There is a belief that only Christians are subject to the New Covenant found in the New Testament. Non-Christians, they say, have a “law written on their hearts” and are not subject to the laws of Christ (Romans 2:14-15). Gentiles who lived in the Old Testament period were under “natural law” and not under the Law of Moses (Romans 1:19-20). Non-Christians are likewise outside of the Law of Christ and not subject to its laws.
This doctrine is false because all men are indeed subject to the New Covenant of Christ.
Sin is a violation of God’s will. Paul wrote, “where there is no law there is no transgression” (Romans 4:15, NKJV). “Whoever commits sin also commits lawlessness, and sin is lawlessness” (1 John 3:4). John also wrote, “all unrighteousness is sin” (1 John 5:17). Since we are under the New Testament today (Hebrews 8:6-7; Hebrews 9:16-18), sin is a violation of the law of Christ in the New Testament. If non-Christians are not subject to the New Testament and sin is a violation of the New Testament, then non-Christians cannot sin.
When we come to the gospel, we are called to repent. Yet, if a non-Christian cannot sin, what will they repent of? (Luke 13:3,5). And if a non-Christian is not subject to the New Covenant then they are not bound by the plan of salvation, which is found in the New Testament. Christians are then in the unenviable position of being the only ones who can sin and the only ones who can be lost (1 Corinthians 15:12-17; Hebrews 6:4-6).
The charge is made that this doctrine does acknowledge that non-Christians can sin by rejecting Christ. However, there isn’t a standard outside of Christ in which to sin. Where, outside of Christ and his disciples, do we find that all men are to accept Christ? For this doctrine to be true, it would have to be axiomatic that someone outside of Christ, regardless of where or when they live, can find Christ outside of the New Covenant. If someone were in a place where no one else lived, they would still have to be able to know about Christ. In Romans 1, Paul tells the Gentiles that they should have been able to see God in creation. But how would someone see Christ in creation?
In the New Covenant, the gospel is sent to “all the world,” where as the Law of Moses was just for the Jews (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Isaiah 2:1-4). The gospel is for all who will accept Christ, both Jew and Gentile (Galatians 3:27-28; Ephesians 2). In this respect a parallel cannot be drawn between the Gentiles of the Old Covenant and the non-Christian of the New.
Jesus died for all men (Luke 19:10; John 3:16). All are sinners without Christ (Romans 3:23). We either come to him for salvation or we will be lost. Everyone is subject to the gospel call and will be judged on whether they accept him or not (Revelation 21:12-15).
In 1 Corinthians 6:9-11, years after the church had started, Paul says that these Christians were once sinners and had been cleansed of their sins. This is key because these brethren, who lived after the cross, had committed a host of sins while being non-Christians. They had been responsible for fornication, homosexuality, idolatry, to name a few. Therefore, Scripture teaches that non-Christians are indeed subject to the laws of God.
Must Non-Christians Obey the New Testament?