All Things are of God!
Recently I read an article by a friend who had been paralyzed from the waist down by a drunken driver. Many who visited her tried to comfort her by telling her that it all happened for a purpose -- implying that God always has a purpose in mind when He allows something to happen. I thought her article was an apt refutation of that concept. However, that started me on a train of thought concerning related passages such as Romans 11:36 which says, "For of Him and through Him and unto Him are all things."
If one assumes that everything that ever happened, including sin, has its source in God, and was unto Him -- that is, He is the one for which everything is done -- one has some tremendous problems, which, in our judgment, cannot be solved. "But the text SAYS that, and the Bible means what it says" is the kind of simplistic answer that might satisfy most of those who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God, and we must not try to explain it away. I have no desire to "explain away" any part of God's Word. But if one takes the position that "Everyone knows what is meant by 'through,' as when 'He threw a brick through the window', so we know that everything came 'through God' for the Bible says so," then he does not need to read anything, nor to "study to show himself approved."
Someone may continue the thought by saying, "Whatever intellectual problems you may have, Isaiah 45:7 says about God, 'I make peace and create evil', so I am just going to take what it says by faith, and whether I understand it or not, must conclude that ALL things, including evil and sin come from God."
We may start by understanding that the word "evil" is from the Hebrew "ra," which includes anything "bad" -- including a "bad cold." It included what God was going to do to Nineveh (Jonah 3:10) of which he "repented," though the Bible teaches that God can do no sin, and certainly could not repent of it!
In Leviticus 26:6, we are told that God would drive the "evil beasts" out of the land. They were not wicked or sinful beasts! Surely all can understand that a thing that was "bad" (evil) from the standpoint of the Ninevites (the destruction of their city) did not mean that it would have been wrong for God to punish them in this way for their sins!
But time and space limitations make it imperative that we consider only some limited aspects of the question, namely: To what does "all things" of Romans 11:36 refer? The Greek word "pas" which occurs over 1000 times in the New Testament means "all." In both the accusative masculine singular form and in the accusative and nominative neuter plural, it is "panta," and it occurs hundreds of times in this form. However, in at least 35 occurrences, it is used with the definite article "ta," which, literally translated, means "the all."
Having checked every expression where I can find it, my conclusion is that which is hinted at by Thayer on page 493 when he says, "The article in ta panta refers -- in 1 Cor. 11:12 to the things before mentioned (husband and wife and their mutual dependence) -- ." What he suggests about "the things before mentioned" in 1 Corinthians, I am suggesting is true in every case of "ta panta." It ALWAYS refers to "the things mentioned" in the context of the expression.
May I suggest some things we need to understand in determining the meaning of ANY passage: First, no passage is to be understood except in the context in which it is written. Second, if we can find a passage where the meaning of the expression is positive and clear, that meaning should be used in other less clear passages unless something in the context demands otherwise.
In Mark 4:11 and Colossians 3:8, we find the clearest indication of the meaning of the expression. It seems obvious that it is an idiomatic expression (for it is literally "the all") referring to something that has been said, or is about to be said. In Colossians 3:8 it is translated "all these" and CANNOT refer to "everything in the universe" or "all things collectively" (as Thayer puts it), but to "anger, wrath, malice, etc." about which he is talking.
A careful checking of EVERY expression in the New Testament where "ta panta" is found leads me to the conclusion that it is ALWAYS an idiomatic expression which could be translated by such expressions as "all these" or "all this." I will not list all the expressions, but for those who wish to check some of the easiest, the following may be helpful: Mark. 4:11, Romans 8:32, 1 Corinthians 12:19, Ephesians 4:10, Ephesians 4:15, Colossians 3:11, 1 Timothy 6:13.
So, if a drunken driver kills your precious child, or even if it is "plucked untimely from its mother's womb" (as I think Shakespeare must have said somewhere), you do not have to think, "First Corinthians 11:12 says, 'All things are of God,' so I just have to submit to God's will." It is NOT God's will any more than that "any should perish" (1 Peter 3:9). And when you "suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune," you do not need to assume that such is ALWAYS the will of God, but you may, when you consider what the Bible teaches is God's will in those circumstances, sometimes "take arms against a sea of troubles, and by opposing, end them." If we were theologians we might discuss God's "permissive will," His "decretive will" or other expressions we might dream up, but we have no desire to do that at this time. However, you need to know that God permits some things that He does not desire or decree.
T. Pierce Brown
Published in The Old Paths Archive