What does it mean that everyone has the law written on their hearts?


I was debating some people about inherited sin. They all feel it is true. Even in Baptist and Calvinist references when it quotes Romans 7, the part of once alive without the law, they say it was probably when Paul was a child without understanding. Anyway, when it says God's word is written upon our hearts does that mean childbirth or when Gentiles without a law or a law unto themselves even without the law? They argued that we all know right from wrong. Of course, I used Deuteronomy for my backup because kids don't know right or wrong, but eventually, they come into the knowledge of it. But man is made upright, and I think each man is instilled with the two most important commandments: love the Lord your God with all your heart soul and mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. I think God instills that, but it doesn't mean you know what evil is. It means God made you correctly. Even in perfection Adam and Eve chose to sin. Anyway, I was wondering what your take on everyone has the law written on their hearts.


In the Bible times, people ascribed thoughts and emotions to various organs of the body -- organs that respond to a person's thoughts and emotions. Strong feelings cause the heart to race and pound, so the heart was seen as the seat of things a person strongly desired.

The passage you refer to is:

"Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah - not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more" (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

This passage is not talking about something everyone is born with because God said, at the time of this writing that having the law written in their minds and in their hearts would be a new thing -- something that didn't exist under the Law of Moses. It isn't talking about the Gentiles who lived while Moses' Law was in effect.

It was something new that would be applied to the house of Israel -- God's people. The Hebrew writer cites this passage to prove that God planned a new covenant for His people and had taken the old covenant away (Hebrews 7-10). So, we are already told that this passage in Jeremiah refers to the Christian age. In our era, it is the Christians who are the true "Israel." "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God" (Romans 2:28-29). And notice that Christianity is a religion of the heart.

Under Moses' law, a child was born an Israelite. As he grew up and became responsible, he had to be taught God's laws and learn to live by them. Under Christ's law that changed. A mature person chooses to be a child of God after he is taught God's law. "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17). He chooses to be a Christian because he desires what God has taught him -- the law is written on his heart. Thus, every Christian already knows the Lord because you must know him in order to become a Christian, which was different from how it used to be.

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