As I mentioned last week, I took my daughter with me on the J.S.U. campus because I wanted to show her how easy it could be to walk up to total strangers, have a conversation about salvation, and walk away without embarrassment, confrontation, or hurt feelings for anyone involved. As it was particularly hot that day, we stopped by a fast food restaurant to get a cold drink and just talk about what had happened. I asked her about what she thought about the reactions of the different people and how important it was to share our faith with other people so they can decide for themselves whether or not to accept Jesus as their Savior.
She then asked me about the 10 Commandments, why we should know them, and what if someone had never heard about them before. In so many questions, she basically was asking if someone would go to heaven or hell if they had never heard of Jesus or salvation. It had me thinking, because for many people out there, the 10 Commandments I listed are not the 10 Commandments they grew up with. I know some Catholic friends whose list of 10 Commandments differ only slightly. In a conversation in Texas with a friend years ago about the 10 Commandments, he told me that the Bible actually has thousands of Commandments, and that the passage in Exodus Chapter 20 just highlights 10 of them.
I don't think I've had the 10 Commandments memorized until now, for the simple reason that I do not need them for salvation. My salvation is not based on my works, because I am depending by faith on the work of Christ on the cross and His payment for my sin. My actions on earth are worthless regarding any attempt to attain my own salvation, however, my actions on earth should still reflect Christ in me. The purpose of the 10 Commandments though was to be a schoolmaster (Galatians 3:24-25) for anyone who thought they could be good enough to get into heaven on their own merits. While we all may think we are basically good people, the Law of God shows us that we are condemned by our own actions.
Let's take it a step further though, say someone has never learned or does not believe in the 10 Commandments of any sort. Say you meet someone who does not believe in any law, whether made by God or men, and that they only believe in the moral right and wrong of their own mind. What then? The Bible tells us this person is still condemned in their own mind, even if they have never heard of God, Jesus, the 10 Commandments, or anything about salvation. It is basically the old question, "If someone never hears about God, will they still die and go to hell?" The answer is emphatically, "YES!" The question is, where then does their condemnation originate?
Romans 2: 14 - 16 explains quite clearly that people who do not have the Law of God, or the 10 Commandments, or anything else, will by their own nature show the Law of God written on their hearts by naturally trying to do what the Law already says. For example, if we went to the deepest most remote place on earth and found a people group who had never been in contact with anyone else on earth, had never been talked to about God or salvation, and had never been educated about the laws of God or men, what do you suppose we would we find regarding fairness and justice? Do you think they would have a way to deal with someone who stole from them? Do you think they would have a system of justice to deal with someone who came into their midst and randomly began to murder individuals in their camp? I'm pretty sure there would be a very swift reaction!
Furthermore, if we could sit and talk with these people, we would quickly find that they had collectively created and agreed to a system of rules and laws that pretty much exactly mirror the laws of God regarding right and wrong. What's more, anthropologists who have been able to actually go to such people groups in the past, have repeatedly found a system of penance to some idol or god where they worship seeking peace for their guilty conscience, but finding none and constantly going again and again, over and over, year after year. Why? Because guilt of conscience never goes away until the penalty is satisfied.
Now, forget some random people group, how about you? Maybe you know someone or you yourself have no belief in God or any form of moral code written by God or men. So, how about the moral code of your own heart? If you were to make up your own list of right and wrong, what would it look like? Would you care if someone stole from you? Better write that down! Would you care if someone lied about you in a way that caused you to lose your job or some other form of personal or financial harm? Better write that down, too! Anyone who says they have no moral code and no list of "right" and "wrong" is a liar and would quickly be disproven the moment anyone walks up to them, grabs their wallet, and begins to take their money. Everyone I have ever met has a very strong sense of what is "fair" and what is "right and wrong" in their own mind. Just go to any playground and watch children play and you will see that this sense of fairness is ingrained in each of us, not something we have to be taught.
Question now is, with the rules, laws, or moral code of your own mind, have you ever broken any rule of your own mind? If you say yes, and every honest person must answer in the affirmative, then you are guilty by the conscience of your own mind as it bears witness against you, even as your own thoughts accuse others of breaking the laws in your mind, while at the same time making excuses for yourself. It is the Law of God written on your own heart! In this way, everyone is already guilty before God. That is why everyone needs a Savior, whether or not they have ever heard of the salvation available through Jesus Christ.