"The Problem of Evil" by John Essex and "The Role of the Adversary" by James A Webb

THE PROBLEM OF EVIL

By John H. Essex.

ONE OF THE GREATEST PROBLEMS facing all believers is that of evil. Why does God, Whose name is love, permit evil? Why does He allow calamities to fall upon seemingly innocent people? And where, in any case, does evil come from. And what is its purpose?

Our thoughts were directed to this topic by picking up one day a little book of poems by William Blake. He was rather a mystic poet, and one day he imagined himself seeing a fearsome tiger prowling, with its eyes flashing, in the darkness of the jungle, looking for its prey. The tiger is, without question, one of the handsomest of animals, yet undoubtedly one of the most dangerous, and Blake was moved to write the well known lines in his "Songs of Experience."

 

"Tiger ! Tiger ! Burning bright
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"

The tiger, as we have said, is both fearsome and handsome. The symmetry of its body—that is, the due proportion of the parts of its body one to another—is remarkably well balanced, yet should such a beast have been created? And after a series of further questions in subsequent verses, Blake comes to his final and most crucial of all questions, "Did He Who made the lamb make thee?"

Now Blake had no doubt at all as to Who made the lamb. In an earlier set of poems called "Songs of innocence," he asks,

"Little lamb, who made thee?
"Dost thou know who made thee?"

And he immediately continues.

"Little lamb I'll tell thee:
He is called by thy name,
For He calls Himself a Lamb."

Yes, there is no doubt that the One Who was to become known as the Lamb of God, was, in fact, the One through Whom all lambs were made, for in Him was all created (Col. 1:16; John 1:3). But does that all include the tiger?

Blake is not quite sure, and he leaves his own question unanswered. Indeed, he repeats the first verse of his poem, but with a subtle difference. For the word "could" he substitutes "dare," as though he were frightened at the consequences of his question.

 

"Tiger! Tiger! Burning bright,
In the forests of the night,
What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?"

And there Blake leaves the matter. He dare go no further. And this question, in one form or another, has troubled humanity, and indeed has baulked many Christian believers, all down the years. Did the One, Who made the lamb, also make the tiger? Or the locusts that come in their millions, and strip whole regions of the food that supports mankind? Or the serpent, through which Eve was deceived and sin, with all its consequences, entered the world? Did the One, Who made the lamb, make these?

Or, to take the question to its ultimate, did the One Whose purpose required that there should be a Lamb of God, also create one who would be described in Scripture as an adversary, "walking about as a roaring lion, seeking someone to swallow up" (1 Pet. 5:8). There is not much difference between a roaring lion and a tiger: tigers, as such, are not mentioned in Scripture, but bears, leopards, wolves and other preying animals are often referred to. How do these come to be in a world of God's creation?

Above all, how did the Adversary, referred to in Rev. 20:2, as "the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the Adversary and Satan"—how did he come to be what he is?

 

KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL

The vast majority of believers see two separate forces at work—good and evil, the one emanating from God, and the other from the Devil. But the problem is not quite easy as that, for the Scriptures make it clear that God, on a number of occasions, does evil as well as good, while the Adversary, the exponent of evil, may appear at times as a messenger of light, and light in itself is good.

But, again, if we are to say that good emanates from God and evil from Satan, how are we to explain the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil" which God planted in the garden of Eden? Here we have the knowledge of the two things brought together in the same tree, which was planted by God!

And still again (and this is most vital), if good finds its origin in God and evil in Satan, how can we be certain that good will triumph in the end? If a force of evil has arisen in the universe apart from God, how can we be certain that it will not become so powerful as to defeat God? Indeed, if a force has arisen in the universe apart from God, then He has already been taken unawares, and His omnipotence has already been shaken.

But the Scriptures themselves set our minds at rest. In the book of Isaiah, chapter 45, we read, from verse 5, "I am the Lord, and there is none else, there is no God beside Me. I girded thee (Cyrus —see verse 1), though thou hast not known Me, that they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside Me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. I form the light and create darkness: I make peace and create evil. I the Lord do all these things."

