Is Israel’s Unfaithfulness an Indication of God’s Unfaithfulness?
“What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God? By no means! Let God be true though every one were a liar, as it is written, “That you may be justified in your words, and prevail when you are judged.” (Romans 3:3-4 ESV)
What does human failure say about God’s supposed faithfulness? Or what does it say about God when the Jews, in particular, ended up deported to Babylon and their temple was destroyed? Was God unfaithful? Was the Jewish experiment an epic divine failure? God’s Waterloo?
Paul’s response is strong, “By no means!” We may say, “No way!” To prove God can and should judge, he quotes from Psalm 51 and King David’s acknowledgment of his sin and that God’s words and judgments are true.
But what of Israel’s failures? Man’s failure is no indication of God’s failure. Man’s unfaithfulness is no indication of God’s unfaithfulness. Those oracles he mentioned included stipulations for Israel that if they failed to obey it would mean God’s punishment. God kept his end of the agreement. God always does.
In fact, God’s faithfulness is so absolute that even if every man was an abject liar, he would always be true. His faithfulness is not dependent on or derived from man’s faithfulness. God is who he is no matter if Satan betrays or man lies. His character is eternal and unswayable by the actions of anyone no matter if it is angel, demon, man or woman, Adam or Eve, or even a nation of people like Israel.
Let’s take this a step deeper, why is God’s faithfulness not dependent or derived from man’s faithfulness? Yes, because of his character of faithfulness. But there is a deeper reason. This deeper reason will be a key to unlock much more difficult things Paul is going to say about election and the judgment of the wicked in chapter 9. So, let’s get this settling in our minds now.
Why? – God’s principal commitment is to his own glory
One commentator makes the point that “God’s righteousness is, most basically, his commitment always to act in accordance with his own character.” Or to say it this way, God will always act to preserve, protect, and proclaim his own glory.
“For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name be profaned? My glory I will not give to another.” (Isaiah 48:11) The Jews thought that meant God would always bless them. They were God’s people. They had the Torah. We are good with God. But the same covenants that promised blessing also promised curses if they failed to uphold their end of the covenant. Since God is always true and is glorified by acting truthfully according to his Word, Israel suffered covenantal curses. God will be true even when everyone else is not true because he will always act consistent with his character to preserve, protect, and proclaim his own glory.
We make this mistake all the time. We think God owes us a happy life, a problem-free life, a cancer-free life, a harmonious family life, an economically good life. Essentially, we want a God who always acts according to our glory and whatever would be glorious for us.
Romans is going to confront that and hints at it here. God is faithful to his own glorious character and will act in history in whatever way displays most wonderfully his own glory irrespective of how man might think things should go. Getting this into our understanding will surely make it easier to accept God’s purpose in divine election. He saves sinners by his grace and by his choice. People not under his mercy also glorify him by displaying his power, justice, and holiness through eternal destruction. There is much more on that to come as we continue through Romans.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.
© 2018 by Steve DeWitt. You are permitted and encouraged to reproduce and distribute this material in any format provided that: (1) you credit the author, (2) any modifications are clearly marked, (3) you do not charge a fee beyond the cost of reproduction, (4) you include Bethel’s website address (www.bethelweb.org) on the copied resource.
 Douglas J. Moo, The NIV Application Commentary: Romans, pp. 106-7.
To hear the message of this excerpt in its entirety, click here