Bullets Points on Scripture's Teaching on Evil, Suffering and God's Sovereignty
Updated: Mar 19, 2022
Suffering, sickness and natural disasters are the result of the Fall:
Sin, death and suffering are the RESULT of the fall of Adam and Eve ( Gen 3; Romans 5:12). There was NO suffering before the Fall. Everything was “good” before the fall and when God originally created everything.
God cursed the ground by “withdrawing his unqualified blessing and imposing a curse upon the filling and subduing of the earth.” Clay Jones, Why does God Allow Evil, pg. 32-35
Genesis 3:17-19 “cursed is the ground because of you…”
‘All creation, including animal death is the result of the fall- “for the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it…for we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in pains of childbirth.” Romans 8:20-22
Plants are not considering living (Hebrew word for soul is 'nephesh') creatures for the life is in the blood Leviticus 17:11
Jesus’ work of reconciling “all things” (Colossians 1:20) involves all of creation itself since it was “subjected to futility” as a result of the fall.
There is no human who is good:
“None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Romans 3:10-11
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? Jeremiah 17:9
All Humans have a general revelation knowledge, yet they suppress that to go on in unrighteousness (see Romans 1).
God sees and cares about every little detail of your life:
“Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” Matthew 10:29
He knows what we need before we even ask (Psalm 139)
Key Verses to keep in mind relating to the sovereignty of God, Suffering, and Evil:
“And we know that for those who Love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28
“in your book were written, even one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there were none on them.” Psalm 139:16
“Our God is in heaven; he does whatever he pleases.” Psalm 115:3; see also Ps. 135:6
God is directing all of history and is in control of all things: “For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, 'My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose" Isaiah 46: 9-10
“the Lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly from the Lord.” Proverbs 16:33
"The king's heart is a stream of water in the hand of the LORD; he turns it wherever he will." Proverbs 21:1
God “accomplishes all things according to the counsel of His will” Ephesians 1:11
God determined where people would live and at what point in history they would exist (Acts 17:26)
Jesus is “upholding the universe by the word of his power.” Hebrews 1:3
“as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” Genesis 50:19-20
“I know that you can do all things and that no plan of yours can be thwarted.” Job 42:2)
The Believer’s ultimate goal is holiness and not comfort or happiness in this life:
God’s will for you is for you to be sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3
Always seek to do good to one another and everyone
Pray without ceasing
Give thanks in all circumstances (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Be Sanctified. Which means becoming more Godly in our thinking, desires & actions (1 Thess. 4:3)
We were created and chosen/predestined for the “praise of God’s glory” (Ephesians 1:14) and not for our own glory. (see also Isaiah 43:7 where god says “I created for my glory.”
Suffering can grow our character and dependency on the Lord:
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” James 1:2-4
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” 2 Cor 4:16-18
“It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees.” Psalm 119:71
“then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.” Job 1:20-22
Jesus is the model of a Godly response to suffering:
Jesus did not retaliate or curse God. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” Isaiah 53:7
Jesus honored God despite cruel violence done against him. 1 Peter 2:18-25
What if your prayers are not answered?
Keep seeking the Lord and trust that He will do what is just and that justice delayed is not justice denied. (see the persistent widow in Luke 18:1-8)
Remember to ask according to God’s will (see above, John 14:14; 1 John 5:14-15)
Trust that God is working all things all for your good and His glory even if you cannot understand in the moment (Romans 8:28)
What about Children that die?
Note: the answer is not explicit in Scripture, so several inferences have to be drawn from multiple scriptures.
God knows who will respond in saving Faith (Romans 8:29; 9; Ephesians 1; Ps. 139) before birth
It seems like there is some kind of age of accountability in regard to sin for children according to Deuteronomy 1:39, yet children have inherited Adam’s sinful nature, this is called original sin or inherited guilt (Romans 5:12-21 & Psalm 51 below).
Children inherit a sinful nature at birth- “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5
However infants are saved, it is still based on God’s merit and mercy. 1 Timothy 2:5
Is it possible that John the Baptist was regenerated in the womb? “He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” Luke 1:15
David affirmed that he would see his deceased child again when he said “I shall go to him, but he will not return to me.” 2 Samuel 12:23
Verses on God’s comfort during suffering and trials:
“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” Psalm 46:1-2
“But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.” John 14:26-27
“Do not be afraid, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10
We must understand our present suffering in light of eternity:
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18
Suffering reminds us to urgently live for God now and that we must be wise with the time that we have since we are not guaranteed tomorrow. (see Eph. 5:15-17; life is a mist James 4:14)
·"So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Is physical suffering or a natural disaster God’s direct judgement because someone sinned ?