 

"I create evil." What does this mean?

The Hebrew word here translated "evil" is "ra." Dr Schofield, in a note in his reference bible, states that the word is also translated "sorrow," "wretchedness," "adversity," "afflictions," "calamities," but is never translated "sin." He adds, "God created evil only in the sense that He made sorrow, wretchedness, etc, to be the sure fruits of sin." But the word "ra" is translated "evil" no less than 445 times in our Authorized (King James) Version. Therefore, it surely means evil. And Isaiah tells us plainly that God created evil.

 

GOD DOES EVIL BUT DOES NOT SIN

Notice carefully what Isaiah says, or rather, what God himself says through Isaiah. "I form the light and create darkness." God did not create light, because light was always in being, since God Himself is light (1 John 1:5). But He had to create darkness because darkness was something that was not originally in being, but had to be brought into being so that light could be appreciated. If we never experienced darkness we would never know what light was—we would take it for granted like the air we breathe. It is only when the air becomes foul that we really appreciate what fresh air is.

Similarly, God says, "I make peace and create evil," Peace did not need to be created since it was always there where God was. But evil had to be created in order that good could be understood. Evil is a necessity in God's purpose for good to be appreciated.

And that is why God created evil. But not only do we learn from the Scriptures that God created evil, but we also learn that sometimes He does evil. Now this may startle some until the facts are fully considered. We are so accustomed to the idea that God always does good. The Bible insists that God always does right; He cannot sin, He cannot commit iniquity. Abraham, you remember, put the question, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25). But it is sometimes right to do evil that good may follow. When a parent punishes a child, for instance, he does evil to that child in order that good may ensue and the child may be blessed. So often with God. He cannot sin, He cannot commit iniquity, but He can do evil.

In the book of Jeremiah alone, there are more than thirty references to God either doing evil or repenting from evil which He had purposed doing, and there are similar passages in other books. For example, in Jeremiah 11:10, we read of Israel and Judah having broken the covenant which God had made with their fathers, and then comes this passage, "Thus saith the Lord, Behold I will bring evil upon them, which they shall not be able to escape." Notice that God does not say, "I will allow evil to come upon them," but "I will bring evil upon them."

 

THE LESSON OF THE POTTER

Again, in Jeremiah 18, verses 5-10, we find the prophet writing (after he had been taken into the potter's house, and seen the potter make a vessel on his wheel and then crush it after he had found a flaw in its make-up), "Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 'O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter?' saith the Lord. 'Behold, as the clay is in the potter's hand, so are ye in Mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up and to pull down, and to destroy it. If that nation against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in My sight, that it obey not My voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them,'"

In this example, we see God as the Divine Potter, the great Creator of all, insisting upon His right to do either good or evil toward His creatures, and He exercises this right all through the Scriptures. The great flood, the Deluge, was an evil to all the people of the earth except for Noah and his household. The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah was an evil to the inhabitants of those wicked cities save only the family of Lot. The plagues sent against Pharaoh, after God Himself had hardened Pharaoh's heart, so that he should not repent (see Romans 9 : 14-18), were terrible evils to the Egyptians, but brought blessings to the Israelites. The destruction of His Own beloved Son on the cross was the greatest possible evil that God could do to Him, yet afterwards it brought untold blessings upon Jesus himself, and, through Him, upon all creation.

But someone may well ask, "Are you saying that God did evil to His Own Son? Surely it was the Jews, with the concurrence of their Roman overlords, who crucified Jesus."

But what did Peter say on the day of Pentecost? "Ye men of Israel, hear these words. Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:22, 23, K.J.V.(. The Concordant Version is very similar, "The bold words are so important that we have quoted them from both versions, that no one shall say that we are twisting the words to suit our purpose.

God's hands were not wicked. Nevertheless, Jesus was delivered by the determinate, or specific counsel and foreknowledge of God into the hands of those who were wicked enough to crucify Him. No wonder Jesus cried out in His anguish, "My God! My God! Why didst Thou forsake me?" Yet through the blood of Christ's cross, God is able to make universal peace, and reconcile all in heaven and earth to Himself, as we read in Paul's letter to the Colossians, chapter 1v.20.

