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Heidelberg Catechism LD 9-10: God, Our Father, and His Providence (Proverbs 16:33 and Romans 8:28-30)

A. GOD THE FATHER, AND OUR ADOPTION

In what respect is the first person of the Trinity “called the Father”?

  1. In respect to Christ
    1. He is the Father of the Son (Jesus Christ)
    2. Ephesians 1:3 – “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…”
    3. In respect to the Son, “the Father” signifies the first person of the Godhead. Distinction of the person, not of the essence.
  2. In respect to creatures
    1. He is the creator and preserver of all (lahat tayo nanggaling sa Kanya)
    2. Acts 17:28-29 (Paul, inspired by the Holy Spirit, cites the philosophers/poets)
    3. In respect to the creatures, “the Father” signifies the whole divine essence (without any respect to the persons)
    4. [Transition:] But the real sense of God being “our Father” more generally applies to the elect—to all His spiritual children.
    5. While God bestows upon all people his common grace, his special grace and divine favor (i.e., fatherly affection) is granted only to those who belong to his spiritual family.
  3. In respect to believers
    1. The Triune God is the Father of believers whom he adopted to be his children
      1. Christ (the eternal Logos) is the only natural Son
      2. Believers are children of God only by adoption for the sake of Christ
        1. Why? (See Ephesians 2:1-3)
        2. In our natural state, we are all fallen in sin and are by nature sons of disobedience and children of God’s wrath.
        3. But when the Holy Spirit works in us, regenerates us and leads us to repentance and faith in Christ, we become a “new creation” (1 Corinthians 5:17).
        4. And since we are justified by faith, and are now made righteous before God and his Spirit dwells within us, it follows that there will be a change in how God relates to us. (No longer as objects of his justice and wrath, but as objects of his divine favor—as a father would to a son). Hence, he is “my God and my Father” as the Catechism says.
      3. This is all because and for the sake of Jesus Christ (Galatians 4:4-7)(*Son and heir, to be discussed again later)

Implication

  1. If you are not yet in Christ, you are not a child of God.
    1. Though you may receive his grace and mercy common to all (e.g., life, food, clothing), at the end of the day, you are still under the curse of his wrath because of your sin.
    2. You must repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ in order to have all the benefits in Christ (John 1:12-13)
      1. *Right/authority – (Illustration of “Authorized personnel only”)
      2. Illustration of a stranger yet adopted into a family
  1. To those who truly repent and believe in the Christ, let us keep in mind and treasure the benefits we have as children of God
    1. Being children of God, we are also “heirs” (tagapagmana) of the promise. Because we are in Christ, believers also receive all the benefits, privileges, and inheritance that Christ has acquired by his righteousness and work.
    2. Paul gives more about our privileges as God’s children in Romans 8:
      1. Romans 8:14-15 – The right and boldness to approach God (*fear/dread of God and his justice – what prevents us from coming to God, not the fear of anything)
      2. Romans 8:16 – Assurance
      3. Romans 8:17-30 – Sanctification (conformity to the image of His Son) and the security of our salvation. He will make sure that those he foreknew will also be called, converted, justified, sanctified, and finally glorified. And he fulfills this also by his divine providence.

Our salvation is secured not only because God appointed it before the foundation of the world, or because Christ fulfilled it and promised it in his Word—but also because in the providence of God, he continues to preserve, govern, and direct everything for the good of his people and the complete salvation of his children. And all of that for the glory of God.

This leads us then to the topic of God’s providence.

B. GOD THE FATHER, AND HIS PROVIDENCE

What is the providence of God?

Providence is the act of God in which, by his power, wisdom, and goodness, he takes care of all his creation and directs (direkta, ginagabayan, idinadala) everything towards its appointed ends even through the use of means.

