IN HIS PROVIDENCE
The Scriptures reveal that our ultimate destination as sons and daughters of the King is to enter Heaven. This is the place we joyfully look forward to! This is what we know! We know….. According to Scripture that there is no night, no death, and no tears. John penned this future truth. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” Rev 21:4. It’s a place we will live forever and will never be marred by the presence evil or sin. Heaven is a place where nothing goes wrong and no evil takes place. Nothing compares to this glorious place, Not even our suffering can can keep us from looking heavenward. (v18-v27). That is what we look forward to because……
“We know” “God works all things or in all thingswork for good” (v28)
“we” is not speaking of universally of all people; its speaking of inclusively of all who are in the faith. The one thing the true believer knows in this present life and suffering is what Paul explains in the verses before us. (v28-v30). Everything! Whether it’s…. good or evil, everything will always work out for good whether you recognize it or not.
R C Sproul said, “Satan lies, he calls evil good and good evil.”
But the fact that evil is redeemed (you have been redeemed) for good, is based on what theologians call “the providence of God”
In God’s providence... God orchestrates every event in life, even in our suffering, the temptations we face, and our sin to accomplish both temporal and eternal benefits. In Deut 8:11-16 we see that God uses our circumstances both for temporal and eternal benefits as He did with the Jewish nation. “Take care lest you forget the LORD your God by not keeping his commandments and his rules and his statutes, which I command you today, lest, when you have eaten and are full and have built good houses and live in them, and when your herds and flocks multiply and your silver and gold is multiplied and all that you have is multiplied, then your heart be lifted up, and you forget the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, who led you through the great and terrifying wilderness, with its fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty ground where there was no water, who brought you water out of the flinty rock, who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end.”
“We know” is a dogmatic statement that is foundational and has no room for arguing this fact. Not “we think, or it’s possible”…..It’s “We Know!”. We know that God allows much into our lives for growing and maturing our Christian faith. We know this because we trust in the providence of God in everything because we love God through the gospel confession. John Piper said when speaking about the providence of God, “In God's providence, everything is significant. Everything is meaningful. Nothing is random, nothing is pointless, and nothing is meaningless.” Proverb 16:33 says, “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD. Even as you pull a name from the hat; seemingly the most unplanned events are ordered by God.
What is God’s providence?
What does that mean?
Divine providence is the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things.
He is sovereign over the universe as a whole. “The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” Psalm 103:19
He is in complete control of the physical world. “so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” Matt 5:45
He is in complete control of the affairs of nations. “Come and see what God has done: he is awesome in his deeds toward the children of man. He turned the sea into dry land; they passed through the river on foot. There did we rejoice in him, who rules by his might forever, whose eyes keep watch on the nations— let not the rebellious exalt themselves.” Psalm 66:5-7
He is in complete control over human destiny. “But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace,” Galatians 1:15
He is in complete control of human successes and failures. “He has shown strength with his arm; he has scattered the proud in the thoughts of their hearts; he has brought down the mighty from their thrones and exalted those of humble estate; he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent away empty.” (Luke 1:51-53)
He is in complete control of the protection of His people. “There are many who say, "Who will show us some good? Lift up the light of your face upon us, O LORD!" You have put more joy in my heart than they have when their grain and wine abound. In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.” Psalm 4:6-8).
J I Packer said “Through divine providence God accomplishes His will. To ensure that His purposes are fulfilled, God governs the affairs of men and works through the natural order of things. The laws of nature are nothing more than God’s work in the universe. The laws of nature have no inherent power; rather, they are the principles that God set in place to govern how things normally work. They are only “laws” because God decreed them.”
This doctrine stands in direct opposition to the idea that the
universe is governed by chance or fate.
One of the best illustrations of God’s providence is found in the end of the book of Genesis. Joseph suffered greatly at the hand of his brothers who hated him to death. Joseph was sold into a life of slavery by his own kinsmen. Joseph was separated from his family. Joseph was falsely accused of rape and thrown into a prison It’s through this suffering…… God in His providence rescued and elevated Joseph to the right of Pharaoh, to save a great people because of the famine that came to the nation. It’s through his suffering where we see Joseph explaining to his brothers of their wrong doing, that God did this for good. In Genesis 50:230 we read, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” R C Sproul said this about Joseph and God’s providence. “God orders His providence so as not cancel out secondary causes. He does not annihilate the actions of the human will, which are undertaken freely.” His brother conspired to have him killed and had all intentions to harm him. But! God was acting….. Leading Joseph through this time in history that looks terrible, but ends in saving a nation from death. God was acting……and His intentions were purely righteous, there was no mix of evil and good, just purely good which brought about the what we read in the end of Genesis.
