The Work of God

by Elmer Towns
 The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will. Proverbs 21:1


     In previous chapters we looked at the nature and attributes of God. In this chapter we examine the overall plan that God has for the people and world that he has created. Some have said God has completed his work in this world, as a man winds up a clock which will run down independently. These people treat God as an absentee landlord, not attempting to control what man does day by day, but who will return in the end of this age to ask for an accounting.

     Others conceive of God as the architect of this universe and that he has preconceived every small detail. Man will fit into God's minute blueprint, exercising very little of his own free will. This view teaches that God has determined and is daily controlling every aspect of life, down to the smallest detail. God is the Author of life, and man is simply the key on t tie typewriter he has chosen to use. They see God as a divine chess player, guiding the chess pieces through life. The people God guides are like actors chosen to perform in a play.

     In truth, God is a God of love, and that love moves his entire being to take interest in the affairs of his people. God is not ignoring all that takes place on the earth. He is vitally interested and involved in the smallest and apparently leas significant events in our lives. As we understand the work o God, we will better understand God's specific will in our lives.


     When we talk about the work of God, we are referring to the outworking of his external plan for this life, based upon his wise and holy purpose, whereby God controls and oversees all that comes to pass. Everything was created and exists for his glory. The work of God is founded upon his self-existence; and, because God always has existed, he knew all things from all eternity. Therefore, his work fits into one eternal and unchangeable plan, that all come to the saving knowledge of his Son, and through this salvation God is glorified-the ultimate will of God.

     The work of God is based upon God's sovereignty. From "before the foundation of the world" (1 Pet. 1:20), God had foreordained his plan to save men. While God's purpose was determined in eternity, his work is performed in time. However, a few facts must be kept clearly in mind.

     Some theologians emphasize that God works in salvation by choosing certain individuals, that Christ died for them, and that the Holy Spirit sovereignly brought them to salvation. Others emphasize that God offers salvation to all men because Christ died for the sins of the world. Although these views seem contradictory, the Bible seems to teach that both are true (2 Thess. 2:13, 14).

     The ultimate source of our, salvation is the Lord (Jonah 2:10). The apostle Paul used several words to describe God's sovereignty; "predestinate," "foreknowledge," "chosen," SC called," "the counsel of God," "God's will," and "God's good pleasure." A proper understanding of these words will help us understand God's work in salvation. These words are used in Scripture in relationship to God's programs, principles, and plans that relate to salvation, sanctification, and God's ultimate glorification. We know that God has an eternal Plan for the salvation of those who call upon him.

     One of these words is "predestinate"-proorizo (Acts 4:28; Rom. 8:29; Eph. 1:5, 11, translated "determine"). This word means "to decide upon beforehand." God originated a plan for man's salvation and offered it to everyone who would respond in faith. The apostle wrote of God's predestined plan for the world because he loves the world he created (John 3:16), then he died for the sin of the world (John 1:29), and calls everyone to partake in that plan. Therefore, "predestinate" deals primarily with those who respond to his plan (Rom. 8:28, 29).

     Another of these words is "foreknowledge"-proginosko. Foreknowledge speaks of God's knowledge of the future (Acts 2:23; 26:5; Rom. 8:29; 11:2; 1 Pet. 1:2, 20; 2 Pet. 3:17). Foreknowledge means foreordination (Acts 2:23; 1 Peter 2:20). Those whom God foreknew, those upon whom he set his love beforehand, he ordained to be conformed to the image of his Son.

     On the day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter vividly illustrated the harmony that exists between the sovereignty of God and man's personal responsibility. Even though the cross was in the eternal plan of God and a part of his sovereign will, those who crucified Christ did so as a rebellious act of their will. God had predetermined the plan, which Peter said, "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain" (Acts 2:23).

     Paul used the word eklegomai, translated sometimes "chosen," to describe the people God will save (1 Cor. 1:27, 28; Eph. 1:4). The word is also translated "elect" (Rom. 11:7; Col. 3:12;'l Thess. 1:4). Those who responded to God's call were those that God had chosen for salvation. God's election is an (exercise of his choice (John 15:16; 1 Peter 2:9), as he gives salvation as a free gift to those whom he has chosen (Eph. 2:410; 2 Tim. 1:9; Titus 3:4-7).

