WCF 5.3 — Pastoral Comments

Posted on Jun 24, 2018 by admin

5.3   God, in His ordinary providence, maketh use of means,1 yet is free to work without,2 above,3 and against them,4 at His pleasure.

1 Acts 27:31, 44; Isa 55:10–11. Hos. 2:21–22; 2 Hos. 1:7; Mt 4:4; Job 34:10;  3 Rom 4:19–21;  4 2 Kgs 6:6; Dan. 3:27.

What the previous paragraph in our Confession calls “second causes,” the present paragraph calls ‘means.’ Here, we are given to confess, essentially, that God has the power and authority to ‘intervene’ in the ordinary course of nature in order to accomplish His purpose.

Or to put it in another way, all things in the created world are happening according to the laws of nature which God has appointed. Thus galaxies, stars and planets are spinning according to the laws of astrophysics that God has set in place for man to discover from the beginning. The same is true at the subatomic level where discoverable laws of quantum physics have been set in place by the Creator. Likewise there are laws of biology and chemistry. So a man who is bitten by a black mamba or infected with the Rabies virus can expect certain death unless he receives immediate treatment. Similarly, a man who has no food and water is likely to die within ten days or so. Although the time of death for each man is appointed of God, God, in general, uses means either to sustain, save or to take away life.

But God is not restricted by means. Indeed, He occasionally, as it were, sets aside His own laws of nature for specific reasons such as answers to prayer or to display His glory.

In what ways does He set aside the ordinary means? Our Confessions teaches us that when He does so, He works “without, above and against them.”

When God announces through Hosea that He would not save Judah “by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen” (Hos 1:7), He is essentially saying that He would save them without the ordinary means common in a war. When Paul declares that Abraham,-despite the fact that both he and his wife were past child-bearing age,-was “fully persuaded that, what [God] had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom 4:21), he is suggesting that Abraham believed that God is able to work above the limitations of the ordinary means. Likewise, when the Scripture tells us that “the iron did swim” (2 Kgs 6:6) or that Daniel’s friends were not singed by the fire in the furnace (Dan 3:27), it is really describing how God is able to work miraculously and sovereignly against the means or against the laws of nature.

It is especially, because God is able to work without, above and against means that we can pray believing even when things look impossible to man and to science. “For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Lk 1:37)!

Extracted and translated from:
Westminster Confession of Faith — With Brief Pastoral Comments
© 2018 by Pilgrim Covenant Church
Translation and posted with permission
Chinese version Copyright © 2018 Gratia Dei Sola Media (华恩传媒)