Romans 3:8 Commentaries: And why not say (as we are slanderously reported and as some claim that we say), "Let us do evil that good may come "? Their condemnation is just.
Romans 3:8
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.
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(8) And not rather.And (why should we) not (say), as some persons slanderously affirm that we say, Let us do evil that good may come. Some such phrase as “Why should we say” must be supplied; “why” from the previous clause, “say” from that which follows. Or “(Why should we) not (do evil), as some persons slanderously affirm that we say, Let us do evil,” &c. The latter, perhaps, is best, as we might then suppose the word for “let us do” repeated precisely in the form in which it stands.

The Apostle does not care to answer this argument in detail; he will not dally with such a perversion of the moral sense, but simply says, “Whose condemnation is just.”

What pretext could any one possibly have for attributing such an opinion to St. Paul? The charge was no doubt utterly false as applied to him, but we know that his teaching was made an excuse for Antinomian excesses, which would not unnaturally be fastened upon the Apostle. Or, taking his teaching as it stands, we might well imagine the Jews or the Judaizing party arguing with themselves, “This man openly breaks the Law, and yet he claims to be in the right way, and that all will go well with him; is not this doing evil that good may come? Does he think to win the Messianic kingdom by the breach of the Law, and not by its observance?”

3:1-8 The law could not save in or from sins, yet it gave the Jews advantages for obtaining salvation. Their stated ordinances, education in the knowledge of the true God and his service, and many favours shown to the children of Abraham, all were means of grace, and doubtless were made useful to the conversion of many. But especially the Scriptures were committed to them. Enjoyment of God's word and ordinances, is the chief happiness of a people. But God's promises are made only to believers; therefore the unbelief of some, or of many professors, cannot make this faithfulness of no effect. He will fulfil his promises to his people, and bring his threatened vengeance upon unbelievers. God's judging the world, should for ever silence all doubtings and reflections upon his justice. The wickedness and obstinate unbelief of the Jews, proved man's need of the righteousness of God by faith, and also his justice in punishing for sin. Let us do evil, that good may come, is oftener in the heart than in the mouth of sinners; for few thus justify themselves in their wicked ways. The believer knows that duty belongs to him, and events to God; and that he must not commit any sin, or speak one falsehood, upon the hope, or even assurance, that God may thereby glorify himself. If any speak and act thus, their condemnation is just.And not rather - This is the answer of the apostle. He meets the objection by showing its tendency if carried out, and if it were made a principle of conduct. The meaning is, "If the glory of God is to be promoted by sin, and if a man is not therefore to be condemned, or held guilty for it; if this fact absolves man from crime, "why not carry the doctrine out, and make it a principle of conduct, and do all the evil we can, in order to promote his glory." This was the fair consequence of the objection. And yet this was a result so shocking and monstrous, that all that was necessary in order to answer the objection was merely to state this consequence. Every man's moral feelings would revolt at the doctrine; everyman would know that it could not be true; and every man, therefore, could see that the objection was not valid.

As we - This refers, doubtless, to the apostles, and to Christians generally. It is unquestionable, that this accusation was often brought against them.

Slanderously reported - Greek, As we are "blasphemed." This is the legitimate and proper use of the word "blaspheme," to speak of one in a reproachful and calumnious manner.

As some affirm ... - Doubtless Jews. Why they should affirm this, is not known. It was doubtless, however, some perversion of the doctrines that the apostles preached. The doctrines which were thus misrepresented and abused, were probably these: the apostles taught that the sins of people were the occasion of promoting God's glory in the plan of salvation. That "where sin abounded, grace did much more abound;" Romans 5:20. That God, in the salvation of people, would be glorified just in proportion to the depth and pollution of the guilt which was forgiven. This was true; but how easy was it to misrepresent this as teaching that people ought to sin in order to promote God's glory! and instead of stating it as an inference which they drew from the doctrine, to state it as what the apostles actually taught. This is the common mode in which charges are brought against others. People draw an inference themselves, or suppose that the doctrine leads to such an inference, and then charge it on others as what they actually hold and teach. There is one maxim which should never be departed from: "That a man is not to be held responsible for the inferences which we may draw from his doctrine; and that he is never to be represented as holding and teaching what we suppose follows from his doctrine." He is answerable only for what he avows.

