CHAPTER 5: Of Divine Providence (Parts Three & Four)
In His providence, the Lord accomplishes His will either by working through people and circumstances, apart from people and circumstances, or even in opposition to people and circumstances. As Psalm 115:3 clearly states, “Our God is in Heaven; He does as He pleases.” The accomplishment of God’s pleasure, not people or circumstances, is what determines all things.
The question is often asked, why does God allow evil, pain, and suffering in the world? The answer is that according to His wisdom and goodness, God providentially brings about His purposes, the sins of men notwithstanding. Though God does not endorse sin, nor is He responsible for sin in any way (God is not tempted by evil nor does He Himself tempt anyone to do evil, James 1:13), God providentially decreed that Adam and Eve would sin, and that that sin would result in the fall of humanity. God did not merely permit sin (of man and angels) He determined it to bring about His ultimate purpose: to show grace in saving sinful people for His own glory. He decreed that they would do according to their desires so that He could achieve His most holy and benevolent ends. It is because of their sin that He most brilliantly reveals His grace to forgive sinners.
When we do not understand God, it is because He is beyond us, never because there is any contradiction in Him. There is only one reason to have a problem with this: our view of God is small. Is anything too hard for God?
At times God providentially decrees even His beloved children to face temptations and sin to bring about in us greater holiness and dependence on Him. Would we not all agree that our greatest times of spiritual growth are the result of trials, even if those trials are the consequences of our own sin?
As the Confession states it: “Whatsoever befalls any of His elect is by His appointment, for His glory, and their good.”
Why are the wicked and ungodly as they are? This also is God’s providence. As the righteous Judge (He cannot do evil), God blinds the eyes of some, withholding His grace. Someone objects, “That’s not fair!” Isn’t it? Let us not forget that God makes no man evil, nor is He in any way responsible for the evil anyone does. Evil resides in man due to his own sin and rebellion. God owes no one grace. If He did, it would not be grace but a debt owed by God.
When people persist in their sin and rebellion, suppressing the truth about God in unrighteousness, God sometimes turns them over to their sinful desires, withholding even the restraining grace that previously kept them from being as bad as they would otherwise be if it were not for God’s intervention on their behalf.
Lastly, regarding God’s providence, He cares for all creatures as a benevolent Creator, but He cares especially, and in special ways, for His people, those saved by His grace.