The last HC asked what understanding we had of the providence of God and what He does by that providence; this question asks how we profit from that understanding, which is where I think we see the very basic difference between grace and providence.
HC#28 What does it profit us to know that God created, and by His providence upholds all things?
“That we may be patient in adversity, thankful in prosperity, and for what is future have good confidence in our faithful God and Father, that no creature shall separate us from His love, since all creatures are so in His hand, that without His will they cannot so much as move.”
First, the only ones who have this True knowledge are the elect and thereby are the only ones who profit from it. It is the knowledge that God created all things is Sovereign over all things and upholds all things and that we can rest in His doings, all of them. This knowledge, this profit comes to US by Grace not because of the providence itself. The providence of God comes to all creatures, down to the smallest sparrow that cannot fall to the ground without the will of God. (Matthew 10:29).
The believer has the response of patience, of thankfulness, of good confidence and trust because of the Grace that is poured out into our hearts. Does that providence in the lives of the reprobate cause the same response in them as it does in those who have the Grace of God? Are they patient in their trials and thankful for all things?
In God’s providence He sends many evils to the believer and what is it that makes these evils beneficial to us? What is it that makes the providence itself work these evils to our benefit but the Grace in our heart working with the evil that causes us to receive good from the evil. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God and are called according to His purposes”. That is why Joseph could say to his brothers…’But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good.’ It is not just that we think it is good, it actually works good in us. Does providence of itself bless, are we blessed when a loved one dies or when we experience a seven year drought. Does providence accomplish anyone’s true good or does the blessing come through Grace, the favor of God through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Dr. Mouw claims that this world operates on ‘common grace’ in and for what we call ‘culture’ and never mentions providence. His thought springs from the idea of attributing the natural abilities and accomplishments of all men to a ‘common grace’ and not to what I have always known as the providence of God.
Dr. Mouw asks “is there a non-saving grace that is at work in the broader reaches of human cultural interaction, a grace that expediates a desire on God’s part to bestow certain blessings on all human beings, elect and non-elect alike—blessing that provide the basis for Christians to cooperate with, and learn from non-Christians”?
The term culture can mean many things; there is no single, standard understanding of the word. In my understanding of the culture being spoken of in Dr. Mouw’s use is this:
1. Everyday earthly life in the various ordinances established by the Creator: marriage, family, labor and civil government.
2. The development, use and enjoyment of education, art, and science.
Dr. Mouw asks these questions: “On what ground does the Christian live earthly life to the full? On what ground does the Christian freely associate and cooperate with unbelievers in all areas of everyday earthly life? What is the basis for his working with the ungodly every day on the job? Also, in his view, we must justify the Christian’s use and enjoyment of the inventions and products of the wicked. In every case, the explanation according to Dr. Mouw is ‘common grace’. He says that ‘common grace’ accounts for the continuing existence of the fallen earthly creation, is the warrant and power of the Christian’s earthly life in society and justifies the Christian’s use of the worlds’ ‘cultural products’.
Quite honestly, I have never heard anything remotely close to these thoughts and ideas, they are foreign to me. What is not foreign to me however is the continuing and upholding providential power of my God in HIS creation, in my life and my neighbor’s life, in my work and my family, in providing me with ‘cultural products’ and inventions. Who is it but the living God who giveth US all things richly to enjoy. (1Ti 6:17)
HC # 26 What dost thou believe when thou sayest: “I believe in God the Father, Almighty Maker of heaven and earth”?
That the eternal Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who of nothing made heaven and earth with all that in them is, who likewise upholds and governs the same by His eternal counsel and providence, is the for sake of Christ, His Son, my God and my Father, in whom I so trust, as to have no doubt that He will provide me with all things necessary for body and soul; and further, that whatever evil He sends upon me in this vale of tears, He will turn to my good; for He is able to do it, being almighty God, and willing also, being a faithful Father.
This is how I can live in this world, enter into the ‘culture’ and the basis of how I work with my unbelieving co-workers and live next door to unbelievers. This is even how I pray for my unbelieving family……’Lord, may your providence in their lives be used for their good and not their destruction', according to your will". We share the creation of God but the common ground is providence not Grace! Grace is not in things, but in the Spirit of the Living Word, Christ and His Gospel.
to be continued....