We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God: those who are called according to His purpose.
Recently, I know of a few people who have been reading through the Old Testament, and having some tough questions arise in their mind about God’s behavior.
Have you ever read the Old Testament in large portions? These books contain the story of Israel and of God bringing about the plans that He had for them. However, unlike what you were taught in Sunday School, this plan was messy, painful, and frankly disturbing and graphic in many places. We see God commanding Israel to wipe out entire people groups – men, women, children. He gives the direct command to leave no one alive at times (Numbers 21:3; Joshua 6:21; 1 Samuel 15:3).
So much for love and grace, right?
Maybe. Maybe not. But this does bring up some serious theological questions about God, doesn’t it? If God loves everyone, why would He purposely have some killed, including children? Another question that could arise is this: Well, if God thought these people were so evil that He had to kill them, then there must come a point to where God completely gives up on people, right?
These are tricky subjects, and I’m not about to pretend I have the definitive answer. However, I have been pondering this for some time now and I do have a few thoughts. Are these correct? I honestly don’t know, but maybe they will help.
It’s All Part of the Plan
I think to approach these questions correctly we must first go back to the very beginning of time, even before time itself. If you are a believer, Ephesians 1 says God had foreknowledge and God had a plan to adopt you as His own and forgive you of your sin. This gives us two realities:
- God has always had a plan
- Sin is real and present
Now, we know God did not create sin, but sin is here, thanks to Adam and Eve. Now, because God has foreknowledge He knew that sin would become a reality. And because He had foreknowledge surely His plan dealt with the reality of sin. So, this begs the question: Was Jesus – His life, death, resurrection – God’s initial plan “before the foundation of the world”? Or, was it His backup plan once He saw that Adam and Eve had rebelled against Him?
Was Jesus Plan A or Plan B?
If we say that Jesus was Plan B, then we are admitting something that I don’t think we dare want to admit. Essentially, we are saying that the all-powerful, all-knowing God of the universe messed up. We admit that His plan was defeated by mere mortals and He instantly had to rethink and re-plan how this world would be. Does that sound like God? I don’t think so.
Therefore, I believe we must conclude that Jesus was the plan from the beginning. What does that mean? It means that before the world was ever created, before Adam ever breathed his first breath, before the fruit that helped bring sin into the world ever sprouted on the tree, while God was calling the universe “good,” He had a plan to crush the perfect Christ.
Therefore, as horrible as it sounds, maybe the fall, maybe sin, was part of the plan, or at least taken into account? Now, that being said, I am in no way thankful for sin. And I do not believe that God created sin or made Adam and Eve sin. But like we’ve established, God’s foreknowledge surely had sin accounted for when planning this grand story of redemption. And all throughout the rest of the Bible we see God working “all things for the good of those who love Him.” (Romans 8:28) “All things” means evil, as well.
This reality should show us two things.
God Takes Sin Deathly Serious (Literally)
This goes back to those graphic and dark stories in the Old Testament, as well as some in the New Testament. Why would God have an entire people group killed? Because they have rejected him and are evil to their core. Specifically, in the Old Testament, God told Israel to rid Canaan of everyone who was there in order to establish the nation and laws that God had intended for them. Unfortunately, they did not do as God commanded, and the Canaanites who were left alive soon led many Israelites astray, as God knew they would do. In the New Testament, we see the story of Ananias and Sapphira. This husband and wife directly lied to Peter, and in doing so, to the Holy Spirit. Because of this one lie, God killed them on the spot. One “little white lie” resulted in their death.
Of course, the death of Jesus ultimately shows us the reality of how serious God takes sin. That ultimately the perfect Son of God would have to be tortured and crucified because of the rebellion of the world shows that our sin is no flippant matter to God. Sin has always demanded death, and ultimately it demanded the death of the only perfect person in history.
However, I’m afraid that sin is not something that the Church seems to take seriously anymore. Some, although their motive may be pure, attempt to brush off sin as something not very serious since God can forgive anything. Others feel a sense of moral superiority in their self-perceived lack of sin that they justify any grievance they do commit.
What essentially takes place in many churches in the present day is what Matt Chandler commonly refers to as “moralistic deism.” This is simply a teaching of belief in God followed by good moral behavior. “If I do this and don’t do this, I am a good Christian.” In this way, we somehow convince ourselves that we place God in our debt by our obedience of His rules.
This is not taking our sin seriously. This is turning Christianity into a business transaction. “God does this for me, so I do this for God, and everyone is happy.” Unfortunately, Christianity is not a business transaction, gentleman’s agreement, or an attempt at personal gain. It is war. War means fighting, struggle, and death.
Sin is serious. God treats it as such.
We Now See God’s Full Nature
If you think about it, it is because of the presence of evil that God’s full nature is now on display in creation. We see both His love and His wrath. His mercy and His judgment. And now those of us in Christ have a better picture of God’s full nature, although we will not ultimately grasp that until eternity.
Let me put it to you this way: If there was no sin, would we ever know God’s mercy and grace? No! We would have no need for it. Because there is such an awful thing as evil in our world, God can use that to display the quality we love to sing and talk about the most.
We see God’s holiness in His approach to sin and His call to obedience. We see His love through the death of Christ (Plan A). And we see His grace and mercy through His forgiveness of the evil that is within us.
Could this be the meaning of Romans 8:28? Would God allow this horrendous curse upon His creation in order to display His full power, holiness, wrath, love, judgment, and mercy? The story of creation is ultimately about God, so it is only fitting that the story work in such a way that the main character and the main hero is fully magnified. What evil intended to destroy, God has redeemed. What evil meant to accomplish, God uses to display His full glory.
I hate sin. Yet, I love that despite what sin has done to me, and to the world, God is leveraging sin for His own plan and purpose. Evil may think it is gaining ground, while the whole time it is playing right into the Master’s hand.