The Westminster Confession says, “God ordains whatsoever comes to pass, but it is quick to add this does not occur in such a way as to eliminate secondary causes or make of no significance the will of the creature. God does not do violence to the will of the creature, Nevertheless, God’s sovereignty prevails in every instance.”
Understand God’s sovereignty is not in away limited, conditioned, or dependent on man’s authority. Our freedom is a gift and we enjoy this freedom and exercise this freedom, but it is everywhere limited by God’s sovereignty.
God is sovereign, we are not!
And Paul is reminding you and me that our lives hang in balance of His sovereign providence before the foundations of the world. Paul is not denying that there is evil in the world, but he does say all things are working together for good. The ultimate purpose is a good purpose. “For those who are called according to His purpose” His providential plan in redemption in the gospel.
You can debate election and predestination until your blue in the face but it still doesn’t change the realty of this truth that is before you and me this morning. Election is an expression of God’s love for His children. God is sovereign and choosing is simply an expression of His eternal control over things. God is gracious in choosing is an expression of His grace for sinners. Biblical Election…..”Called” in the Greek means “to pick out, choose out for one’s self.” We see this word “Called” used in Jesus’ ministry.
John 6:70……”Did I not choose you, the twelve?
John 13:18……”I know whom I have chosen”
John 15:16, 19…….”You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you
Called/Election…… is the act of God whereby in eternity past He chose those who will be saved. Your election is unconditional, because it does not depend on anything outside of God, such as good works or foreseen faith. Romans 9:16. This word has been the foundation of God’s redeeming grace throughout the scriptures.
1 Thess 1:4-5
2 Tim 2:8-10
The Bible says prior to salvation, all people are dead in sin--spiritually dead, as Paul explains in Ephesians 2:1-3. In this state of death, the sinner is utterly unable to respond to any spiritual stimulus and therefore unable to love God, obey Him, or please Him in any way. Scripture says the mind of every unbeliever "is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so; and those who are in the flesh cannot please God". Romans 8:7-8. Think About This Calling, The Time Of Our Election. “He chose us in Him before the creation of the world.” Eph 1:4
We go back to eternity past and we see that God was thinking about you and me. Not only thinking of us, but also loving us and planning to bless us long before we were born. What this means is that God’s redemption was no small thing.The believer calling was no afterthought, no hasty provision to remedy the devastation of the fall. This reveals to us the heart of a loving God with an eternal great concern. A concern that Jeremiah said “I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.” Jer 31:3
Think about this statement as it pertains to your calling…… Your calling was eternal in its beginning and in its duration God has never stop loving, thinking about you, with the redemption to adopt you into His family.
Do you see what Paul is saying to us?
God chose us and purposed to save and bless us before He ever made us. Therefore God must have made us on purpose that He might save us. Understand! This is consistent with the free agency of man, and this is the glorious display of God’s sovereign goodness, and is infinitely wise, holy and unchangeable attributes. We call this “God’s Foreknowledge” refers to God's establishment of a love relationship with that person. The word “know”, in both the Old and New Testament, refers to much more than mere cognitive knowledge of a person. Hosea 13:4-5; Amos 3:2; Romans 11:2 clearly indicate this. 1 Peter 1:20 says Christ was "foreknown before the foundation of the world." Surely this means more than God the Father looked into the future to behold Christ! It means He had an eternal, loving relationship with Him. The same is true of your election, whom we are told God "foreknew". (v29). This means He knew you, and loved you, before the foundation of the world.
If God's choice of the elect is unconditional, does
this rule out human responsibility?
