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Question #36

Providence or Chance?

Could you please provide me with scriptures to support whether any and everything that happens is not as a result of coincidence?

The Answer:

There are two extremes that must be considered in response to this inquiry. On the one hand are the materialists who believe that everything is chance or coincidence. This, of course, is the logical conclusion of their belief that there is no God and that everything in the world is matter in motion, the matter reaching its present condition as a result of accident (happy or otherwise depending on your perception of the modern world). The Calvinists are at the other extreme. Since everything has been preordained by God from before there was time, including all that is evil, there is no such thing as chance or coincidence. Everything that happens is the result of God’s preordained will being exercised in the world. This, of course, smacks of fatalism, “Whatever will be will be.” It is this belief that gives rise to the age-old expression of explaining death, “His time just came.”In between these two extremes are the Deists, who believe that God exists, but that he is wholly transcendent, has no interest in the outworking of history, and takes no part in it.

None of these positions comports with the teaching of Scripture. Scripture teaches that there is a God and that he operates in the affairs of men. In Biblical days God operated directly in the world through miracles; however, with the passing of the Bible age, miracles ceased. Today God acts in the world through providence. (There is some discussion of these subjects in the lessons on miracles on this web site.) Providence is the manner in which God upholds the world, fulfills His will in the affairs of men and nations, and cares for those who seek His will and obey it. Since the day of miracles has ceased, God works out this “provide-ence” through natural law, working through His natural law to accomplish His purpose.

During Biblical days the miraculous and the providential worked hand-in-hand. Mary’s conception was miraculous; the birth of Jesus was according to natural law – nine months pregnancy followed by delivery. When Hannah prayed for a son, God answered her prayer, but it was answered through natural means – Hannah conceived after her husband, Elkanah, “knew” her. A good illustration of providence is found in the book of Esther. No miracles are recorded. In fact, God’s name is not mentioned, but God’s hand is clearly involved. The same can be said of much of the record of Joseph in Genesis.

Providence is of two types – general and special. (For a discussion of both see Lesson Six on Miracles on this web site.) In brief, God’s general providence is the method by which he cares for his creation (sun, rain, grain, grass, etc.). God’s special providence is the method by which He makes special provisions for those who seek His will and obey it.

Belief in providence does not mean that nothing ever happens in the world as a result of chance. It is to say that chance plays a far lesser role in the hearts and minds of God’s people. Both chance and luck belong primarily to the creed of unbelievers and the disobedient.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)