Now we must consider the question of God’s sovereignty over sin. God’s relationship to sin and evil is a very, very delicate subject, as we should never say anything that impugns God’s perfect goodness.
We may summarize this doctrine as follows: we discern from the Scriptures that God is entirely in control of any and every moment of sin, even of the greatest evils that have ever been committed by mankind, but He is in control in such a way that He is in no way guilty, He in no way tempts anyone to sin, and He is in no way the author of sin.
God is in no way guilty for sin
The following Scriptures demonstrate that God is in no way guilty of sin, He in no way tempts anyone to sin, and He is in no way the author of sin:
God’s creation was originally good, as we find in Genesis 1:31.
God does not make us sin, in the precise sense that James says it: “He Himself does not tempt anyone,” James 1:13.
God works all things for good to believers, as we find in Romans 8:28.
God allows temptation but also provides a way out (1 Cor. 10:13), and again, He Himself does not tempt anyone (James 1:13).
God is “not a God of confusion,” as we find in 1 Corinthians 14:33.
God is perfect, absolute goodness and purity, and there is no evil, sin, or darkness in Him whatsoever, as we find in 1 John 1:5.
And yet, God is sovereign over man’s evil actions and intentions
Here are some of the most striking examples of this fact in Scripture. In the last three Scripture passages cited here, we see God sovereignly ordaining the most heinous evil that has ever been committed – the murder of the Son of God.
Gen 50:20 “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive.”
Luke 22:22 “For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”
Acts 2:22-23 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know– this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”
Acts 4:27-8 “For truly in this city there were gathered together against Your holy servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose predestined to occur.”
The following 14 passages further attest to God’s explicit involvement with (and sovereign control over) evil.
Please note that this list of passages should function mostly as a “worksheet.” Each of these passages deserves careful exegetical attention in context. Here I have simply gathered these passages so that curious readers can examine the evidence, and have it readily at hand for further discussion and investigation.
Here note that translations differ in their renderings of the Hebrew word “ra.” Where the KJV often renders the Hebrew word “ra” as “evil,” most modern translations write “destruction” or “calamity.” No matter the wording, the reality must be grappled with.
1) Isaiah 45:7: ‘I form the light, and create darkness; I make peace, and create evil. I the LORD do all these things.’ (Scofield’s note is helpful here. While I in no way endorse Scofield’s general approach to the Bible, on this particular verse, his interpretation is apt: “God created evil only in the sense that He made sorrow, wretchedness, etc., to be the sure fruits of sin.”)
2) Amos 3:6: ‘Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and the LORD hath not done it?’
3) Micah 1:12: ‘For the inhabitant of Maroth waited carefully for good: but evil came down from the LORD unto the gate of Jerusalem.’
4) 1 Kings 9:9: ‘And they will say, “Because they forsook the LORD their God, who brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt, and adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them, therefore the LORD has brought all this evil on them.”’
5) 2 Kings 6:33 ‘While he was still talking with them, behold, the messenger came down to him and he said, “Behold, this evil is from the LORD; why should I wait for the LORD any longer?”’
6) 2 Kings 21:12 ‘…therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, “Behold, I am bringing such calamity/evil on Jerusalem and Judah, that whoever hears of it, both his ears will tingle.”’
7) 2 Kings 22:16 ‘…thus says the LORD, “Behold, I bring evil on this place and on its inhabitants, even all the words of the book which the king of Judah has read.”
8) 2 Kings 22:20 ‘“Therefore, behold, I will gather you to your fathers, and you will be gathered to your grave in peace, and your eyes will not see all the evil which I will bring on this place.” So they brought back word to the king.’
9) 2 Chron 7:22 ‘And they will say, “Because they forsook the LORD, the God of their fathers who brought them from the land of Egypt, and they adopted other gods and worshiped them and served them; therefore He has brought all this adversity/evil on them.”’
10) Daniel 9:11-14 ‘Indeed all Israel has transgressed Your law and turned aside, not obeying Your voice; so the curse has been poured out on us, along with the oath which is written in the law of Moses the servant of God, for we have sinned against Him. / Thus He has confirmed His words which He had spoken against us and against our rulers who ruled us, to bring on us great evil/calamity; for under the whole heaven there has not been done anything like what was done to Jerusalem. / As it is written in the law of Moses, all this evil/calamity has come on us; yet we have not sought the favor of the Lord our God by turning from our iniquity and giving attention to Your truth. / Therefore the Lord has kept the evil/calamity in store and brought it on us; for the Lord our God is righteous with respect to all His deeds which He has done, but we have not obeyed His voice.’
