Providence – Part 1 – God’s Interactions with Good and Evil

By Erik Martin

Thesis: God sovereignly ordains and governs all things even as man is fully responsible for his actions.       

1. God directly sends all that is good.

He is responsible for all blessings for He is the source of every good thing (Psalm 145:17; James 1:13-14). Nothing favorable comes apart from God (Psalm 16:2). All blessings originate in and then emanate from His nature. Goodness overflows from His essence. God cannot help but bless.

2. The Lord governs and controls evil.

God is sovereign over all things, even darkness and disaster (Isaiah 45:7). However, God does not analogously govern good and evil. Though God stands behind and causes good, D.A. Carson points out, “God is never presented as an accomplice of evil or as secretly malicious, or as standing behind evil in exactly the same way he stands behind good.”[1]

3. God’s perpetration of good and His dominion over evil are asymmetrical.

While God ordain evil, He does not desire evil. God does not permit evil in general, but every instance of evil that occurs, He allows and uses. No evil is gratuitous for God can limit evil’s extent and stop it completely.

4. Even Satan requires God’s permission to bring suffering.

The devil was unable to inflict Job without God’s authorization and was limited to the boundaries set by God (Job 1:12). When Satan desired to escalate his abuse, He was forced to first petition God (Job 2:6). In the New Testament, the demons in Mark 5 required Jesus’ permission to enter a herd of swine (Mark 5:12-13).

5. God even uses evil to defeat itself.

He hardened the hearts of the abominable Canaanites to destroy them (Deuteronomy 2:30). God prevented the pagans from suing for peace so He could pour out His retributive justice (Joshua 11:20). He handles the nations like men manipulate tools (Isaiah 10:5).

6. God’s irreproachable sovereignty over evil is displayed throughout scripture.

David credits God for punishing him through Shimei’s sin (2 Samuel 16:10-11). God killed Eli’s sons (1 Samuel 2:34) and brought the defection of the northern ten tribes (1 Kings 11:31). God ordained the destruction of the first temple and Jerusalem because of Israel’s idolatry (Isaiah 28:21). Isaiah writes that God whistles or trumpets the wicked to war (Isaiah 5:26; 7:18).

It is the Lord’s authority that rouses the nations from their slumber (Hosea 8:1; Zephaniah 2:1). The Assyrians are the rod of God’s just wrath (Isaiah 10:5) and He wields the peoples as His judgment ax (Matthew 3:10). God turns the hearts of kings (Prov. 21:1) and the hearts of all men (Psalm 105:23). He makes the truthful dumb, the old imprudent and princes cowardly. God overtakes with dread, overcomes with sleep, blinds men’s minds, smites with dizziness, makes drunk with drowsiness, inflicts with madness, hardens hearts, brings blindness and insanity.[2]

7. God manages Satan

The Scriptures show God managing Satan, who cannot act outside of God’s jurisdiction. God does more than just permit Satan’s machinations; He wields Satan as a tool for His purposes. When Satan “presents himself before God” (Job 1:6; 2:1) he comes “to receive His commands” although He implements God’s will in wickedness and for destruction. Job himself recognizes that God ordained his sufferings. He testifies, “The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away” (Job 1:21). In 1 Kings, God decrees that Ahab be deceived for purposes of judgment, and the devil volunteers for the assignment (1 Kings 22:22). It would be ludicrous for God to permit what He wills and not also decree it and command its execution by his creatures.

8. Nevertheless, God is blameless. 

God cannot be cursed or censured. He is not the source of evil, God never commits evil and He is never responsible for evil.

Part 2:

[1] D.A. Carson, How Long, O Lord? Reflections on Suffering and Evil. 2nd ed. (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Academic, 2006), 203.

[2] (Ezek 7:26; Job. 12:24, Ps. 107:40; 106:40; Lev. 26:36; 1 Sam. 26:12; Isa. 29:14; Deut. 28:28, Zech. 12:4; Isaiah 29:10; Rom 1:28; Ex. 14:17; Rom. 1:20-14; Ex. 9:12; 10:1, 10:20, 27: 11:10; 14:8).

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