WCF 5.7 — Pastoral Comments

Posted on Oct 21, 2018 by admin

5.7  As the providence of God doth, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it taketh care of His Church, and disposeth all things to the good thereof.1

1 1 Tim 4:10; Amos 9:8–9; Rom 8:28; Isa 43:3–5, 14.

We have already seen how God has a special providence toward man in distinction from all other creatures since man is a moral creature created in the image of God. In the present paragraph, we are given to confess that there is another distinction in God’s providence that is especially comforting and must be acknowledged. This is the distinction between God’s general providence as it regards all the creatures in the world, and His “most special” providence in regard to “His Church.”

His general providence is exercised over all His creatures, whereas His most special providence is exercised specifically for the “care of His Church” and brought to pass in such way it as to “[dispose] all things to the good [of His Church].”

What do we mean by “His Church”? Our Confession is, perhaps intentionally, ambiguous. You see, “His Church” may refer to the Church Invisible, which comprises the elect; or it may refer to the Church Visible which comprises professing believers and their children.

In terms of the Church Invisible, the Scripture teaches us that God constantly has the interest of each one of His elect, in everything that He brings to pass by His providential power. For this reason, all things, great or small, are made to work together to promote their good (Rom 8:28).

But in terms of the Church Visible, the Scripture is also clear that God does exercise a special providential care over every body politic that constitutes the Church. We read in the Old Testament of how God protected and nurtured the church-underage in the Ark, in Goshen, in the Wilderness, in Canaan and even through times of tumult and exile. We read, for example, in Isaiah 43:3-5, 14

3  For I am the LORD thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee.  4  Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.  5  Fear not: for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west… 14  Thus saith the LORD, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; For your sake I have sent to Babylon, and have brought down all their nobles, and the Chaldeans, whose cry is in the ships. 

Likewise, God continues to exercise a special providential care over His Church under the New Covenant. Thus, while God sometimes permit His Church to be persecuted and reduced to a very low condition, the means by which His enemies intend for her destruction always become a means of edification and enlargement of the Church under the overruling providence of God. Thus, the Early Church grew because of the persecution she experienced, for believers “scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word” (Acts 8:4).

Therefore, every faithful church or denomination of the Lord Jesus Christ can expect the Lord to preserve her through every trial, major or minor, internal or external.  In this way, every faithful congregation of Christ shall be enabled to march on with the rest of God’s people until the final day when the Church Triumphant crushes the head of the ancient Serpent which has been bent on her destruction from the beginning of time (Rom 16:20).

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