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Description: Does God create evil? Is there any reason why evil is in the world?
What Were We Made For?
Sermon Transcript by Reverend Ernest O’Neill
Why did God let Hitler live? That question most of us would categorize under the general theme of
the problem of evil. Another similar question would be: Why does God allow little innocent children
to die in wars and in persecutions and of incurable diseases? We all know that the general thrust of
the question is this: How can a good God allow evil like that to continue in his world? Surely,
either he must not exist, or he must have made the evil and therefore wants it, or he must not be
able to do anything about it. That is the problem of evil. I want to speak to all of us here who
keep on thinking, “Oh, I could believe in God, except for the problem of evil.”
Well, loved ones, there is no problem in the problem of evil. The problem of evil is easily and
clearly and repeatedly explained in this dear book. Let’s look at the verse that explains all of
those questions and problems. It is Romans 9:22: “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to
make known his power, has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction.” The
vessels of wrath are things, for the purpose of our discussion, like disease, persecution, Hitlers
or Sons of Sam or Stalins or Pharaohs; anyone who is an instrument of evil and pain and hurt to
Does God cause evil? Well, it is obvious from that verse that he doesn’t. You see the words, “What
if God…has endured with much patience the vessels of wrath”? You don’t make something that opposes
your will and then talk of enduring that something with much patience. So obviously if God is talked
about as enduring with much patience persecution, wars, and Stalins and Pharaohs and Hitlers, then
he obviously hasn’t made them. It makes nonsense of the language. You don’t make something that
opposes your will and then say that you are enduring it with much patience. So, the first obvious
fact is that God doesn’t cause evil. He doesn’t create evil. He didn’t make Hitler with special
qualities that would enable him to slaughter millions of people. God did not create evil, and He did
not create men and women evil. What causes these things? Look back at that verse. It is “vessels of
wrath made for destruction,” The Greek word is “katertismena” and it means “having been fitted”,
“having fitted themselves” for destruction. And it is the vessels of wrath that cause the evil.
Hitler killed because he wanted to kill. Somebody destroys some of the things that age happening in
your life because they want to do it. They exercise their free will which they have been given by
God, and they do what they want to do. It is the vessels of wrath that do the things themselves.
Doesn’t God want to stop them? Look at Romans 9:22: “What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to
make known his power…” Yes, he does. The Father’s heart bled more for the first little baby that
was killed in the Holocaust than any of our hearts bled. God wants to show his wrath, and he wants
to make known his power. He wants to stop Hitler from killing, he wants to stop disease destroying,
and he wants to stop persecution and maiming. He wants to stop those things.
Isn’t he able to? Yes, sure he is. Around 1500 B.C. in Egypt when Pharaoh was oppressing the
Israelites and using them as slave labor, God turned a11 the drinking water throughout Egypt into
blood. He sent plagues of flies and lice and gnats and then finally killed all the first born
children of the Egyptians. Yes, God has all the power that is needed to top these things. You and I
know the power of nature each spring, we know the mighty destruction that has been wrought by the
powers of nature. Yes, God has plenty of power; He can stop these things. Why then doesn’t God
supernaturally direct the powers of nature to stop a Hitler after he has killed? The first person,
to stop a murderer after he has taken away the first life? Why doesn’t God step in?
Last Sunday we said there were two great reasons. One was, to preserve free will. God’s plan for all
of us here is that we would spend these seventy years deciding whether we want to become like him
and his Son and whether we wanted to spend the rest of our existence sharing the love of him and the
Trinity family. That is why we have been given these seventy years, to decide if we want to do that,
to either become like him so that we can do it, or to remain as we are. God has given us free will
for that purpose. He wants a family of love. Pure love is only possible in people who have free
wills. So God had to give us free wills, so that we could choose to do what we want and decide whom
we were going to live with forever. That is the whole purpose God gave us free will.
Now do you see that the moment God steps in and kills a Hitler the very same hour he conceives of
the SS, God has actually ended free will in the world? If every time a baby is hurt by cruel
parents, God sends an angel down and destroys those parents, then it isn’t long after that free will
ceases in this earth. Because we are all so frightened when we do a thing that we no longer choose
or reject, we just are for our own self preservation.
Moreover, I would say to you, when would you step in? When would you step in to prevent these
things? Do you step in the moment Hitler was born? Would you step in the moment he conceived of the
whole plan of the master German race? Would you step in the moment he began to organize the SS?
