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Summary: Introduction to an 8-part series on Divine Providence

DIVINE PROVIDENCE

This is Part 1 of an 8-part series, which was originally developed for a 13-week adult class, with some of the parts taking more or less than a 45-minute class period. I am starting to post the series on SermonCentral, and plan to post the remaining parts over the next few days as time permits.

I developed a set of slides on PowerPoint for use with the series and will be happy to share the PowerPoint files. The prompts reminding me to advance slides and activate animations are embedded in the sermon below. If you want to request the slides send me an Email at sam@srmccormick.net specifying what part(s) of the series you are requesting. Be sure to include the word “slides” in the subject line of your message; otherwise I am likely to miss it. I would find it interesting to know the location and a few words about your personal ministry if you will include it in your message. Allow several days for me to respond.

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Outline of the series:

I. Introduction to the series

II. God’s Plan from the Beginning

III. God’s Plan Now and Our Problem with It

IV. Justice vs Mercy and the Plan of Salvation

V. The Only Way to Eradicate Sin

VI. Providence – What God Provides in Earthly Life

VII. Providence and Civil Governments

VIII. Providence, Miracles and Phenomena

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I. Introduction to the Series

Providence is sometimes seen as a subject cloaked in mystery. There are a lot of ideas about what providence is and how it works, or whether divine providence is even at work.

We may find that providence is very different than is widely believed. We will recognize some false ideas about what providence is, but the main focus will not be about things we do not and cannot know…but about things we know concretely about God’s providence.

The taproot of divine providence is: “God has a plan” and it involves us, and in its execution, God exercises certain control over human events.

*Slide 1- DIVINE PROVIDENCE

The word providence occurs only once in the bible:

Acts 24:1-3 NASB After five days the high priest Ananias came down with some elders, with an attorney named Tertullus, and they brought charges to the governor against Paul. After Paul had been summoned, Tertullus began to accuse him, saying to the governor, "Since we have through you attained much peace, and since by your providence reforms are being carried out for this nation, we acknowledge this in every way and everywhere, most excellent Felix, with all thankfulness.

Notice that the only time the word providence occurs in the bible, it is not in a religious sense. It was spoken by Tertullus in his attempt to obtain a judgment against Paul. The word providence as used referred to that of the Roman procurator of Judea in his providing for Israel.

But although the word providence is used only in a secular context, the doctrine of divine providence is found throughout the scriptures. Providence is biblical and relevant to our lives and worthy of our best efforts to understand insofar as divine providence is revealed. Few things are more evident in the bible than God’s providence, once we are clear on what it means.

If you’re reading the ESV or any of several modern translations you will see “foresight” instead of “providence” in v2. “Foresight” is a good translation.

The corresponding Greek word, pro´noia, means “forethought.” Forethought and foresight imply a future end, and a definite purpose and plan for realizing that end.

The English word “providence” comes from Latin providentia, which means “to foresee.”

The word in the original language did not necessarily convey divine foresight, as indicated by its use by Tertullus in a secular context.

*Slide 2 - Plan for the series - click for animations as appropriate

But in English, providence has come in our time to be associated only with God. Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the word as:

a. divine guidance or care

b. cap: God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny

In popular thought “providence” came Over time to be connected to a version of predestination in which providence represents a foreordained detailed course of human events following a fixed map. Within that vein of thought, humans are little more than puppets, powerless to do other than move upon an already set stage to the actions of strings controlled from above.

I will raise a lot of questions today that we will not have answers for today. But the questions will show us how thoroughly divine providence is woven into our thoughts. Some questions we may never answer, either in this series or beyond it. God hasn’t told us everything he’s doing, as he drove home very forcefully to Job.

The idea of God’s providential involvement in human lives is generally accepted:

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