PROVIDENCE, by John Piper

Published on April 22, 2021 by Steve West

Crossway, 2021 | 752 pages

A Brief Book Summary from Books At a Glance

By Steve West


Table of Contents


Introduction: Four Invitations 

A Definition and a Difficulty
Chapter 1: What Is Divine Providence?
Chapter 2: Is Divine Self-Exaltation Good News?

Part 1: The Ultimate Goal of Providence
Section 1: The Ultimate Goal of Providence before Creation and in Creation
Chapter 3: Before Creation
Chapter 4: The Act of Creation

Section 2: The Ultimate Goal of Providence in the History of Israel
Chapter 5: Overview: From Abraham to the Age to Come
Chapter 6: The Exodus Unfolds
Chapter 7: Remembering the Exodus
Chapter 8: The Law, the Wilderness, and the Conquest of Canaan
Chapter 9: The Time of the Judges and the Days of the Monarchy
Chapter 10: The Protection, Destruction, and Restoration of Jerusalem

Section 3: The Ultimate Goal of Providence in the Design and Enactment of the New Covenant
Chapter 11: The Designs of the New Covenant
Chapter 12: Christ’s Foundational Act in Establishing the New Covenant
Chapter 13: The Entrance of Sin into Creation and the Glory of the Gospel
Chapter 14: The Glory of Christ in the Glorification of His People

Part 2: The Nature and Extent of Providence
Section 1: Setting the Stage
Chapter 15: Knowing the Providence of the God Who Is

Section 2: Providence over Nature
Chapter 16: The Loss and Recovery of a Theater of Wonders
Chapter 17: Earth, Water, Wind, Plants, Animals

Section 3: Providence over Satan and Demons
Chapter 18: Satan and Demons
Chapter 19: The Ongoing Existence of Satan

Section 4: Providence over Kings and Nations
Chapter 20: Israel’s Divine King Is King of the Nations
Chapter 21: Human Kingship and the King of Kings
Chapter 22: To Know and Rejoice That the Most High Rules

Section 5: Providence over Life and Death
Chapter 23: A Bath of Truth and the Gift of Birth
Chapter 24: “The Lord Has Taken Away; Blessed Be the Name of the Lord”
Chapter 25: We Are Immortal till Our Work Is Done

Section 6: Providence over Sin
Chapter 26: Natural Human Willing and Action
Chapter 27: Things We Know and Do Not Need to Know
Chapter 28: Joseph: God’s Good Meaning in a Sinful Act
Chapter 29: Israel Hated, Pharaoh Hardened, God Exalted, Helpless Saved
Chapter 30: Broken Families
Chapter 31: Deception and Dullness of Heart
Chapter 32: “Though He Cause Grief, He Will Have Compassion”
Chapter 33: A Wickedness God Especially Abhorred

Section 7: Providence over Conversion
Chapter 34: Our Condition before Conversion
Chapter 35: Three Biblical Pictures of How God Brings People to Faith
Chapter 36: Saving Faith as the Gift of Providence
Chapter 37: Driven Back to the Precious Roots of Election

Section 8: Providence over Christian Living
Chapter 38: Forgiveness, Justification, and Obedience
Chapter 39: God’s Command-and-Warning Strategy
Chapter 40: “Those Whom He Called . . . He Glorified”
Chapter 41: Blood-Bought Zeal for Good Works
Chapter 42: “Working in Us That Which Is Pleasing in His Sight”
Chapter 43: Killing Sin and Creating Love by Faith

Section 9: The Final Achievement of Providence
Chapter 44: The Triumph of Missions and the Coming of Christ
Chapter 45: New Bodies, New World, Never-Ending Gladness in God

Conclusion: Seeing and Savoring the Providence of God 




Introduction: Four Invitations

God has revealed the goal, nature, and extent of his providence. This exalts his sovereignty and humbles our pride, leading us to worship. Much of what we learn in Scripture about God’s providence is counterintuitive to our natural minds. We need to learn to embrace these counterintuitive wonders. We need to move through the words we use to express these truths to the reality the words convey. The word providence is not found in the Bible, but it conveys a tremendous biblical truth. When we examine God’s providence, we are being invited into a God-entranced world. Jesus and the Psalmists saw God’s hand in everything in the world around them. Despite the pain and suffering of the world, we are to rejoice in what God is doing every day. We are invited to know God through his providence, and to know that nothing befalls us but that which is governed by our Father’s hand for our good.


