The Meaning of Romans 3:4 Explained

Romans 3:4

KJV: God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged.

YLT: let it not be! and let God become true, and every man false, according as it hath been written, 'That Thou mayest be declared righteous in Thy words, and mayest overcome in Thy being judged.'

Darby: Far be the thought: but let God be true, and every man false; according as it is written, So that thou shouldest be justified in thy words, and shouldest overcome when thou art in judgment.

ASV: God forbid: yea, let God be found true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy words, And mightest prevail when thou comest into judgment.

What does Romans 3:4 Mean?

Context Summary

Romans 3:1-8 - God Faithful Though Men Be Faithless
The Jewish people had a great treasure entrusted to them for the benefit of the whole world. This position as stewards for mankind conferred upon them very special privileges, but also exposed them to searching discipline, if they should prove faithless. Some of these advantages are enumerated in Romans 9:4-5. But our failures cannot cancel God's faithfulness to His covenant promises, 2 Timothy 2:13. We may always reckon confidently upon His steadfastness to His engagements, whether to the individual or to the nation. It is wonderful, Romans 3:5, how human sin has been a foil to God's glory, eliciting qualities in His love which otherwise had been unknown; but this cannot excuse our sinfulness.
If this excuse were admitted, God would clearly have been unjust in punishing sin as He has done; and if that line of argument were maintained, it would be right to do evil, if good were always the outcome. Such an admission would open the door to all kinds of abomination, and the mere suggestion of such a conclusion to this argument ought to silence the objector and cover him with shame. [source]

Chapter Summary: Romans 3

1  The Jews prerogative;
3  which they have not lost;
9  howbeit the law convinces them also of sin;
20  therefore no one is justified by the law;
28  but all, without difference, by faith, only;
31  and yet the law is not abolished

Greek Commentary for Romans 3:4

Let God be found true [γινεστω ο τεος αλητης]
“Let God continue to be true” (present middle imperative). [source]
But every man a liar [πας δε αντρωπος πσευστης]
The contrast in δε — de really means, “though every man be found a liar.” Cf. Psalm 116:12. As it is written (κατως γεγραπται — kathōs gegraptai). Psalm 51:6. That thou mightest be justified οπως — Hopōs rather than the common ινα — hina for purpose and αν — an with the first aorist passive subjunctive of δικαιοω — dikaioō Used of God this verb here has to mean “declared righteous,” not “made righteous.” Mightest prevail (νικησεις — nikēseis). Future active indicative with οπως — hopōs of νικαω — nikaō to win a victory, though B L have νικησηις — nikēsēis (first aorist active subjunctive, the usual construction). When thou comest into judgement “In the being judged as to thee” (present passive infinitive or, if taken as middle, “in the entering upon trial as to thee”). Common construction in the lxx from the Hebrew infinitive construct. [source]
As it is written [κατως γεγραπται]
Psalm 51:6. [source]
That thou mightest be justified [οπως αν δικαιωτηις]
οπως — Hopōs rather than the common ινα — hina for purpose and αν — an with the first aorist passive subjunctive of δικαιοω — dikaioō Used of God this verb here has to mean “declared righteous,” not “made righteous.” Mightest prevail (νικησεις — nikēseis). Future active indicative with οπως — hopōs of νικαω — nikaō to win a victory, though B L have νικησηις — nikēsēis (first aorist active subjunctive, the usual construction). When thou comest into judgement “In the being judged as to thee” (present passive infinitive or, if taken as middle, “in the entering upon trial as to thee”). Common construction in the lxx from the Hebrew infinitive construct. [source]
Mightest prevail [νικησεις]
Future active indicative with οπως — hopōs of νικαω — nikaō to win a victory, though B L have νικησηις — nikēsēis (first aorist active subjunctive, the usual construction). [source]
When thou comest into judgement [εν τωι κρινεσται σε]
“In the being judged as to thee” (present passive infinitive or, if taken as middle, “in the entering upon trial as to thee”). Common construction in the lxx from the Hebrew infinitive construct. [source]
God forbid [μὴ γένοιτο]
Lit., may it not have come to pass. Used by Paul fourteen times. It introduces the rebuttal of an inference drawn from Paul's arguments by an opponent. Luther renders das sey ferne that be far. Wyc. fer be it. It corresponds to the Hebrew chalilah. profane, which in the Septuagint is sometimes rendered by it, sometimes by μηδαμῶς byno means, sometimes by μὴ εἴη mayit not be, and again by ἵλεως Godbe merciful to us (see on Matthew 16:22). It indicates a feeling of strong aversion: “Away with the thought.” [source]
Let God be true [γινέσθω ὁ Θεὸς ἀληθής]
Rev., better, “let God be found true;” thus giving the force of γίνομαι tobecome. See on was, I am, John 8:58. The phrase is used with reference to men's apprehension. Let God turn out to be or be found to be by His creatures. [source]
Be justified []
Acknowledged righteous. The figure is forensic. God's justice is put on trial. [source]
Overcome [νικήσῃς]
Rev., prevail. Gain the case. The word occurs only three times outside of John's writings. [source]
When thou art judged [ἐν τῷ κρίνεσθαί σε]
Rev., when thou comest into judgment. [source]