Let us do evil - That is, since sin is to promote the glory of God, let us commit as much as possible.

That good may come - That God may take occasion by it to promote his glory.

Whose damnation is just - Whose "condemnation;" see the note at Romans 14:23. This does not necessarily refer to future punishment, but it means that the conduct of those who thus slanderously perverted the doctrines of the Christian religion, and accused the apostles of teaching this doctrine, was deserving of condemnation or punishment. Thus, he expressly disavows, in strong language, the doctrine charged on Christians. Thus, he silences the objection. And thus he teaches, as a great fundamental law, "that evil is not to be done that good may come." This is a universal rule. And this is in no case to be departed from. Whatever is evil is not to be done under any pretence. Any imaginable good which we may think will result from it; any advantage to ourselves or to our cause; or any glory which we may think may result to God, will not sanction or justify the deed. Strict, uncompromising integrity and honesty is to be the maxim of our lives; and in such a life only can we hope for success, or for the blessing of God.

7, 8. For if the truth of God, &c.—A further illustration of the same sentiment: that is, "Such reasoning amounts to this—which indeed we who preach salvation by free grace are slanderously accused of teaching—that the more evil we do, the more glory will redound to God; a damnable principle." (Thus the apostle, instead of refuting this principle, thinks it enough to hold it up to execration, as one that shocks the moral sense).

On this brief section, Note (1) Mark the place here assigned to the Scriptures. In answer to the question, "What advantage hath the Jew?" or, "What profit is there of circumcision?" (Ro 3:1) those holding Romish views would undoubtedly have laid the stress upon the priesthood, as the glory of the Jewish economy. But in the apostle's esteem, "the oracles of God" were the jewel of the ancient Church (Ro 3:1, 2). (2) God's eternal purposes and man's free agency, as also the doctrine of salvation by grace and the unchanging obligations of God's law, have ever been subjected to the charge of inconsistency by those who will bow to no truth which their own reason cannot fathom. But amidst all the clouds and darkness which in this present state envelop the divine administration and many of the truths of the Bible, such broad and deep principles as are here laid down, and which shine in their own luster, will be found the sheet-anchor of our faith. "Let God be true, and every man a liar" (Ro 3:4); and as many advocates of salvation by grace as say, "Let us do evil that good may come," "their damnation is just" (Ro 3:8).

The placing of these words makes them sound harshly, and consequently causeth obscurity. Critics make a great stir about them, some including them in a parenthesis, others affirming there is a transposition in them. They seem to be a refutation to the former cavil, and must be accommodated to that sense. It is as if the apostle should have said, If sinners deserve no punishment, because God reaps glory to himself by their sins; then that is a good proverb, or saying, which is in some men’s mouths, and we ourselves are slandered with it, as if it were our opinion and doctrine, That we may do evil, that good may come of it. But this saying is generally exploded; none dare to vouch it, and therefore the former cavil is of no force.

Whose damnation is just; i.e. their damnation is just, who teach such doctrine, and practise accordingly; who

do evil, that good may come of it. The apostle doth not vouchsafe to refute this absurd saying, but simply condemns it, and those that put it in practice. Or else his meaning in these words is this, that they justly deserve damnation, who calumniate the apostles and publishers of the gospel, and raise false reports and slanders of them: their damnation is just, who affirm we say or hold, That evil may be done, that good may come thereof. And not rather, as we be slanderously reported,.... These are the apostle's own words, in answer to the objector he represented; and it is as if he should say, why do not you go on? why do you stop here? "and not rather" say, as we are evil spoken of, and our doctrine is blasphemed:

and as some affirm; ignorantly and audaciously enough:

that we say; and teach:

let us do evil that good may come; a slander cast upon the apostle's doctrine of unconditional election, free justification, and of God's overruling the sins of men for good; and is the same which is cast on ours now, and is no small proof of the likeness and sameness of doctrines:

whose damnation is just; whose judgment would have been right, and their censure of our doctrines just, had it been true that we held such a principle, taught such a doctrine, or encouraged such a practice: or their condemnation is just, for aspersing our principles and practices in so vile a manner; and all such persons are deserving of damnation, who teach such things, or practise after this sort.

