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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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 reubenbredenhof.com
 
Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:The Providence of the Triune God
Text:LD 10 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:God's Providence
 
Preached:2021
Added:2021-10-17
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 97:1                                                                                          

Hy 80:1,2  [after Nicene Creed]

Reading – Ephesians 1

Psalm 91:1,2,5

Sermon – Lord’s Day 10

Hy 45:1,2,3

Hy 82:1,2,3,4

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ, probably everyone’s life has those times when you just stand amazed by the providence of God. We see clear examples of how God carefully orchestrates every event, how the Father lovingly guides all things for our good.

For example, on the same day that you get a big car repair bill, some unexpected funds arrive in your account—your anxiety disappears at once, thanks to God’s providence. Or you bump into an old classmate when you’re on holidays, and you have a really good chat about faith. How providential! Or within one week’s time you hear a sermon on a piece of Scripture, and there’s a meditation on it in your daily devotional, and it’s also the topic at club—almost like God is trying to tell you something. It’s providential!

We often think about God’s providence too, when there are significant events like natural disasters or conflicts. For instance, reflecting on the COVID pandemic and all the troubles that have resulted, we might say, “I sure don’t know where all this is going, but this is God’s providence. This too, is in his hands.”

So we see God’s hand in the remarkable ‘coincidences’ of life. We also confess that He governs important global events. But do we really think about his providence at other times? When Lord’s Day 10 talks about God’s providence, notice that it uses concrete and ordinary examples from regular life. It says that God so governs all things, “that leaf and blade, rain and drought… health and sickness, riches and poverty… come to us not by chance but by his Fatherly hand” (Q&A 27). The Catechism wants to show how real and personal is God’s providence: it’s even in the normal stuff of every day: our homework and our housework, our breakfast and our coffee-time, our morning walk and our nightly rest.

The point is that God’s care misses nothing, overlooks no detail. Instead, all creation—and all the small pieces of our own lives too—are in his hands. God’s providence is his perfect government of everything. And today we hear just how fully God has us covered. All three persons of the Trinity are at work for us in almighty and ever-present power. This is our theme,

We gladly confess the providence of the Triune God. He is:

  1. conforming everything to the will of the Father
  2. putting everything under the Son  
  3. marking every believer with the Spirit

 

1) conforming everything to the will of the Father: “Your will be done.” We say that every time we pray the Lord’s prayer. Praying for God’s will to be done implies, of course, that our Father in heaven has a will. He has a plan and intention for this earth that He made. And because God is Almighty Creator, his will is effective. God does what He wants, how He wants to do it. With the Catechism we confess that “all things come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand” (Q&A 27).

This is immensely reassuring, when we know that the Father’s good will determines all the ins and outs of this life. We rest in him, for “Father knows best.” Who better is able to manage this world than the God who is perfect in all his ways, the God who is infinite in power and wisdom and goodness?

Yet we have to acknowledge that there is some mystery to the Father’s providence over all things. When we say “mystery,” we think of things that are strange and undefined. Scripture uses the word too, like in Ephesians 1:9, “[He] made known to us the mystery of his will.” The God we worship is not unpredictable or unknowable. Then God wouldn’t be a Father, would He? A true father isn’t an enigma, someone cloaked in mystery and unapproachable. But He is someone you can relate to—someone whose hand you can hold. So God the Father has shown “the mystery of his will” to us, his little children.

Just think about how much we know about God, and his will for this life! We know God’s glorious name and his holy attributes. We know the truth about where we came from, and where we’re going when we live by faith in Christ. We know our purpose, why God has put us on this earth. There’s no mystery about how God wants us to live.

We have been blessed to know so much of the Father’s mind—but we don’t know everything. The ‘mystery’ of God’s will means that some things are still hidden. Moses spoke about this in Deuteronomy 29:29, when he said, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever.”

“The secret things belong to the LORD.” Compare it to parents who don’t tell their kids everything. They might hear Dad and Mom talking in their quiet voices in the kitchen, and the kids want to know what it’s all about. But there are some things they don’t need to know. Other things they wouldn’t understand. Some other things would only make them worry. It can actually be a loving thing to withhold information, to spare them a knowledge of the facts that would overwhelm a child.

So it is for the God our Father. He has told us much about himself, about this world, about our salvation and the future. But there are also things about his will that we can’t fathom. There are things that God just won’t reveal to us while we live here on earth.

For example, we can’t understand certain aspects of the Trinity, like how the Son is begotten of the Father, and yet the Son is eternal and equal to the Father. And we puzzle over concepts like ‘everlasting life:’ How long is eternity? Won’t heaven get boring for us by the time we’ve spent three centuries there? Our small minds can’t handle the mystery.

And then relating this particularly to God’s providence, we have more hard questions. There is no doubt that we wrestle with his will. If God upholds and governs all things, why did that young person have to die? Or why can’t God give healing, even after many years of illness? Why did our son or daughter leave the church, even after everything we taught them? What’s the purpose and point of this difficulty? There are mysteries here that we cannot understand.

