T. Pierce Brown

The tires screamed an anguished wail as the drunken driver at the last moment sought vainly to avoid a head-on collision with the other car. The preacher who stood over the mangled body of the innocent baby whose life was thus prematurely snuffed out tried vainly to comfort the anguished parents with these words: “Find strength and comfort in submitting yourselves to the will of God, and rejoice in the fact that God took your precious baby. We can not see any purpose in it, but we can be sure that God always has a purpose in these things.” I am frank to confess that I am disturbed by apparently well meaning, but ignorant people who blame God with the sins of a drunken driver.

The plain Bible truth is that all things that happen are NOT according to the plan and purpose of God. John Calvin may have assumed the false doctrine that all things, including the salvation or damnation of all men and angels was predestined of God, but that many Christians, and occasionally a man we think of a “gospel preacher,” expresses a doctrine which so nearly approaches blasphemy, is disturbing.

Surely we do not have to be a theologian and read or write a learned treatise about the difference between God’s “intentional will,” His “circumstantial will” and His “ultimate will” to know that from Adam’s time to now men have been doing things contrary to the will of God which causes the innocent to suffer. One may say, “God took him” without necessarily implying that the whole shameful occurrence was in God’s purpose.

Philosophers, atheists, and Christians have long probed into the question raised by situations like Job’s: “If there is a just God, why do the righteous suffer and the wicked prosper?” Books have been written and debates conducted over that question. We are not attempting to deal in detail with that question.

We simply want to point out in this short article that there is a world of difference in asserting the grand and comforting truth which Paul expressed in Romans 8:28 that in all things (even in tragic and heart-breaking events) God works for good to them that love Him, and asserting that it was God’s will for the event to happen in order to fulfill some unknown purpose. This would imply that God’s wisdom and power could not properly achieve that purpose without the planning and executing of that particular deed. It is true that “Whom God loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth” (Hebrews 12:6), but to assume that every bad thing that happens is the chastening rod of God is a different thing.

It is true that for every thorn in the flesh, God’s grace is sufficient (2 Corinthians 12:7-9), and He can overrule that thorn for good, but that God purposed and produced every thorn in the flesh in order to achieve that good is a different thing. God may have a desire and purpose that in your life you develop more patience (James 1:3,4), but that God wills a particular catastrophe for the purpose of developing that or some other aspect of your character is a different proposition, not upheld by any scripture of which we are aware.

Let us not hesitate to affirm that God rules and overrules in the lives of men, such as taking care of Joseph in Egypt and overruling the wicked act of his brothers in selling him into slavery (Genesis 50:20). But let us not also affirm that the wicked deed was a part of God’s plan and purpose. We can conclude that the ULTIMATE PURPOSE of God was the preservation ofIsraelinEgypt, without assuming or affirming that the purpose had to be fulfilled by the evil deed of Joseph’s wicked brothers. Imagine one of us standing by the side of the pit, saying to Joseph, who might have been pleading, “Please do not let them do this to me” and replying, “Have peace, Joseph, for this is the purpose and plan of God!” It would have been proper for us to say, “Have peace and do not fear, Joseph, for God will USE this for His ultimate purpose. Be not dismayed, whate’er betide; God will take care of you.”

The fact that God had a purpose and plan and that God used the wrath of men for His praise (Psa. 76:10) in no sense teaches, implies or suggests that the throwing of Joseph into a pit and lying to his grieving father about it was necessary for the carrying out of that plan, and was therefore a part of it.

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