All Things Good?

By Not Known

It is most encouraging thing to know that God not only works all things according to his big and good plans in Jesus (Eph 1:11) but he also works them for the individual good of his beloved people (Rom 8:28).

This gives consolation that the worst of times are also the best of times. When life seems overwhelming and the valley of despair just gets deeper and deeper we can comfort one another with the knowledge that God knows, God cares, God is in charge and God is working for our good and his good. 

This teaching is known as providence. Here is a summary: God, the great Creator of all things, does uphold, direct, dispose and govern all creatures, actions and things  … by his most wise and holy providence … to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice and mercy (Westminster Confession V:1).

However, providence gives problems. God … makes use of means, yet is free to work without, above and against them at his pleasure (West Confess V:3). The problem is that God may work through the ‘means’ of the sinful behaviours of people. Does this make God the author of sin? Does this condone sinful behaviours and make them ‘good’ because God uses them to achieve his good purposes? 

Such problems arise in the cases of David and also of Jesus. David’s son Solomon was a product of his sinful relationship with Bathsheba and the murder of her husband. Yet from this sin came the family line that led to the ‘good’ of Jesus (Matt 1:6. Note how Matthew draws attention to the sin). Jesus’ death was an evil act of Roman and Jewish officials who defied God, yet it achieved the immense ‘good’ of redemption (Acts 2:36).

God is not the author of sin (2 Chron 19:7; Jas 1:13,14,17) but rather sometimes allows it and works through it. That is encouraging. Sin and evil did not have the first word and will not have the last word. God’s good is both the first and last word of creation and the word of sin is woven into good by his providence.

We cannot use God’s providence to condone or excuse our sin. God did raise Jesus from the line that worked through David’s sin with Bathsheba, but it was still a sin for which David was accountable (eg 2 Sam 11:1-13; Ps 51). The Jewish and Roman officials who sent Jesus to die were part of the good redemptive propose but were likewise accountable for their sin (eg Acts 3:36).

God indeed works all things for good, even the bad things that we and others do. That does not excuse or condone sin. Rather it ought to encourage and comfort us as we see his good triumph through and despite evil. 

David Burke