Sermon #2029[i] Miscellaneous Notes
Title: The Will of God
The Problem of Evil
Text: Isaiah 45:5-7
Subject: The Problem of Evil
Turn with me to Isaiah 45. This morning I tried to address the matter of — The will of God and My Responsibility. My subject this hour is — The Will of God and the Problem of Evil. It is a subject I have been asked to deal with. Frankly, had I not been specifically asked to do so, I probably would never have chosen this subject on my own. I have absolutely no interest in indulging the vain curiosities of depraved hearts about sacred things. That certainly is not the reason I was asked to deal with this subject; but that is usually the reason it is discussed. After much thoughtful, prayerful study and consideration, I believe the Lord has given me a message that will both honor him and be helpful to you. We will begin in Isaiah 45 — Isaiah 45:5-7.
Isaiah 45:5-7 “I am the LORD, and there is none else, there is no God beside me: I girded thee, though thou hast not known me: (6) That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the LORD, and there is none else. (7) I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”
Proverbs 16:4 “The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.”
Psalm 76:10 – “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.”
The question is often raised, “How did sin and evil arise in God’s creation?” If God is absolutely sovereign, absolutely holy, and absolutely good, if he created all things good, how is it that pride was found in Lucifer’s heart? How were the fallen angels led to rebel against his throne? How was Adam seduced to sin? — I frankly acknowledge that when I am done preaching there will be more questions unanswered than answered.
Augustus Toplady wrote, “The origin of evil…is the most difficult question, perhaps, and the most mysterious part of the divine conduct that ever presented itself to human investigation. Clouds and darkness are the seat of its residence; though wisdom, goodness, and justice, were certainly (in a manner unknown to us) the motives to its permission.”
Yet, the existence of evil is a problem which vexes our minds continually. We must, whenever considering such a subject, at once, as Toplady put it, “clip the wings of curiosity.” Knowing that God is not the author of sin, and that he never tempts any to evil (James 1:13-17), knowing that nothing comes to pass without his all-wise decree, the matter cannot be resolved in a more God honoring way than to use the words of our Lord as the expression of submissive faith, — “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight.”
We bow before God in reverent submission, and confess, “Lord, we are darkness. You are light. We are ignorance. You are Wisdom. We are but creatures. You are our Creator. We see nothing, know nothing, and understand nothing clearly. You see all things, know all things, and understand all things perfectly.” Before him of whom are all things, we acknowledge our utter ignorance. We are, ought to be, and must be content to wait until our souls are freed from the influence of evil in the world above to know the mind and purpose of God in permitting the evil which here perplexes our minds. Still, two things we know by divine revelation.
1. “All things are of God!”
That is Bible language (2 Corinthians 5:18). Everything God does, or permits others to do, is to show forth the greatness of his glory (Romans 11:33-36; Ephesians 1:11-12; Revelation 5:13).
O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable [are] his judgments, and his ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been his counsellor? Or who hath first given to him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of him, and through him, and to him, [are] all things: to whom [be] glory for ever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36)
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. (Ephesians 1:11-12)
And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, [be] unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. (Revelation 5:13)
It appears, then, that the perfections of God could not have been so gloriously revealed as they now are in Christ, had evil never been permitted to enter the universe. God all-wise permits sin and evil so that he may use it and overrule it to his own praise (Psalm 76:10).
· Had sin never been permitted, how could the justice of God be known in punishing it?
· Had evil never existed, how could the wisdom of God be seen overruling it?
· Had sin never entered the world, how could the goodness of God be made manifest in pardoning and forgiving it?
· Had there never been any wickedness in God’s creation, how could the power of God be revealed in subduing it?
2. “All things work together for” the eternal good of God’s elect.
Without question, all evil in the world is included in the “all things” which work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose (Romans 8:28-30).
And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to [his] purpose. For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified. (Romans 8:28-30)
The presence of sin in God’s universe is either according to God’s will, or contrary to it. It is here either because he wills it, or because he is unable to prevent it. — The fact is, the fall of our father Adam, and the entrance of sin into the world by him, was one of the countless links of providence essential to Christ’s incarnation, life, death, and resurrection as our Substitute for the redemption of our souls. — To suggest (as many ignorantly do) that the fall was not purposed by God, is to assert that the incarnation, birth, life, death, resurrection, and glory of Christ, and the salvation of his people by virtue of his obedience as our Substitute, is all, from beginning to end, the result of chance, luck, or blind fate. That, of course, is as absurd as it is blasphemous.
