WCF 5.5-7

The Westminster Confession of Faith

5. The most wise, righteous, and gracious God often leaves his own children for a season to various temptations and the corruption of their own hearts, to chastise them for their former sins, or to show to them the hidden strength of the corruption and deceitfulness of their hearts, so that they may be humbled and to raise them to a more close and constant dependence for their support upon himself, also to make them more watchful against all future occasions of sin, and for various other just and holy purposes.

6. As for those wicked and ungodly people whom God blinds and hardens, as a righteous judge, for their former sins, he not only withholds from them his grace by which they might have been enlightened in their understandings and worked upon in their hearts, but also sometimes withdraws the gifts they had, and exposes them to such objects as their corruption makes occasions of sin. In addition, he gives them over to their own lusts, the temptations of the world, and the power of Satan, by which it comes to pass that they harden themselves, even by those means which God uses for the softening of others.

7. As the providence of God in general reaches to all creatures, so, after a most special manner, it takes care of his Church, and disposes all things to the good of it. (WCF 5.5-7)

Having looked at the doctrine of providence for some weeks, we now turn to a part of the confession that directs our attention to God’s use of our sin, in that He uses our wicked ways for His own good purposes (Rom 8:28). The confession looks at three contexts for this incredible truth. First with the elect, second with the non-elect and then third with the church.

WCF 5.5 first focus’ this truth on the elect. Paul lamented in Romans 7 that he knew in his inner most being what he wanted to do, but (at times) did things that he didn’t want to do. Why? Well it was because the flesh still was a force to be reckoned with, a dog that still barked and bit when not actively worked against (Rom 7:15-20, 8:13). Point being, once we’re in Christ, the war might be won, but we’re in a battle not to be dragged back to our former ways and mindset (Rom 3-4 c.f. 1 Cor 9:27). And so at times, if we’re apathetic or lazy in the battle, God - by His fatherly tender wisdom - will actually leave us to various temptations and the corruption of [our] own hearts, to chastise [us] for [our] former sins, or to show to [us] the hidden strength of the corruption and deceitfulness of [our] hearts. In other words, God will teach us by way of experience - sin is still our soul’s enemy and we’re still in a position where we need Him. This truth is far from cruel, it’s actually wonderfully personal. Imagine it, imagine giving your life to Jesus and then God said ‘see you later, and we’ll talk about what you could have done better when you get to heaven’. That would be madness. No, God reveals Himself to His elect as our Father, and as our Father is good, He is personally involved in our discipleship and sanctification (Jn 20:17, Ex 34:6, Ps 23:4). Therefore by allowing us to taste and see that sin really is savage, we’ll hopefully turn and cast ourselves on the grace and hope of the gospel yet again and hopefully be more watchful against all future occasions of sin. God does this because He loves us and for various other just and holy purposes.

WCF 5.6 then turns second to those God has ‘passed over’. No one is in Hell because they wanted Jesus but couldn’t have Him, no - none are cast from Jesus who come to Him (Jn 6:37), but the gospel says that we really must believe and trust (Rom 10:9,13). Now as we’ve seen, believing and trusting is a gift of faith that is given by God Himself (Eph 2:8-9 c.f. WSC 86) and thus because we are by nature sinful and deserving of wrath, God gives some what our nature desperately seeks and desires (Rom 1, 11:7-8 c.f Deut 2:30). Now notice it, the same providence that gives people what they want will cause some to see and soften towards God, yet others it will cause them blindness and hardening which will cause them to become more and more ‘wallowed in their mire’ (see Gen 45-50, Ex 1-15, Heb 6:7).

WCF 5.7 third and finally shows us how God uses evil and sin for the betterment of His bride, the church. As we know we’re not there yet, and if we look around, the visible church has some work to be done and so after a most special manner when God allows things to touch His bride, it is only for the good of it (Amos 9:8-9).

And so take comfort. Have you called upon the name of the Lord? Do you trust Him? Do you have faith that Jesus has done all that needs to be done for you to be made right in God’s eyes? If you you can say yes and amen then know this, God’s people are special to Him, He is your saviour and we are His treasured possession (Isa 43:3,5, 1 Tim 4:10). All that is happening in your life is being worked out under your Father’s wise providence and for your good (Rom 8:28).

Published: June 14, 2024

Updated: June 14, 2024