Institutes of the Christian Religion by John Calvin.
Book 1: Of the Knowledge of God the Creator
Chapter 18: “Instrumentality of the Wicked Employed by God, While He stays Pure”
Section 1: When God uses the wicked and their acts to bring about His means, He does not get tainted as being evil Himself. This is a question of God’s permissive will allowing the wicked to do whatever they desire to do in a way that brings about His desired end, either in punishing people through their acts, or using them as a catalyst for change toward what He was desired to take place. This is made manifest in that no one acts outside of the will of God and outside of His utter control over all people. Just as Satan cannot act without God’s express approval of the act, its intended consequences, and the extent of his action, we are not more powerful that Satan in that we can thwart the will of our sovereign God.
Section 2: God occasionally uses “secret movements” to do things behind the scenes to bring about His will. He has blinded people in the case of David’s escape from Saul and Peter’s escape from the hands of the Jews, and even killing people when He wiped out 185,000 Assyrians to save Jerusalem (2 Ki. 21:24). God also occasionally hardness the hearts of men (Exo 4:21; Josh 11:20)
Section 3: People who respond to God’s actions by questioning Him are placing themselves in very dangerous territory. God will not be mocked. To those who say that God has two contrary wills (one for good and one for evil) Calvin refutes it in detail by reminding the reader that Scripture is replete with evidence that God is good and it is instead our opinion of the circumstance which we determine to be “evil”. God is the sovereign creator of all things and, as such, He is the perfect judge of all.
Section 4: While God uses the wickedness of men to bring about His desired will, God Himself does not sin, nor does He incur the penalty of sin. Quoting Calvin, “When Absalom defiled his father’s bed, though God was pleased thus to avenge the adultery of David, he did not therefore enjoin an abandoned son to commit incest, unless, perhaps, in respect of David, as David himself says of Shimei’s curses. For, while he confesses that Shimei acts by the order of God, he by no means commends the obedience, as if that petulant dog had been yielding obedience to a divine command; but, recognising in his tongue the scourge of God, he submits patiently to be chastised.“
How do we reconcile God’s promotion of the evil King Jeroboam to his place of honor (1 Kings 12:20) with the perceived contradiction in God’s will as revealed in Hosea 8:4; 13:11? The people could not revolt against the Judean rule without shaking off a yoke divinely imposed on them and therefore to invoke the punishment He promised to Solomon for his ingratitude He orchestrated this revolt. Their new king then led them into idolatry and brought about the separation of the tribes as God had stated would occur if Solomon did not seek after Him with his whole heart as did his father David. God’s will to see the throne continue under the rule of a Davidic king AND His will to see the kingdom separated and judgment come into the larger kingdom of Israel were thus fulfilled.
Calvin then concludes this section with this quote from Augustine, “Since the Father delivered up the Son, Christ his own body, and Judas his Master, how in such a case is God just, and man guilty, but just because in the one act which they did, the reasons for which they did it are different? (August. Ep. 48, ad Vincentium). ” The implication is that we, who have no authority to raise our complaint to God about the way with which He rules His universe, also have no authority here to claim that the author of life and creator of perfect truth sins by His actions, even when He uses sinful actions of mankind to bring about that which He determines to be good.