All Things Work Together for Good?
"Everything happens for a purpose." Or does it? "Nothing can happen unless God permits it." Is that the same truth? "Does not the Bible say that 'All things work together for good'"? Does it really say that? Having heard these statements made recently by denominational friends, I decided to take a closer look. These statements do sound good. They were made to comfort and encourage one who had suffered tragedy. But are they true? Do they have a scriptural basis?
Did God arbitrarily cause the confusion of languages or did man take matters into his own hands and thus suffer the consequences? The scripture teaches that "the whole earth was of one language and one speech." Then man decided, "...let us build us a city ... let us make us a name..." The result was that the Lord said, "...this they begin to do; and now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do. Go to, let us go down and there confound their language, that they may not understand one another's speech" (Genesis 11:1-9).
Did God cause John the Baptist to be beheaded for a purpose? Was it not rather the result of sin on the part of Herod and Herodias? The scripture teaches that John had told Herod, "It is not lawful for thee to have thy brother's wife." Then the daughter of Herodias danced before Herod. Having pleased him, she obtained the promise that she could have that for which she asked. At the instruction of Herodias she asked for the head of John the Baptist in a charger. Her request was granted (Mark 6:16-28).
Did God cause a tabernacle to be made unto himself for a purpose? Speaking to Moses, the Lord said, "And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them. According to all that I shew thee, after the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the instruments thereof, even so shall ye make it" (Exodus 25:8,9). And in Hebrews 8:5 we find, "Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle, for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount." Thus, we see that God DID cause a tabernacle to be made for a purpose. And that purpose was that it might serve as a shadow of things to come.
Using these three examples, we can see that some things have happened as a consequence of man's own perverseness or sin. On the other hand, we also see that God did cause some things to happen simply for His own purposes.
We believe that God is just and righteous and abhors sin. Let us assume that God had a purpose in having John the Baptist beheaded. How, then, did God accomplish His purpose? Was it not through sin? Carrying this reasoning one step further, did God cause Herod and Herodias to sin that His purpose might be accomplished? And, still a step further, how can one be guilty of sin if he has acted at the control of God? Is this the just and righteous God in whom we believe? Is it any wonder that reasonable men who are not familiar with scripture may become atheists when they reason out this conclusion of the doctrine that God causes EVERYTHING for a purpose?
Then the question may be raised, "Though God may not cause everything to happen for a purpose, will not He work everything together for good?" Does not the scripture explicitly state that? Let us see what the scripture really says, "And we know that all things work together for good TO THEM THAT LOVE GOD, to them who are the called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). Upon examination we find that this promise is ONLY to those who love God and who are the called according to His purpose!
When the ship which was to carry Paul to Italy was to depart from The Fair Havens, Paul admonished, "Sirs, I perceive that this voyage will be with hurt and much damage, not only of the lading and ship, but also of our lives." Those in charge refused to heed Paul's admonition. The ship was wrecked on the island of Melita. Paul loved God. He was called according to His purpose. God DID work all things together for the good of Paul (Acts 27,28).
But what about the owner of the ship? Did not he lose the cargo his ship was carrying? Were not the ship's supplies lost? Did not his ship suffer extensive damage? Is there any scriptural evidence that these losses were to his good?
And what about Herod and Herodias? Is there any scriptural evidence that the beheading of John the Baptist led them to repentance? Then, to what purpose? To fulfill prophecy? Then did God use sin to fulfill His prophecy? Is there not a difference in God foreknowing what would be the actions of men and it being His will for men to act in the manner in which they do? Think about it.
"He that speaketh truth sheweth forth righteousness: but a false witness deceit" (Proverbs 12:17). Paul admonished Timothy, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth" (2 Timothy 2:15). All about us we hear well-intentioned persons "quoting" God's word. Often it is either misquoted, or taken out of context. Often the message conveyed by partial truth is directly or indirectly contrary to eternal Truths taught in the scriptures. Let us not be false witnesses of God's eternal truth. Let us be certain that the things we present as God's Word really ARE God's word. Let us speak the truth!
And the truth is that there is no scriptural evidence to prove that God causes all things which happen to mankind. Nor is there any scriptural evidence that God will work all things together for good to those who hate Him or to those who are not the called according to His purpose. But there IS scriptural evidence that God will work all things together for good to them that love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.
Sandra F. Cobble
Published in The Old Paths Archive