The phrase “also the greek” is to be connected with the positive side as well. In other words the greek who patiently does good and seeks glory, honor and immortality will be given eternal life. Such a Greek can only be described as a gentile Christian walking with God, for such things can only be sought through a relationship with God. This is continued in v10, “glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the jew first and also the greek.” What is doing good? It is obedience to the good news – the gospel. Believing and trusting and following the good news, the gospel of Christ is our good works. Romans 2:6-8 says He will reward each one according to his works: eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition18 and do not obey the truth but follow unrighteousness.
V11 sums up the main point – God shows no partiality. This is then followed, in v12, that ALL people will be judged, either by the law or without the law. You cannot shield yourselves from God’s judgment with the law, or with ignorance. Then in v13, Paul focuses specifically upon the Jew. It is not the hearers of the law that are righteous but the DOERS of the law who will be justified. We know that the law cannot be fulfilled by human effort.
So, having this background in mind, we now reach our text – v14-15.
V14. The first question to tackle is the relation of v14 to the rest of the chapter. Moo, Murray, Fitzmyer and Calvin see v14 as connected to v12a – v14 is an explanation of v12a. To paraphrase: those gentiles who will perish without the law can, by nature, do things that the law requires, like love and honor their parents. Therefore they are aware of moral obligations and hence the ground upon which they will judged! Murray writes that v14 is:
“providing the answer to the question arising from v12a, namely; if the gentiles are without the law, how can they be regarded as having sinned?”
Murray’s conclusion is that the gentiles are not entirely without law. There are some gentiles who do have the law (converted believers), but here Paul is referring to those who are not converted. Calvin sees these verses as rejecting ignorance as an excuse by a gentile . Moo likewise argues that the gentiles are not without a law – they have some knowledge of God’s moral demands .
The conclusion is that God does not condemn the gentiles without their having any understanding of his demands upon them. The question that is primary in this whole pericope is already clear – Is there such a thing as natural law? Can you have a little bit of knowledge of God? These questions must be left until later.