Doctrine of God 0004 - Lesson 5

  1. THE WORKS OF GOD (Continued)
    1. Providence (Continued)
      1. The doctrine of God's providence (Continued)
        1. The methods of God’s providence. Although God guides the affairs and actions of all things in His creation, He does not directly control every event of creation or every thought and action of men. He most normally uses secondary means that allow men to think and act of their own free will while accomplishing God’s will in the end. Misunderstanding God’s use of different methods in order to govern all things has been the cause of much confusion. Since God knows all things, He does not have to control every action, but only needs to keep things moving in the right direction. Here is a division of four methods of providence that will help the student understand how this works.
          1. Preventative providence
            1. This refers to limits on what man is able to do. These limits operate either naturally or automatically and do not require God’s immediate intervention.
            2. The natural laws of nature (Psalm 104:6-9) and other natural limits keep man from certain actions. Man cannot (according to present understanding) exceed the speed of light. A person who is unable to learn calculus cannot become a physicist. These natural limits guide our actions in many ways.
            3. The customs and practices of society do much to guide the actions of men. This can include parental control, government control, laws, customs, public opinion, the Word of God, conscience (Romans 2:14-15), etc.
          2. Permissive providence
            1. This refers to the free actions permitted by God
              1. May be allowed because man’s will directly accomplishes God’s will.
              2. Includes even those actions that are wicked (Hosea 4:17; Romans 1:24, 28).
            2. Even those actions that are committed in rebellion to God’s will will accomplish that will (Psalm 76:10).
          3. Directive providence
            1. This refers to God’s subtle guidance of the ways of men so that they make the choices that accomplish the will of God.
              1. The saints of God may seek this guidance and at times be aware of it.
              2. The lost will be unaware of this guidance because it happens in ways they are unaware.
            2. However, directive providence is not complete control.
              1. By it, God gently nudges the man in the desired direction through circumstances, the use of his own prejudices, etc. Yet, the man is still making his own free choice in the matter.
              2. For instance, Matthew 26:24 states, “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born.”
                1. It has already been determined by God that Jesus would be betrayed.
                2. Yet Judas will be held fully accountable for his betrayal of the Son.
                3. How can this be? It is because Judas was not forced to betray the Son. Rather, he was put into a set of circumstances that God knew would bring about the free will decision of Judas to betray Jesus. God foreordained it, but Judas still betrayed Jesus of his own free will.
              3. Concerning the decision of the brothers of Joseph to betray him and sell him into slavery, Joseph said, “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive” (Genesis 50:20). The brothers of their own free will meant to do him harm, but God allowed it because He was using their betrayal to set up a way to save the children of Jacob from death.
              4. Isaiah 10:5 states, “O Assyrian, the rod of mine anger, and the staff in their hand is mine indignation.” The Assyrians destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel because of their own ambitions. But at the same time they were the rod of God being used to punish the disobedient Israelites.
          4. Determinative providence
            1. This refers to the direct working of God to bring about an event in nature or an action by man.
            2. This is called the immediate working of God as opposed to the mediate working of God through secondary means as in the other methods of providence.
            3. Miracles (from the dividing of the Red Sea to the feeding of the five thousand) are acts of determinative providence.
            4. When God blinds eyes so that men cannot understand certain things, that is determinative providence (John 12:40).
            5. God may combine acts of determinative providence with permissive providence in order to bring about His perfect will. A good example would be the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart at the time of the ten plagues. Pharaoh was raised up to show the power of God (Exodus 9:16). This explains why the Lord hardened Pharaoh’s heart on occasion. But on other occasions, Pharaoh hardened his own heart. The two worked together. But in the end, Pharaoh was still held responsible for his actions because of his acts of free will against God.
      2. The problem of free will
        1. The problem stated: How can God’s providence fully control history and man still have a free will?
          1. If God’s control is diminished,
            1. Does this weaken God?
            2. Does this mean that the future is questionable?
            3. Does this mean prophecy is uncertain?
            4. Is it possible that evil will win?
          2. If man’s free will is removed,
            1. Is God the author of evil?
            2. How can man be responsible for his actions?
            3. Is there any point to evangelism?
            4. Is there any point to prayer?
        2. Three approaches to the problem:
          1. Man has no free will. He is fully under the control of God. Although he feels like he is making decisions, it is only an illusion. Man’s decisions are predetermined just as his circumstances are.
          2. Man has complete free will. He can at any time decide to do anything he is physically capable of doing. As to salvation, he has the ability to accept salvation or reject it at any time.
          3. Man has a limited free will. He has a true ability to make decisions. However, there are certain limits on this free will because of his fallen nature. He cannot always choose to do good and he must be enabled by God to accept the gift of salvation. The Bible teaches the limited free will of man.
        3. Limited free will
          1. As to salvation
            1. Man’s inability
              1. The Father must draw him (John 6:44).
              2. The ability to come to Jesus must be given by the Father (John 6:65).
              3. God gives the lost repentance to the acknowledging of the truth (2 Timothy 2:25-26).
            2. God’s universal demand for faith
              1. Whosoever believes has eternal life (John 3:16-18).
              2. The gospel is to be taken to every creature (Mark 16:15).
              3. God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30).
              4. The call to come is given to all (Revelation 22:17).
            3. God’s enabling
              1. The crucified Christ will draw all men to Him (John 12:32).
              2. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Certainly, He will, therefore, draw all men.
            4. Conclusion:
              1. To be saved, a man must be drawn by God.
              2. God, in His love for all men, draws them to Himself.
              3. When drawn, a man is enabled to believe in Jesus as Saviour but he is not compelled to do so. There is no such thing as irresistible grace.
              4. However, it must be noted that God does not guarantee that He will draw all men at all times.
                1. There are times of drawing and times absent of drawing (2 Timothy 2:25-26).
                2. It is dangerous to reject God in the times of drawing since there is no guarantee of future times of drawing.
David Reagan

Daily Proverb

Proverbs 19:12

The king's wrath is as the roaring of a lion; but his favour is as dew upon the grass.