Biblical Reflections on the Problem of Evil, Part 2

Grace For The Journey

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31Mar  In yesterday’s blog we looked at some key Old Testament passages dealing with properly balancing the nature of God with the problem of evil in the world.  Today we will turn our attention to several New Testament passages and learn what I believe to be God’s ultimate response to the problem of evil, His beloved Son, Jesus Christ.  Listen to the way Peter preached about the cross of Christ:

Acts 2:22-24, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know – Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.”

Once again, we see that God intended good even through the most evil event that has ever occurred – the murder of His one and only Son, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Peter knew this, and . . .

He was very careful to attribute the evil

To the “lawless hands” of

The men who killed Jesus,

Even while he described the action

As the fulfillment of God’s divine plan.

Such an understanding was also reflected in a prayer of praise offered by the early Christians:

Acts 4:27-30, “For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.  Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”

These early Christians were suffering for their faith in Christ, but they did not blame God for the evil that was being done to them any more than they blamed Him for the evil that had been done to Jesus, even though they clearly saw these evil events as a part of His sovereign plan.  Instead . . .

They looked to the cross

As an encouragement

That God could work

Good through the evil

That was being done to them

Just as he had worked good

Through the evil that had been

Done to their Lord and Savior.

Thus again we find that, in our response to the problem of evil, it will not do to say that God has no control over it, for God is sovereign even over the evil things that happen in the world.  Nor may we imagine that those who commit evil are acting as if they are robots who cannot then be held accountable for their sin. Their evil acts are a part of God’s plan in such a way that those through whom the evil acts are committed are to be blamed, but God is never to be blamed.

We also see once again that . . .

In our response to evil,

We must never forget

That God works

His own good purposes

Through it.

This is encouraging because even when we cannot see His good purpose, we can nevertheless be assured that He has one.  The Apostle Paul embraced the same view, as may be seen in Romans 3:1-4, “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision?  Much in every way!  Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God.  For what if some did not believe?  Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?  Certainly not!  Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: ‘That You may be justified in Your words, and may overcome when You are judged.’”

Whatever our response to the problem of evil . . .

It must never call into question

The righteousness of God.

We must never forget that

It is we who are sinners!

This is taught in Romans 3:21-26, “But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe.  For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood, through faith, to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.”  This solves a part of the problem of evil from the Old Testament perspective: How could a just God, who never acquits the wicked, do just that!?

So, when we consider the problem of evil, we must never forget that God Himself is not untouched by it.  Far from it!  Indeed . .. .

We may say that God the Son

Has endured the effects of evil

Far more than any of us

Christians ever will!

So . . .

When we struggle with the problem of evil,

We can be encouraged that God cares

About it more than we ever could.

But for Him it is

Obviously no problem at all,

For it is somehow a part

Of a great and good plan

That He has for His own glory.

When we are tempted to wonder, as Job did, whether or not God still loves us or is being fair with us, let us do as the early Christians did and turn our eyes to the cross!

Romans 5:1-5, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”

Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”

When we consider the problem of evil, isn’t it comforting to know that God is in control and will work even the evil things that happen to us to our ultimate good?

Romans 9:14-20, “What shall we say then?  Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not!  For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.’  So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.  For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth.’  Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.  You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?’  But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’”

I believe the ultimate answer to the problem of evil is to say that, logically, we cannot give an answer, at least not the kind of answer that philosophers so often seek.  God simply doesn’t give us the kind of explanation philosophers such as David Hume have been after.  And He is under no obligation whatsoever to do so.

The real question for us, then, is not . . .

Given that God truly is both

Supremely good and

Supremely powerful,

We must not focus on finding

A satisfactory answer to the question,

“Whence then is evil?”

Rather, we must each ask ourselves,

“Do I trust God?

Can I bow before Him

And admit my ignorance

And be content with what

He has in His wisdom

Revealed to me?

We need to accept what Moses taught the people of God so long ago in Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

I would suggest to you that the logical answer to the problem of evil is among those things that God has not revealed to us.  It is not that there is no such answer; it is simply that He alone knows what the answer is, and He has not told us.  Instead, He has repeatedly and lovingly assured us that He is all-knowing, that He is all-powerful, and that He is supremely good and just.  He has also demonstrated to us that no one cares more about the problem of evil than He does, and He has asked us to trust Him.

This is God Word … This is Grace for your Journey …

Rest and Rejoice in this eternal truth!

Pastor Terry

Ephesians 4:7 – “But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it.”

Hebrews 4:16 – “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

2 Corinthians 4:7 – “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”

 

 

 

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