Shall We Do Evil That Good May Come?

Romans 3:8 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.

Paul did not believe that we should do evil that good may come. Those who so accused him were slandering him. What passage of Scripture would teach that the end justifies the means? Surely we ought to be able to find the idea taught in Scripture if it is correct? Where is it taught?

The problem with this idea is that is simply one way to justify doing things differently from what God said to do. Matthew 15:9,13 – We must not serve God according to human doctrine. Such practices make worship vain; they are plants God did not plant and will be rooted up. But note that doctrine is human if it differs in any way from what God, whether in the end of the means. If God tells us what work to do and we do different work, we are following human teaching. Likewise, if God tells us what means to use to do the work but we use a different means, we are still following human teaching. Galatians 1:8,9 – If we preach a different gospel we are accursed.

But if what we justify using a different means from what God’s word says to use, we are teaching differently from what the gospel says, just the same as if we pursue a different goal from what He said. 2 John 9 – People who do not abide in Jesus’ teaching, do not have God. To have the Father and Son we must abide in Jesus’ teaching. But if Jesus’ teaching specifies what means we should use as well as what end we should pursue, then to pursue a different end or a different means is to fail to abide in His preaching. Colossians 3:17 – Whatever we do in word or deed must be done in Jesus’ name – by His authority. But “whatever we do” would include the means as well as the ends we pursue. All must fit what He instructs in His word.

Acts 3:22,23 – We must hearken to Jesus in all things He teaches or be destroyed. When God’s teaching specifies the means to a goal, we have no right to change what He said. We must obey what He says both about the goal and about the means to the goal. [Matthew 28:20]  Note that, if God gives a goal but gives no guidelines regarding the means, then any morally upright means would be justified. We have a name for this. We call it “general authority.” Genesis 6:14 – God told Noah to make an ark but gave no specifics about how to haul the wood or how to cut it to the proper size. So had Noah used a saw to cut the wood or a cart to haul it, he would have been doing right. The end would authorize the means since God did not specify the means. But this is not what people mean when they talk about “the end justifies the means.” When God specifies the means we should use to achieve a goal, then using other means would constitute disobedience.

This is the problem with Situation Ethics or “the end justifies the means”: People seek to use some admirable goal to justify doing some act differently from what God has commanded. Genesis 6:14 – God told Noah to make the ark of gopher wood. God specified, not just the end (the ark), but also the material to use. Had Noah used a different substance, He would have disobeyed God. “The end justifies the means” would argue it makes no difference what material is used as long as it accomplished the goal of making an ark to spare the people and animals.

Genesis 6:22 – Noah did according to all that God commanded Him: that would include the means and the end. Noah not only built an ark, but he also used the material God commanded. So when God teaches us an end to achieve and a means to use to achieve it, obedience requires us to respect both the means and the end. The born-again should be taught to observe all things that Jesus commands, not just part of it.