If you spend your life agonizing over what you don’t know, you’ll probably never find relief. But what we do know about Father’s will is something that we can build upon, something we can count on. Listen to Ephesians 1:9 again, “God has made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure.” In all his dealings with us, we know that God is guided by his good pleasure. He won’t do things to harm us, but to help us, all so that his name receives the glory.

And when it comes to his will, God is pleased to tell his children what we need to know. He gives us the needed insight into his plan and purpose. And Ephesians 1 says that everything God has revealed to us centres on Jesus Christ. Simply put, the Father’s great purpose is to grant eternal salvation through his only Son! His purpose is to cleanse us from sin and make us his own possession.

This gospel immediately puts the teaching of providence in a different light. From the moment of our conception to the day of our death, our lives are guided and sustained and fulfilled by a good and loving God. This comes out in how the Catechism speaks of the Father’s hand throughout this Lord’s Day. Just one example is at the end of Answer 27, “All things come to us not by chance but by his fatherly hand.”

God has always been in control of this universe. But God is not a loveless micro-manager, the kind of being who craves control for its own sake. No, his fatherly hand rests upon us. There’s a fatherly hand upholding the universe. In his providence, He’s doing all things for the benefit of his beloved children.

The Father is so concerned to save sinners that He has chosen those certain people who’ll receive his grace. Ephesians 1:5 says that He predestined us, decided in advance to save us. Because that’s his purpose, nothing is left to chance when it comes to our salvation. The Father predestined us, he called us as his children, then set us on the path to our eternal home. His plan for us will certainly be accomplished!

That’s amazing when you think of how our own plans can quickly change. Many of us start our day with a long list of the things we want to accomplish. Then suddenly there’s a snag, or we get side-tracked, and our plans need drastic revising. But the Father carries on, exactly according to how He’d planned it, right down to the last ‘leaf and blade.’ He “works out all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph 1:11).

It’s even more astounding to think about when God put his agenda together: “before the foundation of the world” (Eph 1:4). Before this universe was called into being; before anything happened, good or bad; before Satan’s rebellion, or mankind’s fall, or any of our own choices—before any of this, the Father made his plan. And now He works out all things according to this perfect counsel of his will!

There’s a great ‘benefit’ in this, says the Catechism, a sure comfort. The good news is that nothing can prevent God from saving his children and building his church. Disasters can’t derail him. A hardened heart is no barrier. Our many failures won’t stop the progress of his plan. Not even Satan and all his hosts can be effective against God. Because they, together with all creatures “cannot so much as move” apart from God’s will (Q&A 28).

We won’t be kept from trouble. We might have hard questions about what happened to us in the past, or we have much anxiety about what’s going to happen in our future. But we are comforted: our Father is working out his perfect plan, acting in love for his children in Christ.

 

2) putting everything under the Son: If you look at Lord’s Day 10, you won’t see any mention of Jesus, God the Son. But it’s beneficial to know that Christ has a key role in God’s providence, the upholding and governing of all things. So how does Christ relate to God’s providence? Think of where Christ is at the moment. He is seated in heaven, at God’s right hand. He is in a position of supreme authority, ruling over all things, great and small, seen and unseen.

For instance, Ephesians 1 says that Christ is “at [God’s] right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion” (vv 20-21). Those four terms probably don’t mean much to us, but in Paul’s time they referred to different classes of evil spirits. These are the demons and devils that are moving about in this world. But Christ is exalted over every evil power. He is Lord over every name that is named “not only in this age but also in that which is to come” (v 21). Satan and all his hosts are subject to Christ. And if Christ is Lord over the greatest spiritual forces in the universe—the unseen realm of Satan—then He is also Lord over every other lesser reality.

For his reign, Christ has a clear purpose. Ephesians 1 tells us: “God put all things under Christ’s feet, and He gave him to be head over all things for the church” (v 22). Underline those last three words: Christ doesn’t have a hidden agenda. The ascended Christ is head over all things for his people. He governs, with both eyes constantly on his church!

Christ the King rules over all things for us. That’s an amazing truth for us personally, for it means we have no reason to be afraid. For us, fear is such a natural reaction. We’re not just afraid of heights, or public speaking, or snakes. Usually we can avoid those things if we take the right precautions. But we also fear everything that can go wrong. We fear other people and how they’ll react. We fear not having the right answer or not having enough strength.

But something good happens whenever we realize that we’re powerless. Then we’re ready to be reminded that Christ is King. Our lives are completely secure for we’ve been entrusted to Jesus by God the Father. As Christ once said, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never drive away” (John 6:37). We have been given to Christ, and that means we are secure in Christ.

It’s also an amazing truth for us as church, that Christ is King. Think about what Christ said to the apostles just before He ascended, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth” (Matt 28:18). And with that knowledge, and in that amazing confidence, Jesus sent them out to make disciples of all nations.

