Romans 3:1-8 New King James Version (NKJV)
1 What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? 2 Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. 3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 4 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.”
5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) 6 Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?
7 For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? 8 And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.
The Book of Romans was likely written in early 57 AD, while Paul was on his third missionary journey. Some scholars say that the theme of Romans is the basic gospel. They purposefully leave it broad, because of the scope of the book as a whole. Other scholars are inclined to say a more specific theme of “Justification Through Faith”.
This second theme is very evident throughout the book. There are many parts that are broad in their scope, but the truth of justification through faith is brought to the foreground quite frequently. It is in later in Romans 3 we hear, “for all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God,” and then further still in the third chapter we hear, “there is one God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.”
In the second chapter, Paul addresses the Jews who still think that the Gentiles should either not be Christians, or have to be circumcised in order to be Christians. He tells them that it is not a circumcision of flesh that matters but a circumcision of the heart.
We hear often, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in your weakness.” This means that in our failings, God’s strength is shown.
Imagine a candle. The candle is put inside a vessel of some sort. If the vessel is perfect, and closed, what happens? The light cannot be seen, and eventually, the light goes out, because of lack of oxygen. But imagine if this vessel was broken, with holes all in it. Now the light from the candle escapes, and the candle doesn’t die out.
We are that vessel and the candle is the Hope of God. If we are perfect, people only see the vessel, see us, and it is dark. But, if we are broken, the Light of God is seen in us, and it lights up the room. This is why we come to Him broken, not fixed. God does the fixing.
More Evil Means More Good?
Often times, I’ll look to a few different translations on a passage. I usually start with the New American Standard Bible or the English Standard Version because they both strive to be very literal translations of the Greek and Hebrew. Then I’ll try to go to the New King James or another more poetic version, because of the blend of readability and literal translation. (I generally don’t do original King James Version because of readability). Sometimes, I’ll go for straight readability, in an idiomatic version such as The Message, by Eugene Peterson. (I warn against only reading this version. It changes things quite a bit, and while it is useful, it is still very good to get as close to the original, at least in some of your reading) This passage in The Message e is very good:
Romans 3 The Message (MSG)
1-2 So what difference does it make who’s a Jew and who isn’t, who has been trained in God’s ways and who hasn’t? As it turns out, it makes a lot of difference—but not the difference so many have assumed.
2-6 First, there’s the matter of being put in charge of writing down and caring for God’s revelation, these Holy Scriptures. So, what if, in the course of doing that, some of those Jews abandoned their post? God didn’t abandon them. Do you think their faithlessness cancels out his faithfulness? Not on your life! Depend on it: God keeps his word even when the whole world is lying through its teeth. Scripture says the same:
Your words stand fast and true;
Rejection doesn’t faze you.
But if our wrongdoing only underlines and confirms God’s rightdoing, shouldn’t we be commended for helping out? Since our bad words don’t even make a dent in his good words, isn’t it wrong of God to back us to the wall and hold us to our word? These questions come up. The answer to such questions is no, a most emphatic No! How else would things ever get straightened out if God didn’t do the straightening?
7-8 It’s simply perverse to say, “If my lies serve to show off God’s truth all the more gloriously, why blame me? I’m doing God a favor.” Some people are actually trying to put such words in our mouths, claiming that we go around saying, “The more evil we do, the more good God does, so let’s just do it!” That’s pure slander, as I’m sure you’ll agree.
As you can see, the overall message is the same, but this puts it in very modern language. I like the way Peterson puts verse 7, saying it’s perverse to say that my sin is for God’s good so He can show His glory. This is the truth.
Just because God fixes our broken vessels, and through our weaknesses, His strength is known, doesn’t mean we should continue to break ourselves. For then is the Light truly in us? If we are in Christ, we are to be a new creation. We are to change. The old you dies, and the new Christian is made. How do we know if we are a new creation? We will bear the fruits of the spirit, which according to the Epistle to the Galatians: “… the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”
Take a moment today and ask God to keep healing you. To help you to show those Fruits of the Spirit.
Pray, “God, don’t let me guilty of doing evil to ‘help’ you do Good. As if You need my help. Fix my broken vessel, and help me bear the Fruits of the Spirit, not the Flesh.”