Would you step in the moment he organized the first gas chamber? When would you step in? Do you see
that the moment you step in, the moment that you intervene in that way by the sheer power that you
have, that moment you cease to have free will in the earth? Don’t you think that is why Patty Hearst
had to go to jail?
Don’t you think that our only hope is that personal accountability and personal responsibility will
develop as people see the consequences of their own choices? Don’t you think that is the only hope
we have of a free society? Do you think that is why, we all feel we don’t want the rich man’s
daughter to get off? Don’t you think we also feel that she had to go to prison for the sake of the
girl’s sake or any people that are brought up in wealthy homes, so that they will see that there are
consequences that follow the choices they make? If those consequences are not allowed to follow,
they will never learn; they will never become any different. That is why God has to allow free will
to exercise itself and even to produce consequences that we don’t agree with. That is the only hope
he has of us ever learning and ever becoming the kind of people that he wants us to be–freely,
because we want to.
Another reason is that God endures the vessels of wrath that are made and fitted for destruction so
that they will have a chance to repent. To us this is unthinkable. We would often go right in there
and destroy the Hitlers, destroy the Stalins. The Father’s heart, even as it bleeds for the millions
that died in the concentration camps, at the same time, right up to the very last moment of Hitler’s
death, God is beseeching him and commanding him to repent. So God endures with much patience these
vessels of wrath. He lets evil continue in the world, not only to preserve the principle of free
will, but secondly to try to bring those loved ones to repentance, because he loves them as well as
he loves each of us.
Now today I ask you to consider a third reason why God allows those people to hurt you financially
by their dishonesty. Because that is what “vessels of wrath” comes down to in our personal lives,
doesn’t it? It comes down to petty little inconveniences that other people do to us, and so to us
they are vessels of wrath. There is another reason why God allows that person in your home to spoil
your living situation by their own insensitivity and cruelty.
There is another reason why God has allowed others to destroy and frustrate your vocational hopes by
their own injustice and prejudice. It is in Romans 9:23: “In order to make know the riches of his
glory for the vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory.” This reason for the
continued existence of evil in this world, in your life and my life, isn’t so much connected with
the vessels of wrath as were those other reasons, to bring them to repentance or allow free will to
continue, but this reason is connected with us whom we like to think of as the vessels of mercy.
This reason is connected with the victims of the powers of evil. It is connected with those of us
who feel others are destroying our lives, with those of us who feel other people are spoiling our
happiness by their own sinfulness. This reason is connected up with us. And paradoxical though it
may seem, the reason God allows that unjust employer to treat you in the unfair way that he is; the
reason that God allows that loved one in your home to continue to destroy your peace and harmony by
his insensitivity and cruelty; the reason God has allowed those people who are in charge of your
promotion to frustrate your vocational hopes by their own injustice and unfairness and prejudice, is
for your sake. It is for your sake.
Now loved ones, if you can receive this and grasp it, I know this will change and transform your
attitude to vicissitudes and trials, as it changed my attitude. In other words, it is a bit like
Joseph’s situation with his brothers. His brothers sold him into slavery. They hated him; they were
fed up with this Joseph who was the favorite of the family, so they sold him into slavery. You
remember God used his imprisonment in Egypt to bring him to the awareness of the Pharaoh, the king
of Egypt. Eventually Joseph was elevated to the position of the governor of Egypt. Then you remember
what Joseph said to his brothers. He said, “You meant it for evil, but God had another plan
completely. He meant it for my good. That is why he allowed it to happen.” That is the situation.
The reason God allows evil to have certain effects on your life and mine is because God has a plan
for us that is bigger than what we ourselves know about. That plan is stated in Romans 9:23: “The
vessels of mercy which he has prepared beforehand for glory.”
God actually designed every one of us and prepared and created us carefully for glory. That is what
we were made for. For glory! Now there is a tendency for some of us to think that glory is a cross
between a Democratic and a Republican political convention with you up there on the platform and
everybody chanting, “Glory to him, glory to him, how- wonderful he is!” and Jesus crowning you with
a great crown of jewels. Well, that isn’t glory at all! That is our childish idea of what glory is.
Glory is something deeper than that, loved ones, and you will understand it if you look at 2
Corinthians 3:18: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being
changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another.”
Now the glory of the Lord is God as he is. It is not something else that is silly. It is God as he
is. It is God as absolute truth, absolute love, and absolute purity. He is the truth. If you and I
were to see him now as he really is now, we would be blinded forever by the sight. We could not bear
the sight of undiluted honesty such as his.
