I’d like to preface this by stating that from here forward I’m going to summarize my reading in Calvin’s institues to help others follow along. You know, as if anyone actually read this. While I realize that this is very late in the game to start this (last half of the penultimate chapter of the 1st book) I still think that it will be beneficial. I figure that I can wrap back around when I finish the book and drop in a prequel. Call me “Mr. Lucas”.
Chapter 17: “Use to be Made of the Doctrine of Providence”
Section 6: God cares first for the needs of His children, then the world. The purpose of the historical books in the OT was to make this point.
Section 7: God uses all manner of resources to put this into practice, but the end result is the same that it is for His purpose that we are saved from calamity.
Section 8: When calamity arises, the purpose is to bring our focus back to God, by whom we are most likely to be saved from our trouble. If the trouble continues, it is for our testing and instruction, but never out of His control. God rules over good and evil to accomplish His purposes.
Section 9: Sometimes calamity comes due to negligence and imprudence on the part of the believer. This is not judgment from God, but reaping what you sow. In other cases there are hard things that come upon us to remind us of human sin and the curse. Ultimately, God is still in control and we can trust that a danger which is not fatal will not hurt us, yet one that is fatal cannot be resisted by any precaution. So it is our duty to diligently seek God in our actions and, by so doing, seek to live our lives honoring Him, knowing that what takes place in our lives is orchestrated by God for our good and His glory.
Section 10: Life in this world is filled with constant dangers which can harm us in any number of ways. Calvin goes into detail showing a wide range of dangers which threaten us daily and then pauses only to explain that if we were left to nothing but blind chance, our lives would be wrought with fear in that the light of our life could be snuffed out at any moment.
Section 11: The life of a believer however, who trust in God’s divine providence, is a life of freedom from worry and dread. He commits every fear to God and trusts that whatever befalls him, it is at the hand of his redeemer who has promised not to give us more than we can handle. Therefore the life of a Christian is a life of joy in that no matter what may come, good or evil, we will be enabled to withstand it and if it is to conclude with our death then there is nothing that can remove us from that end.
Section 12: Expanding on the topic of God’s providence, Calvin examines a few places in scripture where God “repented” of His decisions (Gen 6:6; 1 Sam 15:11; Jer 18:8). He also discusses where God seems to have changed his mind (Jonah 3:4-10; Isa 38:15; 2 Ki 20:25). As to the statement “repentance” Calvin states that it is wise to remember that God cannot lie and in him are found no errors, ignorance, or impotence. God is also incapable of regret in that all of his decisions are perfect. What is stated is that the term “repent” is to mean “change” in that God is changing the leadership of Israel, away from what the peopel wanted and to what a man after God’s own heart. This ultimately concludes with Numbers 23:19, which states, “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”.
Section 13: Continuing from Section 12, Calvin relates the term “repentance” is used to help us understand what God was doing through his actions. In the same way, when we read that God is “angry” at sinners we know that he is not acting out of unjust anger but in direct response to us breaking the rules which he has provided to us. These are terms used to help us relate to God and understand more of what he means when he acts toward us.
Section 14: Concluding the questions that he arose in Section 12, Calvin now speaks to the places in scripture where it seems that God has changed his mind. In each of these instances, God provides a conditional statement to people who then repent and God then responds to their repentance by staying his hand. These are instances where God uses his prophets to communicate warnings to bring about a change in the hearts of those involved. God’s first will is that they would repent and if they do not repent He will act in judgment against them. God knows the end will be their repentance and He acts accordingly, but it is through the threat of judgment that these people turn. Ultimately, Isaiah 14:27 remains true, “For the LORD of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?”