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God's Providence and Divine Government

God's Providence

Providence is basically the provision which God makes for the purposes of His government. We can distinguish between general and particular providence: The first is the "general provision made in the properties and laws of both matter and mind." However, matter and mind "are not self-existent and self-efficient, but require the upholding or sustaining power of God." The second is the particular provision and control that God exercises over His creation; He is "directly or indirectly, actively or permissively concerned in every event."[1]

The Scriptures mention as general providence the control that God has over
1. the universe at large [2]
2. the physical world [3]
3. animal life [4]

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Particular providence can be seen in God's care for each part of His creation in relation to the whole:
1. the affairs of nations [5]
2. man's birth and lot in life [6]
3. the successes and failures of men's lives [7]
4. things seemingly accidental [8]
5. supplying the needs of God's people [9]
6. the protection of the righteous [10]
7. the punishment of the wicked [11]
8. answers to prayer [12]

Divine Government

This may be defined as "that continued activity of God whereby He rules all things teleologically (i.e. by design or purpose) so as to secure the accomplishment of the divine purpose." God's government is thus His providence considered from the point of view of the purpose or "end to which God is guiding all things in creation, namely, to the glory of His name."[13]

God governs as King of the universe. Some theologians argue that God revealed Himself as King in the old testament and Father in the new. But Jesus came teaching about the kingdom of God [14] and did not proclaim a universal Fatherhood. As King of the universe, God is the source of all authority in heaven and on earth, the King of kings and Lord of lords.

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God established the laws of nature and by means of these laws He administers the government of the physical universe. But God is a moral being and has created man in His image, therefore God's government of man has a moral character. Through His sovereign, wise and benificent will, God governs and controls His creatures by making use of moral influences, such as circumstances, motives, instruction, persuasion and example.

God's government is universal [15] as it is the execution of His eternal purpose. However, like His providence, His government is both general and particular: everything is under God's control for the purpose of revealing His own glory. [16] Thus God's providence and divine government cannot be separated. For the purposes of analysis, God's providence and divine government of the natural order, of the nations, and of man, may be considered separately if we bear in mind that they all work together to achieve His ends.

God's providence and divine government: the natural order

God controls everything in nature, from rain and hail [17] good crops and plagues,[18] to health and sickness [19] life and death. [20] Since God's will is directly responsible for the regularity of the natural order, eg. day/night, summer/winter,[21] and since He does according to His will in heaven and earth, there is no problem with "an occasional miraculous irregularity" [22] because nothing is impossible with God.[23] Because He thus reveals Himself through His providential government of the natural order: 1) the man who does not acknowledge God is without excuse, [24] and 2) the fulfillment of His promises is guaranteed.

God's providence and divine government: world history

The whole of Scripture as biblical history is one long record of divine government. The two most important events in God's plan of redemption as revealed in the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, are Christ's first coming to herald God's kingdom and His return to reign as King of kings. Throughout the Old Testament the rise and fall of nations were dependent upon God's will, and decreed by Him according to His eternal purposes. [25] Israel, as God's instrument for bringing about His plan of redemption, was governed according to strict moral laws. Depending upon their obedience or disobedience, they were either rewarded or punished. [26]

Because of their failure to live as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation, God turned to the Gentiles for the establishment of His world-wide church, comprising both Jew and non-Jew. [27] The Old Testament prophecies of God's Messianic kingdom will ultimately be fulfilled when Christ returns. God has brought about His plan thus far and nothing can stop Him. He laughs at opposition [28] and uses it to further His own ends. [29] The climax of history will be the defeat and eternal punishment of those opposed to and fighting against God and His kingdom. [30]

God's providence and divine government: individuals

One problem often raised about God's providence is that it seems difficult to reconcile it with man's freedom. The Bible does teach God's absolute control, but at the same time man is a truly free agent and therefore morally responsible for his actions. God prompts us to will and to do what He commands, [31] but the praise for the good is due to God's grace. [32] We are, in fact, "not able to reconcile God's sovereignty and man's responsibility" because we cannot comprehend "the nature of divine knowledge" nor "the laws that govern human conduct." [33] This is therefore one of those teachings of the Bible that we must accept by faith as one of God's mysteries, which will be revealed to us "when perfection comes" and we "shall know fully." [34]

