Herman Hoeksema was the first editor of the Standard Bearer.
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 3:7, 8
In the immediate context, the apostle removes from the sinner a last possibility of excuse. This is the purpose of the preceding four or five verses. The apostle presently intends to elaborate upon the positive message of the gospel. This message is that man is justified by faith through the righteousness which is of God and which He realized in Christ. If the sinner is to receive the positive message of the gospel, he must have nothing left that is of himself. There must be no possibility left for him to be justified by works.
Not only those works which we might call the works of the law, but also our religion, our piety, our Christianity must be taken away. They are no good as a basis of righteousness. But also every excuse of the sinner, that he shall not appear in the judgment, that God has no right to execute judgment upon him, must be taken out of the hand of the sinner, who always lies about God. He must stop lying about God.
Now in the context the apostle answers a possible objector, who lies about God to excuse himself.
Let me use an illustration. A judge passes sentence upon his own son. That son has committed murder. He is tried in that father’s own court. That judge expresses the verdict of the death sentence upon that son. By that verdict of that judge, the sentence becomes the occasion of commending the righteousness and integrity of the judge. The son, hearing that the judge is praised for his righteousness and integrity, turns around and says, “Because my sin commends your righteousness, you cannot condemn me to death.” But the judge answers, “How shall I judge then?”
What is the flaw in the reasoning of that son? This, that although his sin becomes the means of the sentence and, thus, of commending the righteousness and integrity of the judge, that sin does not become meritorious. That sin remains sin. Therefore, it is to be condemned.
So the apostle reasons in the context and in the text. The apostle had said that the faith of God is not affected by the unbelief of the sinner. He had said: What if some do not believe? Shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect? God forbid. But their unbelief must show that all men are liars and that God is true.
The unbelief of them who have the oracles of God shows that although man may have the Word of God he is still a liar. When they have the Word of God, this Word serves to bring out the more, that all men are liars. But God gives faith to them who are heirs of the promise.
Now the objector states, “If this is true, if my unfaithfulness commends the faithfulness of God, then God is unrighteous, if He brings wrath upon me.” Or, as in the text, “If my lie must serve to bring out His truth, then I cannot be judged as a sinner.” In this case, the safest rule is this, “Let us do evil that good may come out of it.” This, says the apostle, is a damnable inference.
The objector draws a conclusion. He draws a conclusion from Paul’s doctrine. This is often done. How often do you not hear this conclusion, if you insist upon preaching the sovereignty of God: If you insist that even sin and the devil are there by the will of God, you make God the author of sin! This is not the conclusion of them who hold to the sovereignty of God. This is the conclusion of the enemy. This, we have in the text. From the doctrine of the apostle, the objector draws this conclusion: let us do evil that good may come.
The question is, from what doctrine of Paul does the objector draw this conclusion? The answer is that he draws this conclusion from the teaching of Paul that even sin, evil, and all the powers of darkness exist, operate, and must redound to God’s glory. He draws this conclusion from the teaching that all the lies of men must bring out the truth of God. This was the answer of Paul to the objector who had said, “What if some do not believe?” The apostle said that God must become ever increasingly true and man must become ever increasingly a liar. This must be the outcome. This will be the outcome. But the apostle had stated that this was the purpose of God when He did not give faith to all. This was the question. Faith is included in the promise. Why then did not God give this faith to all? The apostle answers that God did not give faith to all in order that it might become evident that God is true and that every man is a liar. This is the particular teaching of Paul from which the objector draws the conclusion, “Let us do evil that good may come.”
There is a general principle at stake here. Sin has no purpose, no end of its own. The only purpose, the only end, which sin can reach is the glory of God. That is, God’s purpose with sin is that it may become evident that He is God, that He is God alone, and that He is the only good. The powers of darkness must serve this purpose, and they must serve this purpose alone.
This is an important principle. To deny this truth is to deny the antithesis. This denial leads to dualism. You do not believe the antithesis if you do not explain sin and the devil out of God. Not to explain sin and the devil out of God leads to heathen dualism. This, the apostle does not teach. The apostle says that sin is there to glorify God. The unrighteousness of man must bring out the righteousness of God. The lie of man must bring out the truth of God. This is God’s purpose. This truth, we must never surrender. This is the truth of truths. It is the truth that God is God.
Now what is the inference? The apostle says, “I speak as a man.” It is the inference of a man. What is the inference of man? It is not the inference of an apostle. It is not the inference of a Christian. But “I speak as a man, as a sinful man.”
What does sinful man say? He says this. If that which you have been teaching, Paul, is true, then this is also true, that my lie bears good fruit, that it serves a good purpose, that it serves to bring out the truth of God. Therefore, my lie is really a necessary element in the glorification of God. If I do not lie, God will not be glorified. My unrighteousness commends, by way of comparison, the righteousness of God. All can see that I am unrighteous and that God is righteous. But my unrighteousness serves to bring out the righteousness of God. Hence, this is also true that God cannot judge me as a sinner. “Why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” If the truth of God abounds more through my lie unto His glory, God cannot judge me as a sinner. Do you not see, Paul, that I am excused? Even though I am a liar, and unrighteous, I cannot be judged because my lie must redound to the glory of God.