The answer varies:
Remember: All suffering in this world is, broadly speaking, a part of God’s judgement on the world since the Fall. Also, remember that part of that judgment is God withdrawing his sustaining and persevering hand on nature, viruses, etc.
Sometimes no, but our suffering can always be used for God’s glory:
“Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, “it was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him.” John 9:2-3
Our suffering can be used to comfort others 2 Corinthians 1 (see above)
God has not destined believers for his wrath in the judgement to come. 1 Thessalonians 5:9
We don’t know God’s reasons most of the time; however, it can certainly drive us towards repentance, depend on Lord more and build our character:
Job didn’t suffer because of a certain sin and was not given a specific answer but told to trust in God and that his ways are higher. Read the whole book.
2 Corinthians 1: 3-4 (see above)
Sometimes Suffering CAN be the result of God’s judgement:
A word of caution: Sometimes yes, suffering can be brought about as a result of God's judgement. However, this conclusion must be based on God’s Special Revelation from Scripture. However, since the canon of scripture is closed, I would caution against immediately saying that any type of suffering we are currently experience is directly God’s judgement on us. However, we can say that all suffering is, indirectly or broadly speaking, God’s judgement as a result of the fall of man and all of creation since Genesis 3.
Several examples of God punishing or disciplining people in Scripture…
God punished the Israelites for speaking out “against God and against Moses” and sent fiery serpents to the people and many died. Numbers 21:4-6
God has the ultimate authority to “wound” and “heal.” See Deuteronomy 32:39
We may be suffering from the consequence of our sin: “You reap what you sow” Galatians 6:7-9
We may be facing God’s discipline. See Hebrews 12:7-11
Regardless if you are not sure what the cause of your suffering is, you are still called to live a Holy life that is pleasing to the Lord and flee from sin.
o Jesus responded to a certain incident stating that it was NOT judgement for a specific action as if they were worse sinners that his questioners. Yet He focused on the urgency of repenting now:
“there were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them. “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Luke 13:1-5
Consider these different Old Testament Kings and their response to suffering:
“in the thirty-night year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek Yahweh, but sought help from physicians.” 2 Chronicles 16:12 (note: seeking a physician is good, but “seeking the Lord” is the ultimate goal of suffering.
“In those days Hezekiah became sick and was at the point of death, and he prayed to Yahweh, and he answered him and gave him a sign.” 2 Chronicles 32:24
Jehoshaphat responding to the news that a large army was coming against Judah and how he “was afraid and set his face to seek Yahweh….if disaster comes upon us, the sword, judgement, or pestilence, or famine, we will stand before this house and before you- for your name is in the house- and cry out to you in our affliction, and you will hear and save…we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” 2 Chronicles 20:3-4,9,12
Will God really be just when it comes to heaven and hell & those that “have not heard?”
“…shall not the judge of all the earth do what is just?” Genesis 18:23-25
“What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! For he says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.’ So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy…..has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” Romans 9:14-16, 21-23
“He is the Rock, his works are perfect, and all his ways are just. A Faithful God who does no wrong, upright and just is he.” Deuteronomy 32:4
8 Biblical Truths that must be affirmed when looking at the issue of un-reached people groups:
1. All people have sufficient knowledge of God (Rom 1:18-20; Ps 19:1-2)- Through nature and his law is written on their heart/conscience (Rom 2:14-16)
2. All people reject knowledge of God (Rom. 1:21-25)
3. All people are guilty before God- there is NO innocent person (Rom 3:9-18)
4. All people are condemned for rejecting God and his law (Romans 3:19-20)
5. God HAS made a way of salvation for the Lost (Rom 3:21-26)
6. People cannot come to God APART from faith in Christ (Rom 3:27-31)
7. Christ Commands the church to make the gospel known to all peoples (Rom 10:9-15)
8. God’s elect are in every people group (Rom 9; Eph 1:5; Matt 24:14)