Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview

Providence BOOK CLUB

Providence by John Piper

The providence of God is his purposeful sovereignty by which He will be completely successful in the achievement of His ultimate goal for the universe. God’s providence carries His plans into action, guides all things toward his ultimate goal, and leads to the final consummation.
John Piper draws on a lifetime of theological reflection, biblical study, and practical ministry to lead readers on a stunning tour of the sightings of God’s providence—from Genesis to Revelation—to discover the all-encompassing reality of God’s purposeful sovereignty over all of creation and all of history.
Exploring the goal, nature, and extent of God’s purposes for the world, Piper offers an invitation to know the God who holds all things in his hands yet remains intimately involved in the lives of his people.
Watch this six-minute video as John Piper talks about the book.

This week we begin by looking at the Introduction: Four Invitations. Below are a few takeaways:

  • In this introduction, I would like to offer you four invitations. First, I invite you into a biblical world of counterintuitive wonders. I hope that you will let the word of God create new categories of thinking rather than trying to force the Scripture into the limits of what you already know.
  • In the end, my invitation into the biblical world of counterintuitive wonders is an invitation to worship.
  • Second, I invite you to penetrate through words into reality.
  • People who love the Bible and believe that it is God’s word want to know what the Bible teaches, not just what it says. They want to know the reality being presented, not just the words that were written.
  • I am going to use the word providence to refer to a biblical reality. The reality is not found in any single Bible word.
  • Third, I invite you into a God-entranced world.
  • Fourth, and finally, I am inviting you to know, maybe as you never have known, the God whose involvement in his children’s lives and in the world is so pervasive, so all-embracing, and so powerful that nothing can befall them but what he designs for their glorification in him and his glorification in them (2 Thess. 1:12).
  • When Christ died, everything—absolutely everything—that his people need to make it through this world in holiness and love was invincibly secured.
  • I would like to help as many as I can to know the God of all-embracing, all-pervasive, invincible providence.
  • The book 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.
  • Providence is all-embracing and all-pervasive, but when God turns the human will, there is a mystery to it that causes a person to experience God’s turning as his own preference—an authentic, responsible act of the human will.
  • God is sovereign over man’s preferences. Man is accountable for his preferences.
  • We are obliged to follow his revealed precepts, not his secret purposes.

Chapter 1: What is Divine Providence?

  • 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.
  • The focus of this 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.
  • That would be what we mean by God’s providence: he sees to it that things happen in a certain way.
  • There is a profound theological reason why God’s providence does not merely mean his seeing, but rather his seeing to. When God sees something, he sees to it.

Chapter 2 – Is Divine Self-Exaltation Good News?

  • What if, in the end, we discovered that the beauty of God turns out to be the kind that comes to climax in being shared? And what if the attitude we thought was mere self-promotion was instead the pursuit of sharing the greatest pleasure possible for all who would have it?
  • It will become increasingly clear why God’s aim to communicate his glory is not at odds with his aim to make us fully and eternally happy.
  • God’s glory is not any one of his perfections but the beauty of all of them, and the perfectly harmonious way they relate to each other, and the way they are expressed in creation and history.

Chapter 3: Before Creation

  • 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.
  • When God makes his praise the goal of his providence, he is pursuing our full and lasting pleasure. That is love.

Chapter 4: The Act of Creation

  • Providence presumes creation.
  • God created the world for God.
  • God created the world with the goal that it would display his glory and find an echo in the praises of his people.
  • In creation God is aiming at a display of his glory far greater than the wonders of nature—amazing as they are. He is aiming at a world filled with worshiping human beings.
  • For all eternity, the calling of the redeemed will be to live as images of Christ Jesus—not just to image God in general, as at the first, but to image Christ.
  • The aim of creation, and the aim of the salvation accomplished in the theater of creation, is the glorification of Jesus Christ.
  • The glory of God and the glory of the Son of God in creation are one glory, just as the goal of the first creation through Christ and the goal of the new creation in Christ are one glory.
  • Man was put on the earth to make a name for God, not for himself.