We were speaking just now about the potter's house. Some years ago, when on holiday, we visited a small pottery in South Wales, very similar to the one described by Jeremiah, and we saw the potter at work, moulding the clay into either a bowl or a vase, or else a pot, or whatever he willed. Over the entrance door were the well-known words from Paul's letter to the Romans (9 : 21), "Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour?"

Of the same lump. There is nothing in the basic material of the two vessels to make one different from the other—the difference lies in the design of the potter. There is no reason within themselves why one should be a lamb and the other a tiger. It is not the lamb's fault or the tiger's fault that they were made thus. Out of the same lump of clay, which God turned into humanity, He can produce in the same generation a Cain and an Abel—a Cain who is self-centered and an Abel who is full of faith—a Cain who is a murderer and an Abel who is a servant of God. Out of the same lump, out of the same kneading, He can produce a self-righteous Pharisee and a self-abnegating Publican.

Jesus, in His conversation with His Father in the garden of Gethsemane, acknowledged the fact that God had given Him the twelve disciples, and included in these was the son of perdition, or the son of destruction. Judas was one of the Twelve, and Jesus indicated that He had lost him in order that the scripture might be fulfilled (John 17:12). God knew beforehand that Judas would betray Jesus, yet God chose Judas along with the others.

It was necessary that one should betray Jesus. It was necessary for the salvation of all that God's Son should be crucified. It was necessary that "the Firstborn of every creature" should forfeit his life in order that He might become "Firstborn from among the dead," in Whom all could enter into newness of life, untrammeled and untainted by sin.

Without those who would betray Him, and those who would revile Him, and those who would actually nail him to the cross, this could not be done. There had to be vessels of dishonour as well as vessels of honour.~

 

What we are really saying is this. God is a God with a purpose which He conceived in the beginning and planned through to the end. This purpose required the evil as well as the good, and God provided for the evil just as surely as He provided for the good. Had this not been so, then God's purpose would have been all good, but none of us would ever have been able to realize the greatness of His goodness, for there would have been no evil to set it against.

Yes, the same God Who made the lamb also made the tiger. The God Who made the lovely flowers also made the nettles with their stings. The God Who made the harmless worm also made the poisonous serpent. The God Who made the good, made the evil, too.

 

FROM WHENCE CAME SATAN?

The God Who brought into being the Lord Jesus, as His Creative Original (Rev. 3 : 14), and as the Son of His love (Col. 1 : 13), also created the Adversary, Satan, who would be His chief opponent, ever seeking to usurp his glory and to obstruct and nullify His purpose. How can we reconcile the thought that God is love with the creation of such an implacable enemy?

This question has puzzled many who cannot readily accept the fact that God could create such a waster to destroy, and that His hand could travail with such a crooked serpent.

But was Satan an adversary from his beginning? Some have argued that Satan was originally a good being, who allowed evil thoughts to enter his mind, so that he became a usurper. But, if so, where did the evil thoughts come from? >From another being, outside of himself, or from within himself? Whichever way we answer, we must find some source of evil. Rather than enter into such speculations, it is far better to believe the words of the Lord Jesus Himself when he said of Satan that he was "a mankiller from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, for the truth is not in him" (John 8:44, C.V.). "He is a liar, and the father of it."

The fact is that God required an adversary in order to reveal Himself and in order to develop His purpose, and this adversary must be extremely powerful. It is, indeed, necessary for him to be greater and more powerful than any other created being in God's universe with the exception of the Son of God's love. No lesser being could hope to challenge the headship of the Lord Jesus, for any such would inevitably be challenged in turn by others; no lesser being could hope to deceive hosts of messengers and turn them away from God; no lesser being could recruit the sovereignties and authorities among the celestials among his subjects; no lesser being could sustain an unremitting opposition to God throughout the period covered by the eons; against no lesser being could God demonstrate so fully His absolute supremacy.