Proposition: All evil in God’s creation exists by the will and purpose of God for the everlasting glory of his own great name and the eternal good of his elect.
1st — The evil that is in God’s universe is here by God’s purpose, design, and sovereign decree. — I know religious infidels, people who imagine that they are smarter, wiser, and holier than God, hoot and holler, and get all bent out of shape, when they hear anything like that; but that is just the way it is.
It does not matter whether we talk about moral evil, social evil, physical evil, or evil under any other name, either it is here by accident, or by purpose. Either God rules evil, or he is ruled by evil. There is no alternative. The Book of God tells us plainly that our God is God in control, absolute control of all things.
· The Cussing of Shemei
· The Evil Spirit from the Lord upon Saul
· The Fall of Lucifer (Isaiah 14:24-27)
The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, [so] shall it stand: (Isaiah 14:24)
This [is] the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this [is] the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations. For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul [it]? and his hand [is] stretched out, and who shall turn it back? (Isaiah 14:26-27)
Hear the Word of God!
I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these [things]. (Isaiah 45:7)
But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. (Genesis 2:17)
God did not say to Adam, “If you eat.” He said, “In the day thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” The fall of our father Adam was by Divine design.
God’s purpose of grace is hinted and pictured in the creation, ruin, and recreation of the world (Genesis 1:1-3).
In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness [was] upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. (Genesis 1:1-3)
Adam’s fall as the federal head of all men was designed by God to be a type and picture, as well as a preparation for, the redemption of God’s elect by Christ, our Federal Head and Covenant Surety (Romans 5:12, 18-19).
Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned: (Romans 5:12)
Therefore as by the offence of one [judgment came] upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [the free gift came] upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous. (Romans 5:18-19)
· Adam knew what he was doing, when he plunged into sin. – So did our Savior.
· He did it because of his love for his wife. – So did Christ!
· He did it as a representative man. – So did Son of God.
2nd — All sin and evil in the universe is under God’s total, absolute control and serving his wise and holy purpose of grace in Christ (Psalm 76:10).
Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain. (Psalms 76:10)
Let’s see if this is not obvious, by just a casual glance at some of the facts revealed in Scripture which are most commonly known to men. I am going to point out some horribly evil acts performed by men. These are acts for which the people involved were each personally responsible. Yet, they are things wisely ordained, ruled, and overruled by our heavenly Father for the salvation of his people and the glory of his dear Son as our Savior.
1. Lot’s incest gave us Ruth, the Moabite grandmother of our Savior.
2. Joseph’s brothers’ betrayal of him set him on the throne of Egypt to save his people.
3. David’s sin in the matter of Uriah, gave us Solomon, through whom Christ came into the world.
4. Judas’ kiss of betrayal was God’s means of delivering his Son into the hands of the Jews.
5. Pilate’s weakness delivered our Savior over to the will of reprobate men.
6. It was by the will of God-hating rebels that the Lord of glory was crucified upon the cursed tree as our Substitute, by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23).
There is no greater display of God’s total sovereignty over even the wicked deeds of men than in the actions of reprobate men, religious men, politically powerful men, and drunks, harlots, and thieves, in crucifying the Lord Jesus Christ. Let me show you (Mark 14:1-2).
Mark 14:1-2 “After two days was the feast of the passover, and of unleavened bread: and the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death. (2) But they said, Not on the feast day, lest there be an uproar of the people.”
In these two verses of Inspiration the Holy Spirit shows us that the Lord our God is the God who can be trusted. Here is a glaring contrast between the God of the Bible and the gods of men. The gods of religion want to do things, desire to do things, and try to do things, but are unable to accomplish them because of the works of the devil and the wills of men. The God of the Bible, the only true God, our God and heavenly Father never wants to do, desires to do, or tries to do anything except what he does. He is a God in whom we can be confident, a God who can be trusted implicitly, because he always has his way and does as he will.
