Romans 2:12 NASB
“For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law;”
Paul has established the impartiality of God towards both Jew and the Gentile. He is systematic in his approach to helping his readers understand that all will be judged before God. In fact, those who have the Law are going to be judged even more harshly because their level of understanding and knowledge of God and His righteousness is greater then those who don’t have the Law.
First he says, “For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law”. This is addressing Gentiles who don’t have the Law of Moses to show them their error. But we also know from what Paul said earlier in 1:18-21 that they are without excuse. Even without the Law, they knew better, and they still sinned. Their accountability for their actions are not nearly as high as the Jews. This isn’t in contradiction to the earlier passage that God doesn’t show partiality but merely the fact that those with greater influence and understanding of God will be held to a higher accountability.
Second he says, “all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law”. The standard that the Jew will be judged by is greater then the Gentile because they knew the ordinances and commandments of God. In James 3:1 he emphasizes that teachers are held to a stricter judgement because of their knowledge and influence over others. So the Jews who have the Law are not only judged by the Law because they have sinned under the Law but because they have a higher accountability to God because of their covenant with God and submission to the Torah. If anything, a Jew reading this ought to take a deep breath and realize that they more then most people need to heed to the grace of God through Jesus Christ. They are more knowledgeable and they themselves have the Law held over their head.
As we read Paul’s breakdown of condemnation without the Law and while living under it, it might feel overwhelming, it might give a sense a powerlessness within ourselves. And this is very true. As we continue on in Paul’s letter, we will understand why its so important that we are weak and powerless in our position before God. It is though our weakness and understanding of our state before God that then enables us to receive God’s grace and justification for the great day of judgement.