Blogging the Institutes | 1.17.5 | God Uses Evil, but is Not Stained with Evil

Some people class past events as belonging to simple providence. They believe that whatever happened in the past, whether theft or adultery or murder happened without God’s intervention. Therefore, they ask, “Why should the thief be punished for robbing a person for whom the Lord chose to punish with poverty? Why should the murderer be punished for killing a person whose life the Lord had chosen to terminate?” If all such persons serve the will of God, they argue, why should they be punished? Well, I deny that they serve the will God! No one can say that the person who is controlled by a wicked mind performs service to God when he is really only following his own evil desires. The person who obeys God is the one who is instructed in his will and lives according to the will of God. But how are we instructed expect through God’s word?

We must act according to God’s will revealed to us in his word. If we do anything contrary to commands of God’s word, it is not obedience but iniquity and sin. But some will say, “If God did not will it, we could not do it.” I admit this point. But do we ever act wickedly for the purpose of obeying God? God never commands our own wickedness. Instead, we rush into doing what we want to do, inflamed by our own lust. Yet in this way, we serve God’s righteous ordination since in his boundless wisdom he know wells how to use bad instruments for good purposes.

See how absurd their mode of arguing is. They will say that crimes should not be punished because they were not committed without the permission of God. I will concede even more—that thieves and murderers and other evil-doers are the instruments of divine providence, being employed by the Lord himself to execute the judgments which has has resolved to inflict. But I deny that this provide any excuse for their misdeeds. How? Will they implicate God in the same iniquity they perform themselves, or will they cover their depravity by his righteousness? They cannot excuse themselves, for their own conscience condemns them. They cannot charge guilt to God, since they perceive the all the evil resides in themselves, and there is nothing wicked in God expect the fact that he uses their wickedness for his own purposes. It is said he works by their means. Let me use an illustration. When a dead body is laying out in the sun where does the putrid order of a dead body come from? It comes from the body itself although it may be acted on by the rays of the sun. In a similar way, while the matter and guilt of wickedness belong to the wicked man, why should it be thought that God contracts any impurity in using it at pleasure of his will? Let us be done with that dog-like petulance which may bark at a distance at the justice of God but cannot reach it!

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  1. Pingback: Blogging the Institutes: List of Posts | Raising Lazarus

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