Part One: A Definition and A Difficulty

Providence connotes not just God’s sovereign power, but God’s purposes. Providence is God’s purposeful sovereignty. In providence, God guides and sustains the world. Since we need to define the word providence in a way that is faithful to the biblical concept, we can either present the evidence and then define the word, or give the definition at first and provide the evidence afterward. Many historic confessions contain statements on providence which help elucidate the meaning of the term. Providence must not be confused with Fate. Fate is a blind, purposeless force, but providence is the purposeful, personal guidance of God as he works everything out for his designed ends. There is literally nothing outside of God’s providential control, and he guides everything for his glory and the good and increasingly joy of his children.

It is almost impossible for people to joyfully accept the Bible’s teaching that God does everything for his own glory. We tend to do things for our own self-glory, but we despise this trait in others. We don’t like a self-exalting God—but we also don’t like any God. We rebel against divine authority. God is not narcissistic and petty. He is not arrogant. He shares himself with us because there is nothing better for him to share. There is nothing greater than God, and no other higher end can be sought. He exalts himself for the good of the universe. God doesn’t do things to increase his infinite glory; he does things to reveal his glory. God’s glory is not one attribute amongst others, it is the fullness of the perfection of his being and attributes.


Part Two: The Ultimate Goal of Providence

Section 1: The Ultimate Goal of Providence before Creation and in Creation

Even before he created the world God chose to adopt sons through Jesus Christ, for the purpose of magnifying the glory of his grace. Paul makes it clear that this is done for the praise of the glory of God’s grace. God’s purpose in creation is that what we are and what we have results in the praise of his glory. We express praise over things we enjoy and value. When God calls us to praise his glory, this is the appointed consummation of joyful enjoyment. God calls us to this because he is sharing himself with us and calling us to the highest joy we can experience. When God exalts himself he is giving us the best he can, and he is calling us to the only source of real satisfaction and joy. Much more will be said in the rest of the book about the massive importance of grace in God’s plan.

God’s providence includes a plan for the world before it was created, and his guidance of the world presupposes its actual creation. Since creation is where God displays his glory and acts to reveal his glory, the reason for the existence of the world is the same as the end of God’s providence. Nothing exists that was not made by God, and everything that exists is from him, to him, and for him. That the world is “for” him means that it all exists to reveal his glory and engender praise. In order to fulfill his purposes in creation, God made human beings in his image, so that the world can be filled with worshipers who have knowledge of God’s glory. Through Christ, the praise that comes to God is not only for his work of creation, but for his work of salvation. The aim of creation and the aim of salvation in this creation is the glorification of Jesus Christ. God’s people are made a new creation through the Spirit. The glory of the Father and the glory of the Son are one glory.


Section 2: The Ultimate Goal of Providence in the History of Israel

God chose Abraham to be the progenitor of the nation of Israel, through which the Messiah would come to bless the world. God’s plan for Israel and his plan to send Jesus as the Messiah were one plan. The incredible truth is that through Israel’s Messiah the Gentile nations were blessed. There has always been a true or spiritual Israel. In the end, God will bring about a great work of salvation in the nation of Israel. Until the coming of Christ, God’s history of salvation was mainly a history of Israel. When the Scriptures recite the history of Israel the main actor in what happened was God. Not only is this the case, but the purpose for his acting was that he would be glorified. Israel was to praise his glory. The same purpose for creation and consummation is the purpose for Israel (i.e. that people will joyfully praise God’s glory). God secures a name for himself, and in so doing secures the joy of his people. The highest joy is not rejoicing in God’s blessings, but rejoicing in God himself. Incredibly, God reveals that he has great joy in his people.

The exodus revealed God’s purposes as Israel’s Redeemer, and thus shaped Israel’s worship. Of the utmost importance is that God revealed himself as Yahweh. “I AM WHO I AM” reveals that God is categorically different from all other gods and beings. Yahweh is the absolute, and he is the covenant God of Israel. His name is found 6800 times, and every time it is a declaration of his uniqueness. In the exodus, God links his name to his mighty work of deliverance and redemption. He rescues his people because he is absolutely free: his power and love are free. Every work of power and every plague he sent was so that Israel, Egypt, and the nations would know that he is the Lord. Yahweh would not only be known, he would receive glory and worship. God rescued Israel because he wanted them to enter into the joyful worship of his glory. . . .


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PROVIDENCE, by John Piper

Crossway, 2021 | 752 pages

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