Providence by John Piper. Crossway. 752 pages. 2021
I read this excellent book slowly over a period of more than two years. The book, which is what the Bible teaches about the doctrine of providence, is divided into three parts:
- Part 1 defines providence and then illuminates a difficulty, namely, the self-exaltation involved in God’s aim to display his own glory.
- Part 2 focuses on the ultimate goal of providence.
- Part 3 focuses on the nature and extent of providence.
Question 11 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks what are God’s works of providence. The answer is: God’s works of providence are, his most holy, wise, and powerful preserving and governing all his creatures and all their actions. A brief definition from Piper is “God seeing to it that things happen in a certain way”.
Piper states that the reason this book is about the providence of God rather than the sovereignty of God is that the term sovereignty does not contain the idea of purposeful action, but the term providence does. He tells us that the focus of the book is on God’s sovereignty considered not simply as powerful but as purposeful. Historically, the term providence has been used as shorthand for this more specific focus.
Over 45 chapters, Piper addresses many topics in relation to the doctrine of providence, including creation, Israel, the exodus, the new covenant, suffering, Satan, pride, Pharaoh, repentance, faith, perseverance, holiness, prayer, evangelism and missions.
This is a thorough, in-depth look at the doctrine of providence by a well-respected pastor and theologian.
Below are 30 my favorite quotes from the book:
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- The ultimate goal of God in initiating the entire plan of salvation before creation was that he would be praised for the glory of his grace.
- The aim of creation, and the aim of the salvation accomplished in the theater of creation, is the glorification of Jesus Christ.
- Man was put on the earth to make a name for God, not for himself.
- The story of Israel’s history really is a story of God’s providential action. The Bible is radically oriented on God as the decisive actor in the history of Israel.
- God’s securing a name for himself and God’s securing joy for his people are one. That joy is his name—his reputation, his glory.
- The essence of sin is minimizing God and making much of self. In other words, the essence of sin is pride.
- The ultimate goal of God’s providence is to glorify his grace in beautifying, by the blood of his Son, an undeserving bride, who enjoys and reflects his beauty above everything.
- God’s ultimate aim in the sufferings of Christ was to exalt the glory of his own righteousness in the very act of saving sinners who will spend eternity praising the glory of God’s grace.
- The providence of God in sending his Son as a suffering substitute for sinners accomplishes everything necessary to bring his people into his presence with everlasting, soul-satisfying praises of the glory of his grace. God gets the glory of praise. We get the pleasure of praising. The glory of God’s grace and the gladness of our souls are consummated together in this eternal praise.
- Things don’t just happen for God’s glory; they happen for God’s glory because the pervasive providence of God sees to it that they happen that way. This is the goal of providence.
- In all his acts, Satan is subject to God’s overruling and guiding providence.
- God is intent on showing these two truths: first, his plans cannot be nullified by man. And, second, no plans of man will ever be fulfilled unless they are part of God’s plan.
- Pride is the height of treason and the end of human happiness. It is opposition to the ultimate purpose of providence.
- God’s rule of every life is not bad news. It is glorious news, for in Christ Jesus nothing befalls us but what is good for us (Rom. 8:28–32).
- Suffering will come—especially for those committed to doing good and to loving their enemies. But take heart. God is sovereign. No suffering befalls you apart from the merciful providence of God.
- If we rest in the wise and good providence of God in all our plans, we will be confident people, and peaceful. Because we will know that whatever details of our plan don’t happen, God’s merciful providence holds sway.
- God’s providence extends not only to the processes of decision making about what we will do, but also to the circumstances that determine if our decisions will succeed or not.
- God’s hardening of Pharaoh’s heart was not a mere response to Pharaoh’s self-hardening. It was a plan from the beginning.
- Nothing in man, good or bad, past, present, or foreseen, determines who is hardened and who is shown mercy.
- Both faith and repentance are free gifts of God, which he owes to no one because of our sin, but which he grants mercifully and lovingly and graciously to many.
- The Father’s giving us to Jesus secures our coming. All he gives come. And when we come, Jesus receives us—forever. He will never cast us out.
- If you find the Christian life to be untroubled, without struggle, and without warfare against your own sin, you may not be living the Christian life.
- No truly justified person fails to persevere in faith and be glorified. Not one.
- God’s providence moves according to plan. It is not haphazard or random or whimsical. God does not make his decisions on the spur of the moment.
