Mar 20, 2012

God's Powerful Sustaining Word

Hebrews 1:3

“He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.”

As human beings, we take the predictability of the created order for granted. When we go to bed, none of us expects that the sun might not rise the next morning. We plan for the future and expect the future to be there when it is time to act. We take steps and never think that we will disintegrate into millions of whirling atoms and fly off into space when our feet hit the ground. Everyone expects the world to hold together today, tomorrow, and throughout the rest of their lives.

Despite its claim of scientific infallibility, naturalistic materialism (the physical universe is all that there is) provides no basis for any of these assumptions. If everything arose by chance, everything could fall apart tomorrow by chance. One random atom or “maverick molecule,” as Dr. R.C. Sproul has said, could throw everything back into chaos. Naturalistic materialists who rely on the continuing existence and regularity of the natural order for their study and experiments betray an awareness of God that they are suppressing (Rom. 1:18–32). Only the Lord’s sustaining hand gives us reason to depend on the regularity of the natural order.

Christian theologians have long recognized this point because of the teaching of Scripture. God’s work to sustain all things is just one aspect of His providence, which is a necessary outworking of His nature as the self-existent Creator of all. If all things come from His hand (Gen. 1:1), all things depend on Him for their continued existence. Today’s passage goes into more detail about this work of sustaining providence, informing us that God upholds the universe through His Son (Heb. 1:3). Not only did the Son, under the direction of divine providence, enter history to save us, but He sustains history itself by “the word of his power” (v. 3). God the Son, who remains united to a human nature in the person of Christ Jesus, simply needs to say the word, and all things would cease to exist.

Question and answer 27 of the Heidelberg Catechism expound on Hebrews 1:3, noting that providence includes God’s upholding “heaven and earth and all creatures.” John Calvin writes, “All things would instantly come to nothing, were they not sustained by his power.” We depend on the Lord’s sustaining grace for every breath we take, every word we say, every move we make — for everything.

Coram Deo

Understanding the importance of God’s sustaining providence should make us profoundly grateful for all things. Every moment we are alive to experience the joys and blessings He brings our way is a gift of His grace. Therefore, we should know not to take any moment for granted. We have a theological reason to be thankful for our lives, and we should never be practical deists who live as if our tomorrows are guaranteed.

For Further Study