Another problem arises because of God's dealings with Israel as a nation concerning reward or punishment for obedience or disobedience. Two questions have been asked:

1) Why does God allow the wicked to prosper? The Bible makes it clear that the purpose of God's tolerance and patience with the wicked is to give them an opportunity for repentance, [35] but that His judgement and vengeance is sure. [36]

2) Why do the just so often suffer? There are several answers:
a)The distinction between the righteous and the wicked will again be seen in the Day of the Lord; [37]
b) meanwhile suffering is the Lord's discipline; [38]
c) the patient bearing of suffering glorifies God and leads to blessing; [39]
d) adverse circumstances should not affect communion with God. [40]
In the New Testament the fact that believers suffer is no longer a problem because Jesus, the only Just and Innocent, suffered the ultimate penalty. Believers are called upon the share in Christ's sufferings [41[ in order to share in the glory to be revealed. [42]

The belief in God's providence and divine government teaches His people "to wait on Him in humility and patience for vindication and deliverance;" [43] to have courage and hope rather than despair; to pray to Him for help, and to praise Him for everything. [44]

References:

1. Finney, p.155
2. Psalms 103:19; Daniel 5:35; Ephesians 1:11
3. Job 37:5,10; Psalms 104:14; 135:6; Matthew 5:45
4. Psalms 104:21,28; Matthew 6:26; 10:29
5. Job 12:23; Psalms 22:28; 66:7; Acts 17:26
6. 1 Samuel 16:1; Psalms 139:16; Isaiah 45:5; Galations 1:15,16
7. Psalms 75:6,7; Luke 1:52
8. Proverbs 16:33; Matthew 10:30
9. Genesis 22:8,14; Deuteronomy 8:3; Phillipians 4:19
10. Psalms 4:8; 5:12; 63:8; 121:3; Romans 8:28
11. Psalms 7:12,13; 11:6
12. 1 Samuel 1:19; Isaiah 20:5,6; 2 Chronicles 33:13; Psalms 65:2; Matthew 7:7
13. Berkhof, p.175
14. eg Matthew 13
15. Psalms 22:28,29; 103:17-19; Daniel 4:34,35; 1 Timothy 6:15
16. Ephesians 1:9-12
17. Psalms 147:18,17
18. Deuteronomy 16:15; Exodus 10:4
19. Deuteronomy 7:15
20. Psalms 104:29-30
21. Genesis 8:22
22. Douglas, p.990
23. Genesis 18:14; Luke 1:37
24. Romans 1:20
25. Daniel 2:36-45
26. Deuteronomy 28
27. Ephesians 3:6
28. Psalms 2:4
29. Acts 4:25-28
30. eg. Revelation 19
31. Phillipians 2:13
32. 1 Corinthians 15:10
33. Douglas, p.428
34. 1 Corinthians 13:10,12
35. Romans 2:4
36. Psalms 73:12, 16-19
37. Malachi 3:18-4:3
38. Proverbs 3:11-12
39. Job 1-2:42
40. Habakkuk 3:17-18
41. 1 Peter 4:13
42. 1 Peter 5:1
43. Douglas, p.991
44. Ephesians 5:20

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1. Berkhof, L. A Summary of Christian Doctrine, London, England: The Banner of Truth Trust, 1938.

2. Douglas, L.D. (ed.) New Bible Dictionary, Illinois, U.S.A.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1962.

3. Finney, C. The Heart of Truth, Minnesota, U.S.A.: Bethany Fellowship Inc., 1976.

4. Green, J.P. (ed.) The Interlinear Bible, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1986.

5. Hammond, T.C. In Understanding be Men, Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity Press, 1968.

6. Pearlman, M. The Doctrines of the Bible Part 1, Roodepoort, S.A.: Gospel Publishing House, 1937.

7. Strong, J. Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Tennessee, U.S.A.: Thomas Nelson, Inc., 1990.

8. Thompson, F.C. The Thompson Chain-Reference Bible (N.I.V.), Michigan, U.S.A.: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1983.

9. Webster's Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: G.& C. Merriam Co., 1961.

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Posted in: Bible by on August 21, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

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