What is evil? As is usual in the case of
scripture words, the meaning is determined by the usage. When the
jailor was about to kill himself with a sword, Paul said, "Commit
nothing evil to yourself," Acts 16:28. If a person is bitten
by a snake he is supposed to suffer evil, Acts 28:5. When Jesus
Christ was before Pilate the governor asked, "What evil does
He?" These instances should convince the reader that evil is
not sin. True, a person may sin in doing evil. But he may do
evil and not sin. If a physician injects anti-typhoid serum in the
arm of a child he has done evil to the child, for he has hurt him.
But he has not sinned. But if he should maliciously stick a needle
or any sharp instrument into the child he not only does evil, but he
The jailor was about to inflict a hurt on
himself. The natives of the island expected to see Paul writhe in
pain, see second passage cited above. Pilate was not concerned
whether or not the Lord had committed sin; he asked whether He had hurt
anyone, when he asked what evil He had done. Doing evil is
inflicting hurt or harm or calamity. God creates evil, Isaiah
45:7. Job received evil at the hand of God, Job 2:10, for, while
the afflictions he bore were immediately caused by the
"devil," yet God was back of it al. Read the first and
There is so much evil in the world that we may all
despair, unless we find that God can use it for good. Yet there
are thousands who do not believe He can.
In many instances even man can turn evil to good
account. I cultivate a small parcel of ground, and certain weeds
that are evil grow on it. I say they are evil, because, if allowed
to do so, they will choke the corn, and when harvest time comes I can
hardly walk in the field, because of the clinging burs and seed of those
weeds. Yet I would not keep them from growing. I manage so
that they will not choke the crop, but after the plowing is done they
cannot grow too profusely to please me. I know their presence
means wearisome hours of toil that I would not have to endure if they
were not there, yet, as a soil builder they have few equals. I
utilize them, and the crabgrass and the crowfoot grass, to make a better
crop next year. While my neighbors spend money for costly fertilizers,
I deep my soil in good condidion by turning evil into good.
A barnyard is evil, because of its unpleasant odor,
and because it is a breeding place for flies. Yet the wise farmer
knows how the use this evil to fertilize his land, so that the very
contents of the barnyard that have been breeding flies, will furnish
plant food to grow crops to feed man.
In the days when we could get plenty of meat, we
often had pieces to become rancid and unfit for use. It was thus
an evil. My wife would mix it with potash, dead poison and
therefore another evil and cook it into laundry soapa very
necessary thing to have.
Perhaps every reader is familiar with some incident
that shows how man can make good use of evil. Vaccinations against
smallpox is evil, for it hurts. Yet its value is no longer a
subject of debate. Plowing in the sultry sunshine is evil, for it
causes discomfort. Yet how could one grow crops without
Nowcan God use evil for a good purpose?
Those who crucified the Son of God did evil against Him. God
transmutes this into good, and providing salvation for all mankind
through the death, resurrection and life of the Christ. Without it
all would be without hope of salvation.
David did evil to Bathsheba and Uriah. Not only
so; he sinned grievously. Not only did he commit adultery with the
woman, but he deliberately planned for Uriah 's death. Did God use
this for good?
We know that He sorely chastened David. But He
also used the fruit of David's marriage with Bathsheba, in a wonderful
way. I refer to Solomon, one of the sons of that union. He
became king of Israel and God gave him great wisdom and riches, and a
glorious reign. He used him to build the temple in
The preservation of Israel in time of famine in the
days of Joseph was the outcome of evil. Joseph's was the outcome
of evil. Joseph's brethren sold him into slavery. This same
Joseph became their savior when famine smote the land of Egypt and the
surrounding country. Joseph explains the situation by saying that
the act of his brethren in selling him was intended as evil by them, but
that God intended it for good. So far as we can see, they sent
Joseph into Egypt, but Joseph says God sent him there, and for a
specific purposeto save life.
No evil can occur apart from God's intention.
Nothing can take place apart from that. If it could, God would not
be operating the universe in accord with the counsel of His will, Eph.
