Providence: Part 2 (Olevianus)

Question:  What is the second main part of the doctrine of God’s providence?


Casper Olevianus voorkantYou should be certain not only that everything happens by God’s providence but also that the providence of God reaches down to even you, to ensure your protection.

But so that you might receive such assurance and not forever remain of little faith (which Christ chides when He says, “O you of little faith” (Matthew 6:30), follow these instructions of Christ:

First, look at the promises of God that are placed before our eyes, painted and pictured, as it were, in the most insignificant things of creation: the birds that He supports, the lilies of the field that He clothes. And remember the promise of Christ that if the Father so cares for the little birds and “so clothes the grass which tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He feed you, O you of little faith?” (Matthew 6:26, 30)

Since we, however, have departed from the law of creation and might still have doubts, in the same passage Christ mentions our heavenly Father and says that lack of trust and the many questions like “What shall we eat?” or “What shall we wear?” belong to the Gentiles and not to those who believe that God through Christ is their heavenly Father. (Matthew 6:31, 32)

Second, place before your eyes the guarantee of all promises: the Son, through whom the lilies, little birds, illnesses, enemies, and everything in heaven and on earth have been created and by the word of His power are upheld (Hebrews 1:3). This Son (who has been appointed heir of all things (Hebrews 1:2), the Father gave to die for you as the guarantee of His love, and He freely, by grace, ordained you to be joint heirs with His Son. How is it then possible for you to be harmed by any created thing, which can neither live nor move without the direct operation of the Son of God, your guarantee?

All created things exist in Him and are ruled by Him, and you are a joint heir with Him. Should it not be impossible, therefore, for created things to do anything but serve you and work together for your good, even when it appears as though most of them oppose you? St. Paul looks to this guarantee in Romans 8:31, 32: “What more shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him freely give us all things?”

Third, once this foundation has been laid, that is, when you by faith take hold of Christ this guarantee, who died for you, rose again, rules all things at the right hand of God, and in whom all promises are Yes and Amen (2 Corinthians 1:20), we can look together at some more promises of God.

Psalm 91:1 puts it so beautifully:

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High
Will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.
I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress,
My God, in whom I trust!”
For it is He who delivers you from the snare of the trapper
And from the deadly pestilence.
He will cover you with His pinions,
And under His wings you may seek refuge;
His faithfulness is a shield and bulwark.

You will not be afraid of the terror by night,
Or of the arrow that flies by day;
Of the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
Or of the destruction that lays waste at noon.
A thousand may fall at your side
And ten thousand at your right hand,
But it shall not approach you.
You will only look on with your eyes
And see the recompense of the wicked.
9 For you have made the Lord, my refuge,
Even the Most High, your dwelling place.
10 No evil will befall you,
Nor will any plague come near your tent. (read the entire Psalm)

Likewise Isaiah 49:14-16:

But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
And the Lord has forgotten me.”
15 “Can a woman forget her nursing child
And have no compassion on the son of her womb?
Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.
16 “Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands;
Your walls are continually before Me.

Note also Zechariah 2:8 “He who touches you, touches the apple of the Lord’s eye.” Psalm 23; Psalm 55:22 “Cast your burden on the Lord, and He shall sustain you; He shall never leave the righteous in trouble”; 1 Peter 5:7 “Cast all your cares upon the Lord, for He cares for you”; Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work together for good to those who love God.”

All of this should certainly be enough to lead you to the conclusion that the providence of God extends also to you and ensures that you are protected and sustained, since God has promised this to you, unworthy as you may be, not with just one promise but with many. It requires no merit of yours. It requires only that you accept Christ with genuine trust and surrender yourself to Him, the guarantee of all promises, whom God freely offers you.

Fourth, take a look at experience itself, as David did at Passover time when he said, “If I would declare the wonderful works of the Lord one by one, they are more than can be numbered.” (Psalm 40:5) This is how you should think also: “I am now very old, and has God forsaken me for even a single day? Could I ever truthfully say, “God has shown me no kindness today?” be it a piece of bread, an apple, or a drink of water? Surely if we do not wish to be more ungrateful than the rich man in hell, who looked upon a little drop of water as a great kindness, we must confess that God has never forsaken us for even one day. If, then, He has treated us so well for so many years, of what could we possibly accuse Him that would keep us from trusting Him for the rest of our lives, which have their very existence in Him? Indeed, all the wonderful works that God has shown us from our mother’s womb to the present serve as so many testimonies that He will also henceforth be our God and Father, if we trust Him.

Finally, have your heart take hold of the final farewell and departure of your Savior and Head, Jesus Christ, and remember that it is still in effect today and all the days of your life — in the labors and trials of your vocation, in things pleasant and unpleasant: “Lo, I am with you every day, even to the end of the world,” says Christ the Lord (Matthew 28:20).

Caspar Olevianus, A Firm Foundation, pp. 26-29

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