The Purpose of Evil, By Femi Aribisala
All evil will result in good before the ages run their course.
God says in Isaiah: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7). Amos also asks rhetorically: “If there is calamity in a city, will not the Lord have done it?” (Amos 3:6).
The question then becomes what purpose God has for evil. Why would a good God, who is love and kind, whose mercies endure forever, also be interested in evil? The answer is not far-fetched, according to the scriptures.
Alpha and Omega
Seeing a man blind from birth, the disciples asked Jesus: “‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered, ‘Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.’” (John 9:2-3).
This means we cannot draw any definitive conclusions about the righteousness of a man from anything that happens to him in this life. This is because bad things will happen to good people and good things will happen to bad people.
God is “the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the Ending of all things.” (Revelation 1:8). Therefore, God is behind all evil, for the simple reason that the ending of all evil is good or, to put is more succinctly, the ending of all evil is God. Accordingly, God says: “I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal.” (Deuteronomy 32:39).
The purpose of evil then is the revelation of the goodness of God. God permits no evil that he will not in the end overrule for good. Hence, all evil will result in good before the ages run their course.
Evil is a grandiloquent antithesis of God. Eternal life is the knowledge of God. But in order to know God, we need to know the opposite of God. That makes evil a righteous necessity. Accordingly, Jesus says: “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (Matthew 6:34).
This scripture reveals that evil is necessary in the life of a man. The man who is not confronted with evil is at a disadvantage and cannot develop into a perfect man. Jesus says, in effect, God will not short-change us in the amount of evil we will have to face but will make sure we have just the right amount that we need.
Jesus’ theology undermines the conventional basis of Christian thanksgiving. We often give thanks because something good happens to us and do not give thanks when something bad happens. This is wrong. God does not favour us by saving us from calamity. Neither does he punish us by allowing us to suffer.
Therefore, “in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” (1 Thessalonians 5:18).
Evil is present in the world that the power of Christ in deliverance and salvation may be revealed to us: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8).
This indicates that evil is not eternal but temporal. It is merely designed to provide the basis for the showcasing of the overwhelming power of God. In the end, all evil will be abolished.
In the meantime, believers must recognise that we are immune from the destructive effects of evil because, as children of God, we are secure in God’s hands. Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:39).
Thus, God is reassuring: “No weapon formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue which rises against you in judgment you shall condemn.” (Isaiah 54:17).
Paul echoes this: “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28). This was the testimony of Joseph. He was thrown down a well; sold into slavery; and falsely accused into imprisonment. But all this merely provided signposts on his road to becoming the prime minister of Egypt.
Joseph provides us with God’s “50:20 principle” that rather than be overcome by evil, we can rest assured that God will surely overrule all evil for our good. He says to his treacherous brothers who sold him into slavery: “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.” (Genesis 50:20).
This provides us with another peculiarity of God: he uses evil to do good. Indeed, God uses evil even for salvation. Thus, while Jeroboam was one of the worst kings of Israel, nevertheless, God saved Israel: “by the hand of Jeroboam the son of Joash.” (2 Kings 14:26).
God says: “I call heaven and earth as witnesses today against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing; therefore, choose life, that both you and your descendants may live.” (Deuteronomy 30:19).
It is God himself, and not an enemy, that sets good and evil before us. He does this, not for our injury, but for our benefit, that we may be partakers of his divine nature. In light of this, the psalmist says: “It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn your statutes.” (Psalm 119:71).
Solomon says: “Blows and wounds cleanse away evil, and beatings purge the inmost being.” (Proverbs 20:30). Paul concurs: “Our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!” (2 Corinthians 4:17).
Therefore, “we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope.” (Romans 5:3-5).
James also counsels: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James 1:2-4).
Evil then is a challenge of our faith in God. Evil is useful, says Peter: “That the genuineness of (our) faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honour, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1:7).
In the athletics races of steeplechase and hurdles, impediments are placed before runners that they are required to overcome. So it is with evil. It constitutes the hurdles we have on the road to salvation. Therefore, Jesus promises the believer: “He who overcomes will inherit all things, and I will be his God and he will be my son.” (Revelation 21:7).
God says to Israel: “I (will) send my four severe judgments on Jerusalem – the sword and famine and wild beasts and pestilence – to cut off man and beast from it.” But then he says thereafter: “You shall know that I have done nothing without cause that I have done in it.” (Ezekiel 14:21-23).
This shows that when the race is run and the books are tallied, and the whole purpose of God is consummated, all creation will be comforted. We will then understand God’s grand design and know that God allowed evil for noble reasons.