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Romans 8:28

“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Having considered some of the depths of the doctrine of God’s sovereign providence, we do well now to consider the most important practical application of the doctrine. Knowing about the Lord’s eternal decree, His use of means, the way in which secondary causes operate, and so on is vital. But we do not seek this knowledge so that we can win theological and philosophical debates or impress others with our understanding. Instead, we study the sovereign providence of God for the sake of His glory, but also for the comfort and security it brings us. All sound theology is practical, but fewer doctrines are more practical than knowing our good Creator actively governs all things to bring about His perfect plan.

God’s perfect plan involves the revelation of His glory by doing good to and for His children (2 Chron. 7:1–3). And when we understand the sovereign providence of the Lord, we will be confident that God really is working good for us and can accomplish the good He seeks for us. Many Christians know today’s passage by heart. They quote Romans 8:28 when they themselves are enduring great difficulties, and they remind other suffering believers of its truth. It is a great and precious promise indeed. However, only those who affirm the Reformation doctrine that God ordains whatsoever comes to pass and governs everything that happens—large and small, good and evil—have a consistent reason to believe Paul’s words and derive comfort from them.

Just think about it. If God is not actively guiding everything that happens, how can we be confident that He will accomplish the good He intends for us? Perhaps something that He is not governing will go so far afield that He will be unable to bring good out of the worst situations. Some might answer that God can bring about good because He looks into the future, knows how people will respond to certain circumstances, and so tailors what He does to that. But if that is so, how can we really give the Lord the credit for working for good? If His decree does not establish the actions of His creatures, then logically, He cannot get the praise for working things to a good end. He just gets lucky, as it were, that things turn out for our good. Everything just happens to fall into place; He did not and could not ensure that it would.

There is no greater comfort than to know that God will successfully work out all things for our ultimate good. And the only way we can know that is to believe that He ordains and governs whatsoever comes to pass.

Coram Deo Living before the face of God

John Calvin writes, “Ignorance of providence is the greatest of all miseries, and the knowledge of it the highest happiness” (Institutes 1.17.11). We have nothing to fear if God ordains and governs whatsoever comes to pass. Our ultimate good will be achieved, and we can trust that even the worst this world has to offer will finally be used to glorify the Lord and benefit us.

For Further Study
  • Psalm 56
  • Isaiah 31:5
  • Romans 8:31
  • 1 Peter 5:6–7
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From the March 2017 Issue
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