So, at the moment, we cannot even see him as he is. But God’s plan is that we will be able to look
at him with unveiled face, that is, without these veils that we have on. We will be able to see him
as he really is, and then we will be changed from glory to glory into his likeness. When we look at
him and see him as he is, we ourselves will become like him and will share his nature. That is what
“we are made for glory” means. We are made to be joyfully free like God. We are made to be
graciously loving like God. We are made to be magnanimously forgiving and merciful like God. God’s
plan is that we will see what he is like and then that is what comes into our own lives. No, how
does that come about?
Well, first of all, we are not like that at all. We are pretty miserable little creatures. We are
selfish, petty, and narrow-minded. We have small vision, we are discouraging to others when we
should be encouraging; we are resentful when we should be helping another person; we are cowardly
when we should be daring; we are very much like the Israelites in Egypt.
We grind under our burdens, utterly preoccupied with them. Here on this shoulder I have a mortgage
payment, on that shoulder I have the rent payment, on my back I have the installment payments,
further down I have the taxes to pay, and I have the worries about my life during this coming week.
Most of us are pretty burdened little creatures, pretty miserable–looking little souls.
It is interesting that we are like the Israelites in another way, and maybe it would be good to look
at what they are like and you will recognize yourself. Exodus 16:1-3: “They set out from Elim, and
all the congregation of the people of Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim
and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt.
And the whole congregation of the people of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron in the
wilderness, and said to them, ‘Would that we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt,
when we sat by the fleshpots and ate bread to the full; for you have brought us out into this
wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.'”
We are much the same; we are miserable under our burdens, but at least we know what those burdens
are. We know what our income tax is; we know what our installments are. We are miserable and
burdened with them, but at least we know what we have to face. It is strange, when anybody wants to
move us into a new environment, we don’t want to go, because at least we know the problems we have
to cope with here, and we can try to cope with them with our own ability. In other words, even
though we are miserable, we love to think we are self-sufficient. We love to think, “Well, at least
these things I can carry; I am not carrying them very victoriously, but at least I am carrying
Do you see that God would never have gotten the Israelites out into the wilderness? He would never
have gotten them out into an environment that was full of unknown dangers — an environment and a
world that they could not cope with through their own power and ability — an environment and an
experience that was beyond what they had before and that they could not manage by their own
powers–God would never have gotten them into the wilderness, because they didn’t want to go there.
They hated the wilderness, just the way we do. We hate being thrown into situations or experiences
that are beyond our own abilities to cope with, that are beyond our own resources. We hate that.
Even though we are not doing very well with the problems that we have, at least we know them and we
have adjusted our ability and life to them, but we hate the wilderness,
God would never have gotten them out into the wilderness if he had destroyed Pharaoh and the
Egyptians. Do you see that?
If God had come right down and destroyed the vessels of wrath the moment Pharaoh opposed the people,
if God had struck Pharaoh dead as he was able to, if he had just destroyed all the Egyptians, not
just the first-born, do you see the Israelites would never have been driven out into the wilderness?
They would presumably have sat in the fleshpots of Egypt and lived there in their own miserable
self-sufficiency the rest of their lives, achieving small aims with little power to achieve them,
but achieving them. God had to endure with much patience the vessels of wrath, Pharaoh and the
Egyptians, not simply for their sake, but in order to make known the riches of his glory to the
vessels of mercy which he had prepared beforehand for glory.
So God suffered Pharaoh to continue in existence so that he could use Pharaoh to drive the
Israelites out into the wilderness, and there they saw God’s glory. Exodus 16:6-7: “So Moses and
Aaron said to all the people of Israel, ‘At evening you shall know that it was the Lord who brought
you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord, because he has
heard your murmurings against the Lord. For what are we that you murmur against us?'” They told the
Israelites, “In the morning you shall see the glory of the Lord.” Then in verse 13: “In the evening
quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning dew lay round about the camp. And when the
dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as hoarfrost
on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, ‘What is it?’ For they
did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, ‘It is the bread which the Lord has given you to
That was the glory of the Lord. The glory of the Lord is not only God as he really is, but it is
God’s reality and his power made manifest in a touchable and see able thing or event here in this
world. The Israelites would never have seen God’s power and glory if they hadn’t been driven beyond
their own resources. God’s will was for them to see his glory and his nature as it really is, filled
with love and power, able to affect things here in this world; and then to begin to share that
nature themselves. So that as they saw God’s power and nature, they would begin to let that nature
and power come into themselves and would actually be made like him through the experience.
