Certainly not! Let God be true and every man a liar. As it is written: "So that You may be proved right when You speak and victorious when You judge."
I. THE DIVINE REVELATION A GREAT PRIVILEGE. Notwithstanding all that had been said about the sins and shortcomings of the Jews, the Jews were still a privileged people. Nothing could ever destroy the fact that they were the chosen people of God, the people chosen to be the channel of God's revelation to the world by the patriarchs and lawgivers and prophets, chosen also to be the channel through which the Divine Word become flesh and tabernacled among men - "of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came." The chief privilege which Paul mentions here was that "unto them were committed the oracles of God" (ver. 2). It is an advantage to have a Divine revelation entrusted to us. The possession and knowledge of God's Word is a privilege not to be despised or lightly esteemed. There are degrees of nearness to the kingdom of God. While the gospel is "the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth," while there are such events as sudden conversions, yet there are some who are in a more favourable condition for receiving the gospel than others. St. Paul, though he was suddenly converted, bad a long and thorough training previously in the Word of God. The scribe who came to Christ, and whom the Saviour pronounced to be "not far from the kingdom of God," was one who had a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures, and who had been living a life of obedience to the Law of God. Such men were certainly more likely to be influenced by the personal power of Christ than those who had no previous knowledge of Divine truth. God works by miracles; but his ordinary method is to work by means. In these days of sensational evangelism it is well that we should not undervalue the importance of a thorough knowledge of the Scriptures. Paul wrote to Timothy, "From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus." They who are well instructed in the Holy Scriptures are, as a rule, more likely to become true and permanent Christians than those who, under the influence of sudden excitement or emotion, without any previous religious knowledge, profess their readiness to follow the banner of Jesus. There are exceptions, but this would seem to be the rule. And those who are so highly privileged incur a serious and solemn responsibility. If unto us are committed the oracles of God, if we have the Bible in our hands and its truths treasured up in our minds, terrible indeed will be our guilt if we disobey its precepts, reject its invitations, and neglect its warnings. "To whom much is given, of them shall much be required."
II. DIVINE FAITHFULNESS NOT AFFECTED BY HUMAN UNBELIEF. "For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God of none 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" (vers. 3, 4). The promises of God will be fulfilled, even though there are some who do not believe on them. The Law of God will assert its claims, even though there are some who repudiate them. It will not save men from the punishment of their sin that they did not believe God's Word when it says, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap." God's faithfulness is not affected by the unbelief of his own people. Some persons argue against the Bible because of the unbelief of those who profess to regard it as their guide. They argue against Christianity because of the inconsistencies of its professors. The argument is false. Christianity is to be judged by its own teachings and spirit, and not by the imperfect way in which even its professors have received and practised them. Christianity is the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, combined with the influence of his death upon the cross. No inconsistency of professing followers can ever mar the beauty and sinlessness of that perfect Example. No unbelief can ever do away with the inherent power that is in the cross of Jesus to save sinners. The preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but to them that are saved it is the power of God and the wisdom of God.
III. DIVINE JUSTICE IS NOT AFFECTED BY THE CONSEQUENCES OF HUMAN SIN. "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?" (vers. 5, 6).
1. God judges not consequences, but character. He looks at the heart and at the motives. The Jews' unbelief was overruled by God for his own wise and gracious purposes. He brought good out of evil. But that did not make their unbelief the less guilty. In the eyes of the law, the guilt of a fraudulent person is not always estimated by the consequences of his acts. A man may forge his employer's signature to cheques; but the employer may receive such information as will enable him to stop the cheques in time, and prevent the loss which would otherwise have resulted. But the forger's guilt is not diminished because the consequences of his acts have been overruled. The law is not considered unfair or unrighteous if it punishes him, though his employer may not have suffered one penny of pecuniary loss. And even though the criminal's conduct served in some way to bring out more clearly the integrity or kindness of his employer, yet even this would not be regarded as any mitigating circumstance in his guilt. So it is right that I should still be judged as a sinner, even though the truth of God hath abounded through my lie unto his glory (ver. 7).
