Disciple Hour: Systematic Theology (Providence – Chapter 16)

 Systematic Theology: The Doctrine of God[1]

Lecture Notes[2] Chapter 16: Providence


11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,


Ephesians 1:11 (ESV)


Are we ready to learn things that we can never know?  That is the best way I know of to describe what it’s like to study the Doctrine of God, and that is never truer than when we study His Providence.

God’s providence, or God’s Sovereignty, has probably been THE most debated; THE most volatile; topic in the Church, and it’s probably been the longest running debate as well.  It has raged on since the days of the early church.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve seen Scripture establish that creation is not a part of God (Pantheism) and that God did not create the world and then just step back and leave it to run on its own (Deism).  He is distinct from it, but yet He is intimately involved with it.  Our purpose today is to glean from Scripture just how involved He is.  I believe Scripture is quite clear in letting us know that after creating all we see; God also preserves and governs it all as well.  Providence is God’s ongoing relationship with the universe.

Definition:  God is CONTINUOUSLY involved with all created things in such a way that He……

1. keeps them existing and maintaining the properties with which He created them; 

2. cooperates with created things in EVERY action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do; and

3. directs them to fulfill His purposes.

A.  Preservation

God keeps all created things existing and maintaining the properties with which He created them.

Hebrews 1:3 (ESV)
3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

The word “upholds” means to carry; to bear or bring forth.  The way it’s used indicates that it’s a CONTINUAL carrying.

Colossians 1:17 (ESV)
17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

These verses show us that if Christ stopped His activity of sustaining all things, all things would IMMEDIATELY cease to exist.  Because God made and maintains the universe, if a scientific experiment provides certain results today, we can expect that they will provide the same results 100 or even 1000 years from now.

B.  Cooperation

God cooperates with created things in every action, directing their distinctive properties to cause them to act as they do.  

Ephesians 1:11 (ESV)
11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,

ALL THINGS!!  It tells us that He “works or brings it about.”  NOTHING in creations falls outside of His providence!


1.  Inanimate Creation

Matthew 5:45 (ESV)
45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

2.  Animals

Matthew 6:26 (ESV)
26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?

3.  “Random” Events

Proverbs 16:33 (ESV)
33 The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.

Today’s “casting lots” would be rolling dice or flipping a coin.

4.  All Aspects of our lives

Job 14:5 (ESV)
5 Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass,

Proverbs 20:24 (ESV)
24 A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?

Okay, here it comes!  If God, because of His providence, causes EVERYTHING that comes about in the world, then…..

Q.  What about evil?  Does God cause/allow evil?


1.  Joseph-His brothers were jealous of him, hated him, wanted to KILL him, and then sold him.

Genesis 45:5 (ESV)
5 And now do not be distressed or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.

2.  Pharaoh

Exodus 4:21 (ESV)
21 And the LORD said to Moses, “When you go back to Egypt, see that you do before Pharaoh all the miracles that I have put in your power. But I will harden his heart, so that he will not let the people go.

Job 1:21-22 (ESV)
21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.”
22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.


God sent evil Babylon against Israel then punished Babylon for their ruthlessness.

Lamentations 3:38 (ESV)
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come?

Isaiah 45:7 (ESV)
7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the LORD, who does all these things.

WE are responsible for our WILLING choices.

Acts 2:23 (ESV)
23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.

Acts 4:27 (ESV)
27 for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel,

We do not act against our wills!!  We are responsible for our choices!  Our blame is justified.  Our evil is always worthy of punishment.

John Calvin wrote,

“Thieves and murderers and other evildoers are the instruments of divine providence, and the LORD Himself uses these to carry out the judgments that He has determined with Himself.  Yet I deny that they can derive from this any excuse for their evil deeds.  Why?  Will they either involve God in the same iniquities with themselves, or will they cloak their own depravity with His justice?  They can do neither.”

If we have a problem with thinking along these lines, what are the alternatives?

1.  If we say God does evil, then He is not good or righteous; He is not God.

2.  If we say God doesn’t use evil to fulfill His purposes, then there is evil that exists that God did not intend, He cannot control, and it does not fulfill His purposes.  Then all things CANNOT work together for good.  Might there be more evil that He doesn’t intend and cannot handle?

No, we MUST conclude that God allows evil; uses evil; for His Glory, He NEVER Does evil, never takes pleasure in evil, and we must never blame Him for it.

[1] Based on and various Quotes from Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology, Zondervan

[2] All Scripture from ESV Bible, Crossway

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