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Doctrine of God - Creation, Providence, and Redemption Print E-mail
The Doctrine of God
Sunday, 15 June 2008

I. Introduction:

Since we've had a bit of a break in this series, I thought it might be good to take a few minutes and review the original structure of these studies, so we can get a sense of what we've already done, and how it all ties together.  We began by looking at the person of God, meaning His essence or nature.  From there we spent several weeks discussing God's attributes, His characteristics.  This evening we begin a brief survey of God's actions.  We've asked and tried to answer many, many questions about our great God during this study.  Tonight I want to answer another question, as we begin this new section on God's actions--what is God doing?  But really, that question needs to be expanded.  We could ask it this way: what has God done, what is He doing, and what will He do? I want to answer those questions by considering three of the central works, or actions of God in history: creation, providence, and redemption.  There are other things that could be included, but a look at these three particular activities of God will give us a good starting point for a discussion of God's actions.

Before I read the relevant sections of the BF&M, I want to take just a minute and try to simply define God's providence.  We probably all understand the other two terms, creation and redemption, but God's providence can be a fairly complicated subject, and it may not be a term that everyone clearly understands.  So let me give you a good definition.  I want to say this is certainly not the only definition of providence, and it's probably not even the best definition, but for the purpose of our study tonight, it was the clearest and simplest definition I could find.  Here it is:  "Providence" is a theological term describing God's preserving, sustaining, ordering, ruling, and governing of His creation. 2

II. The Baptist Faith and Message:

In the general section, the BF&M states: “(God is)…the Creator, Redeemer, Preserver, and Ruler of the universe.”  Based on the definition I just gave you, you can see that the titles ‘Preserver’ and ‘Ruler’ fall under the category of providence. In his providence God is ruling and preserving the universe and all it contains, including you and I.  In the section on God the Father, we read: “God as Father reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and the flow of the stream of human history according to the purposes of His grace,” again highlighting God’s providence. Likewise, in the section on God the Son, in speaking of Jesus, it states: “…in His substitutionary death on the cross He made provision for the redemption of men from sin.”  That statement clearly points to Jesus as our Redeemer and the BF&M goes on to say that He will return “to consummate His redemptive mission.” Finally, in the section on God the Holy Spirit, it describes the Spirit’s activity in redeeming mankind. It is the Spirit who “inspired” the Scriptures and illuminates our hearts and minds so that we can understand them. He “convicts,” “calls,” and “effects regeneration.” He also “cultivates,” “comforts,” “bestows,” “seals,” “enlightens and empowers the believer.” In all this we see God in action, creating and providentially governing His universe, and redeeming a people for His own possession.

III. Scripture:

A. Creation:
 1. Genesis 1:1-3 (1-2) It is clear, right here in the first verse of the Bible, that it was the Lord who created all things. He spoke and it came to be. There are a lot of things that we could talk about in the creations accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis, but the fact that the Lord made everything from nothing is obvious. He is the Creator of all things.
 2. John 1:3 Among a number of other important things, John affirms the truth of Genesis 1:1 in his prologue, the fundamental fact that nothing was made apart from God. He made all things.
 3. Colossians 1:16 Paul speaks of all things being made through and for Jesus. He even speaks of different types of things (heaven and on earth, visible and invisible). The Lord made them all.
 4. Hebrews 11:3 This is one of the verses we use to support the idea that God created all things out of nothing, out of no thing.  He did not use any preexisting materials to create the universe.
 5. Revelation 4:11 The elders in heaven declare again that God created all things and that by His will they exist.  This passage also teaches that God's creative power is one of the many reasons He's worthy to receive glory.  So we've gone from Genesis to Revelation, and we've seen that the Bible affirms from beginning to end that God is the Creator of all things.  He created everything, including us, according to His own purposes, and for His own glory.

So again, creation is the act of God calling the universe and everything in it into existence.  That brings us to God's providence, His work of ordering and sustaining and governing His creation.

