What is the Doctrine of Providence?
The human eye is an amazing organ. On a clear night, people can actually see the Andromeda galaxy with the naked eye, which is 2.5 million light-years away – that’s 24 quintillion kilometres (15 quintillion miles) … in case you were wondering. The next time you are on top of Mt. Everest, you could theoretically see for about 339 kilometres (211 miles) if unhindered by clouds. At sea level, strangely enough, the “horizon” you see is actually only 4.8 kilometres (2.9 miles) away. But for all this looking, the human eye could never see the way God sees.
We get the word Providence from the Latin word providēre, from pro- forward + vidēre to see, inferring that God sees ahead. But the doctrine of Providence is about more than simply seeing ahead because it takes into account the nature and activity of God demonstrated to us in the Bible.
In the Bible we find God creating with goodness and purpose and sustaining what he has made with both his power and his care. In the Bible we find God working out his good purposes even in the midst of our fallenness and sin. In the Bible we find God acting in the world, revealing his very self to people, making a way for those who desire him to come, and inspiring them to set their heart on eternity with him. We find God both engaging with this world in general ways that suggest power, intention and invitation, and in particular ways that suggest the intimacy of relationship, love and care.
In short, Providence is a doctrine about all the ways God relates and interacts with this world.
Over the next few weeks, we are going to use the diagram below to help us categorize some of the major ways we see God relating to this world in the Bible. We are going to look to the scriptures to understand and define God’s providential work of preservation, concurrence and governance, both in terms of his general care for all that he has made and in terms of his particular will for those who have said “yes” to God and all that he has provided for us in Christ. We will end this study by also considering the role that faith and prayer play in light of a God who “sees” ahead and knows all things.
I will end today by saying this: God’s most profound and significant act of provision for humanity was Christ himself. Christ, the eternally begotten Son, is the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through him (John 14:6).
- How have you seen God’s general care for all that he has made?
- How have you seen God at work in particular ways in your life?
- Read through Ephesians 1:1-14. What does this passage tell us about how God provides and what God provides for those who say “yes” to him?
- If you could ask God one question about his will for your life, what would it be?