Prepared by Dr. John E. Marshall
Romans 3:5-8 Introduction
Paul was the Apostle of grace. He uncompromisingly held to the truth salvation depended not on works. It was a gift received from God through faith. His enemies, especially legalistic Jews, mocked his views and did their best to make his views look ridiculous.
These enemies would take a truth from Paul’s teachings, and twist it to produce an illogical and preposterous suggestion. Our text is a refutation by Paul of three absurdities deduced from his doctrine.
Romans 3:5 “But if our unrighteousness commend the
righteousness of God, what shall we say?
Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?
(I speak as a man)”
Paul’s enemy would taunt: “If God loves to forgive sin, He is unfair to punish our sins, for they are merely a means whereby we allow God to do what he loves to do.” Paul apologizes for even quoting such a ludicrous supposition. He says, “I speak as a man.” He is only saying what others have said. He is expressing their thoughts, not his. He is quoting words of human reason, which always delights to poke fun at the ways of God.
Romans 3:6 “God forbid: for then how shall God judge the
After offering his apology, Paul attacked. If their ridiculous suggestion were true, sin would be good, wrong would be right, and evil would be pleasing to God. The whole moral order of the Universe would be in chaos, for the worse we are, the better we are.
Such a preposterous condition would absolutely reverse the role of God as judge of the world. How could He be judge if there is nothing to judge?
This is exactly what the world advocates today. Sin is not sin, evil is not rebellion against God, all is relative, there are no absolutes, wrong may be right, and right is unimportant. Such Hellish thoughts are human attempts to strip God of any standard with which he can judge the world.
Do not be fooled. There are absolutes by which men are to live and by which they shall be judged. The standard by which men shall be judged is the Bible, God’s Word. Beware any refuge claiming to shield from future judgment based on the tenets of Scripture. Everyone shall stand before God, who in no way will clear the guilty.
The philosophies of two late Supreme Court Justices illustrate the differing viewpoints on this issue. Judge Gray shared our belief, Judge Holmes embraced a position of error.
Judge Gray once had to release a man on a technicality. The criminal was obviously guilty, but the judge had to release him. However, as he did so, he took the opportunity to say what he thought of the whole situation: “I believe you guilty and would wish to condemn you severely, but through a petty technicality, I am obliged to discharge you. I know you are guilty, and so do you; and I wish you to remember that you will someday pass before a better and a wiser judge, when you will be dealt with according to Justice, and not according to law.” Amen!
Now hear another philosophy. Oliver Wendell Holmes said in a letter to Lord Pollock that ideas of truth and righteousness were of no more importance than a bowel movement.
Mr. Holmes now knows better. When he died, I am sure he found himself quickly over-ruled by Jesus, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Universe.
Romans 3:7 “For if the truth of God hath more abounded
through my lie unto his glory; why yet am
I also judged as a sinner?”
This is a second abuse hurled against Paul. “If God is glorified by forgiving sin, what is wrong with sinning? The more we sin, the more God is glorified. The worse we are, the better He looks.” Such thinking is revolting. It is as foolish as saying it is good to break a person’s heart, because it allows the person a chance to show how much he loves you.
Our sins no doubt serve as a dark foil against which the perfection of God is contrasted. Our failure does make His perfection glow in brilliance. The beauty of lace is highlighted when placed upon contrasting background of black velvet. Even so, the black velvet of our sin causes the lace of His grace to be even more beautiful. Our sin has resulted in several manifestations of God’s love (e.g., mercy, forgiveness, grace).
God does receive a certain degree of glory from sin. However, glory is not a natural by-product of sin. Left alone, sin does not accomplish God’s glory. God has to overturn and contradict it to gain any glory from it.
Evil is never committed with the intent of bringing glory to God. Hence, it is no thanks to the sinner for any glory God gains through sin. It is solely due to God’s intervention.
Was it okay for Jesus to be crucified? No, it was the worst sin ever committed. Nevertheless, God overruled this greatest of sins and made it the means of the greatest good. God can check the wicked purposes of sin, but this is not the highest glory Jesus can receive. He deserves better. His grace should be treated as more than an excuse for sinning.
God’s greatest glory is not found in contrasting Him to sinners. Rather than glory by contrast, He prefers glory by reflection. He wants our goodness to reflect His likeness.
Romans 3:8 “And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported,
and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do
evil, that good may come? whose damnation
Based on their two previous taunts, the final twisted perversion is now revealed. “Paul, if your teaching is right, we should do evil, so that good may come.” Paul summarily states anyone who would think such a thought deserves damnation. Persisting in evil that good might come is blasphemous and wicked. God is justified in punishing any who do so.
Doing evil that good may come is like trying to gain admittance to Heaven by paying a toll to the Devil. It is chaotic confusion.
Sin is not to be considered a way of doing right. Right is not to be attained by doing wrong. It is more important to walk in the right path than to achieve a desired end. Virtue is to be chosen above success.
Sin is horrendous in itself, regardless of its consequences. Evil can never be anything but evil. The goodness or badness of sin is not determined by its consequences. The deed itself is of a horrible nature and bespeaks rebellion.
“Consequences” is an argument of the devil. Our job is not to ponder consequences. We are to do right and leave consequences to God. Do not pretend to be smarter than God. He knows what is best for you. He loves you more than you love yourself.
If a person ever fully accepts the premise evil may be done for a good reason, one is immediately set free from all authority, human and divine. Everyone determines their own concept of “good.” Hence, everyone becomes his own judge, and anarchy prevails. Suddenly one may obey or resist laws based solely on their own determination whether it is for or against good consequences.
Great crimes have been committed under the guise that good would come from them. Uzzah disobediently touched the ark of the covenant to stabilize it. God struck him dead. King Saul was commanded to destroy all the Amalekites, but he saved some of the cattle to sacrifice to YHWH. This act of disobedience cost him his kingdom. “To obey is better than sacrifice. . . .rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry” (1S 15:22-23). Peter cut off an evil man’s ear to protect the Savior, but Jesus rebuked him (MT 26:52).
We sometimes lie to save face or avoid an embarrassing situation. We use “white lies.” If it is white, it is not a lie, and if it is a lie, it is not white. Gambling is often allowed because people think it will raise revenues for education. Drinking beer is condoned because breweries donate money to charities. Abortion is legalized on grounds it spares a child a deprived life.
I could go on and on, but the point is clear. This is an Achilles’ heel for many of us. Our culture has swamped us into a “consequences mindset.” We are often yielding to their pressure. To please the Master, we must be made of sterner stuff. Like the anvil, let us endure every blow until all hammers which try to oppose us break themselves.