Points of clarification:

  • Is the providence of God only active among believers?
    • No. Nothing is outside God’s hand. But he is actively involved in all things in all creation—including in the lives and affairs of unbelievers—ultimately for the good and salvation of his children. The providence of God (i.e., that he will direct everything to its appointed end) should bring fear and anxiety to unbelievers, but it gives comfort and hope for the believers.
  • Is predestination the same as providence? (See Thomas Watson)
    • No (though inseparable) God’s foreknowledge and predestination determined what will come to pass until the end. But his providence is his act by which all things actually come to pass.
    • “God did not only foreknew all things and determined all things; he also direct all things to their appointed ends.” ~ Thomas Watson
  • Is God’s sovereignty the same as providence?
    • No (though inseparable). The absolute sovereignty of God affirms that he rules supremely over all things; he has supreme authority, and he has all the right and power to do whatever he pleases (Psa. 115:3). (God is God; no matter what man does or believes, he is subject to God’s authority).

      But sovereignty is a characteristic of God, while providence refers to his sovereign act over the affairs of his creations. [Illustration: A king who is sovereign over the land does not necessarily exercise providence by being able to secure the accomplishment of his decrees and doing it toward the good]

      Without sovereignty, there will be no providence. But while sovereignty is God’s absolute authority and power, providence is God’s wise, good, and purposeful exercise of his sovereignty.

What is the evidence of God’s providence? (Against those who believe that God is no longer involved in creation)

Just one example: Acts 1:8 (compare with Acts 8:1-4 amidst persecution)

How do we understand the providence of God?

3 Aspects of the Providence of God

  1. Preservation
    1. “Preservation is the continuous work of God by which he maintains the things which he created, together with their properties and powers with which he endowed (given to) them” ~ Louis Berkhof
    2. Hence, everything in the entire creation is in its being and action absolutely dependent on God.
    3. Psalm 104:5; 10-11; 14-15; 27-30 – God did not simply create and leave the rest to “second causes.” He is actively involved in the continuance of creation (e.g., 24 hours, sunrise to sunset, etc.). We may see destruction and distortion in creation (e.g., pollution), but it is due to man’s responsibility. But until God’s appointed end for this old creation, life will continue.
    4. The reason we still breath and have strength every single day, the reason we can still hear and read God’s Word, etc…. is because of God’s preservation.
  2. Government
    1. Government is the activity of God by which he rules all things to secure to accomplishment of his divine purpose. “… includes the ideas of design and control.” ~ Charles Hodge
    2. God appointed the ends of all things, but he also controls everything and provides everything towards the fulfillment of his purpose, including the means to those ends.
    3. Psalm 33:10-11; Proverbs 21:1 (apply to current global crises)
    4. Even in things that seems to be accidental, God still governs it (Proverbs 16:33)
    5. God also uses means for His influence, such as circumstances, motives, instruction, persuasion, and example, but also works directly by the personal operation of the Holy Spirit on the intellect, the will, and the heart.
    6. Example: We learn and receive helped through others (even through unbelievers), and these are all under God’s rule over all things and affairs of mankind.
  3. Concurrence (Sometimes treated by theologians as under Government)
    1. If God governs all things and creatures to his decreed will, does he “control” them like mindless robots?
    2. Concurrence refers to the co-operation of God’s divine power will all subordinate powers/abilities of his creatures, according to their pre-established properties and limitations, causing them to act and to act precisely as they do.
    3. Paul affirms the truth in Acts 17:28 “ In him (God), we live and move and have our being.” Nothing in creation cannot fulfill its action unless God allows it. But in concurrence, while God grants the ability and permission to fulfill the act (first cause), the act is referred to the creature who did it (second cause).
      1. Example: Achieving success
      2. Example: Fire burning a house
    4. Hence, it is an act of God only in so far that it is dependent on His will for it to happen. But it is a deed of the creature in so far that is the self-activity of the creature. The action remains a free act of the creature, for which he is responsible.
  1. Example: 2 Samuel 12:11-12, God disciplining David for his sin, fulfilled through the responsible acts of his children (Amnon against Tamar, Absalom against Amnon [13:1-39], Absalom against David’s concubines [17:20-22].
  2. So still, in the end, God’s will always has the priority over man’s actions (i.e., government). He uses man’s action for the fulfillment of his purpose.
  1. And God may also override the intentions and actions of man, particularly evidenced in the work of the Holy Spirit in a sinner