B. Providence:
 1. Nehemiah 9:6 The Levites confess here that it is the Lord who both created all things, and that it is the Lord who preserves them all.
 2. Colossians 1:17 Paul affirms that Christ holds all things together; he currently sustains all things that exist.
 3. Hebrews 1:3 makes a similar statement.  (READ)  In other words, the world continues to exist because Christ upholds it.  Think about that for a minute.  If Christ for one second stopped upholding the universe by the word of his power, what would happen?  Everything in the universe, including you and I, would instantly disintegrate into nothing.  This very moment, God is actively ruling the universe by the word of his power.
 4. 2 Peter 3:7 The Lord is keeping or preserving the world until the Day of judgment.
 5. Ephesians 1:11 Here we have one of many clear statements in Scripture that God orders every event in the universe, everything that happens, according to the counsel of his own will.
 
Now, stay right there in Ephesians 1.  We're going to look at two passages on redemption, starting with the verses leading up to Eph. 1.11.

C. Redemption:
 1. Ephesians 1:3-10 In these verses, Paul rejoices over the fact that God has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing. He starts with God choosing us in Christ before the foundation of the world, which means even before the act of creation, God purposed and planned to redeem those in Christ.  That redemption was accomplished by the work of Christ, who shed His blood for us at the cross for the forgiveness of our trespasses (v. 7). God planned, from eternity past, to redeem, in and through Christ, a people for Himself.  He accomplished it through the death of Christ, and He sealed all those in Christ with the promised Spirit (see v. 13-14). All of this can be summed up by saying that God's goal in history is to redeem a people to the praise of His glory.
 2. Revelation 5 The culmination of this redemption is that throughout eternity, the redeemed will joyfully sing and shout and fall down and worship the Lamb who was slain.   What a glorious picture of worship this chapter paints.  I can't wait.  But until that day arrives, through the proclamation of the gospel, God is continuing to gather men and women from every tribe and language and people and nation and forging them into a kingdom and priests to our God (v. 10).

IV. Conclusion (Implications):

A. In closing I want to look at some of the practical implications of the fact that God is active, that God is working in history, even this moment, to accomplish His purposes.  First, we are to labor together with the Lord in what He is doing.  We'll look at a couple of passages in a minute that make that clear, but I want you to just let the wonder of that truth that sink in.  Do you see what an incredible honor that is, to be called to work together with the Lord?  We, who are nothing, working together with the Almighty Lord of the universe?  But that's exactly what we're called to do.  And we're called to do that for ourselves, and for others.

For ourselves, in the words of Paul, we are to work out your own salvation with fear and trembling (That's the command in Philippians 2:12).  We are to work in conjunction, in perfect harmony, with His work in us.  Not only that, we are to work in conjunction with Him for the salvation of others.  Turn to 2 Cor. 5.20-6. 2.  Do you see that?  We work together with Him, appealing to others to be reconciled to God.  So everything we do should be Christ-centered, cross-centered, gospel-centered. As we saw in Ephesians 1, the goal of God in history is for all things to be united in Christ.  God's goal in history should be our goal as well, and we should be faithful in our responsibility to bring glory to Christ by laboring, by working hard, for the salvation of ourselves, of one another, and of those who have not yet trusted Christ.

B. Second, we do that by trusting that the Lord will finish the work that He has started. Our hope is never in ourselves or in our own ability, but in the Lord.  Ultimately, as the Bible makes abundantly clear, it is God who is all in all.  We work, but God's work always precedes and under girds ours.  Right after Paul commands us to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, he says: for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

So in closing, it's right that all the emphasis should be placed on God.  In God's work of creation, it is the Lord who created and it is the Lord who will bring to completion His new creation (see 2 Corinthians 4:1-6, 5:16-21). In God's providence, it is the Lord who holds all things together, rules over all, and will bring all of His sheep into His fold.  And in His work of redemption, God is the One who planned it before the foundation of the world, and we can cling to the promise that He will finish what He's begun. It's absolutely true that we labor and work, as He has called us and commanded us to do, but we do so knowing that all work, even ours, is ultimately His work.  Therefore, all glory belongs to Him.
 
Ken's going to come at this time and we're going to close by singing a hymn that begins with this line:  "To GOD be the glory; great things He hath done."  Amen.

1 Based on an outline by Pastor William Marshall
2 Daryl Wingerd, Understanding Providence (part 1),
http://www.ccwtoday.org/article_view.asp?article_id=41

~ Barry Wallace ~

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 01 July 2008 )

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