2. Man is not justified in using sinful means to gain a good end. From the fact that God overrules sinful actions for his own glory and the good of humanity, it might appear to be a natural inference that it matters not what the morality of the action itself is so long as its object or result is good. "Let us do evil, that good may come" (ver. 8). Stated in this broad way, the immorality of the principle is apparent. And yet it is a principle which is too commonly acted upon. If you oppose some method of raising money for religious or charitable purposes, you will be constantly told, "Oh! it is for a good purpose." That is, simply, it does not matter how you get the money so as you get it. It does not matter what the means are so long as the end is good. Now, it is time that the Christian Church and Christian teachers should set themselves resolutely against such demoralizing ideas. How can the Christian Church rebuke the dishonest practices too common in the commercial world, money-making by unfair or questionable methods, so long as its own hands are not clean, so long as almost any method of making money is considered justifiable if it is in connection with a Church bazaar? The end does not justify the means. Let us not do evil, that good may come. - C.H.I.
For what if some did not believe?I. MAN'S UNBELIEF; its various forms; impenitence; scepticism.
II. GOD'S FAITHFULNESS; His Word remains true; cannot fail of effect; must be glorified.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)
I. A SORROWFUL REMINDER. There always have been some who have not believed.
1. This is stated very mildly. The apostle might have said "many" instead of "some." Remember that all but two who came out of Egypt fell in the wilderness through unbelief; but the apostle does not wish to unduly press his argument, or to aggravate his hearers. Even in his own day he might have said, "The bulk of the Jewish nation has rejected Christ. Wherever I go, they seek my life, because I preach a dying Saviour's love." Yet this is a very appalling thing, even when stated thus mildly. If all here except one were believers, and it was announced that that one would be pointed out to the congregation, we should all feel in a very solemn condition. But there are many more than one here who have not believed. If the unconverted were not so numerous they would be looked upon with horror and pity. As they are so numerous, there is all the greater need for our compassion.
2. The terms of Paul's question suggest a mitigation of the sorrow. "What if some did not believe?" Then it is implied that some did believe. Glory be to God, there is a numerous "some."
3. Yet it is true that, at times, the "some" who did not believe meant the majority. Read the story of Israel through and you will be saddened to find how again and again they did not believe, and it may be that, even among hearers of the gospel, the unbelievers preponderate.
4. This unbelief has usually been the case between the great ones of the earth. In our Saviour's day they said, "Have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed on Him?" The gospel has usually had a free course among the poor, but "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble," are called.
5. Some who have not believed have belonged to the religious and to the teaching class. The Scribes and Pharisees rejected Christ, although they were the religious leaders of the people. And now we may be preachers, and yet not preach the gospel of Christ; we may be members of the Church, and yet not savingly know it.
6. The same may be said if we take the whole range of the nations favoured with the gospel.
7. "What, then, if some do not believe?" Then —(1) They are lost. "He that believeth not is condemned already."(2) There still remains, to those who hear the gospel, the opportunity to believe; and, believing, they shall find life through the sacred name.(3) Let us, who do believe, make them the constant subject of our prayers; and bear our witness to the saving power of the gospel.
II. A HORRIBLE INFERENCE, viz., that their unbelief had made the faith, or the faithfulness of God, without effect.
1. Some will say, "If So-and-so and So-and-so do not believe the gospel, then religion is a failure." We have read of a great many things being failures. A little while ago it was a question whether marriage was not a failure. I suppose that, by and by, eating and breathing will be a failure. The gospel is said to be a failure, because certain gentlemen of professed culture and knowledge do not believe it. Well, there have been other things that have not been believed in by very important individuals, and yet they have turned out to be true. Before the trains ran, the old coachmen and farmers would not believe that an engine could be made to go on the rails, and to drag carriages behind it. According to the wise men of the time, everything was to go to the bad, and the engines would blow up the first time they started with a train. But they did not blow up, and everybody now smiles at what those learned gentlemen ventured then to say. Look at those who now tell us that the gospel is a failure. They are in the line of those whose principal object has been to refute all that went before them. If any of you shall live fifty years, you will see that the philosophy of today will be a football of contempt for the philosophy of that period. I have to say, with Paul, "What if some did not believe?" It is no new thing; for there have always been some who rejected the revelation of God. What then? You and I had better go on believing, and testing for ourselves, and proving the faithfulness of God. The gospel is no failure, as many of us know.
