Let God Be True Romans 3:3-4
“For what if some did not believe? Will there unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar” (Rom 3:3-4)
We enjoy safety in numbers. We laugh at TV shows because we hear a recording of other people laughing. We attempt to justify breaking the speed limit by arguing that everyone else is doing it too. Many a college student has been comforted by the thought that “The professor can’t fail all of us!” Because of this tendency, we need to remember that numbers don’t impress God. With God, there is no “safety in numbers”. “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar”(Rom 3:4).
How do we respond to the fact that God’s law condemns all of us? That it does is clear: “There is none righteous, no not one”(Rom 3:10). “For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”(Rom 3:22-23). Do we follow majority rule—like the naïve college student, thinking “God won’t condemn all these people!”? Do we question God’s faithfulness and justice—as if somehow it’s unfair for Him to condemn us when we are the ones who sinned? Do we reason from results—some good comes of it, so it must be alright with God? We must recognize that all these responses are simply glorified forms of denial. Paul’s answer to the problem is that God must be true, even if that makes every man a liar.
Anticipating objections to the fact that we have all sinned, Paul asks, “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”(Rom 3:3-4). Some or all people being unfaithful does not indict God. They chose such a fate, and He dispenses punishment, or mercy, according to His good pleasure. Like the landowner paying wages, He may say, “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things? Or is your eye evil because I am good?”(Matt 20:15). What gives us the right to question God’s justice when we well know we are guilty and deserve punishment?
Reasoning from results doesn’t work either, since God will always be glorified and proved right regardless of what we do. “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 still judged as a sinner?”(Rom 3:5-7) Is it wrong for God to punish since He is shown righteous by our sin? Is it unfair that He is shown to be right, and on top of that punishes us? No! God will always be righteous, but that doesn’t excuse us or reflect on us! To think that we are OK because some good things have come out of our lives is to delude ourselves and deny God.
We desperately need a proper view of the incorruptibility of God’s justice. It is not affected by the number of people who deserve punishment. It is true even if it makes everyone else a liar. Not only that, it is so perfect that it would not be satisfied by God simply pardoning our sins with a wave of His hand. His justice had to be satisfied by Jesus’ sinless suffering for our sin. Justice demanded punishment for sin (“a propitiation”, Rom 3:25), and so now God sits as “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus”(Rom 3:26). Remaining eternally just, He is now eternally gracious to those who believe and obey His Son.
The good news is that if we stop living in denial and place our faith in Jesus for our salvation rather than our empty righteousness, God has provided a way for us. Give up the “safety of numbers” and trust and obey Jesus—regardless of its implications for everyone else. “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar”!
By Jacob Hudgins
From Expository Files 16.10; October 2009