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)
6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
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?
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 is just.
1901 ASV Translation:
5 But if our unrighteousness commendeth the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who visiteth with wrath? (I speak after the manner of men.)
6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?
7 But if the truth of God through my lie abounded unto his glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner?
8 and why not (as we are slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say), Let us do evil, that good may come? whose condemnation is just.
There is only one textual difference in 3:5-8 between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26: the Textus Receptus uses the connective particle "for" in 3:7 and the Nestle/Aland 26 has the slightly contrastive connective "but" instead. The textual scholars are divided over which is the better reading, but the impact made on the interpretation is minimal in either case. The text of the Nestle/Aland 26 creates a clear parallelism between 3:5-6 and 3:7-8 by using "But if" to begin both units. That parallelism exists in thought regardless of the variation in the textual traditions.
I. The "Logic" Paul Challenges.
A. He apparently anticipated his quote of David from Psalm 51 would spark a certain kind of "reasoning".
1. David's words strongly imply that God's "integrity" would be seen in a stronger light if placed against man's perfidy (every man as a liar makes it easier to see how truthful God is).
a. The "meaning type" in Psalm 51 is that one thing, by contrast, makes its opposite more starkly apparent. Man's "falsehood" makes God's "truthfulness" all that more apparent -- easily seen so as to be appreciated.
b. This is the same kind of reasoning in Romans 5:8 where Paul uses the same word "commend" to tell us that God's love is set against a background of contrast so that it might have an appealing recommendation to our hearts.
2. This raises a kind of "twisted" conclusion by some men: Since man's unrighteousness serves a good purpose in God's plan, doesn't that make God "unrighteous" to "capitalize upon" man's perfidy and still visit judgment upon him?
a. The false reasoning here seems to be that it is not valid tomakeuseof the choices and actions of those with whom there is a sharp disagreement for the advancement of one's own agenda if, in fact, one is going to criticize those whose actions are useful to the User.
b. This reasoning is denied throughout the Scriptures where it is obvious that God uses the sinful actions of men to advance His own objectives...the story of Joseph being a central illustration, and the innumerable records of God's "twisting" of the twistedness of men into usefulness for His own purposes as on-going support for the idea that the Gospel is true: Jesus was put to death by wicked men, but God has applied that death to Redemption's necessities.
B. He also apparently understood that his "doctrine" was being "satirized" by some as they mocked his teaching by accusing him of saying that men ought to do evil so that the glory of God would be more intensely visible.
1. Some men would be glad for Paul's doctrine to be such because, by it, they could feel at ease in their sin.
2. Others would be glad for Paul's doctrine to be such because it is such an obvious lie that it would make contradicting Paul much easier.
II. The Details of Paul's Argument.
A. David's Psalm clearly argues that man's "unrighteousness" and God's "righteousness" are useful to God's plan as they "stand together". David actually says that the "side by side" stance allows the contrast between them to appear much starker. Thus, God "uses" man's lies to highlight His absolute aversion to lies.
1. David's words not only provide for a "side by side" comparison, they actually insist that it is man's sin that makes God's Truth shine so that without man's sin, God's truth would not shine. How does one appreciate "truth" where there are no lies, or "long suffering" where there is no "fault", or "wrath" where there is no condemnation-producing failure?
2. This is a focal issue in Paul's argument: the "advantage" of being in close proximity to the oracles of God is that, by them, one can actually begin to "see" the difference between man in his sinfulness and God in His Life.
B. Paul asks what conclusion we should draw from this fact: What shall we say?
1. The question insists that "we" have to draw some kind of conclusion here.
2. This insistence insists that the conclusion is not some esoteric, non-significant issue floating around on the edge of some vast cosmic theological cloud somewhere in outer space.
3. We often fail to see the critical importance of issues in the Scripture and begin to relegate the Scriptures to that nebulous insignificance of unworthiness that is the dumping ground of so many of the "issues" of men -- for one reason: we are too dull to even realize that God is dealing with the essence of Life while we are chasing the non-issues of Life as though they were critical.
4. In other words, we have to saysomething. The issue is too critical to "not have an opinion" about it.
C. He then suggests the "wrong" conclusion: It wouldn't be "fair" for God to visit wrath upon His "servants".
1. He immediately says that he is "speaking as a man". This means that he is only putting forth a conclusion that self-serving men naturally put forth because they can.
a. Speaking as a man means voicing a kind of reasoning that is thoroughly self-serving.
b. Speaking as a man automatically means that the "speech" is to be rejected out of hand.
2. He asks the question in such a way that it is clear that he expects a "No" answer.
a. There is no dispute from theology or history that God visits "wrath" upon those with whom He is displeased. The long history of the world includes a massive flood, a confusion of languages, a periodic "cleansing" of a geographical area of its wicked inhabitants (Sodom), and a two-fold discipline upon Israel and Judah for idolatry. This allows no question as to whether God's wrath is being revealed from heaven as Romans 1:18 clearly says.
b. Thus, Paul's expectation of a "No" answer sets forth a fact (God uses the evil of men to praise Him) and a conclusion (men will be judged by God for their evil no matter what use God makes of it).
D. He then delivers the most stringent denial of the flawed thesis possible.
1. First, linguistically, he uses the strongest terms possible to deny the thesis: words translated "God forbid".
2. Secondly, he simply appeals to the largest theological umbrella doctrine known to man: God is going to judge the world. This truth is built into man's psyche at such a profound level that seldom is found a man who will deny it.
E. Then he begins a second statement of the same truths, going back over the same theological ground.
1. In this second statement, he argues that "my" lie causes "God's" truth to "abound" unto His glory. This means that God's true character in respect to Truth is definitively highlighted by my lies.
2. Then he asks if it can be "legitimate" for me to be judged as a sinner since my sins cause good.
3. Then he compounds his question by asking "why not rather" ought we to conclude that men OUGHT to sin so that God's "good" can be achieved.
a. This compounding clearly finds strong aversion in him because he takes great pains to deny this conclusion.
1) He says that it is "blasphemy".
2) He says that any who draw that conclusion are going to experience a "JUST" condemnation.
b. Nonetheless, he, himself, raises the issue so that his enemies will not have this particular weapon in their arsenal any longer.
1) Since the vast majority of humanity recognizes that God is going to judge the world, it makes it an easy task to defeat the theology of anyone who seems to deny that by what he teaches.
2) Thus, if it could be substantiated that Paul actually taught that God was glad men were bringing Him glory by their lies, his teaching could be defeated altogether.
III. The Connection With 3:1-4.
A. Paul argued that being in proximity to the oracles of God was a HUGE advantage if those oracles were properly embraced.
B. But, some "objector" who did not want those oracles to make self-exaltation by them impossible was anticipated as to his "reasoning": man's unbelief erases the advantage. This, though true for the unbelieving, was not true if those oracles were embraced by faith. But, even if every man proved to be disbelieving in some ways in respect to the oracles, the advantage remains because the glory of God is revealed.
C. Thus, the anticipation that someone is going to take this "the glory of God is revealed even by man's sin" to deny Paul's doctrine; a denial Paul disallows by 3:5-8.