Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chapter Five: Of God’s Providence

The Westminster Confession of Faith in Plain Language
1. Not only did God create everything, but he controls everything he created. He keeps it running and directs everything so that it happens according to his plan. He controls the actions of living and non-living things from the least significant to the most important. This control and direction is called “providence.” God planned beforehand exactly what he wants to do, and his providence follows that plan perfectly, wisely, and sinlessly. He can and will do exactly what he wants to do. God’s providence glorifies his wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy, and deserves to be praised.

2. Since God planned everything and causes everything to happen according to his plan, he is the starting point of everything that happens. Everything that happens must happen according to his plan and cannot happen any other way. However, God’s providence causes many things to happen as a result of something else, like dominos that fall in a line. A domino might be the laws of nature, or a choice that someone makes, or something that causes something else to happen. Regardless, everything happens according to God’s plan.

3. Usually God’s providence operates through normal, everyday people and things in a “behind the scenes” kind of way. However, if he wants, he can step in at any time and do things for which there is no human explanation. He can make something happen directly, or he can manipulate circumstances in miraculous ways, or he can defy the laws of nature.

4. God’s providence governed Adam’s first sin and every sin that followed. This control displays God’s almighty power, his mysterious wisdom, and his boundless goodness. He did not merely permit sin to happen, but he stepped in and directed it for his own good purposes. Even so, angels and humans are completely responsible for their own sin. God cannot be responsible, because he is holy and righteous and never causes or approves of sin.

5. For certain periods of time, God occasionally allows his own children to experience different temptations and to struggle with the sinfulness of their own hearts. God has different reasons for this. He might be punishing old sins. He might be showing them how sinful they really are and stopping them from thinking too highly of themselves. He might be drawing them closer to himself and making them more dependent upon him. He might be preparing them to avoid future sins. Whatever the reasons, they are fair and good, because God is wise, righteous, and gracious.

6. God righteously judges some wicked and ungodly people by blinding their spiritual eyes and hardening their hearts. He holds back grace that might otherwise work in their hearts and help them see their sin. He takes back good things that he has given them. He puts them in circumstances where they might be tempted to sin. He does not hold back their sinfulness, but lets it have free reign, so that they are completely defeated by the temptations of the world and the power of Satan. Eventually, their hearts become so hard that there is no hope of their ever softening again.

7. God’s providence governs everything, but there is special sense in which God takes care of his Church. He works everything out in the Church’s best interests.

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