Is The Law Written On Our Hearts or Not?

Paul says in Romans 7:7 that “I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” ESV

It seemingly contradicts what he said earlier in Romans 2:15 “They demonstrate that God’s law is written in their hearts, for their own conscience and thoughts either accuse them or tell them they are doing right.” NLT

I hear folks say, “the law is written on the hearts of men,” all the time.  If that’s true, then what law?  Must be an incomplete version of it because Paul wouldn’t have known about coveting had it not been for the revealed commandment.  Or maybe someone forgot to write that particular law on Paul’s heart.


So, which is it?  Is the Law written on our hearts or not?

For Related Articles see:

Evangelism – Which Comes First? Law, Gospel, or Neither?

You Cry “Legalism!” Because You Don’t Want to Obey

The Weightier Matters of the Law & Gospel?




0 thoughts on “Is The Law Written On Our Hearts or Not?

  1. Jim Wright says:

    We’re tracking. Amazingly, I’ve been thinking about this very issue the last two days. The law is written in our hearts in as much as there are moral basics that all men know, even without any knowledge of Christ or scripture.

    C.S. Lewis does a great job discussing this in The Abolition of Man. Anyone who acts contrary to one of those universally intrinsic moral basics (lying, cheating, murder, etc.) known to all is condemned even without knowledge of Christ and scripture. Thus, they sinned even if they never heard of Jesus or scripture, and have no excuse when it comes to the consequences of sin. This is Paul’s basic point in that passage.

    However, in scripture God externally reveals much more than just the universal basics that are intrinsic to all humanity, and those who have been exposed to those commands and moral precepts are held to a higher account.

    This is Paul’s basic point in that passage.

    I am amazed how often people twist the “law written in your heart” verse by taking it out of context to say they only need the Holy Spirit and not scripture. That is totally NOT what Paul is saying.

  2. David Woods says:

    The Romans 7:7 reference never says “the WRITTEN law” or “the law that he read in the Scriptures” or any other such thing. He basically just said that you can’t break a nonexistent rule. If the rule didn’t exist, there’s nothing to break (or to atone for-for that matter) It could have been the law that was written not only in the Scriptures, but also on his heart that He was talking about. I don’t see a contradiction here.

    • Miguel says:

      When Paul uses the phrase, “law had not said,” it commonly refers to the written law. nomos’ meaning is determined by context. If this doesn’t mean the written law of Moses in this context, please help me understand why not.

      • David Woods says:

        Well, I just meant it was the same law. The law of God given to Moses and written on the hearts of men. I didn’t see anything in that reference that made enough of a differentiation to cause a contradiction.

        I’ve just always taken it to mean that we weren’t left without guidance. In order to break the rule, the rule has to first exist. And it does. On paper, and in the hearts of men. I never did see where comparing these two caused a contradiction.

  3. Peter says:

    There is also this verse for those who have the Spirit of Christ: “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the LORD, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. – [Jer 31:33 NASB]

    • Miguel says:

      And this one – “but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members.”

      The law was “in his mind.” But, Why didn’t Paul know it apart from it having been “said?”

      • Peter says:

        So, each of the Scriptures is talking about something different.

        Romans 2:15 is talking about the conscience of fallen humanity. The conscience is part of our human spirit, which is naturally corrupted and dead. I don’t think that our conscience has all of God’s laws and commandments, but some His law is certainly there.

        Romans 7:7 is talking about the Law, given to the Jews. Much of the Law, certainly isn’t in our conscience. Coveting may be an example of something our conscience doesn’t warn us of. For example, to the natural mind, there is nothing wrong with desiring what other people have.

        Jeremiah 31:33 is talking about the Spirit being mingled with our regenerated human spirit. So our spirit would no longer be corrupted and dead, but it will have the full law of God within it, since it will have God Himself in it. God’s law is just an expression of Himself.

        Romans 7:23 – Romans 8 talks about the law of sin and death in our flesh, the law of our mind, and the law of the Spirit of Life. There you have our flesh, our soul(mind, will, and emotions), and our spirit. So that is just about when we try to do good in our minds, our satanic flesh overpowers us. But, we can live by the Spirit, who is in our spirit, and then we will do good.

        I hope that helps a bit.

  4. Tom Schultz says:

    Is this a confusion of THE LAW and law? I assume in the context of Romans 2:15 “the law” written on hearts is not THE LAW but instead basic moral principles…which may be culturally defined as, ‘its not OK to cheat others…if they are from your own tribe or clan…otherwise all bets are off.’ Paul’s point was that everyone everywhere falls short of the standard to which they are committed,

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