Reverse Greek Commentary Search for Romans 3:4

John 8:44 Ye are of your father the devil [υμεις εκ του πατρος του διαβολου]
Certainly they can “understand” It was like a bombshell in spite of the preliminary preparation. Your will to do Present active indicative of τελω — thelō and present active infinitive, “Ye wish to go on doing.” This same idea Jesus presents in Matthew 13:38 (the sons of the evil one, the devil) and Matthew 23:15 (twofold more a son of Gehenna than you). See also 1 John 3:8 for “of the devil” He even called them “broods of vipers” as Jesus did later (Matthew 12:34). A murderer Old and rare word (Euripides) from αντρωπος — anthrōpos man, and κτεινω — kteinō to kill. In N.T. only here and 1 John 3:15. The Jews were seeking to kill Jesus and so like their father the devil. Stood not in the truth Since ουκ — ouk not ουχ — ouch is genuine, the form of the verb is εστεκεν — esteken the imperfect of the late present stem στηκω — stēkō (Mark 11:25) from the perfect active εστηκα — hestēka (intransitive) of ιστημι — histēmi to place. No truth in him Inside him or outside (environment). The devil and truth have no contact. When he speaketh a lie Indefinite temporal clause with οταν — hotan and the present active subjunctive of λαλεω — laleō But note the article το — to “Whenever he speaks the lie,” as he is sure to do because it is his nature. Hence “he speaks out of his own” For he is a liar Old word for the agent in a conscious falsehood See 1 John 1:10; Romans 3:4. Common word in John because of the emphasis on αλητεια — alētheia (truth). And the father thereof (και ο πατηρ αυτου — kai ho patēr autou). Either the father of the lie or of the liar, both of which are true as already shown by Jesus. Autou in the genitive can be either neuter or masculine. Westcott takes it thus, “because he is a liar and his father (the devil) is a liar,” making “one,” not the devil, the subject of “whenever he speaks,” a very doubtful expression. [source]
John 8:44 For he is a liar [οτι πσευστης εστιν]
Old word for the agent in a conscious falsehood See 1 John 1:10; Romans 3:4. Common word in John because of the emphasis on αλητεια — alētheia (truth). And the father thereof (και ο πατηρ αυτου — kai ho patēr autou). Either the father of the lie or of the liar, both of which are true as already shown by Jesus. Autou in the genitive can be either neuter or masculine. Westcott takes it thus, “because he is a liar and his father (the devil) is a liar,” making “one,” not the devil, the subject of “whenever he speaks,” a very doubtful expression. [source]
John 8:44 Your will to do [τελετε ποιειν]
Present active indicative of τελω — thelō and present active infinitive, “Ye wish to go on doing.” This same idea Jesus presents in Matthew 13:38 (the sons of the evil one, the devil) and Matthew 23:15 (twofold more a son of Gehenna than you). See also 1 John 3:8 for “of the devil” He even called them “broods of vipers” as Jesus did later (Matthew 12:34). A murderer Old and rare word (Euripides) from αντρωπος — anthrōpos man, and κτεινω — kteinō to kill. In N.T. only here and 1 John 3:15. The Jews were seeking to kill Jesus and so like their father the devil. Stood not in the truth Since ουκ — ouk not ουχ — ouch is genuine, the form of the verb is εστεκεν — esteken the imperfect of the late present stem στηκω — stēkō (Mark 11:25) from the perfect active εστηκα — hestēka (intransitive) of ιστημι — histēmi to place. No truth in him Inside him or outside (environment). The devil and truth have no contact. When he speaketh a lie Indefinite temporal clause with οταν — hotan and the present active subjunctive of λαλεω — laleō But note the article το — to “Whenever he speaks the lie,” as he is sure to do because it is his nature. Hence “he speaks out of his own” For he is a liar Old word for the agent in a conscious falsehood See 1 John 1:10; Romans 3:4. Common word in John because of the emphasis on αλητεια — alētheia (truth). And the father thereof (και ο πατηρ αυτου — kai ho patēr autou). Either the father of the lie or of the liar, both of which are true as already shown by Jesus. Autou in the genitive can be either neuter or masculine. Westcott takes it thus, “because he is a liar and his father (the devil) is a liar,” making “one,” not the devil, the subject of “whenever he speaks,” a very doubtful expression. [source]
John 8:44 A murderer [αντρωποκτονος]
