Sometimes the Bible says the most shocking things! For instance, consider this pithy little verse:
The Lord has made everything for its purpose,
even the wicked for the day of trouble. ~~Proverbs 16:4 (ESV)
Many of us would probably like to push that verse aside to keep it from embarrassing us when we evangelize. To be honest, it plays into the mischaracterization of God as a cosmic chess player Who moves human beings about like pawns to satisfy His capricious whims. Not exactly an effective marketing strategy!
Additionally, this verse (and verses like it) suggest that God initiates sin. The same Bible that contains Proverbs 16:4 stridently refutes such a blasphemous assertion.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ~~James 1:13-15 (ESV)
At this point I’m fairly sure some skeptics of the Bible would gleefully seize on this as a “gotcha” moment that exposes contradictions in the Bible. I would answer that charge first by reminding them that human reason, while being a gift from God that we should use without hesitation, cannot reach the level of God’s mind (Isaiah 55:9-10, 1 Corinthians 1:20-25, Romans 11:33-35).
From that point, I would take people to Romans 9:19-24, which offers a resolution to the apparent conflict between Proverbs 16:4 and James 1:13-15. While I had them in this passage, I would also show them that God acts fairly in appointing some people to salvation and others to damnation. Look at the passage with me:
19 You will say to me then, “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” 20 But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22 What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23 in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24 even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? ~~Romans 9:19-24 (ESV)
Our problem with God’s sovereignty, particularly in relation to the doctrine of election, stems from a man-centered perspective. We mistakenly assume that God’s justice has to do with our standards. But it doesn’t. We exist (both believers and unbelievers) for the purpose of displaying His glory. That may seem ghoulish to us, I realize, because the limitations of human reason keeps us from understanding that He created everything for Himself (Colossians 1:15-18).
Rather than demanding that the King of creation accommodate His ways to our liking, or even that He explain His ways, we’d do better to bow to His wisdom. Those of us who love Him may not like those Scriptures that come against our limited understanding. Even so, we can’t help rejoicing at the thought that even the wicked serve His glorious purposes.