In a revealing passage in Jude (v. 9), it is recorded that Michael, the chief messenger, and one of the highest in the heavenly hierarchy (se Daniel 12 : 1), dared not rebuke Satan concerning the body of Moses, but said, "May the Lord rebuke you!" Whatever may be the exact interpretation of this passage, it does show the power of Satan. Yet Satan is not all-powerful. Only God is that. And God showed it in His dealings with Job.

In Job 1 : 12, we learn that, in response to his own suggestion. Satan was permitted to touch all that Job had, but not the man himself. Later, in Job 2 : 6, he was permitted to afflict Job himself, but not to take his life. Always there is a limit to the authority given to Satan, and we should take comfort from this. But there was one short period in the history of God's universe when Satan seemed to have been given all power.

In the case of Job, Satan's power was restricted, even though he was allowed to afflict grievous suffering on the patriarch. But in the case of the Lord Jesus, we read, concerning God, "He Who spares not His Own Son, but gives Him up for us all." God spared not His Own Son, but gave Satan the power to do with Him whatever he would up to the moment that he had ensured His death on the cross. Then God imposed His authority again, for He would not suffer His Holy One to see corruption. Nor would He leave His soul in the unseen (Psalm 16:10; Acts 2:27).

During the whole of Jesus' ministry on earth, Satan was unable to exercise any power over Him. At the conclusion of the testing in the wilderness at the very beginning of His ministry, when Satan in person confronted Jesus, our Lord told him to go away, and it is recorded that the Adversary left Him (Matt. 4:10, 11). In Luke's account, it is recorded that "the Adversary withdrew from Him until an appointed time" (Luke 4:13).

What this appointed time was, we shall see in a moment. Meanwhile, Satan's instruments, the scribes and the Pharisees, continued to seek to destroy Jesus, but He was always able to defeat them. They could not take Him captive, nor could they succeed in condemning Him for what He was saying, though they often tried. Frequently we read that "His hour" (the appointed time) had not yet come (John 2 4; 7:30; 8:20). Notice particularly this last scripture, "No one arrests Him, for not as yet had come His hour." In Matthew 26:45, we read that the hour has become near, "and the Son of Mankind is being given up into the hands of sinners." In John 17:1, the hour has come.

That this hour, when it came, would be a very dreadful experience is evident from some of our Lord's references to it. It has two aspects. On the one hand, the Son was to be glorified in order that He in turn might glorify God (John 17:1), but then there came to Jesus the full realization that that glorification had to be preceded by such an experience as would cause His whole being to recoil from it. So terrible was the prospect facing Him that He even contemplated asking His Father to be saved out of this hour (John 12:27), and actually did pray that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him (Mark 14:35).. How intense this last prayer was is shown by the fact that, addressing God by the most endearing name possible, "Abba, Father," He reminded Him that "all is possible to Thee," and then added, "Have this cup carried aside from Me." Praise be to God that Jesus immediately subjected His own will to that of His Father. "Not what I will, but what Thou wilt!"

What was it that made this hour so dreadful? After the evening in Gethsemane, and after Judas had betrayed Him with a kiss, Jesus Himself uttered a most remarkable statement, which largely explained the dreadfulness of the hour. He said to those who sought Him, "At My being daily with you in the sanctuary, you do not stretch out your hands for Me, but this is your hour and the jurisdiction of darkness" (Luke 22:53). And the next moment they apprehended Him, and He did not resist them, for it was the will of God that He should be given up to the power of Satan.

 

THE JURISDICTION OF DARKNESS

The jurisdiction of darkness is the rule of the Adversary. In Colossians 1:13, it is the opposite state to the kingdom of the Son of God's love. Here Satan is being given authority to do whatever he will, and nothing is spared from the afflictions of Christ.

Indeed, from this moment everything seemed to be going right for Satan. He claimed Peter, the chief of the apostles, and Jesus had not disputed his claim, but instead prayed that Peter's faith might not be defaulting. In the event, Peter renounced his Master three times. All the ten remaining apostles forsook Jesus in His hour of trial, and fled. Jesus was given up to be forsaken on the dreadful cross even by God Himself. Was not this Satan's greatest triumph? Yet in all this Satan was only carrying out God's intention, unknowingly, of course, or he would not have done it, and the word of the cross becomes both the power of God and the wisdom of God, for it becomes the basis of both salvation and reconciliation.

