Wheel Of Fortune? Or, He’s Got The Whole World In His Hands?

Institutes 1.16.1 – 1.16.3

In Chapter 16 of The Institutes, Calvin begins venturing into the subject of God’s providence. The question is begged: Does the Lord providentially oversee all of creation and life, or, is creation and life simply subject to fortune and fortuitous causes?

Calvin spends 1.16.1 – 1.16.3 addressing the subject of creation and argues strongly for the providence of the LORD over everything.

Some “represent God as a momentary Creator”, who, after completing His creation, simply left it to be “sustained by the energy divinely infused into” it. Those who hold to this perspective may perceive the power of God in creation, and acknowledge His wisdom, power and goodness displayed in the work of His hands, but they stop there.

According to Calvin, faith must penetrate deeper.

After learning that there is a creator, it must forthwith infer that he is also Govenor and Preserver, and that, not by producing a kind of general motion in the machine of the globe as well as in each of its parts, but by a special providence sustaining, cherishing, superintending, all the things which he has made, to the very minutest, even a sparrow.”

An argument for this is made from Scripture, using the sun as an example of the Lord’s authority over and direction of the created order. Using the biblical accounts of the sun standing still (Joshua 10:13) and its shadow receding (II Kings 21:11), Calvin says that “God declared that the sun does not daily rise and set by a blind instinct of nature, but is governed by Him in its course, that He may renew the remembrance of his paternal love toward us.” (1.16.2)

He continues along this line when he says that “governing heaven and earth by his providence, he so overrules all things that nothing happens without his counsel.” Calvin quotes Psalm 115:3b: ” … He does whatever he pleases.”(1) He goes on to say that the Psalmist, in this verse, is speaking of the Lord’s sure and dliberate purpose in everything that He does.

Believing and knowing that the Lord is ordaining, commanding and governing everything for His purposes, even the adversities of life that we must endure, will surely bring “solace to the faithful” and praise and glory to His name.

Calvin concludes this reading with these words:

… nothing happens but what he has knowingly and willfully decreed.”

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(1) The complete reading of Psalm 115:3 is: “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever he pleases.” This is such a powerful verse. I have had it highlighted in my Bible for years.

Two other verses from The Book of Psalms that I have always associated with 115:3 that speak mightily to me about the power, majesty and and sovereignty of the LORD are:

“How great are Thy works, O LORD! Thy thoughts are very deep.” (92:5)

“The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; And His sovereignty rules over all.” (103:19)

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