And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come?…
I. ALMIGHTY GOD CAN AND OFTEN DOTH OVERRULE EVIL ACTIONS TO HIS OWN GLORY AND CAUSE BAD MEANS TO CONDUCE TO A GOOD END.
1. This is sufficiently intimated in the beginning of this chapter, which gave occasion to the reflection made in the text. The Jews had been favoured with special advantages for the knowing the Messiah, yet they rejected Him to their ruin. But yet their sin illustrated God's justice in punishing them for their crime; and by giving occasion to the apostles to turn from them to the Gentiles, it proved a means of advancing God's glory. The Gentiles, on the other hand, had been grievous sinners; yet upon their hearing the gospel preached many of them embraced it, which likewise gave occasion to the magnifying the grace of God towards them in forgiving and receiving them into His favour. This proved the —
1. Occasion of the Jews imputing to Paul the principle of doing evil that good may come (cf. Romans 6:1).
2. Scripture furnishes many instances of the like kind. The book of Esther seems to have been written to declare the wisdom and goodness of God, in overruling the pride and malice of a wicked man to His own glory, and the good of His Church. The greatest sin that ever was committed, the crucifying the Son of God, was by the Divine wisdom and goodness overruled, to become a means of the greatest good.
3. And the reason of all this is evident. That Being who seeth all things at one view, who discerneth the tendency and consequence of every action, and who hath all power in His hands, can easily outwit and overreach the craftiest of men, and dispose their designs to other purposes. And as His goodness is equal to His power and wisdom, we may safely conclude that He will govern affairs in such wise as to bring good out of evil. So we argue from the perfection of His nature, that He never would have permitted evil to have come into the world unless He could have overruled it to wise and good ends.
II. NOTWITHSTANDING ALL THIS, IT IS A DETESTABLE PRINCIPLE, THAT UNLAWFUL MEANS MAY BE USED IN ORDER TO THE BRINGING ABOUT AN END THAT IS GOOD. You see with what abhorrence the apostle in the text disclaims it. It is such an open defiance to God and goodness; such a flat contradiction to truth and reason, as well as to Christianity, that it very well became him thus to express himself.
1. Paul has elsewhere testified his sense of this matter (Acts 26:11; 1 Timothy 1:13). And Christ also (John 16:2). And as the New, so the Old Testament also hath fully born its testimony (Job 13:7-11).
2. But, indeed, we may certainly conclude without the affirmation of an apostle or prophet, that this is a detestable principle. It is absurd and self-contradictory. To design, and to do good, is the proper business of a reasonable being. It is the glory of God Himself, and is what He requires of all, whom He hath made after His own image. Now that is good, either to design or do, which is according to the will of the Creator; so that to do evil, in order to the doing good, is to contradict and thwart His will in order to the performing it; it is to break His commandments in order to the keeping them. In a word, it is to do that which is directly opposite to the end we profess to aim at. For no evil has in its own nature a tendency to good, but to the contrary.
III. IT IS A SLANDEROUS, AND THEREFORE AN UNJUST AND DETESTABLE PRACTICE, TO CHARGE THIS PRINCIPLE UPON THOSE WHO NOT ONLY DISOWN IT, BUT WHO GIVE NO JUST OCCASION FOR SUCH AN IMPUTATION. This is in truth so lewd a principle that those who do act upon it will probably not own to it. But, however, if they do act upon it, then it is no injustice to say they do. But if, on the contrary, they not only disavow the principle, but give no just ground for such a charge, then it is without all question a slanderous report. So St. Paul affirms in the text, using the same word, which, when applied to God, is rendered "blasphemy"; and when to men, "evil-speaking," or "calumniating." And those Jews who raised this slanderous report, when they knew, or at least might easily have known that it was a slander, were justly liable to damnation for so doing; so that God would punish them, not only for rejecting the gospel when preached to them, but also for calumniating the doctrine of Christianity, and slandering its preachers.
Parallel VersesKJV: And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.