Jeremy Sarber

Divine Providence

God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom, upholds, directs, arranges, and governs all creatures and things (Heb 1:3; Job 38:11; Isa 46:10-11; Ps 135:6), from the greatest to the least (Mt 10:29-31), by his perfectly wise and holy providence, to the purpose for which they were created. He governs according to his infallible foreknowledge and the free and unchangeable counsel of his own will. His providence leads to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy (Eph 1:11).

All things come to pass unchangeably and certainly in relation to the foreknowledge and decree of God (Ac 2:23), who is the first cause. Thus, nothing happens to anyone by chance or outside of God’s providence (Pr 16:33). Yet by the same providence God arranges all things to occur according to the nature of second causes, either necessarily, freely, or in response to other causes (Ge 8:22).

In his ordinary providence, God makes use of means (Ac 27:31, 44; Isa 55:10-11), though he is free to work apart from them (Hos 1:7), beyond them (Ro 4:19-21), and contrary to them (Da 3:27) at his pleasure.

The almighty power, unsearchable wisdom, and infinite goodness of God are so thoroughly demonstrated in his providence, that his sovereign plan includes even the first fall and every other sinful action both of angels and humans (Ro 11:32-34; 2Sa 24:1; 1Ch 21:1). God’s providence over sinful actions does not occur by simple permission. Instead, God most wisely and powerfully limits and in other ways arranges and governs sinful actions (2Ki 19:28; Ps 76:10). Through a complex arrangement of methods he governs sinful actions to accomplish his perfectly holy purposes (Ge 50:20; Isa 10:6-7, 12). Yet he does this in such a way that the sinfulness of their acts arises only from the creatures and not from God. Because God is altogether holy and righteous, he can neither originate nor approve of sin (Ps 50:21; 1Jn 2:16).

The perfectly wise, righteous, and gracious God often allows his own children for a time to experience a variety of temptations and the sinfulness of their own hearts. He does this to chastise them for their former sins or to make them aware of the hidden strength of the corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts so that they may be humbled. He also does this to lead them to a closer and more constant dependence on him to sustain them, to make them more cautious about all future circumstances that may lead to sin, and for other just and holy purposes (2Ch 32:25-26, 31; 2Co 12:7-9). So whatever happens to any of his elect happens by his appointment, for his glory, and for their good (Ro 8:28).

God, as the righteous judge, sometimes blinds and hardens wicked and ungodly people because of their sins (Ro 1:24-26, 28; 11:7-8). He withholds his grace from them, by which they could have been enlightened in their understanding and had their hearts renewed (Dt 29:4). Not only that, but sometimes he also takes away the gifts they already had (Mt 13:12) and exposes them to situations that their corrupt natures turn into opportunities for sin (Dt 2:30; 2Ki 8:12-13). Moreover, he gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan (Ps 81:11-12; 2Th 2:10-12), so that they harden themselves in response to the same influences that God uses to soften others (Ex 8:15, 32; Isa 6:9-10; 1Pe 2:7-8).

The providence of God in a general way includes all creatures, but in a special way it takes care of his church and arranges all things to its good (1Ti 4:10; Am 9:8-9; Isa 43:3-5).