But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world?
Over against man’s unfaithfulness stands God’s unchanging faithfulness. And over against man’s unrighteousness – a more comprehensive concept – stands God’s righteousness. Paul had demonstrated this in verse 4 with reference to the Old Testament.
Possible objections that religious Jews might raise towards the message of grace in the gospel did not end there, however. Their next objection ran thus: if man’s unrighteousness leads to God’s righteousness shining forth in greater glory, isn’t God unjust in punishing people for their sins?
Paul firmly refutes such thoughts. He anticipates such hair-splitting argumentation and counters it decisively and convincingly. The Jews were convinced that God had to and would continue to punish heathen nations. Their patriarch Abraham had said, “Shall not the judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25). It was illogical of them to believe that they themselves would get off scotfree despite their sins.
For the second time in this chapter Paul states: “Certainly not!” The idea that the true, living God could be unjust is absurd. Moreover, any other smug attempt to lull oneself into a sense of false security must prove to be equally foolish.
Image: By Rembrandt – National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=37580930