“What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: ‘That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged. But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world? For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come’?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.” Romans 3:1-8
We recently moved into the third chapter of Romans where Paul continued his defense of God’s righteous judgment. In our last study we looked at the first four verses of Romans 3. We move now to verses 5 – 8.
“But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?”
ει δε η αδικια ημων θεου δικαιοσυνην συνιστησιν τι ερουμεν μη αδικος ο θεος ο επιφερων την οργην κατα ανθρωπον λεγω μη γενοιτο επει πως κρινει ο θεος τον κοσμον
ει δε η αδικια ημων (ei de hé adikia hemón) “if moreover the unrighteousness of us”
θεου δικαιοσυνην συνιστησιν (theou dikaiosunén sunistésin) “God’s righteousness shows”
τι ερουμεν (ti eroumen) “what will we say”
μη αδικος ο θεος ο επιφερων την οργην (me adikos ho epipherón tén orgén) “is unrighteous God inflicting the wrath”
κατα ανθρωπον λεγω (kata anthrópon legó) “according to man I speak”
μη γενοιτο (mé genoito) “never may it be”
επει πως κρινει ο θεος τον κοσμον (epei pos krinei ho theos ton kosmon) “otherwise how will judge God the world”
Paul asked a question that Jews knew could not be true. They knew from their Scriptures that God would judge the world, so it would be ridiculous to complain that God would be “unjust” to inflict His wrath on humans. God is Perfect and Righteous and will judge rightly!
“Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous with the wicked, so that the righteous should be as the wicked; far be it from You! Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” Genesis 18:25
“For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, And the peoples with His truth.” Psalm 96:13
“For by fire and by His sword The Lord will judge all flesh; And the slain of the Lord shall be many.” Isaiah 66:16
“Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat; For there I will sit to judge all the surrounding nations.” Joel 3:12
One of the primary points Paul has been making in his letter to the Romans is that God is righteous and has a right to judge the unrighteous –
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith. For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, because what may be known of God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them. ” Romans 1:16-19
Paul has been making an extraordinary case to both Jews and Gentiles that God had every right, and was right, in executing judgment for the unrighteousness of the human race.
Here are some other thoughts about Romans 3:5-6 –
“Enjoyment of God’s word and ordinances, is the chief happiness of a people. But God’s promises are made only to believers; therefore the unbelief of some, or of many professors, cannot make this faithfulness of no effect. He will fulfil his promises to his people, and bring his threatened vengeance upon unbelievers. God’s judging the world, should for ever silence all doubtings and reflections upon his justice. The wickedness and obstinate unbelief of the Jews, proved man’s need of the righteousness of God by faith, and also his justice in punishing for sin.” Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary
“I speak as a man – I speak after the manner of human beings. I speak as appears to be the case to human view; or as would strike the human mind. It does not mean that the language was such as wicked people were accustomed to use; but that the objector expressed a sentiment which to human view would seem to follow from what had been said. This I regard as the language of an objector. It implies a degree of reverence for the character of God, and a seeming unwillingness to state an objection which seemed to be dishonorable to God, but which nevertheless pressed itself so strong on the mind as to appear irresistible. No way of stating the objection could have been more artful or impressive.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
“For then how shall God judge the world?—St. Paul considers it a sufficient answer merely to propound this question. He and those to whom he was writing all assumed that there must be a future judgment. The way in which Bishop Butler deals with the argument from necessity is very similar to this, substituting only present for future judgment. ‘It is fact that God does govern even brute creatures by the method of rewards and punishments in the natural course of things. And men are rewarded and punished for their actions—punished for actions mischievous to society as being so, punished for vicious actions as such—by the natural instrumentality of each other under the present conduct of Providence,’ &c. Hence the necessitarian is in this dilemma: either his opinion is not true, or else it must be capable of being harmonised with these facts. The facts themselves are postulated.” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
“Away with the thought! If this were so, how should God judge the world? That God does judge the world at last is a fixed point both for Paul and those with whom he argues; hence every inference which conflicts with it must be summarily set aside. God could not judge at all if He were unjust; therefore, since He does judge, He is not unjust, not even in judging men whose unrighteousness may have served as a foil to His righteousness. It is not thus that the conclusions of chap. 2 can be evaded by the Jew.” Expositor’s Greek Testament
“What does Paul mean? God honored the Jews, but the dishonored him. This gives God the victory and shows the greatness of his love toward man, in that he continued to honor them in spite of what they were like. But if this is true of us (someone might way), why am I to be punished when I have contributed to God’s victory by dishonoring him? Paul answers this by a corresponding absurdity. In effect, he says that if this man were the cause of God’s victory and he was punished as a result, it was an injustice. But if God is not unjust and the man was punished, then he could not have been the cause of God’s victory….For God’s justice far exceeds what we think of as a justice and is based on other ineffable criteria.” Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans
“For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come’?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.”