There is one more step. From the doctrine that God is sovereign, this also follows: “Let us do evil that good may come.” This is the conclusion of the enemies. For the apostle says that these objectors said that this is what he taught: “As we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,” declares the apostle. This is an old method of opposing the truth. There were some who actually said about the apostle’s doctrine that the apostle taught, “Let us do evil that good may come.” The apostle did not teach this. This was merely a conclusion of the enemy. The apostle calls it a damnable inference.
For what is the error? What is wrong with this conclusion? In the first place, they who draw this inference do not present the matter quite correctly. They say, “Our unrighteousness commends the righteousness of God.” This is not quite correct. They make just a little mistake. But this little mistake is a serious error. The objectors state: “God’s glory must abound through our lie.” But this is not exactly the case. It should be put in a slightly different form in order to be true. But this difference results in a devilish error. The lie of man does not commend the truth, but opposes it. The unrighteousness of man does not commend the righteousness of God, but opposes it. In other words, man does not glorify God when he lies. He does not glorify God when he commits unrighteousness. Man does not intend to glorify God when he lies or commits unrighteousness. His lie is not a work that can be put to his credit. For it was not his purpose to glorify God. A lie is always a lie.
Therefore, the truth must be put this way. God glorifies Himself through my unrighteousness. God glorifies His truth through my lie. My lie does not glorify God. God glorifies Himself. God always glorifies Himself. He glorifies Himself in the elect. We are not the meritorious glorifiers of God. God glorifies Himself. Even as He glorifies Himself in the elect, so He glorifies Himself in the reprobate. God does it. God uses man’s lie and unrighteousness to His own glory.
The inference of the objector is absurd. God’s glorification is a self-glorification. It is a glorifying of Himself, in spite of sin and the devil. How then can the sinner ask, “Why am I judged as a sinner?” His lie does not glorify God.
If a man throws a child into the water, and that child becomes the occasion for another man to show his bravery, and he that had thrown the child into the water should want the credit, would he not be deemed mad? Or, if the Jews who crucified Christ should say to God, we are the cause that the blood of atonement was shed and we want the credit, would that not be deemed insane? This is the absurdity of the objection of all the wicked. In the day of judgment, the wicked shall see and acknowledge that they have served nothing but the glory of God. Then they will not say, “This was our work.” But they will say, “We were the most absurd fools that ever were.” The sinner is absurd. The devil is absurd. He is foolish. The absurdity of the fool will be acknowledged by the fool himself, when it shall appear that God is true and that every man is a liar.
Its Damnable Character
It is also a damnable inference. O, we hear these things doctrinally. We hear people say, “You teach that God willed sin.” This is true. But they add, “If this is true, then this is also true, that God is the author of sin.” When they say this, we must not withdraw our teaching. But we must say, “Your damnation is just.”
When the apostle says that their damnation is just, he does not merely mean to express a general truth. But he means to say that of those who say these things about our doctrine it is already evident that their damnation is certain. It is evident that they are hopelessly in sin. When the gospel is preached to them and when it is preached to them that they can do nothing with a view to their salvation, it is evident that their damnation is just, because they turn this Word into a word of the devil. When men hear the gospel and subvert this gospel into the damnable doctrine, “Let us do evil that good may come,” then their damnation is evident.
In the second place, the apostle means that the damnation of those who thus slander the gospel and us is just. Why should they spread this slander? Was it a mistake? Was it a matter of intellect? Not at all. Their deepest purpose was that they wanted to lie about the living God. When they heard the truth, they wanted to show that it could be led to an absurdity. Their purpose was to lead people away from the truth.
People do the same today. When we teach that God is sovereign, also with respect to sin and the powers of darkness, people say that we make God the author of sin. Is this a mistake? No, their purpose is to oppose the truth. Their damnation is just.
Every excuse is gone. God glorifies Himself. He does so whether you believe or not. Evil is not to be put to our credit. There is no excuse left. There is not one who can appear before God.
Our salvation is that God brought light out of darkness, not we; that God brought righteousness out of unrighteousness, not we; that God brought life out of death, not we.
God is true. He is true when He became manifest in Christ. Him, He sent into death. Him, He raised from the dead. In Him, He revealed a righteousness with which we can appear before God, a righteousness which is of God through faith in Christ Jesus.
Believe in Christ. Believe in Him. That is, throw away all that is of self, something which we must do everyday. It is not so easy to believe in Christ. Every day we must throw away all that is of self. When everything that is of self has been cast away, we will cast ourselves on Christ. Casting ourselves on Christ, we will be clothed with His righteousness, and we will say, “We then being justified by faith, have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord.”