Lifting the Veil on Good and Evil

Bible Book: Romans  16 : 19
Subject: Divine Wisdom; discernment

Lifting the veil on good and evil is most helpful in these days marked by good and marred by evil. Paul’s wish for those in Rome is my wish for you.  Romans 16:19 reads, “. . . I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil.” After sending greetings to the saints in Rome, Paul gives the following authoritative apostolic admonition: “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple. For your obedience has become known to all. Therefore I am glad on your behalf; but I want you to be wise in what is good, and simple concerning evil. And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen” (Romans 16:17-20). Rev. Charles Simeon (1759-1836) explains, “WHOEVER knows the perverseness of the human mind, must see that it is in vain to hope that any Church under heaven should be long free from the influence of error and contention. What St. Paul said to the elders of Ephesus, when he parted with them at Miletus, must sooner or later be addressed to all who have been long favoured with the ministry of the Gospel, that ‘grievous wolves will enter in among them, not sparing the flock; and that even of their ownselves will men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them [Acts 20:29-30.].’ The Church at Rome was as free from this spirit as any in the apostolic age. Their faith [Romans 1:8.], and love [Romans 15:14.], and obedience, were such as to render them famous through the whole Christian world, insomuch that St. Paul rejoiced greatly on their account: yet he judged it necessary to caution them against ‘those who wished to cause divisions and offences among them .’ In prosecution of his purpose he tells them what he wished for in their behalf, namely, that they should be wise unto that which is good, and simple concerning evil.”1

Many well-meaning Christians misunderstand the second part of Romans 16:19. Of course, the word translated “simple” means innocent not ignorant. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 2:11, “lest Satan should take advantage of us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” We are “to be wise in what is good, and [innocent] concerning evil.”

There are five things to note about good and evil.

I. First, there is the moral responsibility. Here we consider good and evil.

Dr. Herschel H. Hobbs (1907-1995) asks, “How can God be sovereign and yet man be free?” He answers, “God’s sovereignty means that he can act within his own will apart from the counsel or permission of others, and in keeping with his nature, to accomplish his benevolent will and purpose. Yet by his own choice he has created man as a person with the right of choice. Otherwise man would be a puppet on a string, with no choice as to his eternal destiny or his conduct in time. If this be true, then ultimately God is responsible for man’s sin, which, of course, is unthinkable. It is in this sense, therefore, that an all-powerful, sovereign God has in matters of the spirit voluntarily limited himself to the response of the free will of man. This is not an evidence of God’s weakness but of his power. Man can obey or rebel against God’s will, but a sovereign God holds him responsible for his choices.”2

Genesis 2:15-17 reads, “Then the Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to tend and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’” Genesis 3:1-7 reads, “Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, ‘Has God indeed said, ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?’ And the woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, ‘You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.’’ Then the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’ So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves coverings.” Genesis 3:22-24 reads, “Then the Lord God said, ‘Behold, the man has become like one of Us, to know good and evil. And now, lest he put out his hand and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever’— therefore the Lord God sent him out of the garden of Eden to till the ground from which he was taken. So He drove out the man; and He placed cherubim at the east of the garden of Eden, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to guard the way to the tree of life.”

Hebrews 9:27 reads, “And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment.” You will appear at one of these judgments. First, we read about the judgment seat of Christ in 2 Corinthians 5:9-11. This judgment will be for the believer’s reward in heaven. Second, we read about the great white throne judgment in Revelation 20:11-15. This judgment will be for the unbeliever’s retribution in hell.

II. Second, there is the beneficial ability. Here we consider good from evil.

Genesis 50:20 reads, “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good. . . .” Romans 8:28 reads, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” Psalm 103:2 reads, “Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits.” Remember, it is the Lord who brings good from evil, not man.  Romans 3:1-8 reads, “What advantage then has the Jew, or what is the profit of circumcision? Much in every way! Chiefly because to them were committed the oracles of God. For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect? Certainly not! Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar. As it is written: ‘That You may be justified in Your words, And may overcome when You are judged.’ But if our unrighteousness demonstrates the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unjust who inflicts wrath? (I speak as a man.) Certainly not! For then how will God judge the world? For if the truth of God has increased through my lie to His glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? And why not say, ‘Let us do evil that good may come’?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just.” In Romans Unlocked: Power to Deliver, Dr. René A. Lopez helpfully applies this passage: “As a result of corrupt reasoning, the sinner objects to being judged for sin since it enhances God’s Holy character. Hence he says, ‘Let us do evil that good may come’? Stunningly, rumor had it that Paul and his companions were slanderously reported as teaching this very thing. However, just because God uses man’s transgression to enhance His glory and display His grace, it does not mean man should go unpunished.”3

