The Law is A Gift
Paul is stating that sin will hold the same consequences for those who are aware of what they are doing and those that are not. This is why the law was a gift to the Jews - it gave them the opportunity to have awareness of their sin so that they could flee from it.
Knowing Without Obeying Isn't Enough
Paul is making a distinction here that the Jews knowing the law is not enough - just knowing it does not keep them from the consequences of sin. The law was not meant to just be heard, but responded to. Paul goes on to say that righteousness stems from actually obeying the law - from doing not just hearing.
Equal Because of Jesus
He then reinstates the truth of the law by pointing out that the Gentiles (non-Jews), who do not have the law, follow it by instinct. It shows that it is woven into the fabric of creation. An example for us would be if someone was not taught the Bible as a child, but still devoted themselves to renewing their mind because they knew it would change them (Romans 12:2). This would show that it's not just teachings from the Bible, but actual truth that is at the core of mankind. Paul is essentially working to show the Jews and Gentiles that they have equal access to righteousness because of Jesus.
We Want the Real Thing
The connection that we can draw here between the context and modern day is that of cultural Christianity. There is a tendency within American Christianity to participate in cultural Christianity rather than the pursuit of righteousness and Christlikeness. To show up to Church on Sunday, to appreciate an encouraging bible verse, to pray when you are in need but to not actually engage in a real relationship with Jesus or let that relationship impact the life that we live. It is in this predicament, that Paul's words in Romans 2 come alive in our modern day. It is not enough to know about God, but rather our knowledge of God should prompt a love for Him that leads to a response. We have access to scripture and to the Holy Spirit, both of which guide us towards righteous living. Now, it is not our choices or our actions that lead to salvation, but they do matter. Obedience is God's love language and it is how he desires us to respond to Him.
Your Kindness Leads Us to Repentance
Here is the thing with cultural Christianity: at the end of the day it is going to leave you wanting more. Jesus died for a much more full life than what cultural Christianity offers. Jesus says in John 10:10 that "I have come so that you may have life and have it to the full." Hearing the word without doing will keep you from this full, abundant life that Christ died for you to live. Just as the Law was a gift to the Jews, scripture's outline of holy living is a gift not a burden. It enables us to flee from the sin that is so detrimental to us and engage in a life that offers more. Earlier in Romans 2 it says "it is his kindness that leads us to repentance." God kindly leads us to repentance. It is kind of Him to not let us live in sin so that we can have abundance. He convicts us to bring us into more.
- Megan McGarrah