In these first two verses of Mark 14, we have a very clear example of God’s total sovereignty and omnipotent power to accomplish his will. He who truly is God over all and blessed forever always has his way. Here we see our great God disappointing the plans and designs of wicked men, overruling their wills and decisions to accomplish his own eternal purpose of grace in predestination. Our Lord’s enemies did not want his death to be a public spectacle. Repeatedly, they tried to stone him to death, throw him off a cliff, or in some other way murder him without the common people being aware of what they had done. — “The chief priests and the scribes sought how they might take him by craft, and put him to death.” But that was not what God had purposed. Therefore, in his wise and adorable providence, he simply overruled their schemes. God defeated their counsel and performed his own.
It was the purpose of God from eternity that the Lord Jesus Christ must be lifted up upon the cursed tree and crucified as a cursed man as our Substitute. There was no way possible for God to be both just and the Justifier of chosen sinners except by his own dear Son dying in our room and stead as our substitute. His justice must be satisfied. Else, he could not forgive sin. Christ alone, the God-man Mediator, could satisfy the justice of God for us.
Yet, in order to fulfil the Scriptures, our Savior must die “according to the Scriptures.” You will recall that our Savior often said, with reference to his sin-atoning death at Calvary, “The Scriptures must be fulfilled” (v. 49). — In other words, the Lord Jesus must be betrayed by his own familiar friend for thirty pieces of silver, crucified by the hands of Gentiles at the insistence of the Jews, without a single bone in his body being broken, yet having his heart pierced. He must be numbered with transgressors in his death, mocked, beaten, spit upon, and stripped in public humiliation. And the soldiers who crucified him must cast lots to see which one would get his garment.
All these things were prophesied in the Old Testament Scriptures. But “the chief priests and scribes sought how they might take him by craft and put him to death.” That presented no problem to God Almighty! His counsel stood firm. His purpose was fulfilled. God’s will always prevails. His purpose was accomplished by these very men (Acts 2:23). Christ was crucified at Calvary exactly as God had purposed from eternity.
“Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou restrain.” —
· The chief priests and scribes thought they would put an end to Christ’s kingdom by killing him; but they were actually instruments in God’s hands for the erection and building of his kingdom.
· When they did, with vile hearts, have the Lord Jesus crucified, they thought they would vilify him and make him a laughing stock; but God used them to make his name glorious.
· The Jews thought they would scare his disciples into silence by killing our Master; but God used their wicked deeds to embolden his disciples in preaching the gospel.
I want you to understand that our God is in control of this world, absolutely in control of it (Psalm 76:10). That God, and that God alone, who is in absolute, total control of the entire universe, we can and should trust with implicit confidence in all things and with all things. The Word of God, the promises of God, the prophecies of Holy Scripture are all utterly meaningless unless our God is the God who rules everything, whose will is always performed, whose purpose stands fast, whose thoughts are irresistible!
Here is the basis of our faith and the foundation of our comfort — Our God is in control, as fully in control of Satan, the demons of hell, and the thoughts and deeds of wicked men as he is of the angels around his throne. We live in a world of woe. We are often tossed to and fro in this world, confused and perplexed by many things. Let us ever rest ourselves in our God. — “All things are of God!”
· All things are ordered by our heavenly Father for our good.
· All things are arranged by God’s infinite wisdom and omnipotent arm for his glory.
· Nothing is beyond his dominion.
Look to Calvary and laugh at those will worshippers who vainly imagine that the events of this world are ordered not by the will of almighty God but by the wills of puny men! I often hear preachers and others say, “God will never interfere with the will of man.” The Book of God gives the lie to that notion. It was the will of these men that Christ be put to death secretly. But God willed that he be crucified in due time for the ungodly. Consider this and think. — God would not allow these wicked men to kill his Son when they wanted, the way they wanted, or in the place they wanted. However, he did ordain that they kill his Son exactly according to the malice of their hearts. He used their sinful malice to accomplish his purpose of grace in the redemption of his people, exactly as he had purposed from eternity. Read carefully those things written in Acts 2:22-23, 4:27-28, and 13:28-30.
