In addition to the first two steps in knowing the truth (self-consciousness and God-consciousness) comes our third step, that being Consciousness of Righteousness. Some might like to use the term moral-consciousness, but the term righteousness (definite right, opposed to definite wrong) is much stronger and communicates the truth much better.
Note: Consciousness of righteousness does not mean man is righteous, or does right. That is a separate issue.
"For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another;"
The context of these statements is that the Gentile (non-Jewish) ancient world (BC.) had no written revelation from God in apposition to the Jews, who had the written Scriptures (The Old Testament). You can read the entire chapter for this context (www.blueletterbible.org/Bible.cfm?b=Rom&c=2&t=KJV).
What this means is that when the Apostle Paul writes "when the Gentiles, which have not the law," the "law" he is referring to is the Old Testament Scriptures--written down and readable/learn-able .
Every man has the God-given consciousness of right and wrong, consciousness of righteousness.
This fact is demonstrated universally in the experience of man. Even a headhunter in Papua New Guinea who has killed and eaten other men, whose conscience may be blunted by repeated offense, is angered and affronted when he is the one being hunted, or another tribal member is the victim--vengeance must be taken. Even a compulsive thief feels offended when he is stolen from. Have you ever told a lie about another person (or some such situation) and justified yourself that you did right and then one day found out that someone has been lying about you and felt that you were wronged? Of course you have.
Consciousness of right and wrong does not mean men do right. Men can, and do, corrupt their consciences by repeated sinning against their consciences. Nevertheless, conscience of righteousness is in each man.
How does this relate to how we can know the truth?
Simply, you have a God-given point of reference at which you and God can relate to each other.
This internal consciousness of righteousness means that you can begin to understand yourself, your Creator, why the two of your are at odds, and how God has provided the only way for you to get right with Him. This is huge!
Verses 13, 14, and 15 of Romans chapter 2 form a parenthetical statement, meaning they are interjected into another line of thought. Please understand that it is eternally essential for you to know the truth now in this life--the real and only truth--as revealed by the God of truth, for there is coming a day of judgment.
Fact: "For there is no respect of persons with God."--Romans 2:11. All men of all ages, of all nations, and of all classes are equally responsible before their Creator.
Fact: "For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law:"--Romans 2:12a. All men that have never had the Bible of all ages, of all nations , of all classes are condemned for their sin.
Fact: "and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;"--Romans 2:12b. All men that have had the Bible of all ages, of all nations, of all classes are condemned for their sin.
Fact: "In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men..."--Romans 2:16a. There is an appointed judgment day and God is the judge from Whom nothing shall be hid.
Fact: "...by Jesus Christ..."--Romans 2:16b. God's Son, Jesus Christ, is your Judge and will judge you if you die in your sin.
Fact: "...according to my gospel."--Romans 2:16c. Jesus Christ will judge you according to what is in the Holy Scriptures.
This is the third article in this series on How Can We Know Truth? and there are at least three more to come. I trust that you see that this is not confusing. No doubt you have many questions; please stay tuned and keep reading.
Can I encourage you to get a Holy Bible. May I recommend reading the book of Genesis and the Gospel of John. If you are an English speaking person, and I assume you are since this article is written in English, please get a King James, Authorized Version (not a New King James, that is different). The King James Bible translation has all the words and is a thoroughly faithful and long proven translation that can be completely trusted. The "thees" and "thous" are there for a very important reason. Email me and I will tell you why.