You see, you know the truth. When have you been closest to God? Every one of us will answer the same
way: when our dad died, when our mom died, when our husband or wife died, when our child died, when
somebody died. I remember in Ireland when my old grandmother died. She was 85 and gloriously in
Jesus. I remember going back to her house with Dad because I didn’t want him sleeping there on his
own. The coffin was kept in the home in those days. I was about thirteen and I slept with him there
in the house. I remember that night, because we were in touch with something that was beyond us.
This dear lady that we had known alive was somewhere else and we didn’t know where that was, but we
knew it was in the hands of God.
You know when you are closest to God: when you have lost your job, when the bottom has dropped out
of the finances, when all your vocational hopes have gone, when you failed the exam, when some
terrible tragedy has occurred in your personal life. Do you see, loved ones, those are not
unpleasant interludes in an otherwise cloudless sky of happiness. Those are dear gifts from God to
In those moments we have not the resources or the power or the ability to face that thing, and we in
desperation grab out for God and draw his power and grace into us, and we lean upon him heavily. And
before we know it, we begin to see the forbearance of his own Spirit coming into our spirits, and we
begin to sense his rest coming into us. Haven’t we all experienced more rest in the middle of those
tragedies and vicissitudes and trials then we have at any other time in our lives? Why then do we
fight them? Why do we rail against the trials that come upon us, when those are the very things that
God uses to drive us beyond our resources?
Loved ones, here is the truth. You were never meant to tackle this life by your own life force. The
little things that you and I can do by our own abilities aren’t worth doing. We never were meant to
live this life by our own life force. Otherwise, we will die our own death. We were meant to live
here in cooperation with the power of God’s life. God wants us to achieve things that are beyond us.
That is why he puts you into situations where your patience is not enough. That is why he puts you
into situations where you can’t see your way through. That is why he puts you in situations where
you can’t call forth any more love; there is no more love left down in your heart. God does it
because he knows that your little supply of love is hopeless, and his whole plan is that you would
share his nature and love and take to yourself his supernatural personality and become like him, so
that you will be at home with the spiritual giants that will surround him forever. That is why the
Father lovingly allows us to come into these things.
God endures with much patience the vessels of wrath made for destruction, not only to bring them to
repentance, not only to preserve free will, but in order that he might show forth the riches of his
glory to the vessels of mercy who have been made for glory. Because unless you are driven beyond
your own abilities, you will never draw into yourself by desire and faith the very nature and power
of God. Therefore you will never become like God with all your intellectualism. You will never
become like him unless you are drawing him into yourself. That is why Paul said, “That I may know
him and the power of his resurrection.”[Philippians 3:10] How do you know the power of his
resurrection? I know how you know his resurrection; it is a historical fact. But how do you know the
power of his resurrection? We know by experiencing the power.
There will come a day when we will all experience the actual power of Jesus raising us from the
dead, but in this present life God graciously allows many trials and vicissitudes to come upon us so
that we will grab out and know by experience the power of his resurrection, because there is no one
else to go to. We should greet it as pure joy when we enter into various trials because through
those trials we are going to grab out to God, and he is going to give you his own power and nature
and you will come out of that trial more like God than you went in. That is his plan.
I wish you could sense what I sensed when God showed me that we should not be frustrated when we
come into these situations that go beyond us. We should not be frustrated because of these vessels
of wrath and the way they treat us in our lives. We should look to the Father and say, “Lord, you
know this has come about. You know you have a plan to give me something of yourself in this, that I
could not otherwise receive. Lord, I’m willing and waiting.”
Then before you know it, there comes a supernatural strength that produces a love and a patience
that you never knew you had. This will come to you if you will see that your dear Father is trying
to drive you into the wilderness. So stop yearning for the old fleshpots; stop yearning for the
little problems that you were once able to tackle by your own strength, and move victoriously and
valiantly forward into a new world where we can attempt great things for God and be great people for
God and expect great things from God.
Let us pray.
Father, thank you that you have such a great plan for us. Thank you that you have such a plan of
glory for us. Thank you, Lord, that you want to drive us out of these little petty selves and drive
us into a place where we share the life of our Creator. Where we can live not by our own power but
by the power of him who made us. Lord, thank you for that.
Now the grace of our Lord Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with each
one of us throughout this week.