WCF 5.1 — Pastoral Comments

Posted on Jun 5, 2018 by admin

5.1 God the great Creator of all things doth uphold,1 direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things,2 from the greatest even to the least,3 by His most wise and holy providence,4 according to His infallible foreknowledge,5 and the free and immutable counsel of His own will,6 to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.7

1 Heb 1:3; 2 Dan. 4:34–35; Ps 135:6; Acts 17:25–26, 28; Job 38; 39; 40; 41;  3 Mt 10:29–31;  4 Prov 15:3; Ps 104:24; 145:17;  5 Acts 15:18; Ps 94:8–11;  6 Eph 1:11; Ps 33:10–11;  7 Isa 63:14; Eph 3:10; Rom 9:17; Gen 45:7; Ps 145:7.

Chapter 5 of our Confession concerns ‘Providence.’ The word ‘providence’ comes from the Latin providentia which means “foresight or forethought.” But it is not only about God’s foreknowledge as the etymology of the term may suggest. Rather, it speaks of God seeing to all things planned before hand, or of God bringing to pass all that He has decreed would happen in creation. That is to say, the work of creation answers to God’s eternal decree to bring into existence all things in this universe. Providence, on the other hand, answers to God’s eternal decree by which He did “unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time” (WLC 12).

In this first paragraph, we are given to confess the nature, comprehensiveness, basis and goal of God’s work of Providence.

In terms of nature, God’s providence is His upholding, directing, disposing and governing everything that He has created. Everything in this universe continues to exist because they are upheld by God in Christ, “by the word of His power” (Heb 1:3). Every motion is brought about by God’s power, for “Whatsoever the LORD pleased, that did he in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places” (Ps 135:6).

In terms of comprehensiveness, God’s providence comprehends all creatures, living or non-living, animate or inanimate, rational or irrational, great or small. And it comprehends all movements and changes, whether they be physical, chemical, biological or spiritual. Thus our Lord affirms that not a sparrow will fall to the ground without the heavenly Father’s ‘permission’ (Mt 10:29). In fact, not one of our hairs can grow or drop without His bringing it to pass, for even our hairs are all numbered (Mt 10:30). Thus the apostle Paul declares that all men live and move by God’s power: “For in him [i.e. God] we live, and move, and have our being” (Acts 17:28a).

The basis of God’s providence is His “infallible foreknowledge” and “the free and immutable counsel of His own will” by which He brings all things to pass.  The Scripture testifies of this by reminding us that “known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18) and “the LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works” (Ps 145:17). 

Finally, the goal of God’s providence is the “praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy.” Notice how the glory of God displayed in these perfections usually manifest itself in the life of God’s people. We think of the beautiful biblical declaration that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom 8:28). God, in other words, is ordering all things by His providential power so that everything is working together for the benefit of His elect children.

As God’s children, we should therefore learn to trust the Lord through every changing scene of life knowing that nothing happens by chance, and that everything happens according to God’s loving purpose towards us.”


Westminster Confession of Faith — With Brief Pastoral Comments
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