The Works of God
Sunday AM Class
God’s Providential Work
Lesson # 1
Intro: Continuing our study of the Works of God; in correlation with our theme of Eph. 2:10 – we are the workmanship of God. What does God tell us about His work?
Consider God’s work in 3 areas:
1) God’s Creative work – He initially created all the physical things – what that means to us today.
2) God’s Providential Work – God continues to work in His creation through His providence.
3) God redemptive Work – The first two areas of God’s work are focused on the completion of God’s work of redeeming His people from their sins in Christ.
Today we are beginning a study of this second type of God’s work – His providential work.
My father was a very conscientious and hard working man. He lived his life in service to his family. When I was a child I was awed by his ability to provide for us. But my admiration was not born out of complete knowledge. There were things I knew and things I did not know.
- I did not know at the time what he did at his job. I remember going to his place of work and picking him up when my mom needed the car. I remember him talking about his work (about radar defense, drawing and engineers).
- I did not know how much money he made, and I never saw the family budget. I only experienced the results of the planning and effort to provide for my needs.
So it is with my Heavenly Father. He is constantly providing for me. There are some things I know about what He does and there are many things that I do not know. I benefit from His planning and provision and I am sure that He is the One who provides it.
I. What is Providence? The English word “Providence” comes from a Latin term that means foresight. (pro- before; video- to see). The Greek word is actually found only twice in the Scriptures. Both instances refer to the activity of men, not God. Acts 24:2 – 2 And when he was called upon, Tertullus began his accusation, saying: “Seeing that through you we enjoy great peace, and prosperity is being brought to this nation by your foresight, Romans 13:14 – 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to fulfill its lusts. But the concept of God’s providence is evidenced throughout scripture. Nehemiah said.. Neh 9:6 – 6 You alone are the LORD; You have made heaven, The heaven of heavens, with all their host, The earth and everything on it, The seas and all that is in them, And You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You.
- “Providence [is] the conduct and direction of the several parts of the universe by a superior intelligent Being. The notion of a providence is founded upon this truth, that the Creator has not so fixed and ascertained the laws of nature, not so connected the chain of second causes, as to leave the world to itself, but that he still preserves the reins in his own hands, and occasionally intervenes, alters, restrains, enforces, suspends, etc., those laws by a particular providence” (Watson, 1881, p. 863). Watson, Richard (1881), A Biblical and Theological Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Southern Methodist Publishing House).
- Providence…iterally means foresight, but is generally used to denote God’s preserving and governing all things by means of second causes…Easton, M. (1996, c1897). Easton’s Bible dictionary. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.
- We can find a definition & we will consider some examples of providence in the Bible. But the mystery is in the mode! The mode of God’s providential government is altogether unexplained. We only know that it is a fact that God does govern all his creatures and all their actions; that this government is universal. Easton, M. (1996, c1897). (Easton’s Bible dictionary.)
A. The Presupposition: God’s providence presupposes the divine creation of the universe and God’s sovereignty over all that He created. Inherent in this presupposition is the nature of God Himself. He is infinite in wisdom, perfect in holiness, absolute in all of his attributes, such as His knowledge, power, and intelligence. Isa 46:9-11 – 9 Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things that are not yet done, Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, And I will do all My pleasure,’ 11 Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man who executes My counsel, from a far country. Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it. God’ providence assumes that God cares about every element of His creation.
B. The Concept: The primary thought of forethought, or foresight implies a definite end or goal. The word is used to denote the biblical idea of “the wisdom and power which God continually exercises in the preservation and government of the world, for the ends which he proposed to accomplish” (McClintock, 1968, 8:707). The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia says that providence the “…preparation, care, and supervision which are necessary to secure a desired future result.”
C. The Purpose: Scripture does not tell us whether God did or did not know that man would sin. God created man with the power of choice and God knew the full ramifications of the choice that man had to make. We are not told of God’s plan for man if he chose not to sin, though I believe that He had such a plan. The fact is that man sinned, thereby bringing upon himself separation from God and ultimately, eternal death. God had a plan for him – a plan or purpose for his redemption. The revelation and consummation of this purpose of redemption in His providence becomes the central theme of the Bible, and everything must work to the achievement of that goal.
