Providence

Understanding-Providence-Big-Picture-Biblical-Classical-Community

The first verse in the first chapter of the first book of the Bible is the context for providence: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.” -Genesis 1:1 (KJV) Since everything ties back to Genesis in one way or another, God’s Providence is seen throughout every subject and sphere of life. For now, we’re going to focus on the definition of providence so that we have a foundation for this series of articles on providence and so we see the big picture of it.

Of note, everyone has presuppositions. One’s presuppositions are based on one’s worldview. For the Biblical Classical teacher and student, the overarching presupposition is that God is involved in the lives of men and nations even today. Additionally, we presuppose that He’s the Creator of each subject. That is the Biblical worldview. If you know your Bible well enough or even how to properly use a reliable concordance you’ll be able to find Scripture after Scripture that teaches us that. Therefore, all of the courses at Biblical Classical Community have the presuppositions that God is still involved in the activities of men and nations to this day and that He’s the Creator of each subject.

Defining Providence

We’ll look at the Biblical worldview definitions of providence and providential because they relate to each other and the two are used interchangeably.

Providence, from Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language:

PROV’IDENCE, noun [Latin providentia.]

1. “The act of providing or preparing for future use or application.

“Providence for war is the best prevention of it. [Now Little Used.]

2. “Foresight; timely care; particularly, active foresight, or foresight accompanied with the procurement of what is necessary for future use, or with suitable preparation. How many of the troubles and perplexities of life proceed from want of providence!

3. “In theology, the care and superintendence which God exercises over his creatures. He that acknowledges a creation and denies a providence involves himself in a palpable contradiction; for the same power which caused a thing to exist is necessary to continue its existence. Some persons admit a general providence but deny a particular providence not considering that a general providence consists of particulars. A belief in divine providence is a source of great consolation to good men. By divine providence is often understood God himself.

4. “Prudence in the management of one’s concerns or in private economy.”

Noah Webster, Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

We see here that providence has dichotomies: 1. to an extent mankind can provide and prepare; 2. mankind relies upon Creator God to provide and care as He sees fit for the individual (particulars) and nations (consisting of particulars).

Providential, from Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

PROVIDEN’TIAL, adjective Effected by the providence of God; referable to divine providence; proceeding from divine direction or superintendence; as the providential contrivance of things; a providential escape from danger. How much are we indebted to God’s unceasing providential care!”

Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language

What Providence Isn’t

Oftentimes when people think of the word providence, they assume it means that everything turns out fine and rosy for the individual in this world (the physical realm). However, as Webster’s definition explains, that’s not necessarily what it means.

Despite the individual’s sinful choices and actions towards another, God cares and provides spiritually for individuals who love Him. To say that one understands why or why He doesn’t always intervene in horrific situations in this world is incorrect. Equally, to say that God never intervenes is also incorrect. The Bible, history, and personal experiences teach us that sometimes God intervenes to stop atrocities and sometimes He doesn’t. When He doesn’t, what can we learn from the sinful actions of mankind—from the times when God’s principles are dishonored? In contrast, will we learn to honor, treasure and apply His principles to all of life and learning?

Providence Speaks of God’s Very Character and Nature

Though we live in a fallen world, God has not ceased to be involved. In the beginning, He provided for His creation. That being said, He continues to provide on an individual basis for our needs. As we turn to Him and trust Him for His timing and will for our lives, our faith in Him grows. Our relationship with Him and love for Him is strengthened. That is to say, if the individual so chooses. Always, the individual has a choice to make in response to Holy God.

Romans 8:28 teaches us: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (KJV)

Commentary on Providence

Matthew Henry’s Commentary shares the following understanding of the principle in Romans 8:28:

“II. The concurrence of all providences for the good of those that are Christ’s, v. 28. It might be objected that, notwithstanding all these privileges, we see believers compassed about with manifold afflictions; though the Spirit makes intercession for them, yet their troubles are continued. It is very true; but in this the Spirit’s intercession is always effectual, that, however it goes with them, all this is working together for their good. Observe here.”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible

Those Who Love Him

“1. The character of the saints, who are interested in this privilege; they are here described by such properties as are common to all that are truly sanctified. (1.) They love God. This includes all the out-goings of the soul’s affections towards God as the chief good and highest end. It is our love to God that makes every providence sweet, and therefore profitable. Those that love God make the best of all he does, and take all in good part. (2.) They are the called according to his purpose, effectually called according to the eternal purpose. The call is effectual, not according to any merit or desert of ours, but according to God’s own gracious purpose.”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible

Weaning of the World

2. “The privilege of the saints, that all things work together for good to them, that is, all the providences of God that concern them. All that God performs he performs for them, Ps. 57:2. Their sins are not of his performing, therefore not intended here, though his permitting sin is made to work for their good, 2 Chr. 32:31. But all the providences of God are theirs—merciful providences, afflicting providences, personal, public. They are all for good; perhaps for temporal good, as Joseph’s troubles; at least, for spiritual and eternal good. That is good for them which does their souls good. Either directly or indirectly, every providence has a tendency to the spiritual good of those that love God, breaking them off from sin, bringing them nearer to God, weaning them from the world, fitting them for heaven. Work together. They work, as physic works upon the body, various ways, according to the intention of the physician; but all for the patient’s good. They work together, as several ingredients in a medicine concur to answer the intention. God hath set the one over against the other (Eccl. 7:14): synergei, a very singular, with a noun plural, denoting the harmony of Providence and its uniform designs, all the wheels as one wheel, Eze. 10:13. He worketh all things together for good; so some read it. It is not from any specific quality in the providences themselves, but from the power and grace of God working in, with, and by, these providences. All this we know—know it for a certainty, from the word of God, from our own experience, and from the experience of all the saints.”

Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible

The Foundations and Big Picture of Providence

There are foundations and a big picture of providence. We see it from the beginning of human history as revealed to us in Genesis 1. Additionally, we see it in General Revelation. It’s seen in God’s plan and purposes for subjects and the spheres of life.

This article has explained the premise and big picture of providence.

Worldview is Always Taught

It’s my counsel that Christians be aware of historians and curriculum that claim any subject is neutral. To state such a claim is to erase Creator God from the subjects and from life. It’s to “secular-humanist wash” subjects. Christians will note that such and idea of “neutral subjects” is not Biblical. Such an idea as that has eternal consequences for the individual.

Be sure to catch Part 2, Providence Seen in the Creation Account.

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