Doctrine 4. Providence, God's eternal decrees, Creation

We have already looked a little at who God is and how it is that he chooses to reveal himself to us. Here we are going to examine three ways in which God reveals to us his lordship over all things. Just as a man displays his ability to cook by his dishes and an architect his ability to design by his buildings so God displays his lordship over all things by his works.

We might say that God displays his lordship in time through his work of providence, his lordship at the beginning of time through his work of creation and his lordship before time (we might say in eternity past) through his eternal decrees.

Providence is described by the WSC (Westminster Shorter Catechism) as: “his most holy, wise and powerful preserving and governing of all his creatures and all their actions.” We might further categorise ‘general providence’ as God’s upholding and sustaining of the universe and ‘special providence’ as his extraordinary work in the life of his people.

John Frame speaks of providence like this: “In providence, God controls everything (government and preservation); he reveals himself authoritatively; and he becomes present to the world he has made.” [1]

Creation is God’s act of bringing all things into being. Genesis 1v1 says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” John tells us that this act of creation was comprehensive: “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” John 1v3

How did God perform the work of creation? “And God said…” Gen 1v3,6,9,11 etc. “In the beginning was the word…” John 1v1. “By the word of the Lord the heavens were made…” Psalm 33v6.

Why did God perform the work of creation? Paul says in Col 1v16: “For by him all things were created… all things were created through him and for him.”

Wayne Grudem says: “The doctrine of creation reminds us that God is sovereign over the universe he created. He made it all, and he is Lord of all of it.” [2]

God’s eternal decrees are described by the WSC as: “his eternal purpose according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath fore-ordained whatsoever comes to pass.” We affirm that God is in control of all things (he is sovereign), the doctrine of his eternal decrees teaches us that this control results from a plan. Again, John Frame puts it like this: “Because he has a reason, a goal, a purpose for everything, he is able to make all things work together for good.” [3]

Psalm 33 says that the counsel of the Lord stands forever and the plans of his heart to all generations. His plans stretch to before ever he created the universe. Perhaps the most wonderful of God’s eternal decrees is his purposing to bring to himself those he has redeemed by the blood of Christ; we call this the decree of election.

We owe to God all honour because he is the Lord of Lords; through creation he is revealed as Lord of our history, through providence he is revealed as Lord of our present and through his eternal decrees he is revealed as Lord of our destiny.

Questions for consideration:

1) How will God’s lordship through creation, providence and his eternal decrees change the way you present the gospel to unbelievers?

2) How will God’s lordship change the way you pray?

3) Will you resolve to make his lordship known?

Article by: David van den Broek

[1] John Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord p19
[2] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology p309
[3] John Frame, Salvation Belongs to the Lord p20

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