In this short blog post, we come once more to Chapter 5 of the 1689 which is entitled “Of Divine Providence.”
Paragraph 1 of this chapter gives an overview of the doctrine of providence. Paragraphs 2-7 answer important questions about providence which naturally occur to many people. We come now to paragraph 5 and the question it answers.
If my sin is included in God’s providence, what possible good could come from my sin? Here is the Confession’s response:
The most wise, righteous, and gracious God doth oftentimes leave for a season his own children to manifold temptations and the corruptions of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to discover unto them the hidden strength of corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, that they may be humbled; and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself; and to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for other just and holy ends. So that whatsoever befalls any of his elect is by his appointment, for his glory, and their good.
To put this briefly, God may leave us to some sins to chastise us, humble us, and keep us from greater sins in the future. It is useful to ask why God may not be helping us with our sins. Could it be that there is a greater sin that we need to address to achieve victory over the sin that preoccupies our thoughts.
The next question is taken up in paragraph 6. It is this: Can a loving God really harden people in their sin? Here is the Confession’s response:
As for those wicked and ungodly men whom God, as a righteous judge, for former sin doth blind and harden; from them he not only withholdeth his grace, whereby they might have been enlightened in their understanding, and wrought upon in their hearts; but sometimes also withdraweth the gifts which they had, and exposeth them to such objects as their corruption makes occasion of sin; and withal, gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, whereby it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even under those means which God useth for the softening of others.
Yes, God does harden the wicked in sin in these ways. It is perfectly just for him to do so as a just judgment on their previous sins.
The last question about providence is answered in paragraph 7. Here is the question: Who is the special focus of His care and providence? Here is the answer of paragraph 7.
As the providence of God doth in general reach to all creatures, so after a more special manner it taketh care of his church, and disposeth of all things to the good thereof.
The special object of God’s care in the world is not the nation of Israel. It is not even the good old USA. It is rather the church of Jesus Christ. All things are order to the preservation, growth, and sanctification of the church of Christ. This great thought should be of enormous comfort to the tried and fearful church of Christ. All things work together for her good!
Dr. Sam Waldron is the Academic Dean of CBTS and professor of Systematic Theology. He is also one of the pastors of Grace Reformed Baptist Church in Owensboro, KY. Dr. Waldron received a B.A. from Cornerstone University, an M.Div. from Trinity Ministerial Academy, a Th.M. from Grand Rapids Theological Seminary, and a Ph.D. from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. From 1977 to 2001 he was a pastor of the Reformed Baptist Church of Grand Rapids, MI. Dr. Waldron is the author of numerous books including A Modern Exposition of the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, The End Times Made Simple, Baptist Roots in America, To Be Continued?, and MacArthur’s Millennial Manifesto: A Friendly Response.