How could it be that God appeared to be using him so marvelously and yet he was so thoroughly evil so long? …Because God, in His sovereignty, uses sinners for His own purposes.
For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth. (Romans 9:17)
Scripture is the revelation of God to man. As such, it is constantly showing us what God is like, how He thinks, why He does what He does, and how He does it. In this passage Scripture reveals to us that Pharaoh was simply a tool in the hand of the Lord to reveal to men His power, and to spread His name throughout all the earth.
Nor was Pharaoh the only sinful man God ever used to advance His own purposes in spite of said sinful man’s wickedness. Isaiah 10 tells us that God used the evil Assyrians for His own purpose. Isaiah 45 instructs us that God used an ungodly Cyrus to His own end. In Jeremiah 27 God refers to the wicked Nebuchadnezzar as His servant. Surely if God could use such depraved men as Pharaoh, Cyrus, and Nebuchadnezzar He just might be able to use a pastor with secret sin in the chambers of his imagery to accomplish His own purpose.
In fact, all God has to use is sinners. When God determined to work through man to reach man He, in a very real sense, tied His hands. Certainly nature and conscience reveal God to men, and of course we understand that Scripture is the ultimate revelation of God to man. Yet God chooses to almost always use human agents in preaching, teaching, praying, witnessing, encouraging, comforting, and exhorting men to turn their hearts toward Himself – and every one of those men are wicked and depraved sinners.
The Psalmist said The LORD hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil. (Psalm 16:4) We do not believe that this passage and similar ones teach that God created sin, but we do contend that God uses sinners for His own ends and to His own purposes. It has well been said that only God can use a crooked stick to draw a straight line. Many a crooked man of God has been used by God to draw men unto Himself. That is not because of the crookedness of that man but rather in spite of it.
Some will contend that God uses men in His service that are holy, pure, blameless, mature, zealous, and without spot. While all these are certainly true and we ought to strive for holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord yet it is equally true that God can use any man of His choosing, including those almost in all evil in the midst of the congregation and assembly.
While it is true that God can use whom He will it is also true that God’s use of them does not excuse or mitigate in any way their personal wickedness. Pharaoh, Cyrus, and Nebuchadnezzar all had to pay for their sins, either with earthly consequences, eternal consequences, or both. So will all men, including God’s men. Some men of God have endeavored to excuse their perversity by saying that the stress, pressure, and burden of their great ministry demands some outlet, as if they are better ministers of Jesus Christ if they sow some wild oats now and then. Nothing could be further from the truth, or more obnoxious to the Holy One of Israel. We are none of us indispensable in the Kingdom, and the level of our usefulness to the cause of Christ must not lead us to justification of the lusts of our flesh. God uses men in His mercy to edify the body of Christ, advance His Kingdom, and glorify His name. Let us be grateful for that, and with humility and holiness seek to be used by Him, always being mindful that He chooses to use whom He will for His own purposes.