2. Has God failed to keep His promise to Israel because some Israelites did not believe? Paul Nays, No. He did bring Israel into the promised land, though all but two that came out of Egypt died through unbelief in the wilderness. A nation came up from their ashes, and God kept His covenant with His ancient people; and today He is keeping it. The "chosen seed of Israel's race" is "a remnant, weak and small"; but the day is coming when then they shall be gathered in; then shall also be the fulness of the Gentiles when Israel has come to own her Lord.
3. Because some do not believe, will God's promise therefore fail to be kept to those who do believe? I invite you to come and try. When two of John's disciples inquired of Jesus where He dwelt, He said to them, "Come and see." If any here will try Christ, as I tried Him, they will not tolerate a doubt. One said that she believed the Bible because she was acquainted with the Author of it, and you will believe the gospel if you are acquainted with the Saviour who brings it.
4. Will God be unfaithful to His Son if some do not believe? I thank God that I have no fear about that. "He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied." Suppose that you wickedly say, "We will not have Christ to reign over us." If you think that you will rob Him of honour by your rejection, you make a great mistake. If you will not have Him, others will. This word shall yet become true, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ," etc.
5. If some do not believe, will God change the gospel to suit them? Ought we to change our preaching because of "the spirit of the age"? Never; unless it be to fight "the spirit of the age" more desperately than ever. We ask for no terms between Christ and His enemies except these, unconditional surrender to Him. The gospel cannot be altered to your taste; therefore alter yourself so as to meet its requirements.
III. AN INDIGNANT REPLY to this horrible inference.
1. Paul gives a solemn negative: "God forbid!" All the opponents of the gospel cannot move it by a hair's breadth; they cannot injure a single stone of this Divine building.
2. He utters a vehement protestation: "Yea, let God be true, but every man a liar." You know that if the majority goes in a particular direction, you are apt to say, "It must be so, for everybody says so." But what everybody says is not therefore true. If God says one thing, and every man in the world says another, God is true, and all men are false. God speaks the truth, and cannot lie. We are to believe God's truth if nobody else believes it.
3. He uses a Scriptural argument. He quotes what David had said in the Fifty-first Psalm," That Thou mightest be justified in Thy sayings, and mightest overcome when Thou art judged."(1) God will be justified in everything that He has said. God shall also be justified when He judges and condemns men.(2) A very startling expression is used here: "That Thou mightest overcome when Thou art judged." Think of this enormous evil; here are men actually trying to judge the Divine judgments, and to sit as if they were the god of God. Still the verdict will be in God's favour. It would be proved that He had neither said anything untrue, nor done anything unjust. Conclusion:
1. I want the Lord's people to be brave about the things of God. There has been too much of yielding, and apologising, and compromising.
2. If you are opposed to God, I beseech you give up your opposition at once. This battle cannot end well for you unless you yield yourself to God.
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
Let God be true, but every man a liar
I. THAT WHICH IS REAL as opposed to what is fictitious or imaginary. Jehovah is the true God, because He is really God, while the gods of the heathen are vanity and nothing.
II. THAT WHICH COMPLETELY COMES UP TO ITS IDEA, or what it purports to be. A true man is a man in whom the idea of manhood is fully realised. The true God is He in whom is found all that Godhead imports.
III. THAT IN WHICH THE REALITY CORRESPONDS TO THE MANIFESTATION. God is true because He really is what He declares Himself to be; because He is what He commands us to believe Him to be; and because all His declarations correspond to what really is.
IV. THAT WHICH CAN BE DEPENDED UPON, which does not fail, or change, or disappoint. In this sense God is true as He is immutable and faithful. His promise cannot fail. His word never disappoints: it "abideth forever."
(C. Hodge, D. D.)1. Will survive all human lies.
2. Will be amply justified.
3. Will be triumphantly vindicated.
(J. Lyth, D. D.)
(C. H. Spurgeon.)
