Providence – General and Special

The Reformed Faith: Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith Westminster Confession 5.7 makes an excellent distinction between general and special providence.  [This is related to the Reformed distinction between common grace [benevolence] and saving grace and the distinction between Christ’s kingdom of power and his kingdom of grace/glory.]  Here’s WCF 5.7:

“As the providence of God does, in general, reach to all creatures; so, after a most special manner, it takes care of his church, and disposes all things to the good thereof (1 Tim. 4:10; Amos 9:8, 9; Rom 8:28; Is. 43:2-5, 14).”

Robert Shaw wrote some excellent comments on this paragraph in the WCF.

“The providence of God may be considered as general and as special. His general providence is exercised about all his creatures; his special providence is exercised, in a particular manner, about his Church and people. “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in behalf of them whose heart is perfect towards him” (2 Chron. 16:9). God has the interests of his own people ever in view; he knows what is most conducive to their happiness; and he will make all things, whether prosperous or adverse, to co-operate in promoting their good (Rom. 8:28).”

“In all past ages, God has watched over his Church with peculiar and unremitting care; he has sometimes permitted her to be reduced to a very low condition, but he has also wrought surprising deliverances in her behalf. The very means which her enemies intended for her destruction and ruin have, by an overruling Providence, been rendered subservient to her edification and enlargement (Acts 8:4). The preservation of the Church, in spite of the craft and malice of hell, and of all the pernicious errors and bloody persecutions which have threatened her ruin, is no less wonderful than the spectacle which Moses beheld —a bush burning but not consumed. And let us still confide and rejoice in the promise of Christ, that the gates of hell shall never prevail against his Church.”

Robert Shaw, An Exposition of the Westminster Confession of Faith (Ross-Shire, Christian Focus Publications, 2008), 114.

shane lems
hammond, wi

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