God the great Creator of all things does uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things, from the greatest even to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness, and mercy. (WCF 5.1)
History is a home under construction, and the eternal decrees (which the divines addressed in Chapter 2 of the Confession) are the blueprints for this building project. Apart from providence, those blueprints would lie on God’s dining room table unimplemented. But the covenant God of Scripture is, indeed, Jehovah-Jireh, the God who provides – a God of action – a God who builds.
Because God is a God of providence, every event in history – no matter how large or small, no matter how significant or seemingly insignificant – is a screw, a stud, a floor joist. As Dr. Joseph C. Morecraft has written,
Every fact in the universe is God-interpreted and is being moved by God to a God-ordained goal. Nothing is meaningless or ruled by chance. Everything holds meaning and purpose for us. Progress and victory are ours because God is our God and because His plan and providence encompass and govern everything for His glory and our benefit. (Authentic Christianity, [Powder Springs, GA: American Vision and Minkoff Family Publishing, 2009], 1:599)
The concrete God mixes as the foundation of His house is His infallible word, poured off the lips and pens of the “apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Eph. 2:20-21). “But,” some will object, “Ephesians 2 refers to the Church, not to history.” My response is simply this: in the end, what’s the difference? Seriously. When we get to the end of Revelation, the New Heavens and New Earth (which comes down to join this earth) is described as a giant cube. Where else have we seen such a cube? Ah, yes! The Holy of Holies in the Old Covenant temple (1 Kings 6:20; Rev. 21:16). In the end, when the house is drywalled (though I prefer shiplap), painted, and furnished, the Church (and the glory of God with it) will fill every nook and cranny of this earth.
This being the case, God’s primary concern in providence is His Church, the elect. We see this most clearly in Paul’s letter to the Church in Rome: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Again, Morecraft writes,
…the ultimate goal of God’s plan and providence is that Jesus Christ be glorified as ‘the firstborn among many brethren.’ In order to reach this end, the plan in regard to the called of God, i.e., the elect, must be accomplished. If Jesus is to be the firstborn among many brothers, He must have many brothers, saved from their sin, standing with Him. This ultimate goal, then, is the basis for the strongest kind of assurance of our salvation in Christ. (ibid., 592-593)
Concerning Christ, God tells David, “He shall build an house for my name, and I will stablish the throne of his kingdom for ever” (2 Sam. 7:13). Of course, this promise can’t primarily refer to Solomon; we all know His kingdom was carried away as dust in the wind. Solomon built his temple out of stones; Christ builds His out of living stones: “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet. 2:5).
God’s providence and the construction of the Church that’s underway has four distinct implications for us as Christians:
First, as Christians, every illness, heartache, or hardship that enters our lives, no matter how long these dark guests abide with us, dwell with us by God’s command, and they’re with us for His glory and our good.
Second, as priests in the household of God, we’re charged with the task of education, so the Church (as a royal priesthood) is now charged with teaching “all nations… to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:19-20). We’re also commanded to instruct one another (Eph. 4:11-16).
Third, as priests whose portion is temple service, our inheritance is this cosmic temple under construction (see Rev. 21). That’s why we’re promised the earth: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).
Fourth, we’re also charged with perseverance that we may manifest we’re truly stones in the house God is building: “For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end” (Heb. 3:4-6).
Look around you. Do you hear it? Saws are humming and screaming as they bite wood. At Nicea and Chalcedon the studs were nailed into place, and the house was framed up square. In the reformation, God wired the house and turned the lights on: post tenebras lux, light after darkness. Our great great grandchildren may hear the wisp of paint brushes against sheetrock, or better yet, shiplap (as you can tell, I really like shiplap). Who knows how far along we are? I suspect we’ve got a ways to go. But who cares? We’re told not to speculate about such things. The house will get built. We’ve been promised it will, and that promise has come from lips that cannot lie (Titus 1:2).
Now Apply It!
- How does viewing the Church as a building under construction change your view of history?
- How does viewing God as a Master Builder change the way you approach hardship and suffering?