WCF 5.4

The Westminster Confession of Faith

4. The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God do so far manifest themselves in his providence, that it extends even to the first fall, and all other sins of angels and people. Such do not happen by a bare permission, but are joined with a most wise and powerful bounding, ordering and governing of them, in various dispensations, for his own holy purposes, yet so that the sinfulness of them comes only from the creature, and not from God, who, being most holy and righteous, is not nor can be the author or approver of sin. (WCF 5.4)

For me growing up, one of the biggest stumbling blocks in believing the theistic worldview was actually in the form of a philosophical question. If God is good, and He wants good to happen, why does He allow bad things to happen? Well this morning the confession presents to us the building blocks to help us understand an answer to this age old and very difficult question.

First, we have to understand that evil, sin, death - it’s not over and above God’s sovereignty. It’s not like God finished creating on day 6 and then all of a sudden something was there that He didn’t have any control over, because if that were the case, God would cease to be sovereign and evil really would be a force that He may or may not be able to overcome - it would be any ones guess as to what was to happen. The confession (drawing on Romans 11 here) doesn’t attempt to go into all the nitty-gritty details, but it does point us to the mystery of God’s almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, which is somehow manifested in God allowing - not just the fall of Adam - but all other sins of angels and people. To put it plainly, God’s infinite goodness is actually ultimately shown in His providence over these things.

Second, we understand that God is sovereign over evil, but it’s not like He leaves it up to “chance” for His will to come about by and through evil, no He actually uses all things (both good and evil) in all places (with both spiritual and physical beings) to accomplish his purposes and good will (Rom 11:32-34, Acts 2:23 c.f. WCF 5.3-4). To put it simply, it’s an absolute mystery as to how God uses these things, and yet he does, and he does so for the ultimate good of his divine sovereign will and for his own holy purposes (Gen 50:20, also see 2 Sam 24:1 with 1 Chron 21:1).

Third, though God is sovereign over sin and uses evil for the manifestation of His own goodness, the confession is clear that the actual sinfulness of people doesn’t come from God, but only from the creature. Scripture is clear, God is not the author of sin, nor will he ever approve the evil actions of his creatures (Jam 1:13-14,17, 1 Jn 2:16, Ps 50:21).

And so, If God is good, and He wants good to happen, why does He allow bad things to happen? Well He does so for the manifestation of His glory and for His own holy purposes. I’d like to say to you, ‘there mystery solved’, but I’d be dishonest if what we have seen here doesn’t remain a mystery somewhat. God is good, all that He does is good. We are not good and we do evil things and yet God somehow keeps these things in tension and uses it all for the glory of His name!

And so let me just end on this final thought. For some reason, God allowed our first parents to be tested by our first enemy Satan, which led to sin and death, and yet, in the deep dark ashes that evil has thrust upon us, God provided his only Son to take on flesh and bear our sin and suffer our punishment. When we consider the providence of God within the context of the gospel then I think it’s then that The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God is truly shown

Published: June 7, 2024

Updated: June 7, 2024