IMPLICATIONS & APPLICATION:

  1. Human Responsibility

    Understanding God’s providence, especially the aspect of concurrence, clearly shows that we are responsible for ourselves.
    1. Exhortation for single adults who long for marriage but does nothing at all (and a warning on modern media’s influence concerning building relationships)
    2. Exhortation for Christians who use “it is the providence of God” as a license for passivity
    3. Exhortation for unbelievers who, in the providence of God, are able to hear God’s truth of salvation (i.e, through church, family, friends)
    4. Exhortation for Christians who continue to struggle with sin, the same way, and again and again
      1. Illustration of a man angry with God for not preventing him from committing adultery
      2. 1 Corinthians 10:13 (God provides ways, we just stubbornly insist!…How’s your personal/private life? Reading God’s Word, running away, etc.).
  2. Trust and Comfort in God’s providence
    1. Although we may experience evil because of other people, or as a consequence of our sins, God is still in control and will direct such experience for our good. God allows us to fall into sin so that we may learn more and mature (e.g., prevent pride and relaxation). And even if we fall into sin, God will preserve us and certainly bring us back.
    2. We are responsible and must be careful with how we live our lives. And ultimately, we just follow God’s written will and trust his providence. Because in reality, we can’t know everything and don’t always make the best decisions. Yet even when we decide something different from God’s will—he will redirect us. And his ways and his timing is always perfect.
    3. One of the perfect example of God’s providence is found in the story of Joseph from Genesis 37-50:
      1. Young Joseph as most probably a spoiled son (Gen. 37)
      2. 37:29, 34 — A crisis to the family
      3. 39:2 — Sold to slavery, but God was with Joseph
      4. 39:21-23 — Sent to prison by false accusation, but God was with Joseph
      5. 40:01-41:1 — After interpreting two prisoners’ dreams, Joseph forgotten for 2 years. All of these certainly taught him a lot.
      6. 42:1ff — After about 20 years, brothers come to Egypt to buy grain. Joseph conceals his identity and speaks harshly against them.*
        1. *Most likely not showing revenge against them, but to test whether their hearts has truly changed. Since all throughout, Joseph still gave them special treatment (41:25, ch. 44).
        2. *Most likely, he was still figuring out things (remember that he already forgot about his father’s house. See “Manasseh” name).
      7. 45:3-5, 7-8 — Joseph finally reveals his identity, and says that God sent him there. He certainly realized that all that happened is for the preservation of God’s people, and the fulfillment of God’s covenant promise since Genesis 3.
      8. 50:20 — “You meant evil against me (and they were responsible), but God meant it for good.”
    4. Going back to Romans 8:28-29. Why do we know that “all things work together for the good” to all who love God? How could we say so? Because God makes sure that those whom he chose to save will actually and fully be saved. Whatever is happening to us right now, whether it seems good or evil, gain or loss, it is just part of the entire process of God taking us to glory. That’s why we could still say, “It is for my good.” Are we thankful to God for his providence?
    5. He Leadeth Me Hymn (#463)
      1. “O words filled with heavenly comfort”
      2. “Deepest gloom… bowers bloom” — Support for plants, sometimes in and through adversity, sometimes in and through prosperity & comfort
      3. “Clasp (fasten) Your hand in mind” — Willingly let God take the lead, dependence on God
      4. “through Jordan” — As God led the Israelites to cross Jordan to enter the Promised Land, he will lead us to pass through death and enter the true and perfect Promised Land.
      5. “His faithful follower” — a response of trust

As we live in this life, let us obey God and strive to follow him in all our decisions one day at a time. And instead of being anxious or self-confident… let us trust him, knowing that he is wisely and perfectly directing every single thing and every single moment in our life and in the entire creation—for our good and for his glory.

“He is able to do this because he is almighty God,
He desires to do this because he is our faithful Father.”

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