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WCF: Providence, Part 1

WCF: Providence, Part 1

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Published by: Grace Church Modesto on Jan 12, 2010
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\u201cWCF: Providence\u201d
(Lesson One: What Is Providence?)

WCF 5.1 God the great Creator of all things doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all
creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and
holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and
immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power,
justice, goodness, and mercy.

I. Introduction:
A. Providence is one part of God\u2019s Decree.

1. \u201cWhat are the decrees of God? A. The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose,
according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath
foreordained whatsoever comes to pass\u201d (S.C. 7).
a. God\u2019s Decree includes all things: \u201cAlso we have obtained an inheritance,

having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after
the counsel of His will\u201d (Eph. 1:11).

b. Even the final destination of every soul: \u201cBlessedbe the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlyplaces in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him\u201d (Eph. 1:3-4).

2. \u201cHow doth God execute his decrees? A. God executes his decrees in the works
of creation and providence\u201d (S.C. 8).
a. Creation and Providence are the outworking of His decree.
b. Creation is the arena in which God will fulfill His decree/plan.
c. Providence is His governing all things according to that plan. \u201cWhat are the

works of providence? A. God's works of providence are his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures, and all their actions\u201d (S.C. 11).

3. Providence covers much ground. In this section, we will answer the following
questions:
a. What is Providence?
b. How can our decisions really be significant if God is the One who ultimately

is in control? In other words, are we free to make our own choices, or are our
choices determined by God?
c. Does God ever work above His ordinary Providence, or in other words, does
God still do miracles today?

d. If God is sovereign and has determined absolutely whatsoever comes to pass,
does this mean that He is also responsible for our sinful choices, as well as
those of all men?

e. If God is in control, why does He sometimes give His own children over to
be tempted and even allow them to practice sin for a time?
2
f. How does God deal differently with the wicked in His Providence?
g. Does the Lord take any special care or have special consideration for His
people in His plan?
B. What is Providence?
1. Definition:
a. The word providence comes from the Latin wordprovideo.
(i) The wordpro means before, and the wordvideo, from which we get our
English word \u201cvideo,\u201d means \u201cI see.\u201d
(ii) Together they mean \u201cto see beforehand.\u201d

b. Webster\u2019s dictionary defines it as \u201cforesight; care; especially the foresight
and care of God for His creatures\u201d (777). This is true, but we need to be
careful how we understand this.

c. It doesn\u2019t mean that God looks ahead to see what will happen and then makes
His choices.
d. It means that God knows the future because He has planned it.
2. Providence is the carrying out of God\u2019s plan, but what\u2019s necessary for this to
happen?

a. First of all, can all the things God made exist by themselves? Do the things
He made need Him anymore? Do we need Him? If God no longer existed \u2013
which is unthinkable \u2013 would we still exist?
(i) No. God must constantly uphold all things or they will vanish into the

nothingness from which they came.
(ii) The author to the Hebrews writes, \u201cAnd He is the radiance of His glory
and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the
word of His power\u201d (1:3).

b. But is upholding all things enough to carry out His plan?
(i) No. God must also direct, dispose and govern all things.
(ii) He must have control of what He made to make sure that everything

turns out as He has planned.
c. Does this mean that God is involved in His creation?
(i) Yes. We call those who believe in God, but deny His involvement with
His creation, Deists.

(ii) Christians believe that God is intimately involved in the Creation.
(a) We call this God\u2019s immanence.
(b) This is especially true in the Incarnation where God the Son actually

becomes a part of this Creation by taking to Himself a human nature.
d. What are the things that God must have control of if He is to carry out His
plan?
(i) All things.
(ii) All His creatures, all their actions, and all things, from the greatest of
3
them \u2013 such as men and angels \u2013 to the least of them \u2013 such as molecules
of water or grains of sand.
e. Is there anything that God is not sovereign over?
(i) No. If God wasn\u2019t in control of all things, He ultimately would be in
control of nothing.

(ii) In Daniel 4:34-35, we read, \u201cBut at the end of that period I,
Nebuchadnezzar, raised my eyes toward heaven, and my reason returned
to me, and I blessed the Most High and praised and honored Him who
lives forever; for His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His
kingdomendures from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants
of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in
the host of heaven andamong the inhabitants of earth; and no one can
ward off His hand or say to Him, \u2018What hast You done?\u2019\u201d

(iii) The psalmist writes, \u201cFor I know that the Lord is great, and that our
Lord is above all gods. Whatever the Lord pleases, He does, in heaven
and in earth, in the seas and in all deeps. He causes the vapors to ascend
from the ends of the earth; who makes lightnings for the rain; who brings
forth the wind from His treasuries\u201d (Psalm 135:5-7).

(iv) And our Lord Jesus says, \u201cAre not two sparrows sold for a cent? And
yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the
very hairs of your head are all numbered\u201d (Matt. 10:29-30).

(v) Even something as insignificant as a sparrow doesn\u2019t fall to the ground
apart from the will of the Father. He even knows the number of hairs that
are on our heads, because He has determined them.

3. Is God\u2019s plan spontaneous? Does He make it up as He goes along, reacting to
the decisions of His creatures?
a. No. TheConfession says that God is working all things in this world

according to His infallible foreknowledge and the free and immutable
counsel of His own will.

b. Do the authors mean the same thing as the Arminians here? Does God know what\u2019s going to happen because He looks down the corridors of time and sees what will happen and make His choices based on what He sees?

c. No, God doesn\u2019t need to look ahead. He knew what was going to happen.
He knew it from all eternity because it was a part of His eternal plan, a plan
which He has always known perfectly and comprehensively.
(i) When God does anything, it is according to this sovereign plan: the

knowledge of what He was going to do.

(ii) \u201cAlso we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined
according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His
will\u201d (Eph. 1:11).

4. The last question is, Why did God plan to do what He did? What was His goal?
a. It was to reveal His glory (His wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy)
to His intelligent creatures \u2013 to men and angels \u2013 that they might praise Him

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