1:11. Intention is counsel-effect of counsel. God takes
counsel with Himself, and advises Himself. His intention is based
on His counsel or advice to Himself. Since evil is necessary to
His purpose, He creates it, and such creation is the effect of
It was necessary for man to be acquainted with evil,
in order that he might know hood. In the garden of Eden he was
surrounded with good, but had no knowledge of it. The Bible says
he did not know good and evil. This is not saying he did not know
it was right to obey God. He was not aware of the good that was
his portion every day. But after he had transgressed, and was driven
from the garden, he began to experience evil. Then he could look
back in his thoughts and see how gook it was to be in the garden.
And some day he will appreciate that greater good that will be his
portion in glory. His experience of evil will enable him to do
Not all that occurs is evil, by any means.
There is much good in the world. And I use the word,
"good," as the opposite of evil. There are many occurrences
that bring pleasure to man.
God is carrying on a work of grace, and no evil will
ever hinder it. He saves us and call us, II Tim. 1:9. This
is stated as facts, without reference to time. As a matter of
fact, the saving, in God's reckoning, dates from the cross. The
calling takes place when it pleases God. I came on the stage of action.
Calling should be in our vocabulary very much. Instead of saying,
"God is saving," we should say He is calling. This is
Paul's expression. In I Cor. 1:24. Saints are being saved,
so far as their experience is concerned, I Cor. 1:18, but so far as God
is concerned, all have been saved.
One of the most prevalent evils is the unbelief
manifest in Christendom. It is evil because it robs them of many hours
of joy in this life. The great majority of those who profess to be
saints do not believe God saves all mankind. The scriptures say He
does. Every version of the scriptures says it. It is found
in many passages. My faith can be expressed in words of
scripture. In Christ all shall be vivified, I Cor. 15:22; God
wills all mankind to be saved, I Tim. 2:3, 4; God is the savior of all
mankind, I Tim. 4:10. Those who cling to creeds written in the
dark ages, cannot express their faith in words of scripture.
But God will make use of this evil, as He will of all
evil. The nations are likened to wild olive branches grafted into
a cultivated tree, Rom. 11. Paul says this is beside nature, or
contrary to nature.
No one would expect fruitfulness under such an arrangement.
Neither did God expect a fruitful Christendom. He expected
evil. He laid the plans for it. The "church"
boasts of those things that are clearly unbelief. It calls it
A measure of unbelief has always been necessary to
God's plan. It is evil, yes. But He creates evil.
Unbelief in Israel was used as an opportunity to "turn to the
nations." Lack of faith in Christendom gives the opportunity
for the "great affliction," or tribulation, after saints are
taken into the heavens. Moreover, unbelief in a great measure
among saints is necessary, for there must be a persecuted class.
Faithless saints are venomous persecutors. God is able to get glory
to Himself out of it all. He can easily transmute it all into
good, when the time comes.
War is a great evil. It causes more widespread
affliction than does anything else. Let us not forget for one
moment, that God creates evil, and that He will use it for His own glory
and the good of His creatures.
Looking at the process, men imagine that all has
gotten out of hand. God cannot manage the universe, they think. The outlook
is dark, indeed, if one takes this attitude.
But if we are able to see that the turbulent "waves" of trouble and distress that have been the portion of
mankind and will increase in intensity as the consummation of the eon
draws nearerif we are able to see that all is the process of God,
and not the goal, we can look ahead with expectation of glory for
all. Even the judging at the great white throne is part of the
process. Mankind needs humbling. We are told in Eccl. 1:13
that all that is done under the heavens is the experience of evil which
God gives to the sons of humanity, to humble them. Many will not
be humbled until they appear before the white throne. But the
desired result will be obtained there, and those who suffer at that time
will be put into deathan unconscious stateuntil the
consummation of the eons, when death is abolished. Having been
saved at Calvary, they will be called in due time, and enter joyously
into the glory that God has for all humanity. He wills all mankind
to be saved, and to come into a realization of the truth, I Tim. 2:3,