God and Evil
The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the
things revealed belong to us and to our children
forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.
Deut. 29: 29
And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.
Romans 12: 2
God's preceptive will consists of His moral expectations of us. This is clearly revealed to us in Scripture.
And God spoke all these words, saying:
"I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.
"You shall have no other gods before Me.
"You shall not make for yourself a carved image--any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
"You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain, for the LORD will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.
"Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, nor your son, nor your daughter, nor your male servant, nor your female servant, nor your cattle, nor your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
"Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be long upon the land which the LORD your God is giving you.
"You shall not murder.
"You shall not commit adultery.
"You shall not steal.
"You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
"You shall not covet your neighbor's house; you shall
not covet your neighbor's wife, nor his male servant,
nor his female servant, nor his ox, nor his donkey, nor
anything that is your neighbor's."
Exodus 20: 1-17
has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the LORD require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humbly with your God.
Micah 6: 8
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
John 13: 34-35
God's will can be seen in the natural order of creation.
The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against
all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress
the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known
about God is plain to them, because God has made it
plain to them. For since the creation of the world God's
invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine
nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from
what has been made, so that men are without excuse.
Romans 1: 18-20
The preceptive will of God can be more perfectly understood by the study of the Scriptures, God's infallible rule of faith and life.
The Permissive Will of God
"Say to them, ' As I live!' declares the Lord GOD, 'I
take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather
that the wicked turn from his way and live. Turn back,
turn back from your evil ways! Why then will you die, O
house of Israel?'
Ezek. 33: 11
God permits us to disobey His preceptive will. This does not mean that God is not sovereign, nor does it mean that His will is dependent on ours. God's permissive will is an expression of His patience and love for us.
Even when sinful people commit acts that are disobedient to the way God would have us behave, our sovereign, omniscient Lord uses evil to work His purposes.
For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who
are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the
power of God.
I Cor. 1: 18
Our ability to make choices does not mean that we are free to make any choice in any circumstance; and we can never make a choice which is contrary to our nature. For example, you may choose to play golf like Tiger Woods. But if God has not endowed your nature with Mr. Wood’s natural abilities, it will be a meaningless choice. Since humbly submitting to the will of God and believing the Gospel are contrary to fallen humanity's nature, sin-dead humans would never, could never, choose Christ on our own.
Those who live according to the sinful nature have their
minds set on what that nature desires; but those who
live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set
on what the Spirit desires. The mind of sinful man is
death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit is life and
peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not
submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled
by the sinful nature cannot please God.
Romans 8: 5-8
I. God has endued the will of man with that natural liberty, that is neither forced, nor, by any absolute necessity of nature, determined good, or evil.
II. Man, in his state of innocency, had freedom, and power to will and to do that which was good and well pleasing to God; but yet, mutably, so that he might fall from it
III. Man, by his fall into a state of sin, has wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation: so as, a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able, by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.
IV. When God converts a sinner, and translates him into the state of grace, He frees him from his natural bondage under sin; and by His grace alone, enables him freely to will and to do that which is spiritually good; yet so, as that by reason of his remaining corruption, he does not perfectly, or only, will that which is good, but does also will that which is evil.
V. The will of man is made perfectly and immutably free to do good alone in the state of glory only.
The Westminster Confession
Moral free will
is the ability to choose from among all the moral
options a situation presents. For example, the Bible
places the highest value on life, yet teaches that war
is sometimes justified. And all choices have appropriate
consequences. God blesses marriage, but establishes
grounds for divorce.
Some Christians teach that fallen humanity does have the ability to choose Christ. Nowhere is this taught in Scripture. Although humans possessed a moral free will before the Fall, our innate sinfulness has robbed us of it.
As Adam's descendants, we have no natural ability to discern and choose God's way or to believe the Gospel because we have no natural inclination toward God. Our hearts are in bondage to sin (total depravity). Only the irresistible grace of spiritual regeneration (unconditional election) can liberate us from that slavery.
Don't you know that when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey–whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. I put this in human terms because you are weak in your natural selves. Just as you used to offer the parts of your body in slavery to impurity and to everincreasing wickedness, so now offer them in slavery to righteousness leading to holiness. When you were slaves to sin, you were free from the control of righteousness. What benefit did you reap at that time from the things you are now ashamed of?
Those things result in death! But now that you have been
set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the
benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is
eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the
gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 6: 16-23
Only those freed from sin's dominion are capable of choosing God's way. An inclination of the heart to please God is a sure sign that the Holy Spirit has been at work in your life (irresistible grace).
Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, everyone who sins
is a slave to sin. Now a slave has no permanent place in
the family, but a son belongs to it forever. So if the
Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 8: 34-36
Sincere Christians have mistakenly argued that
for human choices to be real they must be free from
God's sovereign decrees. One need only look at nature
to see the foolishness of this argument. Our heritage
places limitations on all of us. Being born in a free
country affords us opportunities/choices those not so
privileged will never have. Our genetics affords us
opportunities/choices those less gifted will never
have. No one has
freedom of choice in any area of life. Our
bear witness to the intelligent design of our sovereign
Scripture teaches that God's immutable plan includes all events that come to pass.
make known the end from the beginning, from ancient
times, what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.
Isa. 46: 10
Our choices are included in God's plan, but they can never thwart, countermand, or circumvent God’s purpose.
But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Gen. 50: 20
As surely as we know that no fallen sinner has the inclination, much less the ability, to choose Christ, we can be confident that no one has the ability to overturn the wonderful plan God has for His children; neither can anyone or anything take the free gift of eternal life away from those to whom God has given it (perseverance of the saints).