by A.E. Knoch

QUESTION: It is claimed that it is immoral to teach that God can do what is not allowed to man, and that Paul repudiated any such teaching. Is there any definite passage in which God directly does evil in order to produce good? Does He not overrule?

      In making evil a moral question we not only turn our back on the Word of God but defy it by appealing to the philosophy of men. Paul, in quoting this saying, uses the first person plural -- we -- and we are not God (Rom.3:8).

      There are many passages in which God is said to do evil, and it always is done for a good end. There are nearly two dozen such passages in Jeremiah alone (Jer.4:6; 6:19; 11:11,17,23; 14:16; 18:11; 19:3,15; 21:10; 23:12; 24:9; 32:23,42; 36:31; 40:2; 42:17; 44:2,11,27; 45:5; 49:37; 51:64). But there is one passage which shows that evil is one of His principal means of dealing with mankind. In Ecclesiastes 1:12,13, we have the very opposite of the philosophy to which you refer. Here is real wisdom:

      I, the gatherer, come to be king over Israel, in Jerusalem, and I apply my heart to inquire and to explore by wisdom, concerning all which is done under the heavens. It is the experience of evil God gives to the sons of Adam, to humble them by it.

      Here evil is a gift from God, and its effect is good. It applies to all men at all times, a universal "principle." One who does not receive evil at the hand of God, but only good, knows but little about Him, and indeed, cannot be said to glorify Him as God.

      Nowhere in God's Word do we read that God overrules. It is with pain that we confess that we once taught this. Job well knew that evil comes from God. Even Nebuchadnezzar was humbled by evil until he acknowledged that the Supreme is in authority among mortals. But, alas, how few today have learned this humbling lesson!

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