Widely respected preacher and author John Piper asks another tough question to his readers: Why did God let Paul become a murderer before he became one of the most influential figures of Christianity?
Not for one but for several reasons, the megapastor outlined recently on the Desiring God ministry website, one of which showed that God could make the "chief of sinners the chief of missionaries."
It was understood that before Paul was born, he was set apart for apostleship, revealed in the Scriptures of Galatians.
"He who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles" (Galatians 1:15-16).
Yet before he began ministering to the people and spreading a Gospel of grace and justification by faith alone, he zealously persecuted the disciples of Christ and did "much evil" to the saints.
So the question remained: Why didn't God bring Paul to faith or encounter him on the road to Damascus before he imprisoned and murdered Christians?
"His purpose ... was to allow Paul to become the 'chief of sinners' and then save him, and make him the apostle who would write thirteen books of the New Testament," the author of Don't Waste Your Life explained.
"Why? Why do it this way? Why choose him before birth to be an apostle? Then let him sink into wicked and violent opposition to Christ? And then save him dramatically and decisively on the Damascus road?"
Because God wanted to encourage those who thought they were "too sinful" to have hope and also put the perfect patience of Christ on display – two explanations that were explicitly stated in the Bible.
God also wanted to show the world that he saved "hardened haters of Christ" like Paul who previously murdered Christians, and show that he permitted his "much-loved elect to sink into flagrant wickedness."
"God did it this way ... to show a powerless, persecuted, marginalized church that they can triumph by the supernatural conversion of their most powerful foes," Piper added.
The evil that Apostle Paul had done prior to his conversion similarly pointed to a topic of discussion that the pastor at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis often addressed: Why is there evil in the world at all or why did Satan still hold power?
"God has ordained that Satan have a long leash with God holding on to the leash because he knows that when we walk in and out of those temptations, struggling with both the physical effects that they bring and the moral effects that they bring, more of God's glory will shine," Piper previously told Spirit Radio.
"There will be evidences of His sustaining grace through horrific physical suffering and all for that because His mercy, grace, wisdom and justice would shine more brightly."
This world of evil and terror and suffering was a world where the best display of divine love – shown on the cross – could happen.
"You can back up and say I wouldn't have done it that way," he noted. "Well you're not God and I am thankful."
"I think it's really arrogant to say that you before the creation of the universe would have greater wisdom than the Almighty to design a universe in which the fullness of the panorama of His perfections would shine more brightly than in this one."
Piper is the founder of Desiring God and the author of several books including A Sweet and Bitter Providence: Sex, Race, and the Sovereignty of God and Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God.