I. THE TENDENCY OF THE HEART TO SEEK TO DIMINISH THE INTENSITY OF SELF-CONDEMNATION BY LOWERING THE STANDARD OF DUTY. All sense of self-condemnation arises from a comparison of one's deeds, character, life and motives, with certain standards of duty. If there had been no law, there could have been no sense of violating law, and none, therefore, of sin. There is one thing which we bear less willingly than any other — namely, a sharp sense of shame in self-condemnation. There is no other feeling that seems to suffocate a man more than to be worried by his own accusing and condemning conscience. While, then, this feeling is so unbearable, it is scarcely surprising that men attempt to get rid of it. They pad their conduct, as it were, that the yoke may not bear so heavily where they feel sore. Therefore, men tell themselves more lies in this direction than in any other. They deliberately fool themselves — and for the same reason that men take opiates. "It is not good," said the physician, "that yon should take opiates to remove that sharp pain. You had better remove the cause, and so get rid of the pain." "But," you say, "I must pursue my business; and, though it may not be the best thing, give me the opiate." Men will not, if they can help it, bear the ache of self-condemnation; and by every means in their power they are perpetually trying to get rid of it. The ordinary method is to impair that rule of conduct, or that ideal of light, which condemns them. They attack that which attacks them. Men plead the force of circumstances for breaking the laws which are most painful to them. They attempt to show that they are not to blame. They plead that breaking the law is not very sinful. That is, to save themselves, they destroy the dignity and the importance of the law. Let us trace this tendency.
1. It begins in early life.(1) A child that will not obey his parents' injunctions begins, after a while, to find fault with the rigour by which he is held in check; and as he gets older he finds fault with, and endeavours to throw off, parental authority. "To be sure," he says, "I have gone forth at untimely hours, had my own way in contravention of express authority; but then, I am not so much to blame. Who could live in a family screwed up as this is? A man must have some room." What is all this but an attempt to excuse his own disobedience, by inveighing against the law under which the obedience takes place?(2) When the young go forth to the training ground of life, they manifest the same tendency. The truant and dullard at school turns against the master, and at last against the school. He declares that it is not his fault. Or, if he admits that it is his fault in part, he pleads the provocation; and so the rebellious boy at school tarnishes the good reputation of the teacher, and inveighs against the school.
2. It runs through industrial forms.(1) If in a trade or profession, a man prefers to sport rather than to work, and is indolent, and unsteady, when the pressure of blame and condemnation begins to come on him, he turns instantly to blame everybody and everything but his own self. Or perhaps the plea is urged that such and such a calling cannot be successfully followed without moral obliquity. What is this but destroying their reputation for the sake of shielding their own?
3. It finds its way into social relations. When men defy the public sentiment which expresses the social conscience of the community, and come under its ban, and begin to smart, they attack that sentiment. If it be a course of impurity that they have pursued, they charge sentiment with prudery; if they have been going in ways in which they have left truth far behind, they charge it with fanaticism. And, more than that, they do not believe there is anything in the community better than they are.
4. It pervades the pleas by which criminals seek to defend themselves. As men begin to violate the laws of the community, as they begin to suffer under the loss of reputation, they seek to excuse themselves from blame, and to fix it upon others. Even when the law cannot get its hand upon them; or when, getting it upon them, it cannot hold them; and when they begin to feel that the unwritten law, which no man can escape, the judgment of good men's thoughts, the wintry blast of good men's indignation round about them, and they are called "sharpers," and are treated as such, they complain that it is an indignity heaped upon them; that it is a wrong done to them, and say, "Society is wrongly organised. If it were better organised, business would be conducted differently, and men would act differently. But how can you expect that a man will be right when everything is organised on wrong principles?"
5. It manifests itself in men's arguments on the subject of vice.(1) Here is a man who says, "I am no more intemperate than anybody else. I am frank and open. I drink, and show it. Just go behind the door and see what these temperance men do." What is this but the plea of a man who, not satisfied with being a drunkard, is destroying the very ideal of temperance?(2) Here is a man who has utterly gone from chastity. That is bad enough; but that is not all. He says, "Impure, am I? Well, I think I have company enough in this world. No one is pure. It is because they cannot, and not because they will not, that they do not run into excesses." Such men stand inveighing against the memory of their very mother, and whelming the reputation of pure and noble sisters, and a man who has lost respect for womanhood in actual life may be considered as given over.(3) There are those who pursue the same course in regard to probity. They are not themselves truth speakers; neither do they believe that any man does speak the truth. "I am a swindler," says one. "But who is not? Every man has his price." And what does he do? He destroys the very ideal of honesty by declaring that nobody is honest.