Acts 2:22-23 “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: (23) Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:”
Acts 4:27-28 “For of a truth against thy holy child Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, (28) For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.”
Acts 13:28-30 “And though they found no cause of death in him, yet desired they Pilate that he should be slain. (29) And when they had fulfilled all that was written of him, they took him down from the tree, and laid him in a sepulchre. (30) But God raised him from the dead:”
If the god you trust can be controlled, hindered, or even influenced by you, by Satan, or by all the powers of earth and hell, then the god you trust is no God at all, and you are an idolater. Our God is not a spectator or even a competitor in this world. He is the Ruler of it. Salvation is knowing him, the only true and living God as he is revealed in the Lord Jesus Christ his Son, the God-man, our Savior (John 17:3). He who is our God is the God, the only God you can trust.
7. It was the rejection of the gospel by the Jews which has sent the gospel to us (Romans 9-11).
I see murder, rape, adultery, abortion, drunkenness, envy, jealousy, greed, racism, pornography, war, idolatry, homosexuality, incest, fornication, the abandonment of families by selfish, self-loving men and women, the murder of children by their parents, and the murder of parents by their children. These are great evils. These are the evils that perplex most people. But I have to deal with a far greater problem, with far more confusion evils than these.
The evil that is in me is far more disturbing than the evil around me. Yet, this, too, is according to God’s purpose and is under God’s control. Were it his purpose to do so, God almighty could destroy the influence of sin and eradicate it from his people as easily now as he shall when he takes us to glory. But he has not chosen to do so.
The Lord has fixed it so that as long as we are in this world, his people will have to struggle and fight with sin, sin within. As long as we are here, we are a people at war with ourselves (Romans 7:14-23). And this is best. God has arranged things this way for good reasons.
· To Make Us Humble.
· To Teach Us To Be Kind, Gracious, and Forgiving.
· To Keep Us Looking to Christ.
· To Keep Us Aware that Salvation is by Grace Alone.
· To Wean Us of This World.
3rd — All the evil that is in us and all the evil there is in God’s creation will, in the end, redound to the everlasting praise of our God and to the everlasting happiness of his people. I do not pretend to know the details of how he will do it; but this I do know – OUR GOD WILL PUT ALL CHRIST’S ENEMIES UNDER HIS FEET AND WIPE ALL TEARS FROM OUR EYES.
When all things that must be have been there will be no regrets in the world of the redeemed. Everything shall give praise to our God and yield everlasting happiness to our hearts. Christ shall be triumphant at last. Satan, the demons of hell, wicked men, and all evil shall prove the goodness of our God as surely as songs of the heavenly angels.
· Christ shall make the evil good by his blood atonement
· He shall turn the evil to good by his omnipotent grace.
· Our God shall turn the evil to good in the day called the “restitution of all things.”
Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you: Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. (Acts 3:19-21)
Revelation 4:9-11 And when those beasts give glory and honour and thanks to him that sat on the throne, who liveth for ever and ever, The four and twenty elders fall down before him that sat on the throne, and worship him that liveth for ever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying, Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.
Revelation 5:11-14 And I beheld, and I heard the voice of many angels round about the throne and the beasts and the elders: and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands; Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honour, and glory, and blessing. And every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honour, and glory, and power, [be] unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever. And the four beasts said, Amen. And the four [and] twenty elders fell down and worshipped him that liveth for ever and ever.
Revelation 19:1-6 And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous [are] his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever. And the four and twenty elders and the four beasts fell down and worshipped God that sat on the throne, saying, Amen; Alleluia. And a voice came out of the throne, saying, Praise our God, all ye his servants, and ye that fear him, both small and great. And I heard as it were the voice of a great multitude, and as the voice of many waters, and as the voice of mighty thunderings, saying, Alleluia: for the Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
Revelation 21:1-4 And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God [is] with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, [and be] their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
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 In order that the love of God in Christ might be made known to us in justifying grace, through blood atonement, Adam fell and we fell in him.
[i] Danville — Sunday Evening — December 2, 2012
Boonville NC Conference — (11/28/12)
Preachers’ School — Merida, Mexico — (12/05/12)
Reading: Isaiah 45:1-25
Tape # AA-92