The Good God and the “Problem” of Evil (3)

no-other-macarthur-2017We conclude tonight our look at chapter three of John MacArthur’s recent book None Other: Discovering the God of the Bible (Reformation Trust, 2017). In this chapter MacArthur presents the biblical reply to the perennial question of how the good and powerful God of the Christian faith relates to all the evil, pain, and suffering in the world.

Last time we looked at this chapter we saw how the author explained that God is absolutely sovereign over all things, including evil – evil events, evil people, and evil angels (Satan and his host – he points to Job and Peter as biblical examples). But we also said we would return to hear his answer to the questions of why and to what end or purpose God determines and controls evil. In his own words, “Why did God permit evil in the first place? Why does He sovereignly, willingly allow it to keep infecting and distorting His creation? In His unfolding, preordained plan, what is the presence of evil accomplishing?”

To which he answers in the first place:

In his epistle to the Romans, Paul gives us the answer. He writes, ‘If our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say?’ (Rom.3:5). Our unrighteousness demonstrates (Greek sunistemi) the righteousness of God.

…Unrighteousness therefore puts God’s righteousness on display. Paul again says, ”But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while were were yet sinners, Christ died for us’ (Rom.5:8). The presence of sin allows God to demonstrate His righteousness and love. How else could He show the character of His great love that rescues enemies and sinners if there were no enemies and sinners? ‘What if God, although willing [i.e., determining] to demonstrate [Greek endeiknumi] His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction?’ (Rom.9:22). He demonstrates His righteousness against the backdrop of sin and evil, showing, by contrast, how utterly holy He is. God demonstrates His love at a level that would have been impossible without sin. We see and appreciate the radiance of God’s love more, having endured the darkness and distress of a universe cursed by evil. ‘The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them’ (Isa.9:2). The presence of evil provided the perfect opportunity for God to display His wrath and justice along with His redeeming grace and infinite mercy, as He loved sinners enough to send His Son to die in their place.

And, as he goes on to show, the second and more important reason is that God might glorify Himself. Referring again to Romans 9:22, he writes:

Literally, the verse’s phrasing is ‘God determined to demonstrate for Himself.’ God demonstrates His attributes for the sake of His own glory. Without sin, God’s wrath would never be on display. Without sinners to redeem, God’s grace would never be on display. Without evil to punish, God’s justice would never be on display. And He has every right to put Himself everlastingly on display in all the glory of all His attributes. [pp.62-63].

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