11) Amos 9:4: ‘And though they go into captivity before their enemies, From there I will command the sword that it slay them, And I will set My eyes against them for evil and not for good.’
12) Ezekiel 14:22: ‘Yet, behold, survivors will be left in it who will be brought out, both sons and daughters. Behold, they are going to come forth to you and you will see their conduct and actions; then you will be comforted for the evil/calamity which I have brought against Jerusalem for everything which I have brought upon it.’
13) Job 42:11: ‘Then all his brothers and all his sisters and all who had known him before came to him, and they ate bread with him in his house; and they consoled him and comforted him for all the evil/adversities that the LORD had brought on him. And each one gave him one piece of money, and each a ring of gold.’
14) Job 2:10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
Here are 15 related passages that add nuance and complexity to the above considerations:
1) Deuteronomy 29:27 ‘Therefore, the anger of the LORD burned against that land, to bring upon it every curse which is written in this book…’
2) 2 Sam 24:1 “Again the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel, and He moved David against them to say, “Go, number Israel and Judah.” Together with 1 Chron 21:1 “Now Satan stood up against Israel, and moved David to number Israel.”
3) Isaiah 63:17: ‘O LORD, why have You made us stray from Your ways, and hardened our heart from Your fear?’
4) Isaiah 54:15–17: ‘“If anyone fiercely assails you it will not be from Me. / Whoever assails you will fall because of you. / Behold, I Myself have created the smith who blows the fire of coals / And brings out a weapon for its work; / And I have created the destroyer to ruin. / No weapon that is formed against you will prosper; / And every tongue that accuses you in judgment you will condemn. / This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, / And their vindication is from Me,” declares the Lord.’
5) Isaiah 50:11: ‘Behold, all you who kindle a fire, Who encircle yourselves with firebrands, Walk in the light of your fire And among the brands you have set ablaze. This you will have from My hand: You will lie down in torment.’
6) Ezekiel 14:21 ‘For thus says the Lord GOD, “How much more when I send My four severe judgments against Jerusalem: sword, famine, wild beasts and plague to cut off man and beast from it!”’
7) Ezekiel 5:16 ‘When I send against them the deadly arrows of famine which were for the destruction of those whom I will send to destroy you, then I will also intensify the famine upon you and break the staff of bread.’
8) Ezekiel 6:10 ‘Then they will know that I am the LORD; I have not said in vain that I would inflict this disaster on them.’
9) Ezekiel 7:9: ‘My eye will show no pity nor will I spare. I will repay you according to your ways, while your abominations are in your midst; then you will know that I, the LORD, do the smiting.’
10) Hosea 6:1–5 ‘Come, let us return to the Lord. / For He has torn us, but He will heal us; / He has wounded us, but He will bandage us. / He will revive us after two days; / He will raise us up on the third day, / That we may live before Him. / So let us know, let us press on to know the Lord. / His going forth is as certain as the dawn; / And He will come to us like the rain, / Like the spring rain watering the earth. / What shall I do with you, O Ephraim? / What shall I do with you, O Judah? / For your loyalty is like a morning cloud / And like the dew which goes away early. / Therefore I have hewn them in pieces by the prophets; / I have slain them by the words of My mouth; / And the judgments on you are like the light that goes forth.’
11) Notice that God mockingly commands sin in Amos 4:4–5: ‘“Enter Bethel and transgress; / In Gilgal multiply transgression! / Bring your sacrifices every morning, / Your tithes every three days. / Offer a thank offering also from that which is leavened, / And proclaim freewill offerings, make them known. / For so you love to do, you sons of Israel,” Declares the Lord GOD.’
12) Ezek. 39:28 “Then they will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer.”
13) Isaiah 13:5 “They are coming from a far country, From the farthest horizons, The LORD and His instruments of indignation, To destroy the whole land.”
14) Isa. 19:14 “The LORD has mingled within her a spirit of confusion, and they will make Egypt stagger in all its deeds, as a drunken man staggers in his vomit.” Compare 1 Corinthians 14:33: “for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.”
15) Isa. 22:5 “For the Lord GOD of hosts has a day of panic, subjugation and confusion In the valley of vision, A breaking down of walls And a crying to the mountain.”
O God, may we be sobered by this reality. May we wonder at Your perfection. May we find solace in the fact that you are in control even of the worst moments in earthly history. And yet, may we never think any thought that impugns your perfect goodness. You are our holy Lord. We are but your subjects, and our minds grasp so little of your ways. All praise be to You, most powerful, perfect Christ!