As his people who are still living and working in this world, it is good for us to know that Christ has authority over all things. It means we can depend on him when we do mission work, looking to him for guidance and blessing. We can also seek his blessing when we witness to our neighbours. Here too, we can be so fearful, worrying about their reactions, worrying that we won’t have the right words, worrying that we might lose something by sharing the gospel. But maybe we’d be less fearful if we remembered that Christ is the Almighty King. He is able to open closed hearts. He can give courage. He’ll help us stay faithful. 

Because Christ has all authority, He will also defend us. Think about those in our society who are seeking to suppress the church, those who want to silence Biblical teaching. They are intimidating. They make a lot of noise, and they seem to have all the momentum. But all things are under Christ’s feet, even his enemies. He’s on his throne, ruling in strength. Through Christ, the Father governs all things.

And remember the goal of God’s providence. He wants all things in heaven and on earth to be brought together in Christ. God desires that the whole world be perfectly subject to his Son. Does that mean everyone will be saved? That everyone will be reconciled in peace to their Maker? No. But one day, all people will acknowledge the Triune God. One day, all people will bow before God’s Son as Lord.

“Every eye will see him,” says John in Revelation 1, “even those who pierced him” (v 7). They might deny him now. They might oppose him now. But one day, it will no longer be possible anymore. For the Son will be seen for who He is: the King of all creation, the Lord of the universe, and the Saviour of those who believed. Christ in heaven can do all things. So let us know, and let us trust, that we’re in good hands, for today and forever.

 

3) marking every believer with the Spirit: God’s providence can be a difficult doctrine. We can point to all the right texts. We can have Lord’s Day 10 memorized. We can have the knowledge that our Father’s in charge, and that our Saviour is King. But in this life, sometimes the heart doesn’t listen to the head.

This is where God the Holy Spirit comes in. The Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, precisely in order to make this doctrine (and every other doctrine) real to us—to move it from theory to practice, from knowledge to confidence, from the head to the heart. The Holy Spirit works in us the assurance that all things are truly in God’s hands.

The Father predestined all those whom He would save. The Son is the reason that everything holds together. And the Spirit is that inner agent, the unseen Counselor, making known these good things: “Having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance” (Eph 1:13-14).

There are a couple images for the Spirit that Paul uses in those verses. In the first place, the Spirit is like a seal: “you were sealed.” Back then, a seal was used to guarantee that something was authentic. For example, seals would mark important documents of ownership. Hot wax would be placed on the paper, and then a unique seal would be pressed into it. The seal would mark it as coming from a certain person like a king or high official. It was his—here was the proof!

Likewise, the Holy Spirit seals us, guarantees that we really and truly belong to him. That’s always an important thing to remember, of course. But it can be especially important during the trials that God sends in his wise providence. In struggle and stress you wonder: “Do I really matter to the Lord? I have so many troubles these days, I wonder if God actually cares. Why don’t I feel anything when I read Scripture or when I pray?”

But then we should remind ourselves of the Holy Spirit’s seal: “No, I do belong to Christ. His Spirit seals my heart. I know, because I still believe in God and I still trust his Word. I know I have the Spirit, because I hate the sin that’s still in my life and I delight in doing good.” And if you’ve been sealed with the Spirit, you can be confident in all your trouble that you do belong to God. You bear the seal and emblem of the King: you are genuinely his!

Not only a seal, the Holy Spirit is a guarantee, says Paul, or literally “a deposit.” Now, a deposit means that bigger payments are coming. For instance, if you’re putting in an offer on a car, and you want to show the seller that you’re serious about it, you’ll make a down payment. What does a deposit say? It’s our pledge that we’re not going to walk away.

That is what God’s gift of the Spirit is like. He has given him as an initial payment. It’s a pledge, a guarantee, that the rest is still coming. This too, is a precious thing to keep in mind as we wrestle with God’s providence. We wonder whether we’ll have the strength to persevere. We struggle to see the path ahead for our life. Then we can remind ourselves: “I have the Spirit, so I know that He who has begun a good work in me will complete it in the day of Christ. I already have a down payment of God’s riches—it’s a small deposit, but it means much more is coming.” God guarantees that He’s not going to walk away, but He’ll stick with you. You are a child of God, and that’s not ever going to change.

No wonder that when the Catechism describes the benefit of knowing God’s providence, it says we can look “to the future” with “firm confidence” (Q&A 28). For we have God’s deposit. Looking ahead, we’re not scared. Looking ahead, we know that “no creature shall separate us from God’s love” (Q&A 28). Looking ahead, we are confident of a good finish.

The Spirit makes this doctrine real to us. By the Spirit, we can know the Father. By the Spirit, we can know the Son. By the Spirit, we can have our eyes enlightened, that we may know our great hope in the Triune Lord.

This calls us to pay attention to what the Spirit is telling us. He is the unseen Counselor, speaking into our lives every day. Look at your life, and see God’s faithfulness. Open the Word, and read God’s promises. Gather with his people, and experience God’s goodness. By the Spirit, we know that God’s providential care for us is real, and personal, and full of comfort. For when we belong to the Triune God, we lack nothing at all.  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2021, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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