When God gave up His Son to the jurisdiction of Satan. He gave up all, seeing that all has its cohesion in the Son of God's love, as we read in Colossians 1 : 17 (CV.). Cohesion is the opposite of disruption. When the Son of God was crucified, that which kept the universe together, and gave all creation a reason for its existence and an outlook for the future—all that was extinguished. In human terms, God risked all when He gave up His Son. Nothing would have delighted the Adversary more than to have destroyed completely the purpose of God; and with the destruction of Him around Whom that purpose was built, and in Whom all had its cohesion, and for Whom all was intended—all is created through Him and for Him (Col. 1 : 17)—with the destruction of this One, Satan seemed to have secured a complete triumph. But such is the supremacy of God that He can turn even the Adversary's fury into praise for himself. In the experience of the cross, above all else in Scripture, we can see that Satan, the chief exponent of evil, can only be an instrument in God's hands. His greatest act of opposition can only further God's purpose.

 

LOVE IS DIRECTING ALL!

Yes, the great fact that is such an assurance and a comfort to us all is that God controls all evil. As Paul tells us in Ephesians 1 : 11, He is operating all in accord with the counsel of His will, and that all includes the evil as well as the good. In fact, He is able to turn all evil into good, and He is already doing this in our case. For we read in Roman's 8:28, "Now we are aware that God is working all together for the good of those who are loving God."

God is working all together, both good and evil, for our good. What about afflictions? Should these get us down? No, says Paul, for "in all these we are more than conquering through Him Who loves us." Besides, afflictions and tribulations work in us patience and testedness, and patience and testedness are producing experience and endurance, and experience and endurance are producing hope or expectation (Rom. 5:3-5). So we should be rejoicing and glorifying even in such adversities for we are like vessels being tried in the refiner's fire.

"God is moulding, like a potter,
Vessels to His Own desire,
But the products of his fingers
Must be hardened in the fire.
Or, as metals rare and precious
In the furnace are refined,
So from us the dross is melted,
Leaving only gold behind."

We, as members of that ecclesia, which is the body and complement of Christ, are called upon to suffer. Nevertheless, our sufferings in general are nowhere near as intense as those of Christ or of Paul. Few of us have been scourged, and no one reading this has been stoned or crucified, though assuredly some members of the body have been put to death. But if we have been spared the severity of the sufferings endured by the Lord and His apostle to the nations, it is not because Satan has taken pity on us, but rather because he is controlled. Do we all realize the debt we owe to the apostle Paul, who says, in Colossians 1 : 24, "I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for you, and am filling up in my flesh, in His stead, the deficiencies of the afflictions of Christ, for His body, which is the ecclesia of which I became a dispenser." Paul suffered inordinately at the hands of his enemies, who were undoubtedly motivated by Satan.

The days in which we live are evil, and violence is likely to increase as the time draws nearer for the return of the Lord, and the setting up of His kingdom on earth. Before this takes place, there will be a time of iniquity such as never has been known on earth before, nor ever will be known again. But Paul tells us that we are not appointed to indignation (1 Thess. 5:9).

God's indignation is directed against all unrighteousness of men. It is not, and cannot be, directed against the ecclesia, for its members are justified in God's sight, and nothing, consequently, is now condemnation to those in Christ Jesus, for they are a new creation (Compare Romans 8 : 1 with 2 Cor. 5 : 17). Paul tells us, in Ephesians 2 : 3, that we were once "in our nature, children of indignation, even as the rest," but this is no longer the case.

We await a Rescuer out of the coming indignation (1 Thess. 1:10), a Saviour Who will deliver us from the wrath to come. For God's indignation, as we said in the previous paragraph, is to be levelled against all unrighteousness, after which Christ will take up His Own great power and reign. Then the lion (and the tiger) will lie down in peace with the lamb, and a little child shall lead them.

