May 22, 2011


GOD'S PROVIDENCE OVER THE EVIL ACTS OF MEN By Elder Frank B. Beck, 1963 Clarendon Street Baptist Church, Boston

Why does God allow sinners to exit on the earth? Why does God allow sin? Why doesn't God save everybody? Why doesn't God destroy the Devil? Or, is God powerless in these matters? Are the sinful acts of men a part of God's eternal purpose according to His determinate counsel, or something apart from His purpose?

The Problem Of Sin

There is the problem of sin. How did sin originate? Did God purpose it, or permit it, or did it come in unexpectedly?

If we shall say that sin came in unexpectedly or unforeseen by God, then we charge God with imperfect knowledge. That is not the kind of God we know in the sacred Scriptures. He is perfect in Wisdom. "His understanding is infinite" (Psalm 147:5) "He knoweth all things." (John 21:17).

That God did know beforehand that sin would enter the world is gathered from Acts 15:18: "Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world " This includes the work of redemption from SIN and hell, which knowledge must include sin.

If God saw beforehand that sin would enter into the world, why did He not prevent it? Suppose that we say that He could not, we charge God with imperfect power. Again this is not the God with whom we are acquainted in sacred Writ, He does as He pleases (Psalm 115:3) and "all power" is given unto Christ "in heaven and in earth." (Matthew 28:18).

We cannot say that He could not. Then we must say that He would not. If we conclude that God could prevent sin from entering the world but would not, then it must be that the sinful acts men commit are included in the eternal purpose of God.

Concerning the evil acts of men be it said, that men sin of their own depraved wills. God is not the author of sin, nor does He "force" men to sin against their natural will. He doesn't have to — He leaves them to themselves and they willingly sin. They love it. But God uses the sinful acts of men to His own glory either in justice or in grace, in that He prevents sin, permits sin, directs sin, channeling the courses wherein He can manifest His glory, and determines how far the sinner or the Devil shall go. Further than His will, they cannot go.

I. God, In His Providence Prevents Sin

God oftentimes prevents sin. This is according to His grace and is not a matter of obligation. He does not have to prevent it and oftentimes does not. In the case of Abraham, Sarah, and Abimelech God prevented sin. Abraham and Sarah had journeyed into Abimelech's country and Sarah was a "fair woman to look upon? (Genesis 12:11) Therefore Abimelech took Sarah, but God warned him not to touch her. (Genesis 20:3-6) Indeed, Abimelech "had not come near her." (verse 4) Why was that? Surely that was not the natural thing to do on one's wedding night, except that it was God "withholding Abimelech from sinning against Him," as we read that He, in fact, did (verse 6) On the other hand God did not prevent Shechem from committing adultery with Jacob's daughter Dinah. (Genesis 34) Well may we pray in the words of the Psalmist: "Keep back Thy servant also from presumptuous sins." (Psalm 19:13). If God withdraws His preventive grace to keep us from sinning, we will be as the lowest demons in hell. Man's fallen nature is itself sin.

II. God, In His Providence, Permits Sin

God permits sin. This does not mean that He approves of it, for He judges it with the fiercest punishment. The severity of the punishment indicates the heinousness of the act in His sight. By permitting sin God, in righteous judgment, withdraws His preventive grace and leaves men to their sinful selves.

After David had committed adultery with Bethsheba God said to him: "Because thou hast despised Me, and hast taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be thy wife, thus saith the Lord: Behold, I will raise up evil against thee out of thine own house, and I will take thy wives before thine eyes and give them unto thy neighbor and he shall lie with thy wives in the sight of this sun. For thou didst it secretly, but I will do this thing before all Israel and before the sun." (II Samuel 12:10-12).

God hates adultery (Malachi 2:16), but will withdraw His grace from David's own house so that those nearest David will take his wives openly in adultery. God will punish David with his own sin!

In order to deceive sinful and deceitful King Ahab, the Lord "put a lying spirit" in the mouth of all Ahab's prophets (I Kings 22:23) assuring him victory if he went forth to battle. This is what Ahab desired. He did not want to hear any other message. So God gave him up to his lies though He warned Ahab that he was being tricked. (I Kings 22:13-28). God did not make his prophets lie. They were already false prophets, or liars, and all that occurred was to have these lying prophets tell the same lie at the same time. God did them no wrong. It is the same principle that runs throughout the Word of God. God permits the wicked to have his own way, gives him up to his own sin. That this is so, examine the following references:

"But My people would not hearken to My voice and Israel would none of Me, so I gave them up unto their own heart 's lust and they walked in their own counsels." (Psalm 81:11-12). We are informed that in the Old Testament times God "suffered all nations to walk in their own ways." (Acts 14:16). We are instructed that the Gentile nations gave themselves over to idolatry and that "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, through the lusts of their own hearts to dishonor their own bodies between themselves." (Romans 1:23-24)

That the Gentile nations changed the truth of God into a lie and worshipped the creature more than the Creator and that "For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections." (Romans 1:25-26) "And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind to do those things which are not convenient." (Romans 1:28)

The wicked have not the revelation of God in the Old and New Testaments and in the Person of Jesus Christ. They reject the truth and love falsehood. Therefore, God will give them over to falsehood. "And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion that they SHOULD believe a lie, that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness. " (II Thessalonians 2:11,12)

Why is this? "Because they receive not the love of the truth that they might be saved. " (verse 10) All who continue in unbelief of the truth are to this end "appointed" (I Peter 2:8) and were "before of old ordained to this condemnation." (Jude 4)

God permits the sinful acts of men as a means to an end, to show forth the glory of His Justice and Holiness. "For the Scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew My power in thee, and that My name might be declared throughout the earth" (Romans 9:17).

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