But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.) 6 By no means! For then how could God judge the world? 7 But if through my lie God’s truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? 8 And why not do evil that good may come?—as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
To remember the context in Romans 3:1-4, Paul has just talked about Jews and Gentiles. Why was it good to be a Jew (as he and Jesus were) and what could the Jews say to everyone else (most of us)? Essentially the Jews were chosen to bless the world. The Abrahamic covenant was not just to the semitic tribe, but to the tribe of humanity. So, what’s happening here in this passage?
If Jews are a subset of the tribe of humanity, even a special and chosen subset, then they will fail. In the language of scripture it is sin. In the language of evolutionary biology it is the individual’s survival as predominant over the species’. The great historian calls it the personal impulse opposed to the corporate. Different translations of the same sentence: We fail. But if our failure points to God’s goodness, what right does he have to blame us?
But he does. Here the heart breaking paradox is introduced. We are destined and responsible. Do we have free will or is God completely sovereign? Yes. That is usually a family room discussion for mature Christians, not a topic to offer in the living room with friends of all stripe. But, if I can’t share my authentic confusion then why share at all? Great(er) minds have wrestled with this concept in Romans – – including the man who penned it.
God does bring good from evil and we are responsible for our evil. We are then condemned and justly so. If it ended there, I would not follow Christ. Thankfully, it does not.