Our hope and expectation is to be always together with the Lord in glory, telling of God's wonderful grace until all in heaven and earth is reconciled to Him. Then there will be no tigers, or serpents, as such, for evil will be no more, and those with evil propensities (including the Adversary himself) will have been changed. All is to be made subject to Christ, and the apostle is at great lengths to point out that the only One not made subject is God himself, since He is the One Who does all the subjecting (1 Cor. 15:25-28).

Then, when all has been made subject to Christ, the Son Himself becomes subject to God, that God, Who will put all under Him, may finally be All in all.

 This is the goal of God's purpose--the goal to which all good and all evil have been moving.

"All is of God," says Paul on several occasions, and we rejoice that this is so, for it means that nothing is outside of His purpose or outside of His control. He is able to make all to be subject to Christ because He (God) has never lost any of this control. He is the Supreme. He is never taken by surprise. He never has to improvise or change anything because He has purposed and planned it all. He sees the end from the beginning. He is God, and beside Him there is none else, and each and all of His chosen ones are even now, and for ever, in His care and keeping, and nothing will befall them that is not for their wellbeing.

Indeed, it is true to say that all creation remains within the care and keeping of its Creator. The vessels which become marred never leave the hand of the Potter; they are marred while still in His hand. The lesson that was taught Jeremiah (Jer.18:4), though to be interpreted as relating to Israel, nevertheless embodies a principle which is sustained throughout the whole outworking of God's purpose. He holds all in the hollow of His hand, and though He may allow, and even cause, some of His creatures temporarily to turn away from Him, He never lets them go. That is why Paul can write in Romans 8:20, "For to vanity was the creation subjected, not voluntarily, but because of Him Who subjects it, in expectation that the creation itself, also, shall be freed from the slavery of corruption into the glorious freedom of the children of God."

But to those who believe in Him now, the holding power of God is something very precious indeed. A story is told of a young lad who was asked to take some money and give it to somebody else. "And," said his mother, "be careful not to lose it." "You need not worry," said the boy, "I will keep it in my hand all the way." The boy knew that anything held firmly in the hand is safer than in any pocket.

Let us, then, continually rejoice in the Lord, and glorify God in all things, and say with the Psalmist, "Thou art my Father, my God, and the rock of my salvation" (Ps. 89:26).

J.H. Essex

 

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The Role of the Adversary

In God's Purpose

By James A. Webb

The Bible says, "The Devil sins from the beginning" (1 John 3:8, KJV). His sin lies in the motive behind his acts, but his acts had to be done in the sense that they were required for the purpose of God to be fulfilled. This is seen in the death of God's Son. Those who demanded that He be crucified, did so with a sinful motive. But Christ, after His resurrection, asked—"Must not the Christ be suffering these things? (Luke 24:26; Concordant Version). Yes, He had to suffer. Without His suffering and death there could have been no salvation. And there would have been no sinners to be saved if the Devil, or Adversary (which is the better translation), had not sinned from the beginning, for it was he who introduced sin into the universe and among the human family. His motive was to defeat God, and his motive constituted sin. But without sinners to be saved, there would have been no need for the Son of God to come and go through His sacrificial suffering, and hence no need for Him to be "the Lambkin slain from the disruption of the world" (Rev. 13:8).

The Adversary did not do something that God had planned for him not to do. He did that which was required to be done for the future glory of God. If the Adversary had acted contrary to God's purpose, then, at that time, God was not "operating all according to the counsel of His will" (Eph.1:11). But God does according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth" (Dan.4:35).

The Adversary himself is the work of God's hand, for "by His spirit He hath garnished the heavens; His hand formed the crooked serpent" (Job 26:13).

The crooked serpent is "the Adversary and Satan" (Rev.20:2). The Adversary, in the form of a serpent, beguiled Eve (Gen.3:13), thus proving that he was, and is, the deceiver. "The woman, being deluded, has come to be in the transgression" (1 Tim.2:14).

God intended the deceiver to delude the woman. The Adversary was under God's control, just as the woman was. When He used the deceiver to delude her, He was using creatures that were His (Job 12:L10). Yes, both were His, and He used them to bring about an increase of knowledge.

