by Jerry Bridges /
Read all the posts published to date in this 9-part series on God’s providence from Cruciform’s good friend, the late Jerry Bridges. This was a teaching Jerry was presenting in the months leading up to his fatal heart attack in March, 2016.
In the previous posts in this series, we addressed the miracle and mystery of God’s providence, His sovereignty, and the role of providence in our everyday lives. This time we’ll take a quick look at the question of God’s providence and man’s free will.
GOD’S PROVIDENCE, PART SIX OF NINE
Providence and Free Will
God is sovereign even though he has allowed—to a limited extent—humans to also have their own will. In order to understand how this works we need to remember that God does what we cannot do. We can request, persuade, coerce, or manipulate people’s wills, but all of our efforts are external. God, on the other hand, works within our will so that we choose to do what He has determined we will do.
Here is a prime example of this from Scripture:
And I will give this people favor in the sight of the Egyptians; and when you go, you shall not go empty, but each woman shall ask of her neighbor, and any woman who lives in her house, for silver and gold jewelry, and for clothing. You shall put them on your sons and on your daughters. So you shall plunder the Egyptians. –Exodus 3:21-22 (also see 12:35-36)
From the point of view of the Egyptian women, they freely gave their jewelry and clothing to the Israeli women. But God was behind the scenes giving them favor in the sight of the Egyptians. God did this way back then, but He also does it today. He does this at the level of people’s motivations. For example, in this passage He prevents people from coveting:
Three times in the year shall all your males appear before the LORD God, the God of Israel. For I will cast out nations before you and enlarge your borders; no one shall covet your land, when you go up to appear before the LORD your God three times in the year. –Exodus 34:23-24
Here are three more verses that provide insight on this subject:
Who has spoken and it comes to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? –Lamentations 3:37
Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? –Lamentations 3:38
I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things. –Isaiah 45:7
These verses make it very clear that the Lord is in control. Humans can say what they will, they can exert all their efforts, but ultimately God is in control of all things. When He speaks, it always happens—no matter what we say, do, or think. He always works within our will to work his own will; He is God.
God is infinite in His power, but as we will see in the remaining posts, His power is always guided by His infinite wisdom and goodness.
This has been Part 6 of a 9-part series on God’s providence from Jerry Bridges.
Jerry Bridges (1929-2016) was the author of Who Am I? — Identity in Christ, as well as numerous other books, including The Pursuit of Holiness (which has sold more than 1.4 million copies), and the award-winning The Discipline of Grace and I Will Follow You, O God. He maintained an international speaking ministry and, from 1955 until his death, served in a variety of capacities with the Navigators.