The Law and God’s Justice (3:5-8)
Paul now turns to more general arguments against the logical validity of the Gospel. The counter-argument appears to be: “If the light of God’s mercy in Christ shines all the more brightly in greater darkness, then our sin supports the Gospel by deepening that darkness.”
They may have posed this idea to Paul in very personal terms. For, his conversion story is about God showing mercy through Christ to a man (Saul) whose life was consumed by murderous hatred of Christ’s Body. Thus, it is the terrible darkness of Saul’s life that enabled God to show the amazing extent of His mercy.
Thus (so Paul’s detractors imagined) they could destroy the Gospel by using it to justify unrepentant, deepening sin.
5 But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) 6 Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world?7
It’s of interest that Paul dispenses with this line of argument so curtly. My view is that he is giving it all the respect that it is due. For, it represents that type of argument against God that is so aptly described in Psalm 1.
Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2 but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3 He is like a tree
planted by streams of water,
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers.
4 The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
5 Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
6 for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.
If you believe that there is no God, or that God is not our judge, then the argument is irrelevant. However, if you believe that He is, then to say that God can’t discriminate between sin and righteousness is utterly illogical. Thus, Paul destroys this objection with appropriate contempt and efficiency.
Paul not proceeds to a second variation of the same argument.
Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” 8 Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!
Certainly some must have made these arguments to Paul. Paul’s response here is even more contemptuous than before. For, having already sufficiently exposed its absurdity, he simply responds with disgust at their slander of God’s person and purpose.
These arguments are not relics of the past. Rather, the heirs of this position now strut around in our assemblies, flaunting their mockery and openly scoffing at the idea of God the judge. And, those of us who supposedly know better look away so that our comfortable lives won’t be inconvenienced by controversy. Shame on them; shame, shame on us!