Pastoral Overview

This monthly blog series contains a brief pastoral overview of each chapter of the 2nd London Confession. Written by a pastor for his flock, this series is a lovely collection of articles aimed at introducing congregations to the confession.

Chapter 5 - Of Divine Providence

God the good Creator of all things, in his infinite power and wisdom doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures and things, from the greatest even to the least, by his most wise and holy providence, to the end for the which they were created, according unto his infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of his own will; to the praise of the glory of his wisdom, power, justice, infinite goodness, and mercy.

Second London Baptist Confession of Faith, Ch5, P1.

Great Providence of Heaven

The doctrine of God’s providence is found everywhere throughout the pages of Scripture. God not only made all things but exercises continuing care and rule over his creation. Thus, the God of the Bible is not the God of Deism that maintains that he created this world like a divine clockmaker. The Deist holds that God was active at one point in the past, making and establishing the laws of motion and relativity and the many physical laws which cause life to continue on earth. Having put into motion these laws, the Deist believes that God is now far removed from any active involvement in the events and the unfolding history of the world.

However, the Bible reveals God’s fingerprint on all that exists. He is present and active in his universe according to his wisdom, power and unfailing love. The Lord upholds all who fall and raises those bowed down. 

The eyes of all look expectantly to you, and you give them food in due season. You open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing’ (Psalm 145:14-16). ‘What is man that you are mindful of Him, and the son of man that You visit Him?’ (Psalm 8:4). 

Great Providence of Heaven

He is the God who not only upholds and governs the direction of his creation but uses it to fulfil his ends and purpose to his glory. As the Psalmist says, he ‘makes the clouds His chariot, who walks on the wings of the wind’ (Psalm 104.3). He governs all things, small and great, for his glory and the good of his people, the Church. His decrees are from eternity, yet he works out his purposes in history. He accomplishes his sovereign intentions by using the ordinary means at hand, through the creatures, order and laws he has ordained.

Moreover, God has at times worked without, above and against natural means. For instance, the miracle of the incarnation was according to supernatural (i.e. above natural) means. In the case of Abraham and Sarah, both old and weak, God worked above the natural order and provided a son though Sarah was beyond childbearing age. In the case of the sun standing still in the valley of Aijalon, God caused the sun to stand still (Joshua 10.13). It is vital to remember that though God may work above natural law, this does not mean his works of providence are illogical or violate his nature. The Lawmaker possesses divine rights over the laws he has established and, by his great providence, accomplishes all his good pleasure.

It is vital to remember that though God may work above natural law, this does not mean his works of providence are illogical or violate his nature.

The knowledge of the doctrine of the providence of God is of great comfort. For instance, there is an inseparable union between God’s glory and his people’s good as the ultimate end of all his works of providence. Much in this world of sin may appear to work to the bad and seemingly ill of God’s people. However, the reality is that God uses even these things for his glory and his people’s good. God can and does accomplish his eternal will and sanctifying purpose using temptations, trials and even the sinfulness of the human heart.

This understanding that God has ordained everything to come to pass should spur us on to action, knowing that God has ordained the end and the means through which he carries forth his work. God uses the believer’s faith, repentance, prayers, good works, preaching, witnessing, and all gifts he has given to fulfil his plan. Therefore, we must be willing to humble ourselves and desire the goal of God’s purposes and the means he has ordained to achieve such ends. 

On the other hand, the providence of God should strike fear into the heart of every unbeliever. They should tremble at the words of Isaiah, who said, ‘For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?’ (Isaiah 14:27). One may hope to hold back the earth’s rotation than to hold back the accomplishment of God’s sovereign decree. This reality eventually moved Job to admit, ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’ No opposition of man can restrain the unstoppable train of God’s providence. As the sins of Israel could not withhold the promised Messiah’s coming, the wicked machinations of evil men cannot withhold his coming again to execute perfect justice. 

Every sin will receive its just reward in eternal death. For those not found united to Christ by faith, there will be no escaping the wrath to come. The gospel calls sinners to turn from such ludicrous and futile opposition, receive God’s forgiveness, and embrace Christ. Only then may sinners be restored and know the delights of God, whose providence is inescapable.

Great providence of heaven –

What wonders shine

On its profound display 

Of God’s design:

It guards the dust of earth, 

Commands the hosts above,

Fulfils the mighty plan 

Of His great love.

Picture of Chris Rees

Chris Rees

Minister, Bethesda Baptist Chapel, Narberth, Wales