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More on the Providence of God

posted Jun 20, 2017, 10:08 AM by First Baptist

Judging by the Q&A time in both services last Sunday, I think many of us were challenged by our discussion of God’s providence.


One theologian defines providence as “the continuing action of God by which He preserves in existence the creation which He has brought into being, and guides it to His intended purposes for it.”


And so, there are two aspects to God’s providence: (1) His preserving or maintaining of creation; and (2) His governing of it.


It was this 2nd aspect that was the focus on Sunday’s message.


The Extent of God’s Governance


God’s governing activity is universal; it extends to all matters, including that which is obviously good and even that which seemingly is not good.


The Bible speaks of God’s governing activity as applying to the following:


1.      Nature (Psalm 135:5-7)

2.      The animal world (Psalm 104:21-29)

3.      Human history & the destiny of nations (Daniel 2:21)

4.      Personal circumstances (I Samuel 2:6-7)

5.      The free actions of human beings (Exodus 3:21, 12:35-36; Psalm 33:15)


God’s governing activity even extends to seemingly accidental or chance occurrences. Proverbs 16:33 says: “The lot is cast into the lap, but the decision is wholly from the LORD.” Wow!


The Paradox


The difficulty comes when the reality of God’s governance bumps up against the reality of human free choice, which often results in sin & evil. Despite the difficulty, the Bible affirms that: (a) God is not the cause of sin; and (b) humans have meaningful choice for which they are responsible.


The Westminster Confession


In the 2nd service, I referred to the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646). Confessions & creeds are not infallible, but are helpful resources for understanding the teaching of Scripture. Here’s what it says in Chapter III:


“God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty of contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.”


That God ordains all things is not simply the result of His knowing all things, as the Confession makes clear. Chapter III also says:


“Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions; yet has He not decreed anything because He foresaw it as future, …”



What It All Means


The same theologian I quoted earlier sums up the importance of this doctrine:


“Providence is certain ways is central to the conduct of the Christian life. It means that we are able to live in the assurance that God is present and active in our lives. We are in His care and can therefore face the future confidently, knowing that things are not happening merely by chance.”





Pastor Dan