14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law.
15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them
16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus. (ESV)
In Romans 2:15, Paul tells us that there are conflicting thoughts within a person. What are these conflicting thoughts? On one hand, we have a knowledge of right and wrong. Even those people who have never heard of the Law, who may have never seen the Ten Commandments, still inherently know right from wrong. That is because the work of the law is written on every person’s heart. And every person has a conscience which is constantly interpreting the law which is written on their heart. Sometimes our conscience bears witness that our actions are in conformity with the law God has placed in our heart. And sometimes our conscience convicts us when we are in violation of the law written on our hearts.
But on the other hand, we have conflicting thoughts about the pleasures of fulfilling our fleshly lusts. Just think how easy it is for a person to justify their sinful behavior in their own mind. A person might commit adultery and then be able to give you a dozen reasons why it was the right thing to do. That adultery might lead to a divorce and a remarriage, and that person who committed the adultery justifies their actions because they think they have the right to pursue happiness at all costs. Yet we know that there is a conscience at work within every person accusing them when they violate God’s moral law.
The sad thing is, even the Christian is not immune from these conflicting thoughts. No matter how much we quit being conformed to this world, no matter how much we are transformed by the renewing of our mind, there are still these conflicting thoughts at work in us. The Apostle Paul admitted as much in Romans 7:18-25
18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.
19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.
20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,
23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.
24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)
The Apostle Paul readily admits that he continually finds himself unable to do the good which he wants to do, but finds himself doing the evil that he does not want to be doing. And then Paul puts his finger on the problem: as long as we have our current flesh, we will have sin dwelling in us. And that sin is in constant conflict with the law of God which resides in our inner being. In verse 25, Paul presents the conclusion in overcoming this law of sin which reigns in our flesh and wars against our spirit. We can never deliver ourselves. It is God who alone can overcome the sin of our flesh through the shed blood of His son Jesus Christ. This can happen in small steps each day, but will not be entirely fulfilled until we exchange our corrupted flesh for the incorruptible on the day of our resurrection from dead. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:42-44
42 So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable.
43 It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power.
44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. (ESV)
By Berean Husband