Monday, July 8, 2013

What are some implications of God's all-encompassing sovereignty?

In the book "A Puritan Theology," there are several questions that emerge among the Puritans regarding the implications of the providential working of God. The authors of the book collate several implications of God's all-encompassing sovereignty and how the Puritans responded to them. Here are a list of those:

1. How does God's providence relate to the laws of nature?

God works through ordinary means, but He is always the one sustaining and upholding all things. Hebrews 1:1-3, Col. 1:15ff

In other words, God made things that operate in a particular manner and he actively keeps them doing so. The birds, trees, human body have ordinary ways they operate but God upholds those natural and ordinary ways of operation.

2. How does God's providence relate to the freedom and sins of men?

Some things we know from Scripture about God's activity regarding our sin:

a). God does not tempt anyone to sin. James 1:13
b). God does permit men to sin. Acts 14:16
c). God withholds grace that would prevent sin. Ps. 81:11-12
d). God powerfully limits sin. Job 1:12, 2:6
e). God sometimes overrules sin to fulfill his holy purposes. Gen. 50:20, Isa. 46:10

3. How can God's providence permit the prosperity of the wicked? 

a). God is gracious, patient, and generous even with the wicked. Matt. 5:45

b). His justice sometimes brings punishment in this life and always in the life to come.

c). The outward prosperity of the wicked teaches us that outward goods are not the highest blessing God bestows on humans.

4. Why do the righteous suffer and die alongside the wicked?

Because God never promised to save the righteous from calamity in this life. Eccl. 9:2, Matt. 5

5. How does God's providence help us know God's will?

It is dangerous to read providence, but at times God does give hints of his will thru his providence.

Knowing God's will:

a). Get the true fear of God and be truly afraid of offending him.
b). Study the Word more and the concerns of the world less.
c). Reduce what you know to practice.
d). Pray for illumination and direction. Beg the Lord to help you.
e). After all this, follow providence as far as it agrees with the Word, and no further.

6. How does God's providence relate to our efforts?

God determines the means as well as the ends. The means is our faith and repentance in justification, our faith and effort (Bible reading, prayer, mortification) in sanctification.

"Pride uses means without seeking God, and presumption depends on God while neglecting the means he provides."

7. Why does God allow for crooked providences in the life of a Christian?

Thomas Boston listed 7 reasons:

a). To prove your spiritual state as a hypocrite or genuine believer.
b). To stir you to obedience, wean you from this world, and set your eyes on heaven.
c). To convict you of sin.
d). To correct or punish you for sin.
e). To prevent you from committing sin.
f). To reveal latent sin deep within your heart.
g). To awaken you from laziness so that you exercise yourself in grace.

8. How do I meditate on God's providence?

Flavel's recommendations:

a). Work hard at remembering and exploring the providence of God toward you. (extensively and intensively trace God's blessings and ways thru your life. Note answered prayer. Give thanks)

b). Trace the connection between the providences of God in your life and the promises of God in his Word. 

c). Look beyond the events and circumstances of providence to God as author and provider. (think of God's attributes and his work in your life, both in good and difficult times)

d). Respond to each providence in an appropriate way. 

Be thankful in good providences and look to the Lord for comfort and joy even in difficult providences.

Flavel~"Consider all your losses are but as the loss of a farthing to a prince."

How do we handle difficult providences?

a). Learn how to resist discouragement by trusting God is working in his timing toward greater blessing.
b). Learn not to assume that we fully understand God's ways and purposes, but meditate on his goodness in the past and promises for the future. Trying to solve mysteries too great for us will only breed suspicion toward God.

William Cowper~

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.
His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

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