Wednesday, November 8, 2017

God's Providence and Sin

"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives" (Genesis 50:20).

How does God’s control of all things relate to man’s sinful actions? Does God reach down and compel innocent people to do evil things’? To ask such a question is to answer it. Obviously, the holy and righteous God never compels men to sin.

Ultimately, the relationship between God’s providence and human freedom is a mystery. In theology, the term concurrence is used to express the idea that God is working in the universe, and at the same time man is also working. God brings His providential government to pass through real human agency.

To see into this mystery somewhat, we can look at the story of Joseph. Joseph’s brothers hated him because they envied his status with their father. They attacked him, intended to kill him, and wound up selling him into slavery in Egypt. God brought Joseph into a position of power in Egypt, however, and a decade or so later the other sons of Jacob had to go to Egypt to buy grain, because of a famine. There they encountered Joseph and were reunited.

After their father died, the brothers were afraid that Joseph might take revenge on them. Joseph assured them, however, that though they were sinning when they attacked him, God was working good through the situation. God was not guilty of causing them to sin, but God was mysteriously working out salvation through their sin.

The Westminster Confession of Faith expresses the mystery of God’s providence this way: “God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures.…” What a comfort it is to realize that God never sins, and never causes men to sin, and yet His purposes are not thwarted by our sins. In fact, God is able to bring good out of our sinful actions. There is nothing evil men can do that will prevent God from fulfilling His good intentions toward us. Remember this truth today when confronted by evil—your own or someone else’s.