God’s providence and Sovereignty

Divine providence is the governance of God by which He, with wisdom and love, cares for and directs all things in the universe. The doctrine of divine providence asserts that God is in complete control of all things. He is sovereign over the universe as a whole (Psalm 103:19), the physical world (Matthew 5:45), the affairs of nations (Psalm 66:7), human destiny (Galatians 1:15), human successes and failures (Luke 1:52), and the protection of His people (Psalm 4:8). This doctrine stands in direct opposition to the idea that the universe is governed by chance or fate.

Psalm 104; Psalm 147:8-9; Psalm 147:14-18; Psalm 148:1-12

God’s sovereignty is His rule over all, His providence is His arranging things to accomplish His purposes…. How He hooks things up to accomplish whatever His purpose is in a given situation. God’s providence allows for evil. He is not evil and He doesn’t do evil but He uses it to accomplish His purposes. Our responsibility is to be aligned with God so that when He moves us, we will be ready .
Job 9:5-10; 26:7-14; 37:2-24; 38:8-41

Another clear case of divine providence overriding sin is the story of Judas Iscariot. God allowed Judas to lie, deceive, cheat, steal, and finally betray the Lord Jesus into the hands of His enemies. All of this was a great wickedness, and God was displeased. Yet, at the same time, all of Judas’s plotting and scheming led to a greater good: the salvation of mankind. Jesus had to die at the hands of the Romans in order to become the sacrifice for sin. If Jesus had not been crucified, we would still be in our sins. How did God get Christ to the cross? God providentially allowed Judas the freedom to perform a series of wicked acts. Jesus plainly states this in Luke 22:22: “The Son of Man will go as it has been decreed. But woe to that man who betrays him!”

Note that Jesus teaches both the sovereignty of God (“the Son of Man will go as it has been decreed”) and the responsibility of man (“woe to that man who betrays!”). There is a balance. 

 Divine providence is taught in Romans 8:28: “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” “All things” means “all things.” God is never out of control. Satan can do his worst, yet even the evil that is tearing the world apart is working toward a greater, final purpose. We can’t see it yet. But we know that God allows things for a reason and that His plan is good. It must be frustrating for Satan. No matter what he does, he finds that his plans are thwarted and something good happens in the end.

So now the Bible says that everyone is born dead in sin (Ephesians. 2:1), are by nature alienated from God and under His wrath (Ephesians. 2:3), lives in a natural state of rebellion against God such that no one seeks Him on their own (Rom. 3:11), views the gospel as foolish (1 Cor. 1:18, 2:14), and is morally incapable of accepting God’s saving ways (Rom. 8:6-7). Scripture also declares that all humanity is enslaved to sin (Rom. 6:20), hostile towards God (Col. 1:21), and unable to come to Christ unless the Father draws them (John 6:44, 65).

In other words, Scripture declares that everyone is in a state where, unless God changes the will of a person, they remain in a position where they are unable to perceive God’s saving grace and will never receive Christ as Savior.

This is why it is absolutely necessary for God to ‘violate’ our ‘free’ will, which is not free at all, but is instead enslaved to sin. In the same way that Jesus violated Lazarus’ ‘deadness’ and raised him from the dead so he could live again, every Christian is also raised back to life from their being “spiritually” dead so that they become born again (John 3) and are then able to live for God.

John Piper, in his usual logical style, puts the matter like this

Will you pray that God change his mind so that he truly sees the beauty of Christ and believe? If you pray this, you are in effect asking God no longer to leave the determination of the man’s will in his own power. You are asking God to do something within the man’s mind (or heart) so that he will surely see and believe. That is, you are conceding that the ultimate determination of the man’s decision to trust Christ is God’s, not merely his.

“What do you want God to do for Him? You can’t ask that God overcome the man’s rebellion, for rebellion is precisely what the man is now choosing, so that would mean God overcame his choice and took away his power of self-determination. But how can God save this man unless he acts so as to change the man’s heart from hard hostility to tender trust?

What I am saying is that it is not the doctrine of God’s sovereignty which thwarts prayer for the conversion of sinners. On the contrary, it is the unbiblical notion of self-determination which would consistently put an end to all prayers for the lost. Prayer is a request that God do something. But the only thing God can do to save a lost sinner is to overcome his resistance to God. If you insist that he retain his self-determination, then you are insisting that he remain without Christ.”

That being the case, ask yourself: is that really what you want? If not, and you’re someone who holds to the notion that God will not violate our will, then perhaps it’s time you rethink your position.

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