04 Dec 2012 
#5 Did Paul imply in Romans 3:7 he was a liar? Yes, but only for pious lies

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Here is the verse in question:
"For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? ..." (Ro 3:7 KJV)

I want to say that this verse is self-contained and the textual context does not need to be investigated (but I will regardless). Paul is implying that he lied, for what purpose and  declare that was not a sin.
Of course there is an expression for this kind of lie, "pious lie" (which is still a lie in my books).
See also this relevant post.
Also let's consider 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 RSV:
"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win the more.
to the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews; to those under the law I became as one under the law--though not being myself under the law--that I might win those under the law.
To those outside the law I became as one outside the law--not being without law toward God but under the law of Christ--that I might win those outside the law.
To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.
I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessing"

Paul was using "all means" for the sake to have his gospel accepted by Jews & Gentiles, under different "disguises": a Jew and a Gentile.

As can be expected, other explanations have been proposed, "deducted" by looking at the bigger context, but all of them seem apological to me.
Here is one proposed by one of my readers:

"The section is dealing with the question "Is God right to inflict wrath on us?" (3:5) So Paul is talking about a hypothetical situation before the judgement seat of God. Paul preached absolute  evil that good may come?" (5:8). So when Paul is refuting the "why not lie if God can bring good from it" argument, he is not accusing himself of lying. The way you quoted it on the first page made it appear to that effect. In context, Paul is refuting ethical consequentialism and objections to the doctrine of predestination."

That looks rather complicated and I do not think early Christians, listening to the beginning of Romans 3, would be expected to understand that in a flash.

I agree Romans 3 is very confusing and seems to be entwined with different themes. But one of them is about Paul defending himself about accusation of (bad) lying. This is what I answered (slightly edited):

"I thought a long time about that quote and I got convinced it is not misleading.
Mostly because of Romans 3:4 "Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: "That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.""
My interpretation: liars are judged favorably by God if they say good things.

And also the next verse: "But if our unrighteousness [caused by being a liar?] demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? ..."
Paul is like every man, that is a liar (but in a good way!) and therefore 3:7 "lie" should not be surprising. Lying that way is not a sin (look back at 3:4).
Paul is essentially defending pious lies when it is for a good cause, that is God's glory and increasing God's truth.

Actually the next verse brings more clarification.
3:8 "And [why] not [say], "Let us do evil that good may come"?--as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say."
Paul is answering accusations (likely caused by his lying) and has been defending himself. Essentially, he is saying his kind of lying is not doing evil.

Cordially, Bernard

Tags: {Paul} {Paul's pious lies} {Romans}
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