As we study the epistle written by Paul to the Romans, we learn that, although the Jews were God’s special people, God always intended to grant salvation to the Gentiles also (Read Isaiah 56). Jesus’ death put an end to the separation between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:11–16). Several of Paul’s writings focus on the reconciliation of these two groups into one body (See Colossians and Galatians). Jewish Christians had to get used to God’s acceptance of their Gentile counterparts as his people without the requirements of the Mosaic Law. They became children of God through faith in Christ (John 1:12; Rom. 3:21–26; Gal. 3:26). In his Roman letter, Paul anticipates four objections that the Jews could have in response to his teaching (Rom. 3:1–7). The focus of this discussion is the answer Paul gives to the second objection (vv. 3–4):
3 For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? 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.”
The Jews overlooked that they also were justified by faith, and not by works of the law (Rom. 3:30). Although God gave them a written law, they were not able to live by it perfectly; therefore, they needed to put their faith in the Lord in order to be saved. Anyone who thought they could achieve righteousness strictly based on their adherence to God’s ordinances, and not because of their faith in Christ, would be condemned (Gal. 5:4, John 3:18). The Jews’ objection to this principle, however, would be that God is unfaithful in not saving them if some did not believe. They probably thought their unfaithfulness could nullify the faithfulness of God. Paul’s answer to this false conclusion is, “Certainly not!” Man is a liar, but God is always true. No one will ever be able to find fault in him. He will accomplish anything he wills to do, because he is faithful to his promises. As Christians, we can always count on the faithfulness of God. We read in his word that he is not like man that he should lie or go back on his word (Num. 23:19; 1 Sam. 15:29; Mal. 3:6). He will always fulfill his promises.
Several examples of God’s faithfulness and commitment to his word are evident in the Scriptures. In Numbers 11, God fulfilled his word to give the Israelites enough meat to be able to eat for a whole month. Although Moses could not believe it, God told him, “Has the Lord’s arm been shortened? Now you shall see whether what I say will happen to you or not” (v. 23). In Numbers 14, when the Israelites refused to enter Canaan because of fear, he promised that no one in that generation—except for Joshua and Caleb—would possess the land. When the people tried to enter despite God’s decree, they were defeated by the Amalekites and the Canaanites (vv. 39–45). In Numbers 22–24, when Balak, the king of Moab, asked Balaam to curse the Israelites, Balaam was able to utter only blessings upon them. He said, “Behold, I have received a command to bless; he has blessed, and I cannot reverse it.” The most significant promise God made was to Abraham (Genesis 12, 17, & 22). He promised that all nations would be blessed through Abraham. God fulfilled this promise by sending Christ to die on the cross, thus granting the opportunity of salvation to those who have faith in Christ (Gal. 3:29).
Because of God’s track record, we know that we can always trust him. When we sin, John says that if we confess those sins, God is faithful and just to cleans us from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9). James writes that, if we ask God for wisdom as we endure trials, he will give it to us liberally and without reproach (Jas. 1:5). He also writes that we will receive the crown of life the Lord has promised when we have successfully endured trials and temptations (v. 13).
The Jews were indeed unfaithful. Some disobeyed God and did not walk holy and blameless before him. They refused to believe that God would give them power to overtake their enemies and possess the land that was promised to them. However, their disbelief did not nullify the faithfulness of God. The Hebrew writer confirms this in verses 2–3 and 6–8 of chapter 4,
2 For indeed the gospel was preached to us as well as to them; but the word which they heard did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in those who heard it. 3 For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said:
“So I swore in My wrath,
‘They shall not enter My rest,’”
although the works were finished from the foundation of the world.
6 Since therefore it remains that some must enter it, and those to whom it was first preached did not enter because of disobedience, 7 again He designates a certain day, saying in David, “Today,” after such a long time, as it has been said:
“Today, if you will hear His voice,
Do not harden your hearts.”
8 For if Joshua had given them rest, then He would not afterward have spoken of another day. 9 There remains therefore a rest for the people of God. 10 For he who has entered His rest has himself also ceased from his works as God did from His.
Clearly, in these verses, the author shows that the promise God made in former times concerning Canaan was not reversed because the Israelites refused to enter. Since God made the promise, some must enter. Who will possess the land—that is heaven—will be those who have heard, believed, and obeyed the word of God.
Paul writes in Romans 11:29 that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” Here he refers to Israel’s salvation if they put their faith in Christ. However, we can apply these words to our lives by understanding that whatever God decrees, he will carry out. Whatever he promises, he will fulfill it. God is not slack concerning his promises (2 Peter 3:9). For this reason, we know that whatever we deal with in life, we can continue to have hope, because God is faithful. As long as we strive to live righteously, according to what he commands, he will make a way for us.
Let every man be a liar, but let God be true!