Down below I'm going to reframe this passage with absolute ridiculousness. It's not hard to do, because this section of Chapter 3 is ridiculous. Paul himself thinks it's ridiculous that he needed to spend any time writing this section… but he feels he must, because there are some people out there in the religious stratosphere who have been acting ridiculous…
But before we jump into it, there are some preparatory notes that I need to remember:
1. Questions. Paul has a litany of them. The 2nd half of Chapter 2 was full of questions. Chapter 3 started with questions. And the reader of the letter-book of Romans is forced to participate in Paul's logic… as he leads us in conversation, but answers our questions along the way.
2. If we feel that people who focus on religious statements and rituals (e.g. background, circumcision, American vs British spelling, etc.) more than proper relational proactivity (e.g. love for God and neighbour, etc.) are getting a pummeling from Paul, we're right. But we must bear with him a bit more through Romans… for he's really just getting warmed up.
3. Verses 5-8 of Chapter 3 really shouldn't be segmented from the verses around them. We're doing it in this post so that we can understand the depths and riches of Paul's words here… even if ridiculous. But these verses are actually just a simple, middle part of a large sub-argument that serves as a building block in Paul's larger topic that feeds his primary overarching perspective. So this point is just a reminder for us not to get all bent out of shape and caught up by a couple verses here and there. Instead, we should get bent out of shape by engaging in Paul's whole argument in Romans! It doesn't hurt to re-read large sections, if not the entire letter-book, again and again and again, to help us embrace the macro along with the micro.
4. The other thing to remember in these verses is that Paul assumes that we're paying attention. Paul doesn't assume that we're pulling our favorite verses out of the context of his letter. We don't like it when someone quotes us out of context! "Hey, that's not how I meant it!" "Come on! I said way more than that! I can't believe they cut that part out!"
5-8. The verses for today: 5-8 (NIV) But if our unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly, what shall we say? That God is unjust in bringing his wrath on us? (I am using a human argument.) Certainly not! If that were so, how could God judge the world? Someone might argue, “If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?” Why not say—as some slanderously claim that we say—“Let us do evil that good may result”? Their condemnation is just!
Questions re-framed (bear with me a moment as I am imagine myself walking through the thoughts of Paul in these verses):
* "Look, I just got done talking about how we project our own distorted perspectives onto God. Don't do that… because God is Who He says He is. Just because we stink doesn't mean God stinks! In fact, God smells good!
* "OK, then, now I see your brain waves oscilating in another direction. You're thinking, 'Alright then, Paul, if we stink, maybe that makes God smell even better? You know, because of the dramatic difference and all. People could be like, 'Oh, Ken really stinks but God's aroma is amazing!''
* "Now just wait a second, you bafoons! If you actually said what your brain waves were thinking, what fool-tooted thing would you be saying? I mean, come on! Think about that comment a minute. If you claim to be God's people, with that nasty stench, then do you actually think that makes other people think that God smells better? (This drives me crazy! Look, if we stink, that only makes other people think that God has b.o.! So cease the stinking!!!!!! Grubby Christians makes people think that God is a giant grub.)
* "Let me hit this harder: If 'we' stink, and 'we' think that makes God smell better, then does that make God unjust if he throws us in the trash? After all, 'we' made it appear as if He smelled better, right?! Yeah, yeah, I know. This is the way many humans think. Ridiculous.
* "Simon says: plug your nose and open your ears…
* "You dolts!! How could anyone think this way! How could the world function? Do you really expect God to say 'Thank you' for smelling so bad?! If that were the case, there'd be a stink to high heaven and flies for eternity!
* "Yeah, but, someone might think, 'But, Paul, my fowl dirt makes God's goodness look even cleaner… so why doesn't God reward me for helping him look so good? I'm like a zitty Ugly Betty and he's like a Proactiv supermodel standing next to me!'
* "Well if that's the way you think (… and I can't believe that someone started a rumor that this is the way we think! Ugh! Probably taking me out of context again!!! Arrggg!)… If that's the way you think, then why not just state it more bluntly so we can recognize how stupid this all is: 'Hey, Billy Joe Bob, let's throw mud all over Kenny's house so that all his nice friends have even more chance to do good clean things!'
* "Seriously. If that's the way you think, then you deserve to be scrubbed. This is ridiculous. Can we get back to what we were actually talking about now?"