Providence is the universal sovereign reign of God. It is God's preserving and governing all His creatures, and all their actions (Job 9:5,6; 28:25; Ps. 104:10-25; 145:15; 147:9; Matt. 4:4; 6:26-28; Luke 12:6,7; Acts 17:25-28). General providence includes the government of the entire Universe, especially the affairs of men. Special providence is God's particular care over the life and activity of the Believer (Rom. 8:28).
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"Providence" is one of the words which do not occur in the Bible but which nevertheless represent truly a biblical doctrine. There is no Hebrew equivalent for "providence," and the Greek word translated thus, pronoia, is used only of human foresight (Acts 24:2; Rom. 13:14; for the verb pronoeo, see Rom. 12:17; II Cor. 8:21; I Tim. 5:8). Rather, the Bible uses ad hoc words like "he giveth food to all flesh" (Ps. 136:25), or "he sendeth forth springs into the valleys" (Ps. 104:10), expressing in concrete situations God's mighty acts toward his children.
We must resist the temptation to think about providence generally and independently of Christ. It would be possible to draw on certain Psalms and the Sermon the Mount, for example, to make up a doctrine of God's relationship to his creation that had nothing to do with Jesus Christ. But since it is in Christ that this relationship is established, an attempt to understand it apart from him would be a misinterpretation from the start. In Jesus Christ, God has set up the relationship between himself and his creatures, promising to carry through his purpose in creation to its triumphal conclusion. The primal relationship with Adam, renewed with Noah (Gen. 8:21-22), is no less in Christo than in the covenant with Abraham or Moses. The Mediator who is the incarnate Word establishes this relationship, and in him God becomes the God of men and they become his people. (The Mediator must also be regarded as setting up the relationship between God and his creatures other than man.) As their God, he will take up the responsibility for their earthly existence.
The doctrine of providence may be viewed from three different aspects.
T H L Parker
(Elwell Evangelical Dictionary)
"Providence" in HERE, HDB, and Sacramentum Mundi V, 130-33; J. Calvin, Institutes 1.16-18; H. Heppe, Reformed Dogmatics; K. Barth, Church Dogmatics, III/3, 48; G. C. Berkouwer, The Providence of God; W. Eichrodt, Theology of the OT, II, ch. 17.
Providence literally means foresight, but is generally used to denote God's preserving and governing all things by means of second causes (Ps. 18:35; 63:8; Acts 17:28; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3). God's providence extends to the natural world (Ps. 104:14; 135:5-7; Acts 14:17), the brute creation (Ps. 104:21-29; Matt. 6:26; 10:29), and the affairs of men (1 Chr. 16: 31; Ps. 47:7; Prov. 21:1; Job 12:23; Dan.2:21; 4:25), and of individuals (1 Sam. 2:6; Ps. 18:30; Luke 1:53; James 4: 13-15).
It extends also to the free actions of men (Ex. 12:36; 1 Sam. 24:9-15; Ps. 33:14, 15; Prov. 16:1; 19:21; 20:24; 21:1), and things sinful (2 Sam. 16:10; 24:1; Rom. 11:32; Acts 4:27, 28), as well as to their good actions (Phil. 2:13; 4:13; 2 Cor. 12:9, 10; Eph. 2:10; Gal. 5: 22-25). As regards sinful actions of men, they are represented as occurring by God's permission (Gen. 45:5; 50:20. Comp. 1 Sam. 6:6; Ex. 7:13; 14:17; Acts 2:3; 3:18; 4:27, 28), and as controlled (Ps. 76:10) and overruled for good (Gen. 50:20; Acts 3:13).
God does not cause or approve of sin, but only limits, restrains, overrules it for good. The mode of God's providential government is altogether unexplained. We only know that it is a fact that God does govern all his creatures and all their actions; that this government is universal (Ps. 103:17-19), particular (Matt. 10:29-31), efficacious (Ps. 33:11; Job 23:13), embraces events apparently contingent (Prov. 16:9, 33; 19: 21; 21:1), is consistent with his own perfection (2 Tim. 2:13), and to his own glory (Rom. 9:17; 11:36).
(Easton Illustrated Dictionary)
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