Romans 3:4

4 1May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found 2a liar, as it is written, "3THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED."

Romans 3:4 Meaning and Commentary

Romans 3:4

God forbid, yea, let God be true, but every man a liar
Let no such thing ever enter into the minds of any, that the truth of God can be, or will be made of none effect by the want of faith in man; let it be always asserted and abode by; that God is true, faithful to his word, constant in his promises, and will always fulfil his purposes; though "every man is a liar", vain, fallacious, and inconstant: referring to ( Psalms 116:11 ) ;

as it is written,
( Psalms 51:4 ) ;

that thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome
when thou art judged.
This is a proof that God is true, and stands to his word, though men are fallacious, inconstant, and wicked. God made a promise to David, that of the fruit of his body he would set upon his throne; that the Messiah should spring from him; that he would of his seed raise up unto Israel a Saviour. Now David sinned greatly in the case of Bathsheba, ( 2 Samuel 11:3 2 Samuel 11:4 ) ( Psalms 51:1 ) (title), but his sin did not make of no effect the truth and faithfulness of God: though David showed himself to be a weak sinful man, yet God appeared true and faithful to every word of promise which he had sworn in truth to him; and therefore when he was brought to a sense of his evil, and at the same time to observe the invariable truth and faithfulness of God, said, "I acknowledge my transgression against thee, thee only have I sinned and done this evil in thy sight", ( Psalms 51:3 Psalms 51:4 ) , which confession of sin I make, "that thou mightest be justified in thy sayings"; or "when thou speakest", ( Psalms 51:4 ) , which is all one; that is, that thou mightest appear to be just, and faithful, and true in all thy promises, in every word that is gone out of thy mouth, which shall not be recalled and made void, on account of my sins; for though I have sinned, thou abidest faithful; and this also I declare with shame to myself, and with adoring views of thine unchangeable truth and goodness: "that thou mightest overcome"; that is, put to silence all such cavils and charges, as if the faith of God could be made void by the unfaithfulness of men: "when thou art judged"; when men will be so bold and daring to arraign thy truth and faithfulness, and contend with thee about them. This now is brought as a full proof, and is a full proof of this truth, that God is always true to his word, though men fail in theirs, and fall into sin. God kept his word with David concerning the stability of his kingdom, his successor, and the Messiah that should spring from him, though he acted a bad part against God. There is some little difference between these words as they stand in the Hebrew text of ( Psalms 51:4 ) ; and as they are cited and rendered by the apostle, in the last clause of them; in the former it is, "that thou mightest be clear"; in the latter, "that thou mightest overcome". Now to vindicate the apostle's version, let it be observed, that the Hebrew word (hkz) signifies to "overcome", as well as to "be clear"; of which instances may be given out of the Jewish writings. Says F12 Rabba; concerning an argument used by R. Chanina, in a controversy with other Rabbins, by this R. Chanina ben Antigonus, (whnkz) , "hath overcome" them: and in another place F13, whosoever (ykzd) , "overcomes" a king, they cast him into an empty ditch; where the gloss upon it is, (xuwn) , he that overcomes a king by words, that is, by disputing with him, which is a disgrace to a king. So the word is used in the Syriac language in ( John 16:33 ) ( Luke 11:22 ) ( Romans 12:21 ) ( Hebrews 11:33 ) ( 1 John 2:13 1 John 2:14 ) ( 4:4 ) ( 5:4 ) . Moreover, the sense is the same, be it rendered either way; for as a man, when he overcomes his adversary, and carries his point against him, is clear of his charges and cavils, so God, when he overcomes in judgment, is clear of the imputations of wicked men. Another difference in the citation is, that what in the psalm is rendered "when thou judgest", is by the apostle, "when thou art judged", ( Psalms 51:4 ) , the word, which is used by the Psalmist, (Kjpvb) , may be rendered either way; either "when thou judgest", as a word of the same form is rendered, when "thou speakest", in ( Psalms 51:4 ) ; or "when anyone judges of thee", or "when thou art judged": a like instance is in ( Psalms 46:2 ) ; and so it is rendered by the Septuagint, and followed by the apostle, though the word he uses may be considered in the middle voice, and may have an active signification in it; and the phrase, (en tw krinesyai se) , may be rendered, "when thou judgest", and then both agree.


F12 T. Bab. Niddah, fol. 52. 2.
F13 T. Bab. Avoda Zara, fol. 10. 2. Sanhedrim, fol. 39. 1. & Becorot, fol. 8. 2.

Romans 3:4 In-Context

2 Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.
3 What then? If some did not believe, their unbelief will not nullify the faithfulness of God, will it?
4 May it never be! Rather, let God be found true, though every man be found a liar, as it is written, "THAT YOU MAY BE JUSTIFIED IN YOUR WORDS, AND PREVAIL WHEN YOU ARE JUDGED."
5 But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? The God who inflicts wrath is not unrighteous, is He? (I am speaking in human terms.)
6 May it never be! For otherwise, how will God judge the world?

Cross References 3

  • 1. Luke 20:16; Romans 3:6, 31
  • 2. Psalms 116:11; Romans 3:7
  • 3. Psalms 51:4

Footnotes 1

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