Old and rare word (Euripides) from αντρωπος — anthrōpos man, and κτεινω — kteinō to kill. In N.T. only here and 1 John 3:15. The Jews were seeking to kill Jesus and so like their father the devil. Stood not in the truth Since ουκ — ouk not ουχ — ouch is genuine, the form of the verb is εστεκεν — esteken the imperfect of the late present stem στηκω — stēkō (Mark 11:25) from the perfect active εστηκα — hestēka (intransitive) of ιστημι — histēmi to place. No truth in him Inside him or outside (environment). The devil and truth have no contact. When he speaketh a lie Indefinite temporal clause with οταν — hotan and the present active subjunctive of λαλεω — laleō But note the article το — to “Whenever he speaks the lie,” as he is sure to do because it is his nature. Hence “he speaks out of his own” For he is a liar Old word for the agent in a conscious falsehood See 1 John 1:10; Romans 3:4. Common word in John because of the emphasis on αλητεια — alētheia (truth). And the father thereof (και ο πατηρ αυτου — kai ho patēr autou). Either the father of the lie or of the liar, both of which are true as already shown by Jesus. Autou in the genitive can be either neuter or masculine. Westcott takes it thus, “because he is a liar and his father (the devil) is a liar,” making “one,” not the devil, the subject of “whenever he speaks,” a very doubtful expression. [source]
John 8:44 Stood not in the truth [εν τηι αλητειαι ουκ εστηκεν]
Since ουκ — ouk not ουχ — ouch is genuine, the form of the verb is εστεκεν — esteken the imperfect of the late present stem στηκω — stēkō (Mark 11:25) from the perfect active εστηκα — hestēka (intransitive) of ιστημι — histēmi to place. No truth in him Inside him or outside (environment). The devil and truth have no contact. When he speaketh a lie Indefinite temporal clause with οταν — hotan and the present active subjunctive of λαλεω — laleō But note the article το — to “Whenever he speaks the lie,” as he is sure to do because it is his nature. Hence “he speaks out of his own” For he is a liar Old word for the agent in a conscious falsehood See 1 John 1:10; Romans 3:4. Common word in John because of the emphasis on αλητεια — alētheia (truth). And the father thereof (και ο πατηρ αυτου — kai ho patēr autou). Either the father of the lie or of the liar, both of which are true as already shown by Jesus. Autou in the genitive can be either neuter or masculine. Westcott takes it thus, “because he is a liar and his father (the devil) is a liar,” making “one,” not the devil, the subject of “whenever he speaks,” a very doubtful expression. [source]
John 8:44 No truth in him [ουκ εστιν αλητεια εν αυτωι]
Inside him or outside (environment). The devil and truth have no contact. When he speaketh a lie Indefinite temporal clause with οταν — hotan and the present active subjunctive of λαλεω — laleō But note the article το — to “Whenever he speaks the lie,” as he is sure to do because it is his nature. Hence “he speaks out of his own” For he is a liar Old word for the agent in a conscious falsehood See 1 John 1:10; Romans 3:4. Common word in John because of the emphasis on αλητεια — alētheia (truth). And the father thereof (και ο πατηρ αυτου — kai ho patēr autou). Either the father of the lie or of the liar, both of which are true as already shown by Jesus. Autou in the genitive can be either neuter or masculine. Westcott takes it thus, “because he is a liar and his father (the devil) is a liar,” making “one,” not the devil, the subject of “whenever he speaks,” a very doubtful expression. [source]
John 8:44 When he speaketh a lie [οταν λαληι το πσευδος]
Indefinite temporal clause with οταν — hotan and the present active subjunctive of λαλεω — laleō But note the article το — to “Whenever he speaks the lie,” as he is sure to do because it is his nature. Hence “he speaks out of his own” For he is a liar Old word for the agent in a conscious falsehood See 1 John 1:10; Romans 3:4. Common word in John because of the emphasis on αλητεια — alētheia (truth). And the father thereof (και ο πατηρ αυτου — kai ho patēr autou). Either the father of the lie or of the liar, both of which are true as already shown by Jesus. Autou in the genitive can be either neuter or masculine. Westcott takes it thus, “because he is a liar and his father (the devil) is a liar,” making “one,” not the devil, the subject of “whenever he speaks,” a very doubtful expression. [source]
Romans 3:7 Lie [ψεύσματι]
Only here in the New Testament. The expression carries us back to Romans 3:4, and is general for moral falsehood, unfaithfulness to the claims of conscience and of God, especially with reference to the proffer of salvation through Christ. [source]
Romans 3:10 As it is written [κατως γεγραπται οτι]