God well knew that the Adversary would deceive Eve, for He formed him to be an Adversary and a Deceiver. "Shall the thing formed say to that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus ?" (Romans 9:20 KJ).

The Adversary was fulfilling God's intention when he deceived mother Eve. It was part of God's purpose, to bring about an awareness. The woman did not partake of the fruit until she saw that it was desired to make one intelligent. The serpent said to the woman:

"God doth know that in the day that ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise (intelligent), she took of the fruit thereof and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat" (Gen.3:5, 6). While the motive of the Adversary was sinful, yet what he did in deceiving the woman was something within the purpose of God, for the result was an increase of awareness, in as much as we read that the eyes of both the man and the woman were opened, and they knew that they were naked" (v.7).

Many believers are blinded concerning the truth, even as Joseph's brethren were blinded. There are those who say that God did not have, and is not having, anything to do with Satan and his works. When we refer them to Joseph and ask, "Why did Joseph's brethren sell him?" they answer, "Because they hated him." This, of course, is true, but when we point out to them that in later years Joseph said to his brethren, "Therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life" (Gen.45:5), they become confused, for they do not like to believe that God actually did evil to Joseph. They want to place all the blame on his brethren. Of course, God cannot be censured, but the truth is that Joseph's brethren did exactly what God intended them to do. There is no doubt that it was the Adversary who suggested their actions to them, but the Adversary belongs to God in the sense that God created him and can use him as He wills.

So, God used Satan, and Joseph's brethren, to preserve life. This seems strange, for the Adversary is a murderer, but God can, and does, use him for the opposite purpose whenever He pleases to do so.

That the Adversary is subordinate to God is proved by his obedience to the command of the Lord Jesus. When Jesus said to him, "Go away, Satan," he went without delay. He left Christ~ (Matt.4:11).

 

Concerning God, the Scriptures declare that "out of Him –and through Him –and for Him —is all" (Rom.11:36). He is omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and omniparous. That is, He is able to do all; He knows all; He is present everywhere at the same time; He is the producer of all.

If He is able to do all, then He is able to keep the Adversary from going contrary to His intentions, and He is able to have him do whatever is in accord with His intentions. If God knows all—even the end from the beginning (Isa.46:10)—then the Adversary has never deceived Him. God knew beforehand just what Satan was going to do at all times. If God is present everywhere at the same time, then Satan has never been able to hide from God. If God is the Producer of all, then He made the Adversary as well as everything else.

 SATAN CANNOT WITHSTAND GOD'S INTENTION

Satan never thwarts God's plans: instead, God uses him in carrying out His plans, as has been shown. A look at the book of Job will show that Satan does whatever God intends him to do. And if we are to take the record in Job as a model, he does not do more than God allows him to do. God gave him authority to afflict Job, but told him to spare his life, and Satan obeyed implicitly. He afflicted Job and spared his life. In the temptation in the wilderness, Satan did just what God had purposed him to do, when he tested Jesus. The Scriptures say that Jesus "was led by the spirit into the wilderness to be tried by the Adversary" (Matt.4:1). When the period of testing was over, Jesus told him only once to go away, and immediately Satan left Him.

It is admitted by all that when messengers came to Christ after Satan left Him, they were doing just what God had told them to do. This is true. But it is also true that, in testing Jesus, the Adversary was doing just what God intended him to do. When we attribute false values to the Adversary, we also attribute false values to God, for we assume that the Adversary is operating independently of God, and that God cannot have it otherwise. The fact remains that the Lord God is the Lord God of the Adversary (though Satan would not acknowledge this), for the Lord Jesus quoted to him the words of Deuteronomy (6:16), "You shall not be putting on trial the Lord your God" (Mat.4:7, Luke 4:12).

