Why Do The Wicked Prosper?

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There is a question that has plagued the minds of believers down through the centuries just as it did the mind of Job (21:7-16), “Why do the wicked live and continue on and become powerful?” Job notes that these wicked men are bold enough to “say to God, ‘Depart from us! We do not desire any knowledge of your ways’.” How is it that God allows the wicked to live and to prosper while they manifest incorrigible arrogance? Centuries later when King David was wrestling with this very thought he transparently wrote (Ps 73:16), “When I sought to understand this, it was troublesome in my heart.” So, what is the answer to this question: Why is God gracious to evil men who, in David’s words, “wear pride like a necklace?” The answer to this question must first seek to find its satisfaction in the character of God and his

The answer to this question must first seek to find its satisfaction in the character of God and his expression of infinite grace. The term grace in both the OT (hen) and the NT (charis) means “favor,” “goodwill,” or “kindness” (DNTT, 2:115). However, as the NT data is specifically examined, the noun often refers to “concrete favor or act of kindness bestowed on someone, thus approaching the sense of gift” (NIDNTTE, 5:653). The gift idea means that whatever has been given is not the result of merit but from the unsolicited kindness of the giver. This was exactly Job’s resolution to his own question, “Behold their prosperity is not in their hand.” What he means is that the ultimate source of any good fortune to the wicked is not because of his own counsel or good luck, but in plan and purpose of God. You might be thinking, “Well, I get the fact that God is gracious to the wicked, but why is God so good to them?” The answer rests in the expression of his infinite grace. When grace is used in NT contexts where God favors man, there

You might be thinking, “Well, I get the fact that God is gracious to the wicked, but why is God so good to them?” The answer rests in the expression of his infinite grace. When grace is used in NT contexts where God favors man, there seem to be two distinguishable categories of his benefits. One category relates to the benefits that God bestows upon all men regardless of their spiritual condition. This is called in theology common grace or grace that is universally applied to all men. The second category exclusively connects the salvation benefits of God to those who put their faith and trust in Jesus Christ. This is best termed as saving grace and these favors are limited to the elect of God. By providing these two categories for the reader, I am not suggesting that there are “two different kinds of grace” (Grudem, Sys Theo, p. 657 makes this very point); rather, I am only noting that God manifests his grace in our world among mankind in two distinguishable ways.When we narrowly focus on God’s common benefits to all men, both the OT and the NT are

When we narrowly focus on God’s common benefits to all men, both the OT and the NT are clear. King David wrote the following (Ps 145): “The Lord is good to all and His mercies are over all His works….[He is] kind in all His deeds.” In the NT Jesus expressed God’s kindness to all men in Matt 5:45, “He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. Again, Jesus declared in Luke 6:35 “[God] is kind to ungrateful and evil men.”

So, why would God favor men who are evil and ungrateful? The Scriptures pointedly state that the richness of God’s love for evil man goes beyond the temporary moment of his short life; rather, God is profoundly concerned for his eternal soul. God declared through the prophet Ezekiel, “‘As I live,’ says the Lord, ‘I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live.’” Paul concurs in Romans 2:4, “Do you think lightly of God’s kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?” In other words, God takes immense delight in being kind to evil men for the sole purpose of leading that soul into the path of righteousness. Truly, God’s infinite grace is amazing!

This article is an excerpt from the "Truth from the Agora" section of the Exposition, a monthly e-bulletin published by Virginia Beach Theological Seminary. Click HERE to sign-up to receive the Exposition each month.