God and Sin

For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone” (v. 13b niv).

- James 1

If God is the primary cause of everything that happens, is God responsible for sin? What is the mysterious relationship between God’s sovereignty and sin? To answer these questions accurately, we must examine the human condition and how mankind operates apart from the grace of God.

While God controls and restrains human sinfulness, He is not responsible for the actions of wicked people. His sovereign government over everything is maintained, but He is not responsible for sin—fallen men are responsible for their actions. We are endowed with freedom to act according to our nature. Because our nature is fallen, depraved, and sinful, apart from the grace of God we freely sin. When God hardens the hearts of people like Pharaoh He is not compelling them to act contrary to anything within themselves. Mankind will continue to sin freely as long as God permits it.

Calvin wrote, “1 grant [that] thieves and murderers and other evildoers are the instruments of divine providence, and the Lord Himself uses these to carry out the judgments that He has determined.… Yet I deny that they can derive from this any excuse for their evil deeds.… Since the matter and guilt of evil repose in a wicked man, what reason is there to think that God contracts any defilement, if He uses his services for His own purpose?” God used wicked men for His purposes in the account of Joseph when his brothers sold him into slavery. Joseph told his brothers later that what they meant for evil, God meant for good. He understood that God’s hand directed His circumstances, not his brothers: “So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God” (Gen. 45:8). God permits sin in order to bring about His sovereign will.

Because of our depravity, apart from God’s grace, we act only in rebellion and are responsible for our sins. “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (James 1:13–15 niv). God is immutably good and incapable of evil. God allows evil for the working of all things together for good (Rom. 8:28).

Coram Deo

Think of a time in your life when you sinned and later saw how God brought good out of your sinful actions. Does God’s sovereign control in permitting your sin excuse your sin? How are you comforted knowing God controls even your sin? Again today, praise God for both His purity and His providence.

Passages for Further Study

Genesis 50
1 John 2:15–17

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