God Uses Sinful People, But …

By Michael Brown Published on March 11, 2024

When you look back through history, both secular and spiritual, ancient and contemporary, it becomes clear that God uses sinful people to accomplish His purposes — not just weak people, sinful people. But this does not mean God always approves of everything they do or say, nor that there are no consequences for their sin. It is still deadly.

In the same way, God uses wounded people to accomplish His purposes, including wounded Christian leaders. But if those wounds are not properly healed, it is likely that those wounded leaders will themselves wound others. The Bible tells us that “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (Romans 11:29, ESV), and therefore they will operate in our lives regardless of our submission to Him … but we have a responsibility to keep our hearts clean before him.

Take Sampson

There is probably no greater example of this in the Bible than Samson, a man called to be a Nazarite (meaning, specially separated to the Lord) even before he was conceived. An angel of the Lord told his mother, “You are barren and childless, but you are going to become pregnant and give birth to a son. Now see to it that you drink no wine or other fermented drink and that you do not eat anything unclean. You will become pregnant and have a son whose head is never to be touched by a razor because the boy is to be a Nazirite, dedicated to God from the womb. He will take the lead in delivering Israel from the hands of the Philistines” (Judges 13:3-5; see also Numbers 6).

Samson is best known for two things: 1) the supernatural strength God gave him, enabling him to accomplish powerful exploits against Israel’s enemies, the Philistines; and 2) his lack of self-control, which led him to have sex with and eventually marry a Philistine woman. Talk about sleeping with the enemy!

Even though God used him to kill many Philistines, Samson’s folly cost him his freedom, his eyes (literally), his reputation, and ultimately, his life. His last words, spoken as he pulled down a Philistine temple filled with thousands of people who had come to mock him, were: “Let me die with the Philistines!” (Judges 16:30).

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Yet despite his sins and weaknesses, Samson is listed as a hero of faith, among those “who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies” (Hebrews 11:33-34).

God used him, and the gifts He bestowed upon him were his for life — unless he violated his Nazarite oath. That’s why, after sleeping with a Philistine prostitute (which was about as low as the national leader of Israel could go), he got up in the middle of the night and “took hold of the doors of the city gate, together with the two posts, and tore them loose, bar and all. He lifted them to his shoulders and carried them to the top of the hill that faces Hebron” (Judges 16:3).

This is as remarkable as it is terrifying. The fact that someone operates in spiritual gifts doesn’t mean they are right with God. Just because God uses a person doesn’t mean He is pleased with them or sanctions their actions. In the end, Samson’s folly caught up with him and he paid a severe price for his sin. This hurt the nation as well, since he was called to be their deliverer.

Yet the Lord still called Samson from his mother’s womb and empowered him, even though He knew full well that Samson would fall repeatedly. The Lord also saw something positive in Samson’s heart, recognizing him in Hebrews 11 as one of the heroes of faith.

Take Martin Luther

In the same way, God used Martin Luther to spark the Protestant Reformation, which has literally affected the entire world for the last several centuries.

For Protestants, Luther is one of the giants, a fearless pioneer with a backbone of steel — a man who would not bow, armed with incredible spiritual insight. For Catholic apologists, Luther is a madman and clear proof that Protestants are in error.

To quote Luther’s writings against the German peasants, “Like the mules who will not move unless you perpetually whip them with rods, so the civil powers must drive the common people, whip, choke, hang, burn, behead and torture them, that they may learn to fear the powers that be.” And, “A peasant is a hog, for when a hog is slaughtered it is dead, and in the same way the peasant does not think about the next life, for otherwise he would behave very differently.”

Jews remember Luther as the one who wrote that Jewish synagogues should be set on fire and their places of business broken down and destroyed, that rabbis should be forbidden to teach under penalty of death, that their passport and travel privileges should be revoked, and that they should be deprived of good jobs and herded together like Gypsies. That’s why the Nazis reprinted his writings with glee and why Hitler considered Luther a genius.

Yet God not only used Luther to bring about powerful and needed reformation in the Church (many Catholics would also agree some things needed to change back then), but his writings have continued to change lives over the centuries. Both John and Charles Wesley were deeply impacted by Luther’s commentaries on Romans and Galatians, which played a key role in their personal spiritual transformations.

The Takeaway?

What is the takeaway for us?

First, let’s not be overly impressed with people. We can honor leaders for their service, but let’s save our high praises for the Lord Himself.

Second, the fact that someone is gifted, anointed, or used by the Lord doesn’t mean they are saintly or holy. We should judge the tree by its fruit, which includes moral conduct.

Third, we all — but especially those in leadership and ministry — must be quick to repent. Let’s do our best to acknowledge our weaknesses and wounds and find healing and strength in the Lord, and walk with Him in humility.

In the long run, this will determine whether we do more good than harm than good or vice versa.


Dr. Michael Brown is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. He is the author of more than 40 books, including Can You be Gay and Christian?Our Hands Are Stained With Blood; and Seize the Moment: How to Fuel the Fires of Revival. You can connect with him on FacebookX, or YouTube.

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