6. It may also be traced in men's reasonings on the subject of religious truth. Men care very little what theology teaches, provided it does not come home to them, either as a restraint or as a criterion of judgment; but when they begin to be made uncomfortable; when for one or another reason the pulpit is a power, and they find it in the way of their ambition, or gain, or comfort; when theology begins to stir them up, and sit in judgment on them, then there is a strong tendency developed in them to find fault with the truth, and to justify themselves by adopting what they are pleased to call "a more liberal view." And so men find fault with the fundamental principles of a moral government. And under such circumstances they go from church to church to find a more lenient pulpit.
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF MAINTAINING OUR IDEAL OF DUTY IN SPITE OF ALL HUMAN IMPERFECTIONS. The destruction of ideal standards is utterly ruinous to our manhood.
1. What is an ideal? A perception of something higher and better than we have reached, either in single actions, or in our life and character. Do I need to ask you what your ideal is, ye that have sought in a thousand ways to reach that very conception? The musician is charmed with the song that he seems to hear angels sing; but when he attempts to write it down with his hands he curses the blundering rudeness of material things, by which he cannot incarnate so spiritual a thing as his thought. The true orator is a man whose unspoken speech is a thousand times better than his utterance. The true artist is a man who says, "Oh! if you could see what I saw when I first tried to make this, you would think this most homely." This excelsior of every soul; this sense of something finer, and nobler, and truer, and better — so long as this lasts a man can scarcely go down to the vulgarism. A man who is satisfied with himself because he is better than his fellow men. You never thought as well as you ought to think. You never planned as nobly as you ought to plan. You never executed as well as you ought to execute. Over every production there ought to hover, perpetually, your blessed ideal, telling you, "Your work is poor — it should be better"; so that every day you should lift yourself higher and higher, with an everlasting pursuit of hope which shall only end in perfection when you reach the land beyond.
2. But what if some mephitic gas shall extinguish this candle of God which casts its light down on our path to guide us, and direct our course up? What if the breath of man, for whom it was sent, should blow it out, and he be left in darkness to sink down toward the beast that perishes? Woe be to that man whose ideal has gone out and left him to the vulgar level of common life without upward motive. And yet, that which our text reveals, and revealing condemns, is universal — namely, the attempt of men to find fault with law, or with God, the fountain of law, with the ideal of rectitude, rather than find fault with themselves. Nay, "Let God be true, but every man a liar."
(H. Ward Beecher.)
TopicsFALSE, Comest, Contendest, Declared, TRUE, Gain, Hold, Indeed, Judge, Judged, Judgment, Justified, Liar, Mayest, Mightest, Overcome, Prevail, Pronouncest, Prove, Proved, Rather, Righteous, Sayings, Sentence, Shouldest, Shown, Speak, Stands, Though, Untrue, Verily, Writings, Written, Yea, Yes
Outline1. The Jews prerogative;
3. which they have not lost;
9. howbeit the law convinces them also of sin;
20. therefore no one is justified by the law;
28. but all, without difference, by faith, only;
31. and yet the law is not abolished.
Dictionary of Bible ThemesRomans 3:4
1150 God, truth of
'There is no difference.'--ROMANS iii. 22. The things in which all men are alike are far more important than those in which they differ. The diversities are superficial, the identities are deep as life. Physical processes and wants are the same for everybody. All men, be they kings or beggars, civilised or savage, rich or poor, wise or foolish, cultured or illiterate, breathe the same breath, hunger and thirst, eat and drink, sleep, are smitten by the same diseases, and die at last the same death. …
Alexander Maclaren—Romans, Corinthians (To II Corinthians, Chap. V)
The Law Established through Faith
God Justified, Though Man Believes Not
"That the Righteousness of the Law Might be Fulfilled in Us. "
How Christ is the Way in General, "I am the Way. "
How Christ is Made Use of for Justification as a Way.
The Necessity of Other Preparatory Acts Besides Faith
Certainty of Our Justification.
A Great Deal for Me to Read Hast Thou Sent...
Nuremberg Sept. 15, 1530. To the Honorable and Worthy N. , My Favorite Lord and Friend.
This Conflict None Experience in Themselves, Save Such as War on the Side Of...
The Impossibility of Failure.
The Gospel the Power of God
The Loftiness of God
The Pharisee and the Publican
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