Climbing on the Altar
Quarter 3, Lesson 5

Lesson Five

Good Overcomes Evil

Text: Romans 12:21

When it comes to overcoming evil, we humans are without expertise. If Christians are wise, they allow God to be their source of expertise in every area regarding evil. Jesus was the only human (1) who successfully confronted evil, (2) who refused to submit to evil, (3) who was not deceived by temptation, (4) and who could die for others' sins because he had no sins of his own (Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9; 1 Peter 2:21-24; 2 Corinthians 5:18-21). Trusting God enough to overcome evil by doing good was the key to Jesus' victory over evil.

All the rest of us are forgiven. Of ourselves, we have not and cannot overcome evil. An act of God destroys evil in us. Divine forgiveness empowered by Jesus' redemptive, atoning blood destroys our evil (Ephesians 1:7-9). Of ourselves, we have not defeated temptation. We are forgiven. Of ourselves, we have not escaped evil's deceit. We are forgiven. Spiritual growth and development do not eliminate our struggles with evil. Some forms of evil afflict us. Some forms of temptation successfully attack us. Some forms of deceit cause us to fall.

Only God has expertise in defeating evil. When God completed His creation, He declared His completed efforts "very good" (Genesis 1:31). Then, Satan perverted everything God made by deceiving humans. Evil generated temptation, deceived, and caused the crowning jewel of God's creation to rebel against Him (Genesis 1:26,27; 3:1-7). Paul indicated God's creation is aware it was perverted and groans to be set free (Romans 8:`19-22). Peter said this perverted creation (1) will be liberated from perversion by destruction and (2) will be replaced by a new creation where only righteousness exists (2 Peter 3:10-13).

The perverted can be freed from perversion only through destruction. The new can exist only if the old is destroyed. We can be free from evil's perversion only if we allow our perverted existence to end (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:5-11). Only God has the power to eliminate evil's control. In us, God defeats evil with the mercy of forgiveness. The merciful God reveals the secret of overcoming evil. We overcome evil by doing what God did. God overcame evil by doing good.

From our human perspective, God's greatest act of good is seen in Jesus' death. In Jesus' death, (1) God created a Savior for all people. (2) God made forgiveness available to all people. (3) God satisfied the demands of justice. God liberated Himself to use mercy and grace to their fullest (Romans 3:21-26, note verse 26). God broke Satan's control of and power over this perverted creation by doing good (Hebrews 2:14-18). Neither a gleaming divine sword, a powerful bolt of lightning, nor opening the great abyss crumbled Satan's power. Satan was defeated and evil's controlling power was destroyed by a merciful God doing good.

Our merciful God did the ultimate act of good by allowing His dying son to wear the collective sin of humanity (1 Peter 2:24). Because our merciful God did that act of good, He can clothe us in Jesus when we are immersed into Christ (Galatians 3:26,27). Our merciful God satisfied justice with the blood of His son. God uses that blood to redeem those whose faith and repentance move them to place themselves in Christ.

Consider: when our merciful God did that incredible act of good, all humanity thought God had failed. To all human witnesses, it looked like Jesus failed when he died! Jesus died by crucifixion! A dead Jesus would not teach multitudes! A dead Jesus could not perform miracles! A dead Jesus could not be the King of Israel! How could any possible good be produced by Jesus' Roman execution?

Though no human realized it, the merciful God was at work! The merciful God was destroying Satan's power to control! The merciful God was unleashing the power that would free sinful people! The merciful God was creating a forgiveness that would reach into eternity! And the merciful God did all this simply by doing good.

God overcame evil by doing good. Jesus overcame evil by doing good. We will overcome evil by doing good. "After the fact," we know that is exactly what God did. "After the fact," we know that is exactly what Jesus did. Yet, in that moment when we each confront evil, we each struggle to trust this truth: good overcomes evil. We struggle because our concept of overcoming evil has little to do with resurrection. While we understand Jesus' death defeated evil's power, we do not consider our death as a means of overcoming.

We will not defeat evil with power. We will not bind evil with logic. We will not triumph over evil with knowledge. We will not be victors over evil by relying on ourselves. We will overcome evil the same way God did. We will refuse to let evil overpower us, and we will do that by doing good. By doing that same good, we overcome evil.

Mercy overcomes evil with good. God's mercy overcomes evil in our lives through the good of salvation. God's mercy overcomes evil in our death through the good of resurrection. We who have benefited from God's great mercy overcome evil by doing good.

Only those who accept and rejoice in God's mercy trust good to overcome evil. It is difficult to have that trust in free, democratic America. How difficult was it for Christians living in Rome about 2000 years ago to trust good's ability to overcome evil?


  1. Discuss why humans (including Christians) cannot claim expertise in overcoming evil.

  2. Discuss why it is appropriate to understand that Jesus overcame evil.

  3. Our "overcoming evil" depends on God's forgiveness. Jesus did not need forgiveness. Explain the difference between being forgiven and being sinless.

  4. Discuss this freedom: those enslaved to evil's perversion are freed through destruction. [Note: we all are perverted by evil. In regard to evil, the problem we all have is "turning loose." It is hard to repent.]

  5. Discuss God's greatest act of good.

  6. What was the ultimate act of our merciful God's goodness? Why could that be considered God's ultimate act of goodness?

  7. When did God begin the actual fall of evil by doing good? Were witnesses aware of God's accomplishment? Explain your answer.

  8. How will we NOT overcome evil?

  9. Mercy overcomes evil by doing good. Explain why that truth is difficult to trust.

Link to Teacher's Guide Quarter 3, Lesson 5

Copyright © 2001
David Chadwell & West-Ark Church of Christ

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