Paul asks and answers that very question in Romans 9:19-20. He says God's choice of the elect is an act of mercy. Left to themselves, even the elect would persist in sin and be lost, because they are taken from the same fallen lump of clay as the rest of humanity. You and I are responsible for our sin, not God. The Bible affirms human responsibility right alongside the doctrine of divine sovereignty. Moreover, the offer of mercy in the gospel is extended to all alike. Isaiah 55:1 & Revelation 22:17 call "whosoever will" to be saved. Isaiah 45:22 & Acts 17:30 command all men to turn to God, repent and be saved. 1 Timothy 2:4 & 2 Peter 3:9 tell us that God is not willing that any should perish, but desires that all should be saved. The Lord Jesus said that, "the one who comes to Me I will certainly not cast out". John 6:37
Take the human responsibility of Judas, he was never coerced nor had some invisible hand forcing him to do anything. Judas had every opportunity as the rest of the disciples, and us, to find forgiveness and grace. He heard the sermons; he witnessed the miracles, the confrontations with the religious elites. He heard Jesus explain the parables about the unjust steward, the message of the wedding garments, the coming judgement and the preaching against the love of money. Judas listened to all of these lessons yet never applied one of them to his life. Judas had every opportunity, even the opportunity when he pointed out Jesus in the garden. In Matthew’s gospel we read “Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, "The one I will kiss is the man; seize him." And he came up to Jesus at once and said, "Greetings, Rabbi!" And he kissed him.” Matt 26:48-49. In Luke’s gospel we read, “Jesus said to him, “Judas, would you betray the Son of Man with a kiss?” Luke 22:48. He acted freely on his own and he was completely responsible for his own actions.
Free Will does not mean that mankind can
do anything he pleases.
Our choices are limited to what is in keeping with our nature. For example… a man may choose to walk across a bridge or not to walk across it; what he may not choose is to fly over the bridge. His or her nature prevents them from flying. In a similar way, a man cannot choose to make himself righteous. Our nature prevents him from canceling his guilt. Romans 3:23
So, free will is limited by our nature. A totally “free will” would be the capacity to make choices without any external constraints or coercion. There is nothing in the Bible…..that teaches human beings have this type of free will. Only God is perfectly free from all constraint.
have a will…. We
can make decisions biblically speaking,we have the responsibility to
respond to what God has revealed to us, including His call to believe the gospel. But,
again, our will is not truly “free” because we have constraint that
shape our decisions. That’s why we know in God’s
providence we see the workings of God in your life and mine. Why? Because what is before us is
the plan and progression of God’s electing
Those He predestined (v29)…… this word in the English means “to determine beforehand” This simply means to “setting the destiny, goal, or end of something before it happens.”
Those He conformed (v29) in this present body we fall short of somehow being conformed to the image Christ. It’s in these bodies we look forward to that one day we will be like Christ. Remember what Paul said in Romans 6:5! Every true believer moves relentlessly towards perfection in righteousness as God makes for Himself a people created in his likeness. The only evidence which we can have that we are the subjects of his gracious purpose is, that we are “in fact” conformed to the Lord Jesus Christ.
He called (v30)…… this is God’s effectual calling; as he calls forth what He purposes to be effected by His call…… your salvation. When God called the world into existence it was not an invitation. He didn’t plead with darkness to produce light. He didn’t beg the universe to be, He simply called into existence. It was an “effectual calling” just as your election in the His salvation was an effectual calling.
He justified (v30)…..believers being made right with God by God. This is our eternal security at the point of our salvation. Our justification is God declaring the child of the God as righteous through repentance and faith in the gospel.
As with… foreknowledge, predestination, calling and justification, glorification is inseparable from the other elements and is exclusively a work of God.
He glorified (v30)….. this is our reward, as we know with absolute certainty that we await this glorious day. This means that there is a connection between justification and glory. The one does not exist without the other in its own proper time; as the calling does not subsist without the act of justification. This is why Paul said, “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory….” 2 Tim 2:10-13
The wonder of God’s providence in the gospel is why
we know that God is over all things and we rest there.
Whether your life is tough right now as we go through suffering.
Whether you lost a loved one naturally or tragically.
Whether you are battling cancer or another life threatening illness.
Whether you’re out of work and see no hope for the future.
Whether you finances do not equal out according to you.
Whether your marriage is on the rocks and it seems like divorce is around the corner.
Whether your child has gone astray and living with the pigs.
Whether your husband or wife have lost their fire for Christ.
Whether your life seems to be a living train wreck that seems impossible to recover.
Whether you feel alone and God seems distant.
R C Sproul said so eloquently, “tragedy now is blessing later”
God in His providence is faithful to bring you to glory as each us are visited at some point by tragedy. Hudson Taylor said “I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done." As Jeremiah said “Ah, Lord GOD! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” Jer 32:17
Don’t doubt what you cannot control!
Seek the Kingdom and not your own understanding as we rest in God’s providence. May we never doubt the sovereign protection of our Lord and God? May we take this passage of scripture and grow from our mistakes, and learn to apply the wisdom from this passage to strengthen our faith in the living God.
“The providence of God is our fortress, our shield,
and our very great reward.”