Chapter 5: Overview: From Abraham to the Age to Come

  • It is important to see that God’s election of Israel, and his making her the focus of his saving blessings in the Old Testament, sets the stage in world history for the global impact of Jesus Christ and his saving work for the sake of the nations.
  • From the beginning, God planned to make the history of Israel serve all the nations of the world through the coming of the Messiah. There are not two stories. There is one story of redemption in history. And this single story will prove to have one overarching purpose.
  • 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 things of creation are good gifts to be received with thanksgiving and rejoicing. But joy in God himself – in and through (and, if necessary, without) his gifts – is what makes our final joy a sign of his glory.
  • God’s ultimate goal in the history of Israel is not only the exaltation of his glorious name in the joy of his people; it is also his own joy in their joy in him.
  • God’s glory is our joy. And our joy in God’s glory is his joy.

Chapter 6: Overview from Abraham to the Age to Come

  • It is important to see that God’s election of Israel, and his making her the focus of his saving blessings in the Old Testament, sets the stage in world history for the global impact of Jesus Christ and his saving work for the sake of the nations.
  • From the beginning, God planned to make the history of Israel serve all the nations of the world through the coming of the Messiah. There are not two stories. There is one story of redemption in history. And this single story will prove to have one overarching purpose.
  • The record of God’s saving dealings with the world—dealings that led men out of the ruin of sin into a relationship with God—was a record of God’s focus on Israel. This is what the Old Testament is.
  • 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.
  • God’s ultimate goal in the history of Israel is not only the exaltation of his glorious name in the joy of his people; it is also his own joy in their joy in him.
  • God’s glory is our joy. And our joy in God’s glory is his joy.
  • God’s name is a message. And the message is about how he intends to be known. Every time his name appears—all 6,800 times—he means to remind us of his utterly unique being.

Chapter 7: Remembering the Exodus

  • So whom was the exodus for: Israel or God? He saved them. For his name’s sake! To make known his power! Both. It was for Israel. It was for God. But it was not for Israel and for God in the same sense. It was for Israel’s salvation. It was for God’s reputation.
  • God’s aim to be glorified and his aim for his people to be satisfied in that glory are not separate aims. Israel’s being satisfied in the God of the exodus is the essence of how the God of the exodus is glorified in Israel. That is the ultimate goal of God’s providence that we are seeing again and again.
  • At the exodus, God made a name for himself by acting as a God of absolutely free grace.
  • His ultimate goal is that those who have eyes to see will come to tremble at his justice and treasure the glory of his grace—his self-determined, absolutely free grace.
  • God’s providence in the exodus (or any other event) is finally and decisively governed not by man’s will or exertion (9:16), but by his own self-determining will.

Chapter 8: The Law, the Wilderness, and the Conquest of Canaan

  • God saw to it that his ultimate goal in providence was embedded at the center of Israel’s written constitution. That goal is that his worth and beauty be magnified above all things in his people’s heartfelt worship of his excellence.
  • God’s intention is for the other commandments to be obeyed on the basis of the first and last.
  • God’s self-exaltation was the ground of Israel’s undeserved exultation. If they had eyes to see, they would be rejoicing in the glory of God’s grace that moved him to spare them.
  • The purpose of God’s providence in the conquest of Canaan was to put his power and his name on display in justice and mercy so that his people would be stunned at the freedom and glory of his grace.
  • God’s ultimate goal in the law was that the supremacy of his worth and beauty be reflected in the supreme satisfaction of his people in him.

God’s wonders in the wilderness were performed again and again for a people who rebelled against him. Therefore, the glory that God exalted among the nations was the glory of his mighty grace.


Chapter 9: The Time of the Judges and the Days of the Monarchy

  • Reading the book of Judges is like having the insanity of sin rubbed in your face while God returns again and again with mercy, which was repeatedly forgotten.
  • The essence of sin is minimizing God and making much of self. In other words, the essence of sin is pride.
  • What shall we say, then, about the relationship between the glory of God’s name and the greatness of his mercies? We shall say that the mercies of God are designed to exalt the name of God.
  • All the kingly dimensions of the incarnation of the Son of God as the Messiah were in the making when God ordained the establishment of the kingship in Israel.
  • The ultimate purpose of the monarchy of Israel will be finally realized as Jesus sits on “the throne of his father David” (Luke 1:32–33) and reigns not only over a redeemed Israel but over a kingdom of worshipers from all nations (Rev. 5:10).

