A General Study of Providence

Introduction

What is providence?  The subject of “providence” is an extremely interesting and challenging one and certainly deserving of much thought.  Our English word “providence” is derived from the word “provide,” and in that word we see the basic concept contained therein.  In reference to God, providence has to do with God’s provisions for us.  The providence of God concerns itself with the preservation, care and government which God exercises over the entire creation, in order that they may accomplish the purpose for which they were created.  However, it must be very emphatically stated that providence does not eliminate the freedom of the human will. Men are free moral agents, and their decisions are their own, and they are morally responsible for them. 

Joshua emphasized this truth unto the nation of Israel: 

Joshua 24:14-15, “Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth:  and put away the gods which your fathers served on the other side of the flood, and in Egypt; and serve ye the Lord.  And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell:  but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” 

Discussion

I.                   WHAT WE DO NOT MEAN BY PROVIDENCE.

A.     To begin with, we do not mean that God works miracles today.

1.      During the first century God provided, occasionally, for his children by working miracles.

2.      Miracles were to authenticate those who came from God, spake from God, or in some way were God’s representatives.

3.      With these miracles God set aside His established natural laws.

4.      He now works through natural law by daily grace and Providence. 

I Cor. 13:8-10, “[Love] Charity never faileth:  but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.  For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.  But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.” 

James 1:25, “But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.” 

James 5:17-18, “Elias was a man subject to like passions as we are, and he prayed earnestly that it might not rain:  and it rained not on the earth by the space of three years and six months.  And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth brought forth her fruit.” 

(I Kings 18:41-46, either read or refer to). 

B.     Secondly, when we speak of Providence, we do not mean some mysterious leading of the Spirit.

1.      The Spirit works powerfully in our day, but only and always through the Word of God. 

Eph. 6:17, “And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God:” 

Heb. 4:12, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 

2.   Those who want to lead us into the realm of mysterious leadings, inward impulses, strange motions, funny feelings, and all kinds of subjective hocus pocus would lead us away from the powerful Word of God.  And, they do it without book, chapter, and verse! 

I Pet. 4:11, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God;… 

1 Thess. 5:21, “Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” 

C.     Thirdly, when we acknowledge that there is a magnificent Providence of God, we do not feel we have the right to speak for God.

1.      When a person begins to say, “God did this for me,” or “God acted here, or there,” he does so without proof.

2.      We ought, like Mordecai, to say, “Who knoweth whether thou are not come to the kingdom for such a time as this?” (Esther 4:14).  “Who knows but what” ought to be as far as we dare express our self about a specific event. 

II.                LET US NOTICE SOME CONCEPTS AND VIEWPOINTS WHICH ARE ANTI-PROVIDENCE VIEWPOINTS.

(The world does not operate on the same level as the believing Christian.  The Christian is aware of a loving God who cares and provides for him.  It is in God that we live and move and have our very being” (Acts 17:28).  Nothing happens without God!  But the world believes and acts differently.) 

A.     The concept of deism is that God created the universe and endowed it with self-sustaining forces, after which He withdrew himself outside the universe.

1.      This would leave men and nations completely severed from God and special blessings from Him.

2.      There is no possible way for the deist to believe in the Providence of God.

3.      There is no reason for the deist to pray. 

B.     The concept of pantheism is that the universe is God, and God is the universe, and this is the all.

1.      The word is derived from “pan” which means all and “theos” which means God; thus we have, “All is God and God is all.”

2.      But the truth of the matter is that the physical creation is not God, but rather that which was created by Him. 

Gen. 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” 

Eccl. 12:7, “Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was:  and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.” 

C.     Agnosticism doesn’t know if there is a God and atheism believes there is no God.

1.      So neither can believe in His providential working in the affairs of men.

2.      The Christian senses the hand of God in all things, working, guiding, allowing, until His purposes are all served. 

D.    Fate is described as an impersonal force which absolutely determines all events. 

E.     Other anti-providence views:  Fatalism, Luck, horoscopes, black magic, etc. 

III.             WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN “GENERAL PROVIDENCE” AND “SPECIAL PROVIDENCE”? 

Matt. 6:10, “…Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” 

(Of course not everything done pleases God.  It is not God’s Will that anyone sin.  But God has a Will that even encompasses this situation so that ultimately His Will will be done.  The divine Will will be carried out, and no one in heaven, on earth, or in Hades can prevent it. 

Now since the providence of God with which we are particularly concerned has to do with man, and since man has free will, it will always be some what puzzling to us as to how to properly integrate divine providence with human free action.) 

Acts 2:23, “Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and fore-knowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:” 

A.     General Providence.

1.      God provides for the general welfare of mankind. 

Acts 17:28, “For in him we live, and move, and have our being;

2.      Another element involved in general providence is the weather.

a.       This point overlaps the first. 

Matt. 5:45, “…he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” 

3.      A third element involved in general providence is civil government.

a.       He has provided for the protection of the innocent and for the prosecution of the guilty. 

(Rom. 13:1-7, Read!). 

b.      Somehow, God is able to work out His Will in and through the various governments of the earth. 

c.       God gives the kingdoms of the earth to whomsoever He will. 

Dan. 4:25, “That they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field, and they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and they shall wet thee with the dew of heaven, and seven times shall pass over thee, till thou know that the most high ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” 

Isa. 24:21, “And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall punish the host of the high ones that are on high, and the kings of the earth. 

4.      A fourth element in general providence is the possibility of good relationships of a domestic sort (the home).

a.       God has provided the home. 

(Gen. 2:18-25, refer to). 

b.      A wife is a blessing from God. 

Prov. 19:14, “House and riches are the inheritance of fathers:  and a prudent wife is from the Lord. 

c.       Children are a heritage from God. 

Psa. 127:3, “Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord:  and the fruit of the womb is his reward. 

5.      A fifth element in general providence is composed of time and chance.

a.       God’s special providence can incorporate either fortunate chance or unfortunate chance, but this exists in the real world God has provided for the human race. 

Eccl. 9:11, “I returned, and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.” 

B.     Special Providence.

1.      God will help arrange circumstances so that those who want the truth can find it 

Prov. 8:17, “I love them that love me; and those that seek me early shall find me.” 

(Matt. 7:7-11, Read!) 

John 8:32, “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free. 

2.      Angels are somehow involved in assisting the Christian.

a.       At Heb. 1:14 they are said to be ministering servants who are working in behalf of those who shall inherit salvation. 

3.      In special providence God keeps His promises with regard to security.

a.       Physical needs— 

Matt. 6:33, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” 

Psa. 37:25, “I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread. 

b.      Spiritual security— 

II Tim. 4:8, “Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day:  and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing. 

4.      In His special providence God will bless others because of faithful Christians. 

Phil. 2:13, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.” 

I Cor. 7:14, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband:  else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” 

Conclusion

Generally, in general providence we have reference to those situations which are particularly designed for the good of man in this life.  And in special providence we have reference to those arrangements or situations that have been designed for the good of man’s soul.

Borrowed & Adapted

--Dub Mowery

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