Exodus 8:16-19a reads, “So the Lord said to Moses, ‘Say to Aaron, ‘Stretch out your rod, and strike the dust of the land, so that it may become lice throughout all the land of Egypt.’’ And they did so. For Aaron stretched out his hand with his rod and struck the dust of the earth, and it became lice on man and beast. All the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt. Now the magicians so worked with their enchantments to bring forth lice, but they could not. So there were lice on man and beast. Then the magicians said to Pharaoh, ‘This is the finger of God.’” As it was impossible for the magicians to duplicate this miracle, it is impossible for man to make good come out of evil!

1 Peter 4:14 reads, “If you are reproached for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. On their part He is blasphemed, but on your part He is glorified.” Remember, God can sort things out and He can make good from evil!

III. Third, there is the spiritual perversity. Here we consider good for evil or evil for good. 

Isaiah 5:20 reads, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!”

Dr. Adrian Rogers (1931-2005) writes, “Do you know what an evil conscience is? An evil conscience is a conscience that literally approves evil. I mean, do you know that some people are so warped and so twisted that they actually call good bad and bad good? Isaiah 5:20: ‘Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter’ (Isaiah 5:20). People can get so warped, so distorted that they don't know the difference between right and wrong and they actually think that wrong is right and right is wrong. ‘Woe unto them that call evil good’ (Isaiah 5:20). That is ‘an evil conscience’ (Hebrews 10:22).”4  1 Timothy 1:18-20 reads, “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy, according to the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, having faith and a good conscience, which some having rejected, concerning the faith have suffered shipwreck, of whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I delivered to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme.”

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) asked, “How many legs does a dog have if you call his tail a leg? Four. Saying that a tail is a leg doesn't make it a leg.”

Dr. Warren W. Wiersbe explains, “Moral standards were destroyed by new definitions of sin (see Amos 5:7), people using God's vocabulary but not His dictionary. Like today's ‘doublespeak,’ this kind of language made it easy to deceive people and avoid a guilty conscience. In today's world, increased taxes are ‘revenue enhancements,’ and poor people are ‘fiscal underachievers.’ Medical malpractice is not the cause of a patient's death; it's a ‘diagnostic misadventure of high magnitude.’ (See DoubleSpeak by William Lutz.) The Jerusalem Bible translation of Psalm 12:2 says it perfectly: ‘All they do is lie to one another, flattering lips, talk from a double heart.’”5 2 Timothy 3:13 reads, “But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.” Folks like these are joining churches in record numbers in the days in which we live. The closer we get to the time of the Lord’s return the more we will see radical evil in the church. 

IV. Fourth, there is the cardinal equity. Here we consider good over evil.

Romans 12:17-21 reads, “Repay no one evil for evil. Have regard for good things in the sight of all men. If it is possible, as much as depends on you, live peaceably with all men. Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord. Therefore ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; If he is thirsty, give him a drink; For in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

The term “cardinal” means of great importance.  Therefore, when we refer to “the cardinal equity,” we mean that God will make things right.  In other words, when we turn the vengeance over to the Lord, He will repay.  2 Timothy 4:14-16 reads, “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. You also must beware of him, for he has greatly resisted our words. At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me. May it not be charged against them.” Notice Paul deals with these situations differently. People who think they are getting away with things will face it in a way they wish they never did! From the pages of Our Daily Bread, “We can endure life’s wrongs because we know God will make things right.”6

