Romans 3:4 – 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.
The expression “God forbid” appears fourteen times in Paul’s epistles. Of those fourteen times, ten of them are found in Romans while the remaining four are located in its milk doctrine supplements of 1 Corinthians (1 time) and Galatians (3 times). This strong expression of negation is used by the apostle to wage a war against the ungodly thinking that has been cultivated within us by the course of the world, wherein we all formerly had our past conversation. As children of disobedience, captive prisoners of the god of this world, our minds were trained to follow his worldly ways and to walk the path that led to his desired end. From matters of our own self-worth to our estimation of God, our use of time to our views on government, our manner of life to our purpose of being, we were throughly educated in the doctrines of the world. We were lost. We were without Christ and as ungodly as we could be with foolish hearts and darkened minds.
For us, Christ freely gave Himself that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father, and this He did that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. We are now made new in Christ, delivered from the power of darkness and exhorted to walk in newness of life according to a different rule and a different course.
This, however, is not automatic. While we are instantaneously given all things that pertain to newness in Christ by position the moment that we trust Him according to the gospel of the cross, we are still in need of a transforming edification that forms Christ within us as it relates to our conduct and behavior. There is a spiritual growth and maturing that our Father desires, and His design for us as sons/daughters is that we would be taught His ways. He wills that we be established in His things that we might shew forth the glory of His manifold wisdom and excellent power in Christ Jesus. As those formerly educated in the wisdom of the world, we are in need of a renewal of mind as those that have been justified by the blood of Christ and redeemed to the Father’s purpose through sanctification of the Spirit. Yes, there is a different course that we are to now follow and finish, but in order to do so, we need the thinking which is according to godliness. We need a spiritual mind to displace our carnal mind, pull down its strongholds within us, and exert its might to transform us while breaking the mold of worldly conformity. For this, our Father has two words that identify our wrong thinking on the spot when it raises its ugly head to exalt itself against the knowledge of God. Those two words are “God forbid.”
It is not surprising then that the most frequent use of these terms is found in Romans. As the foundational epistle whereby the Father’s edification process begins with His sons, it is there that the most work is to be done in combating our ungodliness of mind. As the Father reveals to us His thinking on matters of spiritual fitness, how it is provided for and attained, how it works, what it means and does not mean and the like, we will constantly find that our way of thinking is totally out of line with the mind of the Spirit. Even when we are confronted with the truth of His ways and embrace them by faith, we begin to see that our natural tendencies concerning what to do with those things often needs more attention and focused instruction for refinement.
It is for this reason that “God forbid” is a frequently occurring word pair in the Romans 3-11. The mass of our ‘worldly junk’ has to be confronted and stripped of all viability so that we abandon those ways and put no confidence in our flesh going forward. After mowing through the bulk of our worldly confidences, the use of the expression will become far less frequent, but getting to that point often can be somewhat tedious as our every thought is met with an identification of worthlessness and a strong admonition against continuing in that state of mind. However, this strategic dismantling of the course of the world from our thinking is an essential foundational matter of our edification. If our Father does not confront it with brute force early on, we will be constantly plagued with these figurative thorns and pricks in our spiritual eyes from henceforth.
Therefore, we must endure sound doctrine with its strong admonitions and allow the God forbid of our Father to effectually work within us to change us into the image of His Son and align our thinking with the Father’s mind. If we take heed, Romans will accomplish the task of uprooting our worldly weeds and we will have clean tables of the heart upon which He can then write the wisdom of God. It is when we do not properly regard these initial confrontations to our worldly thinking that we have to again be confronted by them in 1 Corinthians and Galatians. While the expression God forbid is a bit sharp, the intent of the Father’s heart is love for us, and His use of forwardness is for the purpose of impressing us with the vital nature of the establishment subject matter. Let us take heed, beloved!
It ought to be our desire to grow beyond the need for a regular God forbid rebuke to our thinking. While we will always be in need of a God forbid from time to time, we should not remain children in our understanding. We should go on to perfection and know not only what our Father thinks in all things, but also know how that thinking should be applied to life, and how it should show up in our labor as we fulfill His will. His pleasure is our goal and the glory of his inheritance is in his saints. Let us then be zealous to learn Christ in the pages of God’s word, and in so doing receive His instructions with the humility of mind befitting a son who is being properly edified in the Father’s ways.
References for God forbid:
Romans 3:4, 6, 31; 6:2, 15; 7:7, 13; 9:14; 11:1, 11
1 Corinthians 6:15
Galatians 2:17; 3:21; 6:4