God Acts … in Providence

If the definition of “miracle” is defined as God working in extraordinary ways, then “providence” is God working in ordinary ways.  However, the line between these two distinctions is not always that clear.  Miracles seem magnificent to us, but providence can also be amazing.  The Westminster Shorter Catechism defines providence like this:

“His most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing of all His creatures and all their actions.”

In short, this means God either allows or designs everything that happens.  Where do I get this idea?  Focus here on the word “ALL” in this definition of providence, because God’s control of His world is comprehensive and all-inclusive.

Providence carries with it these three concepts:  preserving, revelation, and concurrence.

God’s PRESERVING can mean a variety of things but according to scripture must include:

  • that this earth could not continue to exist without God’s permission
  • that Jesus holds everything together [Colossians 1:17]
  • that God is holding off His final judgment until all He knows will be saved, are saved [2 Peter 3:5-9]
  • that God preserves His people from death or destruction at many points during this earthly life [Genesis 45:5]
  • even though death will come to us eventually, in death God continues to preserve us [Psalm 16:10]
  • ALL this happens as God directs the course of nature and history to a preordained goal [Ephesian 1:9-11]

God’s REVELATION is not mentioned in the Catechism above, but is important for us to note, because:

  • everything that happens reflects (reveals) God’s wisdom (Psalm 104:24; Proverbs 8:22-36]
  • God’s Word directs (reveals) all things [Psalm 147:15-20; 148:5-8]
  • the heavens themselves declare (reveal) God’s glory
  • in all this God’s invisible nature is clearly in view (revealed) {Romans 1] as He makes Himself known to us.

CONCURRENCE then refers to God’s working in even the smallest events of nature and history to bring about (according to the Catechism) ” the cooperation of the divine power with all subordinate powers, according to the pre-established laws of their operation, causing them to act and to act precisely as they do.

Huh?

Think of it this way.  When plants germinate, they are carrying out the natural law God designed for them.  This is true.  However, the doctrine of concurrence demonstrates that God is also working in, with, and through these laws to achieve His own ultimate preordained goal [Ephesians 1:9-11].  This means that even when a sparrow falls to the ground [Matthew 10:29], this event will never occur unless it fulfills God’s preordained goal.  It also means that God knows the numbers of hairs on each of our heads [Matthew 10:30].

God is working both in heaven and in everything that happens in nature and history.

So here’s the thing.

Providence (in the same way we looked at miracles, fits the original threefold picture of: control, authority, and presence.

In providence God controls everything, reveals Himself authoritatively, and is present and active in the world He made.

Next time we will look at how God acts in Creation.

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