I hold to the Second London Baptist Confession. It has some beautiful things to say about God’s providence over sin and evil. Notice Chapter 5 paragraph 4.
God’s almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness are so far-reaching and all-pervading, that both the fall of the first man into sin, and all other sinful actions of angels and men, proceed according to His sovereign purposes.
- Genesis 50:20
- 2 Samuel 24:1-2, 10
- 1 Kings 22:22-23
- Romans 11:36
- Acts 2:23
- Acts 4:27-28
Here the point is simply that God’s sovereign control reaches to farthest places including: The First Sin and All other sinful actions of angels and men. Being sovereign over them means that these events certainly come about and these events necessarily are established.
It is not that He gives His bare permission, for in a variety of ways He wisely and powerfully limits, orders and governs sinful actions, so that they effect His holy designs.
- 2 Kings 19:28
- Genesis 50:20
- Acts 14:16
- Isaiah 10:6, 7, 12
Here the confession declares God does not give bare permission for sin, but he uses it like a tool. So he curbs it, shortens it, and keeps it from bursting out worse than it actually could. Much of God’s activity in regards to sin is keeping a lid on it. Just think what this world would be like, if God did not control it?
But God does this to meet his own designs and plans and ends. What the human or the angel will intend to harm, God will intend the same sinful action to produce wellbeing.
Yet the sinfulness involved in the actions proceeds only from angels and men and not from God who, being most holy and righteous, neither is nor can be the author or approver of sin.
- James 1:13-14
- 1 John 1:5
- 1 John 2:16
So God can overrule sin, direct sin, govern sin, plan sin, decree see, and yet he is not the source of sin. He is not the fountain from which it springs. It comes from man. From his own desires. Yet God’s decree makes certain what will take place.
For God to control sin, decree sin, plan sin, does not make God evil. How is that so? Because of two truths:
- He controls and decrees evil because he rules over all things.
- Yet God is perfectly holy and just.
I think the explanation of the paradoxical truths lies in places like Job’s account and Joseph’s account.
God brought up Job’s name to Satan, before Satan could ever think to ask about Job. Satan asked for permission to hurt Job, and God gave that permission. But Job gave God credit for it, and Job was not charged with sin.
So Job experienced suffering, both tragedy (no human agent involved) and wickedness (a human agent involved). And this was directly brought about by Satan, but was planned by God. So God’s good ends were met, while other actors (Satan and other human actors) sinned and intended harm. God used them in what they would naturally want to do.
Joseph was betrayed and sinned against by his brothers. But Genesis 50:20 tells us that God intended that event with the same Hebrew word (Strongs# 2803) as the Brother’s intending the event. One was for harm the other for good. How can God have his control over sinful actions and not be sinful himself? Because he is controlling for the purposes of his glory and his plan of redemption.
The application and pastoral currency of this doctrine lies in the fact that God causes all things to work together for good. God pursues a goodness for his people who are called according to his purpose and who love him. God pursues Christ-likeness for his people, and that is the goodness he pursues. Why? Because the ultimate joy in all the universe is God, so for us to grow in Christ-likeness will be for our good and our joy. So Tragedy and Wickedness cannot harm us, because God uses it for our good and his glory.