1. It is clearly taught in Scripture that God had a plan or purpose predetermined in His mind even before the creation of the world and man. In Ephesians 1:4 – 4 just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,.. “ Paul describes a choosing in Christ that preexisted the world.
a. The noun prothesis, from which our word purpose is translated, is defined as, “a setting forth, plan, purpose, resolve, will;” and the verb protithemi is defined as, “plan, purpose to do something” (Arndt and Gingrich). Both the noun and the verb forms of occur in Eph. 1:7-11–7 In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace 8 which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, 9 having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed (verb) in Himself, 10 that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth — in Him. 11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose (noun) of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will,”
2. In Romans 8 Paul saw the setting forth of this plan of redemption as though it had already been accomplished, even though it was still only in the mind of God. Rom 8:28-30 – 28 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
a. The “all things” are things mentioned in the context that pertain to the gospel and our redemption – the freedom from sin (vv. 1-2), the life after the Spirit (w. 12-17), the sufferings of life in Christ which lead to glory (vv. 17-18), the groanings in hope and patience as one waits for the realization of hope, and the help of the Spirit of God in our weakness.
b. “the called” are the saved according to the redemptive purpose of His own will. Those who heed the voice of God in scripture, and thus submit to His will.
c. God’s purposes never fail. If God purposed to save all those that love Him (even before they were created) then we can be assured that everything that God has done has worked for their good toward that purpose. Paul’s words here describe the providence of God in the context of its ultimate purpose.
D. The Scope: From the vastness of the entire Universe, to the very hairs of one’s head, the providential interest of the Lord is manifested. What is the scope?
1. The Universe. In a grand exaltation of Christ, the writer of Hebrews declared that the Savior is “upholding all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3). Paul said, “in him all things consist [Greek, sunistemi “stand together”]” (Colossians 1:17). Robertson’s comments on this verse say, “Christ is the controlling and unifying force in nature” (Robertson, 1931, 4:479). A. There is no activity of what we term as “nature” that is not under His absolute control. Read carefully the 38th & 39th chapters of Job. God questions Job concerning his power in the world in which he lives. Job controlled nothing; God controlled it all.
- Psalms 147:8 – 8 Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains… Vs. 16-18 – 16 He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; 17 He casts out His hail like morsels; Who can stand before His cold? 18 He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow.
2. The animal creatures. God created every living thing and he maintains and uses them. Matthew 6:26 – 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them.. .
- Psalms 147:9 9 – He gives to the beast its food, And to the young ravens that cry.
- Psalms 104:21 – 21 The young lions roar after their prey, And seek their food from God.
- Matthew 10:29 – 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will. Luke’s account says “and not one of them is forgotten”.
3. The nations. God has worked and continues to work providentially among the nations of the world. He is “ruler over the nations” (Psalm22:28).
- Daniel 4:17 …the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, Gives it to whomever He will.” He can elevate a “Daniel” or a Joseph” providentially to power, or drive a Nebuchadnezzar from the throne. The proverb writer says the kings’ heart is in the hand of Jehovah. (Prov. 21:1).
- Paul on Mars Hill – Acts 17:26 –26 And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, God rulership over every person was the basis for Paul’s message of accountability.
4. The people of God. While it is true to say that God sends His rains upon the just and the unjust (Matthew 5:45), there also is a special providential care that the Father manifests on behalf of His children. This fact is established by the doctrine of prayer. Does God hear and respond to (consistent with His will) the petitions of Christians? He most assuredly does, and those who believe in the power of prayer must also recognize the providential care of God for Christians. Matt 6:25-33 – “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? 26 Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? 27 Which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature? 28 “So why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; 29 and yet I say to you that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. 30 Now if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is, and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? 31 “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ 32 For after all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.
a. God’s providence is an important element of my faith. I must live before Him in a constant recognition of His care and concern. To be anxious or invest my energy in physical pursuits is a sign of a lack of faith. Ps 34:7-10 – 7 The angel of the LORD encamps all around those who fear Him, And delivers them. 8 Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good; Blessed is the man who trusts in Him! 9 Oh, fear the LORD, you His saints! There is no want to those who fear Him. 10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger; But those who seek the LORD shall not lack any good thing.
Conclusion: The most visible and profound evidence of God’s providential care is the cross of Jesus. In fact, I cannot understand providence apart from Christ. Although there were miraculous acts associated with Christ’s sacrifice, God manipulated centuries of history providentially to cause it to happen. Gal 4:4-5 – 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Acts 2:22-24 – 22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — 23 Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; 24 whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it. I do not know how He did it, but I know that He did it for me. He did it for you as well. Will you respond to message?
Next lesson – The principles and elements of God’s providence.