The Sovereignty of God and the Killeen Massacre
(This sermon was prepared on Eph. 1:11 and Rom. 8:28 after the week of the Killeen, Texas, massacre. On Wednesday, October 16, 1991, George Hennard, Jr., of Belton, Texas, drove through a window at the Luby’s Cafeteria in Killeen and proceeded to murder 28 innocent people, wounding many others. This event was the worst one-time mass murder in American history.)
All week I prepared a different message for you today. At the last minute I realized that I could not preach it to you. There are too many questions left hanging in the air. Too many questions which some of you are asking.
Why did the Killeen massacre happen? Why did God not stop it? How could He allow such evil to exist in this world if He is so sovereign and good and rules all things? Why do innocent people die? Why is there suffering in this world? How can parents treat their poor children so abusively? How can husbands and wives do the things they do to each other? How could a man like George Hennard, Jr., do such a thing as cold-blooded murder of innocent people, unless he were less than a man? Was there something wrong with him or with God for letting it happen? Most of you have gone through tragedies, abuses, sufferings, and trials which cause you to ask “Why?” or “Why me?”
These questions and many more revolve around a central issue which has plagued philosophers and theologians and humble Christians for centuries:
If God is a loving God and a sovereign God, how could He have allowed sin to enter this world which He made? And if He did allow it to enter, why does He allow it to continue? Is He out of control? Is He too weak to handle it? Does He exist?
The answer to this issue involves several truths which need to be understood before a final answer comes forth.
First: If Adam, our first parent, had not sinned against God, the massacre at Killeen. would never have happened.
Whenever you ask the question, “How could God allow sin and evil to exist in this world?”, you are asking the wrong question biblically. Do not misunderstand me. We must ask God the hard questions in order to have integrity in our faith. David did so in the Psalms. However, questioning God about the existence of sin often presumes that evil’s presence proves that something is wrong with God and His eternal plan which allows evil to exist.
The Bible traces the existence of sin in the men of this world to Adam, our forefather:
Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned (Rom. 5:12).
The Bible teaches that Adam represented every member of the human race in his actions. If he had never believed Satan’s lies nor chosen to disobey God, sin would not have entered God’s world and death would not have spread to all men. But God cursed Adam’s sin by allowing his choice of rebellion against God to spread to all His descendants. Sin, death, pain, tears, all came upon the whole human race because perfect Adam represented us and chose to sin against God.
The resulting condition of man’s heart, now made in Adam’s fallen image (Gen. 3:5), explains the source of all the evil in this world as it comes from men. Adam’s sinful nature passed on to all of us. That is why David said “In sin my mother conceived me” (Ps. 51:5b), “Those who speak lies go astray from birth” (Ps. 58:3b). God’s opinion of man’s nature is what some would describe as pessimistic:
Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually (Gen. 6:5).
If you say that it is not fair for God to let one man represent you and all men, so that Adam’s sinful nature and the curse for his sin spread to others, then you also have a biblical problem with the representation of Jesus Christ for sinners in the Gospel:
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous (Rom. 5:18-19).
You cannot have it both ways. If it is right for God to allow our perfect Jesus Christ to bear your sins and to represent you upon the Cross, then it is right for God to allow perfect Adam to represent you in the garden. And if it is just for God to impute and to impart to the Christian the righteous nature of Jesus Christ, then it is just as right for God to impute and to impart to all men the sinful nature of Adam your father.
Our forefathers at Southern Seminary understood this biblical teaching. That is why the article on the fall of man in the Abstract of Principles, signed by every professor since 1858, reads:
God originally created man in His own image, and free from sin; but through the temptation of Satan, he transgressed the command of God, and fell from his original holiness and righteousness; whereby his posterity inherit a nature corrupt and wholly opposed to God and His law, are under condemnation, and as soon as they are capable of moral action, become actual transgressors (Art. VI).
The Bible is very clear. All sin in this world begins in the heart of Satan and of man. The harsh truth is that if Adam had not sinned, Killeen would never have happened. Second: Killeen is a testimony to the goodness of God.
Yes, I said that Killeen is a testimony to the goodness of God. Follow my reasoning. The existence of evil in men is far worse than we imagine. If you want to know what men really are like, look at the Bible and then read the newspapers. There is no contradiction between them unless you choose to ignore the newspapers. “Every thought and intent of man’s heart is only evil continually.”