ει γαρ η αληθεια του θεου εν τω εμω ψευσματι επερισσευσεν εις την δοξαν αυτου τι ετι καγω ως αμαρτωλος κρινομαι και μη καθως βλασφημουμεθα και καθως φασιν τινες ημας λεγειν οτι ποιησωμεν τα κακα ινα ελθη τα αγαθα ων το κριμα ενδικον εστιν
ει γαρ η αληθεια του θεου (ei gar hé aletheia tou theou) “if moreover the truth of God”
εν τω εμω ψευσματι (en tó emó pseusmati) “in my lie” .. pseusmati means “falsehood, untruthfulness, a lie”
επερισσευσεν εις την δοξαν αυτου (eperisseusen eis ten doxan autou) “abounded to the glory of him” .. eperisseusen means “exceed, overflow, surplus, abound”
τι ετι καγω ως αμαρτωλος κρινομαι (ti eti kagó hós hamartólos krinomai) “why yet also I as a sinner am judged” .. hamartólos means “depraved, detestable, sinner” .. from hamartanó – “to forfeit by missing the mark”
και μη καθως βλασφημουμεθα (kai mé kathós blasphémoumetha) “and not as we are slanderously charged” .. blasphémoumetha means “speak evil against someone, speak abusively against someone”
και καθως φασιν τινες ημας λεγειν οτι (kai kathós phasin tines hémas legein hoti) “and as affirm some that us to say”
ποιησωμεν τα κακα ινα ελθη τα αγαθα (poiesómen ta kaka ina elthé ta agatha) “let us practice things evil that might come the good things” .. poiesómen means “make, do” .. kaka means “bad, evil in the widest sense” .. agatha means “good in nature, intrinsically good in the widest sense”
ων το κριμα ενδικον εστιν (hón to krima endikon) “their condemnation just is” .. krima means “judgment, verdict, condemnation” .. endikon means “just, righteous”
This gives us a glimpse into the life of the Apostle Paul. He faced many accusations from both Jews and Gentiles and this was one of them. Some accused Paul of preaching the doctrine of “Let us do evil that good may come.” That is not what Paul was preaching, but evil people took him out of context and changed his words to make it sound as if that’s what he was teaching. As Paul wrote, “Their condemnation is just.”
“The condemnation of all, who either speak or act in this manner. Here the apostle teaches expressly the unlawfulness of doing evil, any evil, on the pretence of promoting what is good. Such a pretence, if allowed, would justify the greatest crimes. This, however, the apostle here signifies they were slanderously reported as teaching; probably on a misinterpretation of their doctrine, that the greatness of the sins of which the Gentiles were guilty, rendered God’s goodness in sending Christ to die for them the more illustrious.” Benson Commentary
“Through my lie – By means of my lie, or as one of the results of my falsehood. The word “lie” here means falsehood, deceitfulness, “unfaithfulness.” If by the unfaithfulness of the Jewish people to the covenant, occasion should be given to God to glorify himself, how could they be condemned for it?
Unto his glory – To his praise, or so as to show his character in such a way as to excite the praise and admiration of his intelligent creation.
Why yet am I … – How can that act be regarded as evil, which tends to promote the glory of God? The fault in the reasoning of the objector is this, that he takes for granted that the direct tendency of his conduct is to promote God’s glory, whereas it is just the reverse; and it is by God’s reversing that tendency, or overruling it, that he obtains his glory. The tendency of murder is not to honor the Law, or to promote the security of society, but just the reverse. Still, his execution shall avert the direct tendency of his crime, and do honor to the law and the judge, and promote the peace and security of the community by restraining others.” Barnes’ Notes on the Bible
“And not rather.—And (why should we) not (say), as some persons slanderously affirm that we say, Let us do evil that good may come. Some such phrase as ‘Why should we say’ must be supplied; ‘why’ from the previous clause, ‘say’ from that which follows. Or ‘(Why should we) not (do evil), as some persons slanderously affirm that we say, Let us do evil,’ &c. The latter, perhaps, is best, as we might then suppose the word for ‘let us do’ repeated precisely in the form in which it stands. The Apostle does not care to answer this argument in detail; he will not dally with such a perversion of the moral sense, but simply says, ‘Whose condemnation is just.’ What pretext could any one possibly have for attributing such an opinion to St. Paul? The charge was no doubt utterly false as applied to him, but we know that his teaching was made an excuse for Antinomian excesses, which would not unnaturally be fastened upon the Apostle. Or, taking his teaching as it stands, we might well imagine the Jews or the Judaizing party arguing with themselves, ‘This man openly breaks the Law, and yet he claims to be in the right way, and that all will go well with him; is not this doing evil that good may come? Does he think to win the Messianic kingdom by the breach of the Law, and not by its observance?” Ellicott’s Commentary for English Readers
Summary of Romans 3:1-8
As Dr. John Harvey points out in his Exegetical Guide to the Greek New Testament (B&H Academic, 2017, p 81), Romans 3:1-8 gives us four accusations against Paul’s teaching –
- Paul’s teaching impugns God’s covenant with Israel (3:1-2)
- Paul’s teaching impugns God’s faithfulness (3:3-4)
- Paul’s teaching impugns God’s justice (3:5-6)
- Paul’s teaching impugns God’s truth (3:7-8)
Paul answers each of these accusations brilliantly –
Q – What is the advantage of being a Jew and what is the benefit of circumcision?
A – Much in every way and Israel was entrusted with God’s revelation
Q – What difference does it make and is God’s faithfulness negated?
A – God forbid and God must be true.
Q – Does human unrighteousness promote God’s righteousness and is God unjust when He inflicts wrath?
A – God forbid and how will God judge the world?
Q – Does Paul promote God’s truth by teaching a lie and does Paul promote doing evil?
A – Those who suggest such things receive the condemnation they deserve.
In the next part of our study we will look at another pair of questions and answers that contain some of the most powerful of God’s accusations against the human race.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.