is the storage compartment for individual norms and standards.
6. The momentum department, which is the mental area for spiritual growth, the function of metabolized doctrine in both normal and accelerated growth. It is in the momentum department that you have the function of the Ten Problem-Solving Devices.
7. The wisdom department is the launching pad for the application of doctrine to experience.
8. The subconscious, which is storage for impressions, thoughts, emotions, which do not exist in the conscious mind or in the emotions of the soul.
The doctrinal content of the soul resides in the heart. The heart is designed to be the dominator of the entire soul. The heart, then, becomes vital in the function of learning and applying Bible doctrine.
The heart is directly related to capacity for life. The emotions, as responders, are designed to enjoy capacity for life, but the heart as the dominant lobe is the initiator of that capacity. Capacity for life and happiness equals appreciation for everything that God has provided. Everything related to life comes from the heart. Anything that makes you aware of life is a heart function. (Hebrews 3:8; 1 Samuel 6:6; 2 Kings 17:14; Jeremiah 7:26; 19:15)
There are at least seven areas where capacity for life (or lack of it) is related to the heart is the scripture:
1) Love - Deuteronomy 6:4-7, 11:13-15; Joshua 22:5
2) Happiness is related to capacity in the heart - Psalm 19:8, 28:7
3) Dynamics in living originate in the heart — Job 9:4
4) Sorrow — Leviticus 26:16; Nehemiah 2:2
5) Pressure — Psalm 34:18
6) Discouragement — Numbers 32:7-9
7) Cowardice — Joshua 14:8