Chapter 10: The Protection, Destruction and Restoration of Jerusalem

  • For the biblical authors who tell the story, God was acting for the sake of his name from beginning to end in dealing with Jerusalem.
  • God often responds to faith with deliverance and to faithlessness with judgment.
  • Sometimes God lets his godly ones go through great affliction. He does not always deliver them from affliction, but often through affliction (Ps. 34:19).
  • The point of Ezekiel’s prophesying over and over and over again, “You shall know that I am the Lord,” is that we should live in the conscious awareness that the supreme reality in the universe—in America, in China, in Brazil, in Nigeria, in Brussels, in our bedrooms, in our minds—is Yahweh, the God who absolutely is.
  • It is cheap grace, not genuine grace, that thinks life in Christ is without remorse for past sin and for remaining corruption.
  • Our joy in God’s mercy is intensified by the realization of how undeserving we were, and are.
  • God’s God-centeredness—God’s commitment to magnify his name, his holiness, and his glory as the ultimate aim of his providence—is not a threat to our joy but the basis of it.

Chapter 11: The Designs of the New Covenant

  • The new covenant is God’s way of achieving his ultimate purposes from the beginning—that the glory of who he really is be exalted for the enjoyment and praise of all who will have him as their greatest treasure (cf. Jer. 24:7).
  • God’s plan in the new covenant is to communicate his glory in such a way that it is exalted in the way his people enjoy and reflect his excellencies.
  • The fear of the Lord is not the opposite of joy in the Lord; it is the depth and seriousness of it.
  • The final goal of the new covenant is the overflowing joy of God himself in the joy of his people in the glory of his name.
  • The day is coming when loving the Lord will be not just a command in writing, but a creation in the heart. God will give what he commands.
  • 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.

Chapter 12: Christ’s Foundational Act in Establishing the New Covenant

  • Jesus is the ground of the new covenant. He is the basis of it. It has taken effect because of the sacrifice he made. He is responsible for putting it into effect.
  • Because of what Christ accomplished in his suffering and death and resurrection, he is not only the ground of the new covenant; he has become its supreme reward.
  • God’s purpose in the new covenant was not only to make it possible for sinners to be forgiven and to know and enjoy the glory of God forever. His purpose was also that the mediator of the covenant would be that very God and would enact a redeeming glory that would become the most beautiful display of glory anyone could ever enjoy—the glory of God’s grace.
  • Grace is the consummate expression of God’s glory, and Christ in his suffering is the consummate expression of grace.
  • The ultimate goal of God in his saving providence—namely, the praise of the glory of his grace—was achieved through the suffering of the Son of God, who died to deliver us from eternal suffering (2 Thess. 1:9) and bring us into everlasting enjoyment of his glory (John 17:24).
  • The ultimate reason that suffering exists is so that Christ might display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God by suffering himself to overcome our suffering.
  • The suffering of the utterly innocent, and infinitely holy, Son of God in the place of utterly undeserving sinners to bring us to everlasting joy is the greatest display of the glory of God’s grace that ever was or ever could be.
  • The suffering and death of the Lamb of God in history is the consummate display of the glory of the grace of God. That is why God planned it before the foundation of the world. That is the aim and work and wonder of God’s pervasive providence.
  • The display of the glory of God’s grace, especially in the suffering of the Beloved, echoing forever in the all-satisfying praises of the redeemed, is the goal of creation and the ultimate aim of all God’s works of providence.

Chapter 13: The Entrance of Sin into Creation and the Glory of the Gospel

  • If God planned the suffering of his Son before creation, and thus before the sin of Adam and Eve, as we saw in Revelation 13:8 and 2 Timothy 1:9, then he foresaw the coming of sin and planned to permit it to enter the world.
  • If God had wise and just and good purposes in permitting the fall of Adam and Eve, we may speak of God’s plan in permitting it. That is, we may speak of God planning or ordaining the fall in this sense.
  • God plans and ordains that some things come to pass that he hates.
  • God’s ultimate aim in creation and providence is to display the glory of his grace, especially in the suffering of Christ, echoing forever in the all-satisfying praises of the redeemed. That is the ultimate wise, just, and good purpose of God in planning to permit the fall.
  • The gospel brings about a new people who rejoice in the glory of Christ as their greatest treasure and who reflect the glory of Christ as their new identity. Christ is glorified by his glory being enjoyed and being echoed.
  • The clearer and fuller our sight of Christ’s glory, the more we will be transformed into its likeness.
  • 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.