The miracle of Killeen is that it does not happen every day! Every day God restrains men from their impulses to kill, to hate, to rape. If He allowed some of you to follow the imaginations and temptations in your hearts, you would be in jail now. This is true even for Christians.
God is not unjust to allow the human race to live with the sins they chose in Adam and still choose every day. The truth is that God restrains all men from their sins. God restrains men every day. It is when men turn from Him and then He removes His restraining hand that we see things like Killeen:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse. . . . Therefore, God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, that their bodies might be dishonored among them, For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason, God gave them over to degrading passions. . . . And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper. . . . (Rom. 1:20, 24,26,28).
God restrains men every day. But whenever we see a Killeen, it is God giving men over to what is really in their hearts. Many who knew George Hennard, Jr., repeatedly said on camera and in the newspapers: “I knew something was going to happen; it’s a miracle it hasn’t happened before now.” That is a biblically accurate analysis. God restrained George Hennard many times.
It is only the goodness and sovereignty of God joined together which restrains sinful creatures every day. Killeen ought to remind us of that. Killeen is a testimony to the goodness of God.
Third: God would have been justified to allow every man to suffer at the hands of every other man.
We grieve over the innocence of those slain; they did nothing to George Hennard, Jr., personally. And God is angry with him. Even now he tastes of the burning wrath of God. These people were innocent of sins against George Hennard, Jr.
But it was not unjust of God to allow this to happen. Because of Adam’s sin, and our sinful nature, we all live on time borrowed from God’s patience and mercy. The fact is that everyone born into this world deserves the wrath of God (Eph. 2:1-3). It is a miracle of patience that God lets any of us live one day!
Now you may say:
Let us suppose man is as sinful as you say. If God knew Adam would sin and bring this curse upon all of us, then why did He go ahead and make him? If He did not know, why did He not stop him? And if He could not stop him, why did he let him live and pass on this terrible curse of sin and death and pain to all men . . . to me? In other words, is there not something wrong with a God who still allows sin and pain to enter and to stay in this universe? Why did He not just kill Adam and save us all this sin and pain? If Total Depravity is true, it is unfair of God to let it continue.
Let me allow Paul and Peter to answer. The Bible clearly teaches that God is kind and wants to show mercy and love and grace to many descendants of Adam whom He has chosen and redeemed in Jesus Christ. He is patient to endure the sin of mankind to do this:
Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles (Rom. 9:21-24).
The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9).
The answer to the question of why God allowed Adam to make his own sinful choice and to pass it on is that God wants to show mercy and love and grace to many descendants of Adam. Would you rob them of eternal life by wrongly blaming God for sin? Would you accuse God of evil because He would let sinners live in order to shower His love upon a multitude no man can number?
God could have killed Adam. He could have spared you of others’ sins toward you and your sins toward others. But you would never have lived to know Jesus Christ and His grace. Would you belittle God because He chooses to change human hearts and make new creatures who hate sin and love righteousness? Because God’s plan is more good and merciful and gracious than yours? Because God is more gracious than you are?
The Killeen massacre shows what man is really like and how evil sin is. But it also shows how merciful God is to let this world go on — how gracious He is to send His Son to die for sinners; how patient He is to let this world go on to bring many sons to glory; and how much we ought to trust Him and His goodness with whatever happened in our past at the hands of men, whatever is happening now in our lives, and with whatever we face in the future.
If you have trouble with believing in God’s sovereignty and goodness in the face of Killeen (and your own personal Killeens), then you need to look again at the cross of Jesus Christ. There all confusion about man’s evil and God’s goodness is settled. There, Peter said, Jesus was nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men, yet He was delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). God’s sovereignty and goodness overruled man’s sin and rebellion at the cross. Later, Peter wrote that Jesus opened not His mouth when suffering from men because He entrusted Himself to Him who judges righteously (1 Pet, 2:23). Believe the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Believe God knows what He is doing and has already proven it at the cross and the empty tomb. Then and only then will you find hope in the face of this heinous crime.
If Killeen still bothers you, you need to hear and believe the words of the Apostle Paul:
And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Just as it is written, “FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.” But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:28-39).