Usual formula of quotation as in Romans 3:4 with recitative οτι — hoti added as in Romans 3:8. Paul here uses a catena or chain of quotations to prove his point in Romans 3:9 that Jews are in no better fix than the Greeks for all are under sin. Dr. J. Rendel Harris has shown that the Jews and early Christians had Testimonia (quotations from the Old Testament) strung together for certain purposes as proof-texts. Paul may have used one of them or he may have put these passages together himself. Romans 3:10-12 come from Psalm 14:1-3; first half of Romans 3:13 as far as εδολιουσαν — edoliousan from Psalms 4:9, the second half from Psalm 140:3; Romans 3:14 from Psalm 10:7; Romans 3:15-17 from an abridgment of Isaiah 59:7.; Romans 3:18 from Psalm 35:1. Paul has given compounded quotations elsewhere (2 Corinthians 6:16; Romans 9:25.,27f; Romans 11:26.,34f.; Romans 12:19.). Curiously enough this compounded quotation was imported bodily into the text (lxx) of Psalms 14 after Romans 3:4 in Aleph B, etc. [source]
1 Corinthians 6:1 Having a matter against his neighbour [πραγμα εχων προς τον ετερον]
Forensic sense of πραγμα — pragma (from πρασσω — prassō to do, to exact, to extort as in Luke 3:13), a case, a suit (Demosthenes 1020, 26), with the other or the neighbour as in 1 Corinthians 10:24; 1 Corinthians 14:17; Galatians 6:4; Romans 2:1. Go to law (κρινεσται — krinesthai). Present middle or passive (ch. Romans 3:4) in the same forensic sense as κριτηναι — krithēnai in Matthew 5:40. Κριτης — Kritēs judge, is from this verb. Before the unrighteous This use of επι — epi with the genitive for “in the presence of” is idiomatic as in 2 Corinthians 7:14, επι Τιτου — epi Titou in the case of Titus. The Jews held that to bring a lawsuit before a court of idolaters was blasphemy against the law. But the Greeks were fond of disputatious lawsuits with each other. Probably the Greek Christians brought cases before pagan judges. [source]
1 Corinthians 6:1 Go to law [κρινεσται]
Present middle or passive (ch. Romans 3:4) in the same forensic sense as κριτηναι — krithēnai in Matthew 5:40. Κριτης — Kritēs judge, is from this verb. [source]
Galatians 3:21 God forbid [μὴ γένοιτο]
See on Romans 3:4. This could only be true in case the law gave life, for life must come either through the promises or through the law. If the law is against the promises, and makes them invalid, it follows that life must come through the law, and therefore righteousness, without which there is no life, would verily ( ὄντως ), just as the Judaisers claim, be through the law. [source]
Galatians 2:17 God forbid [μὴ γένοιτο]
See on Romans 3:4. Not a reply merely to the question “is Christ a minister of sin?” but to the whole supposition from “if while we seek.” The question is not whether Christ is in general a minister of sin, but whether he is such in the case supposed. Paul does not assume that this false inference has been drawn by Peter or the other Jewish Christians. [source]
1 Timothy 1:10 Men-stealers [ανδραποδισταις]
Old word from ανδραποδιζω — andrapodizō (from ανηρ — anēr man, πους — pous foot, to catch by the foot), to enslave. So enslavers, whether kidnappers (men-stealers) of free men or stealers of the slaves of other men. So slave-dealers. By the use of this word Paul deals a blow at the slave-trade (cf. Philemon). Liars (πσευσταις — pseustais). Old word, see Romans 3:4. False swearers Old word Perjurers. Only here in N.T. For similar lists, see note on 1 Corinthians 5:11; 1 Corinthians 6:9.; Galatians 5:19.; Romans 1:28.; Romans 13:13; Colossians 3:5; Ephesians 5:5; 2 Timothy 3:2. The sound doctrine (αντικειται — tēi hugiainousēi didaskaliāi). Dative case after υγιαινω — antikeitai for which verb see Galatians 5:17 for the conflict between the Spirit and the flesh. “The healthful (hugiainō old word for being well, as Luke 5:31; 3 John 1:2, in figurative sense in N.T. only in the Pastorals) teaching.” See Titus 1:9; 2 Timothy 4:3. [source]
1 Timothy 1:10 Liars [πσευσταις]
Old word, see Romans 3:4. [source]
Titus 1:2 God that cannot lie [ὁ ἀψευδὴς θεὸς]
Ἁψευδὴς N.T.oOnce in lxx, Wisd. 7:17. Comp. Romans 3:4; Hebrews 6:18. Paul expresses the idea positively, by ἀληθής truthful Romans 3:4. [source]
Titus 1:12 Liars [ψεῦσται]
In Pastorals here and 1 Timothy 1:10. Once in Paul, Romans 3:4. Mostly in John. The Cretan habit of lying passed into a verb, κρητίζειν tospeak like a Cretan = to lie: also into a noun, κρητισμός Cretan behavior = lying. Similarly, the licentiousness of Corinth appeared in the verb κορινθιάζεσθαι topractice whoredom, and in the noun κορινθιαστής awhoremonger. Comp. Ov. Artis Amat. i. 296.“non hoc, centum quae sustinet urbesQuamvis sit mendax, Creta negare potest.”“Crete, which a hundred cities doth maintain,Cannot deny this, though to lying given.”A familiar saying was τρία κάππα κάκιστα thethree worst K's, Κρῆτες, Καππάδοκαι, Κίλικες CretansCappadocians, Cilicians. [source]
Revelation 2:7 To him that overcometh [τῷ νικῶντι]
A formula common to all these Epistles. The verb is used absolutely without any object expressed. It is characteristic of John, occurring once in the Gospel, six times in the First Epistle, sixteen times in Revelation, and elsewhere only Luke 11:22; Romans 3:4; Romans 12:21. [source]