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.
8. And not rather, &c.] The grammatical difficulty of this verse is great. The words, up to the brief last clause, are a question. This question is introduced (like that in Romans 3:5) by the particle which expects a negative reply. But again the drift of the reasoning seems to demand, though not so clearly as in Romans 3:5, an affirmative, thus: “Is it not (as we are slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say) a case for the maxim ‘Let us do evil that good may come’?” Here, in our view, the wording presents a compound between the simple statement of the argumentative question, and St Paul’s abhorrence of the moral wrong involved in an affirmative answer. He cannot bear to state the case without conveying, while he does so, his deep protest, both in the words “as we be slanderously reported” (lit. “as we are blasphemed”), and in the choice of the interrogative particle which demands a negative.

The “slanderous report” in question is illustrated by Romans 3:31, and Romans 6:1; Romans 6:15. It was a distortion of the doctrine of free grace. St Paul was charged, by his inveterate adversaries in the Church, with teaching that complete and immediate pardon for Christ’s sake makes sin safe to the pardoned, and that, consequently, the more “evil” is “done” by such, the more “good” will “come,” in the way of glory to God’s mercy.

whose damnation is just] i.e. the condemnation, moral and judicial, of all who can hold such a principle. This is a more natural reference of the words than that to the slanderers, or to the Apostle and his followers as holding (by the false hypothesis) immoral principles. It is the brief elliptic statement of his abhorrence in toto of all and any who could maintain the lawfulness of wrong. What a comment upon Jesuitical maxims, and “pious frauds” in general! See Introduction, i. § 33, not[34].

[34] note Rüstzeug: the word used by Luther in Acts 9:15, where our Version uses vessel.

damnation] In the Gr. strictly judgment. So 1 Corinthians 11:29 margin. The Gr. word is inclusive. In Romans 11:33, in plural, it signifies the Divine counsels or decisions; in 1 Corinthians 6:7, acts of going to law; in 1 Corinthians 11:29; 1 Corinthians 11:34, inflicted penalty; in Revelation 20:4, judicial power. In almost every other N. T. passage it means “condemnation,” whether that of opinion (Matthew 7:2) or of a judicial (usually capital) sentence, either human (Luke 24:20) or Divine (Romans 2:2-3; Hebrews 6:2). Here undoubtedly it is the latter.Romans 3:8. Καὶ μὴ, and not) supply, Acts so, as [and why should I not act so, as, ect.]; but a change of number or person is introduced, such as in ch. Romans 4:17.—καθὼς, as) Some were in the habit of calumniating Paul; others were of this way of thinking, and said that their opinions were approved by Paul.—φασί τινες, some say) who make our support the pretext to cover over [justify] their own perverseness. This epistle was principally written for the purpose of Paul’s confuting such as these.—ἡμᾶς, that we) who maintain the righteousness of God.—ὅτι) This depends strictly [absolutely] on λέγειν.—ποιήσωμεν, let us do) without fear. τὰ χαχὰ, evil) sins.—ἔλθῃ, τὰ ἀγαθὰ, good may come) The same phrase occurs with the LXX. int. Jeremiah 17:6. Those calumniators mean to say this: Good is at hand, ready to come; but evil should prepare the way for it.—τὰ ἀγαθὰ, good) the glory of God.—ἇν, of whom) that is of those who do evil, or even say that we ought to do evil, in order that good may come.—τὸ κρίμα) the judgment, which these unprincipled men endeavour to escape by a subterfuge, as unjust [unrighteous], will peculiarly [in an especial degree] overtake them—ἔνδικον, just) Thus Paul removes to as great a distance as possible that conclusion, and abruptly repels such disputers.Verse 8. - And not (i.e. why should we not say), as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say, Let us do evil, that good may come? Whose (i.e. of those who do say so) condemnation is just.
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