1 Peter 2:18-25 reads, “Servants, be submissive to your masters with all fear, not only to the good and gentle, but also to the harsh. For this is commendable, if because of conscience toward God one endures grief, suffering wrongfully. For what credit is it if, when you are beaten for your faults, you take it patiently? But when you do good and suffer, if you take it patiently, this is commendable before God. For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’; who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Rev. Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) writes, “You know the old saying, evil for good is devil-like, evil for evil is beast-like, good for good is manlike, good for evil is God-like.”7

V. Fifth, there is the personal opportunity. Here we consider good or evil.

Job 1:1 reads, “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.”  Though this verse does not have the word “good” in it, let me assure you it does express “the highest good” which is to be “. . . blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil.”  In the best sense Job was a good man because Job was a godly man! Dr. Dan Nelson, pastor of the First Baptist Church in Camarillo, California, shared the following:

“Satan wants to destroy your life, your family, your marriage, your job, your happiness and your freedom. Stand with God and fight back. The devil is a liar!” 1 Peter 5:5-11 reads, “Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith, knowing that the same sufferings are experienced by your brotherhood in the world. But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you. To Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Rev. Jimmy Chapman, pastor of Victory Baptist Church in Washington, Georgia, shared:

“Warning: This world has redefined the word love.  It now means

Acceptance of all false religions

Tolerance of all sinful behavior

Tolerance of false doctrines

Refusal to rebuke and expose anyone

Never offend anyone with truth.”

Beware of truth-less love and loveless truth! The proper way is found in Ephesians 4:15, “. . . speaking the truth in love. . . .” The world system provides an unacceptable alternative to God’s truth. Remember the believer must also choose between good or evil in realm of the flesh, hence it is a battle on three fronts, with the world, the flesh, and the devil. 


Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:43-45). Are you one of “the evil” or are you one of “the good”? Before you answer consider this. Mark 10:18 reads, “So Jesus said to him [a certain ruler], ‘Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.’” God is the one who determines what is good and what is evil, not man. Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse (1895-1960) explains, “The knowledge of good and evil came with the entrance of sin. ‘Ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil,’ was the promise of the devil, but he did not add that they would also become fallen creatures, unable to avoid evil and unable to do good in the divine sense except by the entrance of divine life and power through regeneration. But when the new life comes to us, we are to seek to develop an attitude of mind that will cause us to know and discern the good, in order that we may build it into our lives and follow it daily. At the same time, through the instinctive presence of the life of God the Holy Spirit, we shall feel the awareness of the approach of evil in order that we may flee to the Lord for refuge from it.”8 Hebrews 5:12-14 reads, “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food. For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.” It is the joy of my heart to see Christians move from “milk” to “solid food” in their spiritual diet! Far too many are content reciting their spiritual ABCs when they should be teaching. Remember, it is only by the Holy Spirit and with the Holy Scripture that we can continue lifting the veil on good and evil! 

1Charles Simeon, Sermon Hours (Horae Homileticae) - Expository Outlines on the Whole Bible – Volume 15: Romans. WORDsearch Corp.

2Herschel H. Hobbs, Studies in Ephesians: New Men in Christ (Waco, TX: Word Books, 1974), 11.

3René A. Lopez, Romans Unlocked: Power to Deliver (Springfield, MO: 21st Century Press, 2005), 70. 

4Adrian Rogers, “Why I Am Prolife“ Sermon Notes (Isaiah 5:20).

5Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary – Old Testament – The Prophets, 16. Database © 2007 WORDsearch Corp.

6Our Daily Bread, “Vengeance Is Mine” (Romans 12:17-21) Accessed: 08/03/17 .

7Charles H. Spurgeon, “The Heroic in Christianity” Sermon Notes (Luke 6:32-34). 

8Donald Grey Barnhouse, Expositions of Bible Doctrines Taking the Epistle to the Romans As a Point of Departure – Volume 10: God's Glory. WORDsearch Corp.  

Dr. Franklin L. Kirksey, pastor First Baptist Church of Spanish Fort 30775 Jay Drive Spanish Fort, Alabama 36527

Author of Don’t Miss the Revival! Messages for Revival and Spiritual Awakening from Isaiah and

Sound Biblical Preaching: Giving the Bible a Voice [Both available on in hardcover, paperback and eBook] & /   / (251) 626-6210

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