What do the individual words in Romans 3:4 mean?

Never may it be Let be however - God TRUE every now man a liar as it has been written That - You may be justified in the words of You and will prevail - being judged Your
μὴ γένοιτο γινέσθω δὲ Θεὸς ἀληθής πᾶς δὲ ἄνθρωπος ψεύστης καθὼς γέγραπται Ὅπως ἂν δικαιωθῇς ἐν τοῖς λόγοις σου καὶ νικήσεις τῷ κρίνεσθαί σε

μὴ  Never 
Parse: Adverb
Root: μή 
Sense: no, not lest.
γένοιτο  may  it  be 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Optative Middle, 3rd Person Singular
Root: γίνομαι  
Sense: to become, i.
γινέσθω  Let  be 
Parse: Verb, Present Imperative Middle or Passive, 3rd Person Singular
Root: γίνομαι  
Sense: to become, i.
δὲ  however 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: δέ  
Sense: but, moreover, and, etc.
  - 
Parse: Article, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
Θεὸς  God 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: θεός  
Sense: a god or goddess, a general name of deities or divinities.
ἀληθής  TRUE 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: ἀληθής  
Sense: true.
πᾶς  every 
Parse: Adjective, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: πᾶς  
Sense: individually.
δὲ  now 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: δέ  
Sense: but, moreover, and, etc.
ἄνθρωπος  man 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: ἄνθρωπος  
Sense: a human being, whether male or female.
ψεύστης  a  liar 
Parse: Noun, Nominative Masculine Singular
Root: ψεύστης  
Sense: a liar.
γέγραπται  it  has  been  written 
Parse: Verb, Perfect Indicative Middle or Passive, 3rd Person Singular
Root: γράφω 
Sense: to write, with reference to the form of the letters.
Ὅπως  That 
Parse: Conjunction
Root: ὅπως  
Sense: how, that.
ἂν  - 
Parse: Particle
Root: ἄν  
Sense: has no exact English equivalent, see definitions under AV.
δικαιωθῇς  You  may  be  justified 
Parse: Verb, Aorist Subjunctive Passive, 2nd Person Singular
Root: δικαιόω  
Sense: to render righteous or such he ought to be.
λόγοις  words 
Parse: Noun, Dative Masculine Plural
Root: λόγος  
Sense: of speech.
σου  of  You 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Genitive 2nd Person Singular
Root: σύ  
Sense: you.
νικήσεις  will  prevail 
Parse: Verb, Future Indicative Active, 2nd Person Singular
Root: νικάω  
Sense: to conquer.
τῷ  - 
Parse: Article, Dative Neuter Singular
Root:  
Sense: this, that, these, etc.
κρίνεσθαί  being  judged 
Parse: Verb, Present Infinitive Middle or Passive
Root: κρίνω  
Sense: to separate, put asunder, to pick out, select, choose.
σε  Your 
Parse: Personal / Possessive Pronoun, Accusative 2nd Person Singular
Root: σύ  
Sense: you.