WHAT IS PAUL’S “LIE” IN ROMANS 3:7?
by Shawn Brasseaux
How are we to understand 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?” Just what is this “lie?” Did Paul tell a falsehood here?
For the context, start at verse 1 and continue through verse 7: “ What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?  Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.  For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?  God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.  But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)  God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?  For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?  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.”
Romans chapters 1–3 is the Holy Spirit skillfully outlining his legal case for the prosecution of sinful mankind. Whether Gentile/heathen (1:18-32) or Jew/religious (2:1-29), Romans 3:9 concludes, “…all [are] under sin.” Beginning at verse 21, the Holy Spirit reveals His solution to man’s sin problem: “ But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets;  Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:  For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;  Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:  Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;  To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.  Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.  Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law.”
Getting back to the opening of chapter 3, “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” The Jews of the Old Testament economy (specifically, prior to Paul’s apostleship) understood their sin problem. They had the Hebrew Bible—our “Old Testament Scriptures”—whereas the Gentiles did not (Romans 3:1-2, cf. Romans 2:17-24; Romans 9:3-5). In this respect, Israel was aware of the words and will of the one true God. Contrariwise, the non-Jews (Gentiles) had been given over to the pagan idols and spiritual darkness they preferred (Acts 14:15-17; Acts 17:22-31; Ephesians 2:11-12).
“For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.” Even though individual Jews did not believe that aforementioned Divine revelation given to the nation Israel—culminating in the Jews’ crucifixion of Christ—that did not nullify or cancel the covenants JEHOVAH God made with the nation’s patriarchs centuries earlier (Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, et cetera). Although man lies, God does not: He always keeps His promises, and man will never be able to justly accuse Him of being untrustworthy. The Lord would be (will) still be faithful in taking care of Israel’s sin problem and making them His earthly people via the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; cf. Hebrews chapters 8 and 10).
“But if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man)” The Holy Spirit anticipates man’s objection, so He leads Paul to summarize that sinner’s “defense.” After unsuccessfully attacking God for allegedly being dishonest or unfaithful (Romans 3:4)—thereby failing to discredit God’s accusations against him—the sinner proceeds to want God to be lenient toward him. Unwilling to accept the penalty for his sin problem, he resorts to more excuses: “My unrighteousness, my sinful lifestyle, makes God’s righteousness look all the better. How can God condemn me so harshly if He is more glorious when compared to my sinful activities? Would He not be evil in punishing someone who makes Him look so good?” Paul promptly answered, “God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?” God is not unrighteous or wicked, otherwise He would be in no position to judge sinners. Indeed, the Judge of all the Earth shall do right (Genesis 18:25) at the Great White Throne Judgment when He deals with unsaved sinners bound for the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:11-15)!
“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 amplifies the previous statements (Romans 3:5-6). Sinful man offers another lame justification for how he is not as bad as God’s testimony against him indicates. “When I tell a lie, I make God’s truth look even better. There is nothing like a good contrast to God so as to bring out His very best! How can God then find fault with me?! Without me, He would look worse off!” Paul is being philosophical here. He is not actually telling a lie but rather highlighting a difference that sinful man mentions so as to clear his name and/or make himself look less guilty.
“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.” Paul’s critics had misconstrued his message of “salvation by grace through faith in Christ without our works” as meaning nothing more than “grace is a license to sin.” “Live however you want, for in doing so you emphasize God’s grace!” As the excuse “My lie makes God’s truth look better,” this too was wrong. Whether sinners trying to ease their conscience and save themselves from being labeled a “sinner,” or sinners who believe their evil deeds are their opportunity to display God’s grace, neither will be excused at the Great White Throne Judgment of Revelation 20:11-15. No matter how “clever” sinful man will be in the Day of Judgment, God is fully prepared to outsmart and answer him! (He already has in Romans!!)
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» Is grace “a license to sin?”
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» Was God “unfair” to punish us for Adam’s sin?
» Is “God forbid” a “poor translation?”
» How were Gentiles saved before our Dispensation of Grace?
» Why are lost people not judged for their works immediately after physical death?