- The great goal of providence is the shining forth of the glory of God in the holiness and happiness of his people through Jesus Christ.
- Whether God planned to permit something or planned to be more directly involved, nothing comes to pass but what God planned as part of the process of pursuing his ultimate goal.
- If we are going to understand anything, at the most important level, we start with this reality: God created the world, holds it in existence, and governs all of it for his purposes. Everything relates to everything because everything relates to God.
- God has shown us, again and again, that things are not what they seem and that he is always weaving something wise and good out of the painful, perplexing threads that look like a tangle in our lives.
- For those who trust Christ, God’s sovereignty in suffering is not an unyielding problem but an unfailing hope.
- The supremacy of God over all, and the satisfaction of the saints in God above all are the unending climactic goals of providence.
- New Elisabeth Elliot Biography. Thomas Kidd reviews Elisabeth Elliot: A Life by Lucy S. R. Austen. He writes “In the end, Austen portrays Elliot as a complex and flawed person, but one used powerfully by God, especially in the cause of missions.”
- Why Elisabeth Elliot Changed Her Beliefs about Finding God’s Will. In this excerpt from her book Elisabeth Elliot: A Life, Lucy S.R. Austen writes “In looking at the events of her life, Elliot might have concluded that she had been badly mistaken about God’s leading at various points along the way, or even that there was no leading to be had. Instead, over the years she decided that there was more mystery involved in the relationship between God and people than she had previously understood—and that the mystery was bearable because of the character and the presence of God.”
- Study, Savor and Share Scripture: Becoming What We Behold. My wife Tammy has published a book about HOW to study the Bible. The book is available on Amazon in both a Kindle and paperback edition. She writes “Maybe you have read the Bible but want to dig deeper and know God and know yourself better. Throughout the book I use the analogy of making a quilt to show how the Bible is telling one big story about what God is doing in the world through Christ. Quilting takes much patience and precision, just like studying the Bible, but the end result is well worth it.”
- How Can I Become a More Disciplined Reader? From one of the live Ask Ligonier events, Robert Godfrey offers advice that can help Christians grow in their reading of literature, theology, and Scripture.
Won’t you read along with us?
We are reading through Truths We Confess: A Systematic Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith by R.C. Sproul. From the Ligonier description:
“The Westminster Confession of Faith is one of the most precise and comprehensive statements of biblical Christianity, and it is treasured by believers around the world. R.C. Sproul has called it one of the most important confessions of faith ever penned, and it has helped generations of Christians understand and defend what they believe.
In Truths We Confess, Dr. Sproul introduces readers to this remarkable confession, explaining its insights and applying them to modern life. In his signature easy-to-understand style and with his conviction that everyone’s a theologian, he provides valuable commentary that will serve churches and individual Christians as they strive to better understand the eternal truths of Scripture. As he walks through the confession line by line, Dr. Sproul shows how the doctrines of the Bible—from creation to covenant, sin to salvation—fit together to the glory of God. This accessible volume is designed to help you deepen your knowledge of God’s Word and answer the question, What do you believe?”
This week we look at WCF 2 Of God, and of the Holy Trinity. Here are a few helpful quotes from the chapter:
- The most distinctive characteristic of Reformed theology is its doctrine of God.
- We should never consider the character of God to be too deep to think about. The more we reflect on His greatness, the more our souls are moved to adore Him and worship Him for His magnificence.
- When we say that God is all-powerful, almighty, omnipotent, we mean that His power surpasses everything in the universe. Nothing can resist His power or overpower Him.
- The Reformed faith teaches that human freedom is real but limited by God’s sovereignty. We cannot overrule the sovereign decisions of God with our freedom, because God’s freedom is greater than ours.
- The purpose of prayer is not to change God’s mind but to change ours, to bring us into communion with Him, to come to our heavenly Father and tell Him what is on our hearts.
- God uses our prayers as a means to accomplish His plan. So when we are praying to God, we are part of His plan.
- We should always pray with the assumption that God knows best.
- God is so loving that He gives mercy far beyond anything we could ever hope or imagine.
- We have worth because God says so, because He assigns value and importance to human beings, and because He has made us in His image.
- We must understand that everything exists for God, for His glory and majesty. From this comes the purpose of our being.
- Not a single molecule runs loose in the universe outside the scope of God’s control. He rules over all things in nature.