Satan is a slanderer, but much of Christendom (including many of its clergymen) is slandering the slanderer, and, in doing so, is also slandering, maligning God. If we assume that the Adversary operates independently of God and that God is not having him (the Adversary) do the things that he is doing, it is evident that we would be guilty of blaspheming the Holy Spirit, and would be subject to the penalty therefore, were it not for the precious truth of Justification. The members of the ecclesia which is the body of Christ (Eph.1:22, 23: 2:13-16; Col.1:13 and 24) are extricated from this entanglement, for they are "saved in grace, through faith," and this is not of themselves, but is the gift of God, and so not of works (Eph.2:8). Justified through the faith of Christ (Rom.3:21-23, Gal.2:16 and 3:14), the members of the ecclesia are complete in Christ (Col.2:10). To the ecclesia, in spirit, "the consummation of the eons have attained" (1 Cor.10:11). The believers were, "entombed together with Him through baptism into death" (Rom.6:4), and, "being entombed together with Him in baptism," God "vivifies us together jointly with Him, dealing graciously with all our offences. . " (Col.2:12, 13). The resultant position is: "Nothing, consequently, is now condemnation to those in Christ Jesus . . ." (Rom.8:1). Hence, those who are "in Christ Jesus" cannot do anything that will add to, or subtract from, anything that they are or have in Christ Jesus.

Yet, in the light of such Scriptures as these, and many others, there are teachers in Christendom who tell us not to commit that sin, which, if committed, will not be pardoned "neither in this world, neither in the world to come." (Matt.12:32—see also Mark 3:29). The truth is thus ignored that those who are "in Christ Jesus" have been justified, which is greater, by far, than forgiveness.

 

THE UNPARDONABLE SIN

That which is usually termed "the unpardonable sin"—blasphemy "against the Holy Spirit"—is the attributing of the work of God's spirit (as this was manifest in the works of God wrought by the Lord Jesus—John 5:36; 9:4; 14:10; etc) to demonic power. To say that the Adversary acted quite independently of God—and of God's intention—in the introducing of sin and estrangement into the universe, is, really, to sin against the Holy Spirit.

God brought the Adversary into being, for all is out of god Rom.11:36), and God had determined beforehand that sin and estrangement would enter the universe through the acts of the Adversary, but this fact must not be considered in isolation. God had also purposed His mighty work of salvation by way of the cross of His beloved Son and, in order to reveal the glory of His saving power in Christ Jesus, God required the dark background of sin and estrangement. God, Who Himself is love, could never have suffered His love to remain for ever unrevealed and unrequited. Had Satan, the Adversary, in introducing (through his activities) sin into the universe, acted in absolute independence of God, then he should be praised for bringing about the condition that gave God the opportunity to manifest His saving grace. God will not give His glory to another (Isaiah 42:8).

Until we are able to recognize the mighty power of God, "Who is operating all (and Satan is included in the "all") in accord with the counsel of His will" (Eph.1:11), we cannot avoid attributing to the Adversary what God achieves and will achieve. But this we must refrain from doing, being concerned always to ascribe all praise to God.

It should be known that Satan is not an intruder in God's universe, but rather holds, as the chief of the jurisdiction of the air, high office among God's celestial hosts. In the book of Job, he is referred to as "Satan" and in Hebrew this means "adversary." It is just as necessary that God should have an adversary in His government as it is that He should have any other officer. And adversary opposes, and Satan opposed Job, and thus God had an opportunity to show what His grace and compassion could accomplish for Job (see James 5:11). Without the Adversary, we would not have had the beautiful and uplifting story found in the book of Job. Indeed, had it not been for the Adversary, there would have been no "wisdom of this world" (1 Cor.1:20), against the dark backdrop of which is revealed the glory of Christ, Who is the power and wisdom of God, the universal Saviour (1 Cor.1:18-25).

If those who seek to expound the Scriptures would first of all realize and then proclaim that the Adversary, Satan, fills the role assigned to him (and required of him) by God, and that in that role he is subject to God's authority and control, and can go no further than the limits God has prescribed for him, then there would be less unease within the ranks of Christendom. We close with the words of Paul in Romans11:36:–

"O the depths of the riches and the wisdom and the knowledge of God. . . "Out of Him and through Him and for Him is all. To Him be glory for the eons! Amen!" (Rom. 11:36)


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