In Elpis Israel, Brother Thomas wrote, “Wrong consists not in any particular act of which we are capable; but in that act being contrary to the letter and spirit of the divine testimony: in other words, right is the doing of the will of God” (The Carnal Mind, page 92).

In his book “Conviction and Conduct” Brother Islip Collyer picks up on this point and brings our understanding to a new level. “In what part of nature do the advocates of such theories (of Evolution) find the commands: Thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not steal, or thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself? … To “fear God and keep his commandments,” is “the whole duty of man” (Eccl 12:13), and in that idea we have the foundation of all morality and all good. … If we desire to prepare to meet our fellow man, human fashion would be the best guide, but if we desire to prepare for that far higher society which will only admit those who are made partakers of the divine nature, our foundation must be the law of God. Our repudiation of mere human standards will lead to some conclusions far removed from human philosophy, startling to those who do not understand, and perhaps not quite realised by many who have learned the first principles of the oracles of God” (The Foundation of Morality, pages 88–89).

Mankind from God’s perspective

One of the foremost points to understand regarding this subject is that many of the things that occur in the world do so under God’s direction, since His “will be done in earth, as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). He has a plan and purpose with mankind, and He works tirelessly to bring it about by managing the destiny of nations to that end (Dan. 4:17; Acts 17:26). His main objective is the establishment of His Kingdom here on earth with His Son ruling on His behalf (Dan 2:44; Rev 11:15). Moreover, all that God does in this pursuit, no matter how distasteful it seems to our natural feelings is right and proper and in accordance with His morality; or as the Psalmist says – “The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works” (Psa 145:17). Scripture tells us this about the human race: “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23). Here the word ‘sin’ means – ‘to miss the mark’. What is the mark? It is God’s revealed will as found in His Word! To miss the mark therefore is to sin against God because, “Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth … the law (of God): for sin is the transgression of … (His) law” (1 John 3:4).

So whatever God says to do is right, and whatever God says not to do is wrong (sin).

It is important to understand that God is a Being whose perfect standard of moral values will never be compromised to accommodate the fickleness of human nature. Sin today is no less repulsive to Him than it was in the days of Adam and Eve. Therefore when Adam and Eve transgressed, God was compelled to intervene, and according to divine principles: “the wages of sin is death” (Rom 6:23). As their descendants we now inherit their sin-prone nature (Rom 5:12), consequently sin and death are certain to all (1 Cor 15:21–22). Thus we learn that with God certain actions have inevitable consequences; this is His immutable law of “cause and effect.”

We should also be mindful that all are guilty of sin when divine standards are violated, even though an individual is ignorant of what those standards might be (Lev 5:17). These are sins of ignorance. However with God – ignorance does not equate to innocence. Therefore liability for unknown sin is still sin and attracts the ultimate penalty. Equally though, with God all sin (except one: Matt 12:31) is forgivable when repented of, but unrepentant sin always results in death. However, responsibility and accountability increase as a person’s knowledge of God’s Word increases (see Luke 12:47–48), therefore knowledge brings greater opportunity to obey and serve, but also more severe punishment if we then reject His ways (John 15:22–24). Finally, we also need to be aware that with God death is a vindication of His law – “that He might be just” or ‘vindicated’ in rightly penalising sin with death (Rom 3:26).

Time and chance

Next we look at a principle that has the potential to impact on all our lives, and that is the principle of ‘time and chance’ as found in Ecclesiastes:– “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all” (9:11).

In his book “The Ways of Providence” Brother Roberts wrote the following about this subject:– “There is such a thing as chance, as distinct from what God does. The Bible declares this (Eccl 9:11) and the experience of every day teaches it….God has control of all chance; but all chance is not controlled. It is controlled when His purpose requires it. His purpose does not require Him to decide which shells every or any child on the sea-shore shall pick up and which to throw away, unless the incident be a link in the purpose being worked out, and then the hand of the child will be guided. This illustration touches a great fact which it is important to see clearly” (p.5).

An illustration of the above is found in the tower of Siloam incident.

Tragedies and the Tower of Siloam

Sometimes tragedies arise that prompt us to question as to why they did occur. For example, why did a loving and compassionate God allow al-Qaeda terrorists on the 11th of September 2001 to hijack planes and crash them into the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon killing some 3000 people and as a consequence cause untold pain and suffering to all concerned?

Or why did God consent to the death of a million Jews (including women and children) at the hands of the Romans when they destroyed Jerusalem in A.D.70? (Luke 21:20–38). How can we reconcile this with a God Who exercises loving kindness, compassion, and righteousness on many other occasions?

Again what of World War II? A war utilised by God (Deut 28:64–67; 30:3–5; Jer 16:15–17; Jer 30:3), that resulted in such horrific consequences that it forced many of the surviving Jews of Europe to emigrate to Palestine in fulfilment of His Word (Ezek 37). But in doing so, 50 million people lost their lives, including 6 million Jews. How can we explain God’s actions here when He claims to be a God of love, compassion, mercy and longsuffering?

We need to put such incidents into God’s perspective as explained previously. Perhaps it is helpful to relate these to the Tower of Siloam tragedy. Christ addressed an attentive Jewish crowd by saying, “Those eighteen (men), upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No: but except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4–5).

The Jews at that time thought a person’s suffering was proportional to their sin. In other words – the greater the sinner, the greater the suffering. But Christ immediately refutes that suggestion. It is also interesting that he does not offer a reason as to why the tower fell, neither does he give a detailed explanation as to why God would allow such pain and suffering to be inflicted on these men and their families (Are we meant to work it out ourselves?). Instead he made it personal to those listening by stating: “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.”

There are two key points that come out of this incident. Firstly, it defines the eternal destiny of much of the world’s humanity, and secondly, the Lord links sin and suffering with death for some reason! On the first point, as previously stated – No one is ‘innocent’ in God’s eyes as far as sin is concerned! All have sinned and come short of His glory, so all are worthy of death, be that sooner or later in their lives (Rom 3:23). Death can happen in a variety of different ways; be it accidently, tragically, brutally (ie ‘a time and chance’ event) or naturally. It’s not the way in which we die or our age at the time that is relevant to a righteous God – the instant we sin, death is a worthy consequence. And since all men everywhere are subject to the caprice of ‘time and chance’, it would be unwise to treat one’s eternal destiny with indifference; rather it should be secured whilst the opportunity exists. Sadly though, “Because sentence against an evil work in not executed speedily (by God), the heart of the sons of men is fully set … to do evil” (Eccl 8:11). In other words, because the sentence of death is not executed the moment an individual transgresses, he sees no real consequences for his actions; therefore he continues to live a life of sin. And although God’s mercy in permitting unrepentant sinners continuing life is largely unappreciated, in time, if squandered, death will overtake all. In the interim, the urgency of the message is ever before us, “God commandeth all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30–31). So for those who heed the Lord’s advice and repent whilst they have the opportunity, they have the hope of eternal life beyond the grave through the resurrection when Christ returns to the earth to judge it, and to establish his Father’s Kingdom. But not so those who reject God’s offer of salvation! It’s also vital to understand that we are saved “out of ” death, as was Christ, we do not avoid it altogether as some teach! (Heb. 5:7).

The second question arising from Christ’s comments upon the Tower in Siloam incident is why he couples ‘sin’ and ‘death together. The answer is – to him they are as cause and effect. Therefore ‘sin’, as the cause, is the problem and, if done away with, then so too can it’s ‘effect’, death!