Every Man a Liar?- Romans 3:4

In Romans 3:4, Paul tells us to “Let God be true and every man a liar”. We will look more closely at this unusual statement, for Paul tells us something very profound and important here. We begin by observing that the verb translated “be” here is the present imperative of ginomai- to become. The imperative is the mood of command (hence the addition of the word “let” in NIV), so Paul here is commanding us that God “become” truth. This implies a process here, that God would become truth to us through the choices we make. The Greek word “truth” here is aletheia, and it is contrasted with “liar”, the Greek word psuestes, impostor or pretender. Paul is telling us here that there is one true God and about six billion wannabees. The Greek aletheia is defined as “that which accords with reality, it is the way things really are, and the question Paul confronts us with here is: who is the one who tells us the ways things really are? For a clearer understanding of this, we will first look at Genesis 3 and the story of Adam and Eve. There we find Adam and Eve forbidden by God to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. The Hebrew root for knowledge here is yada, from a root meaning “to produce”, and what Adam and Eve are forbidden from is not so much eating a particular tree, but from “producing” their own understanding of what is good and what is evil. When they eat from the tree, they choose to determine for themselves what is right or wrong, what is true or false, they “become” their own source of truth, their own Gods (pseustes- impostors or pretenders). We learn then that our “god” is whoever we look to for truth, whoever we look toward to tell us the way things really are. God Himself confirms this in Genesis 3:22, when He tells us that “now the man has become like one of us, knowing (yada) good and evil”. As we return, then, to Romans 3:4, what we find Paul commanding us to do is to let God be our source of truth, because God is true whether we believe Him or not. Things really are the way He says they are, and to choose any other source of truth is foolish, it is buying into a lie. Jesus tells us what truth really is in John 17:17, when He tells us “Your (God’s) word is truth”. It is God’s word which tells us the way things really are, no matter how they may appear to be, or no matter how anyone else may tell us they are. Paul’s command to us in Romans 3:4 is in reality then a command to “become” those whose life and truth are shaped by the Scripture, who “know” (ginosko, the Greek equivalent of yada) the truth, for the truth will set us free (John 8:32). We thus find again the connection between God and truth, living by any other “truth” (or any other god) will make us slaves of that “truth”, while living by the truth of the word of God will set us free. This then is why Paul commands us to “let God be true and every man a liar”, for when we do so, we submit to God as our source of truth, of right and wrong, as the one who tells us the way things really are, and any other source of truth becomes a pretender or impostor. It is only when we do so that we become truly free, free to be all we are created to be, for “whom the Son sets free is free indeed” (John 8:36).

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