These verses are talking about those people who have never stepped a foot inside the doors of a church. They never even owned a Bible nor even opened one up. They simply heard the Gospel of Jesus Christ, had faith to believe, and began a heart and soul walk with Jesus. They served God through Jesus Christ from their heart. These people are just as right with God as all of those in the church who can quote the Bible from front to back.
When Romans was written, there was no New Testament. Everything known about Jesus Christ was from word of mouth or through a letter written now and then. The law, the Old Testament, was the Bible of that day, and it belonged to the Jewish people. The churches belonged to the Jewish people and the law was read there. It wasn’t until after Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection that things changed. Non-Jewish people actually began to form their own church and to have a copy of their own scriptures, the New Testament. They were the adopted of the Jewish family, adopted into the family of God’s people through Jesus Christ.
Paul is explaining that if a person fulfills the law (The Old Testament), from their heart-felt faith in Jesus Christ, it is counted as righteousness by God. “Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law.” Romans 2:14
The human robots have a remarkable databank of knowledge and would be able to quote scripture from one side of the cover to the other. But they don’t have God’s love nor the Spirit of Christ within their nature. In fact, they ridicule human sentimentality and discard the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are living by the mark of the beast. That’s why it’s not possible for me to be right with God by knowing and quoting scriptures. I have to make my heart, mind, and spirit receptive to the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Then I have to allow my thoughts, feelings, and behavior to display my allegiance to Jesus Christ. A day is coming when God will judge people’s secrets through Jesus Christ. I must choose Jesus Christ over the unnatural presence of the mark of the beast.
“All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.” Romans 2:12-13
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16