     The word "call"—kletos—originates out of his sovereignty (Rom. 1:1, 6, 7; 1 Cor. 1:26; 7:20; Eph. 1:18; 4:1; 2 Thess. 2:11). Those whom God has elected hear his call to salvation. Jesus laid. "He that is of God heareth God's words; ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God" (John 8:47). Those who have been given to Christ hear him (John 10:25-28). The command to preach the gospel is not a contradiction of the truths concerning election. The invitation to receive Christ is the means used by God to call out those whom he has chosen.

     Paul used the verb protitheemi, translated "Purpose," in terms of his overall plans (Rom. 1:13; 3:25; Eph. 1:9). The other word, boulee—“counsel"—also carries the same meaning (Acts 13:26; 20:27; Eph. 1:11). These words relate to the volitional nature of God, that he can translate his desires into an organized program relating to his creation. God's will is related to his knowledge, here the word eudokia—“good pleasure" [of his will]-relates to sovereignty (Eph. 1:5). These words describe the initiative God has taken in salvation, but they never deny man's moral responsibility before God. The basis of God's acts of sovereignty is his nature, "For it is God which worketh in You both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (Phil. 2:13).

     At times God calls, expecting man to answer and at other times God punishes so man will respond. On other occasions, God sovereignly directs through inner direction such as giving a burden to men (Isa. 21:1, 11, 13). The Christian can be led of the Spirit both consciously (Rom. 8:14) and when he is captive to circumstances (Acts 21:14). Whether God leads directly or indirectly, by leading or Pushing, by enticement or by compulsion, God works all things to his glory (Rom. 8:28). But in freedom, man will sin and miss God's best road, or man will reject and go to bell. And in the final analysis, God's sovereignty cannot be man's defense at the judgment. Because man was created in the image of God, so each man is responsible for his free choice.

     The work of God is based upon God's wisdom. God does everything in infinite wisdom and holiness. Sometimes this may not be readily seen by us, but with Paul we must recognize "the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Rom. 11:33). We need to be reminded constantly that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men" (I Cor. 1:25).

     Habakkuk failed to understand that God had a wise plan on earth, so he encountered problems trying to understand the work of God. He knew that God's people had sinned and deserved the judgment of God. Habakkuk could not understand why God did not judge them. Then he began to see how God was working to raise up a wicked nation to judge Judah. The Old Testament prophecy of Habakkuk records the intellectual struggles of a prophet trying to understand the work of God.

     The work of God is consistent with his nature. There is nothing and no one capable of motivating God's work apart from his nature. There was no one to advise and counsel God or influence any of his decisions (Isa. 40:13, 14). The nature of God demands the sovereignty of God in all areas of his work.

     Some have misunderstood the sovereignty of God by denying it or misapplying it. Those who deny it fail to recognize that "salvation is of the Lord" (Jonah 2:9). If God is sovereign in the matter of salvation, it is easier to understand the security of the believer. We are neither saved nor kept by our own works. "Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).

     The work of God is committed to glorify God. God has "created all things, and for [his] pleasure they are and were created" (Rev. 4:11). The psalmist wrote, "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Ps. 19:1). Paul told the Ephesians that their conversion was performed "to the praise of the glory of his grace" (Eph. 1:6). The purpose of God's work is to bring glory to himself. The responsibility of all creation is to glorify God. If in our lives and conversation we bring dishonor to God, we have failed to do the will of God. When we do what God desires, we will naturally glorify God and direct honor him.

     The work of God is both passive and active. Sometimes the work of God is active. This occurs when God causes things to happen to us according to his plan for our life. Understanding what we need and what is best for us, God will sometimes direct the circumstances around us to provide experiences, opportunities, and provisions to aid us in our lives.

     At other times, the work of God is passive. The classic example of this is found in the life of job. God allowed the devil to hinder the life of job but not the purpose of God. When the devil was permitted on two occasions to test job, on both occasions divine limits were set on the testings. God used the devil to accomplish something in the life of job while God remained passive. Today, when God allows the same to be accomplished in our lives, we have the promise of divine limits set by a God who knows us better than we know ourselves. "God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13).


     God is at work in three specific areas of our lives: the physical, social, and spiritual.

     The physical work of God. All about us, we can see the work of God in the physical universe. The world was created by God and is sustained by God (Ps. 33:6-11). The atmosphere, seasonal changes, heat, and rain are all "acts of God." Sometimes we call a terrible storm an "act of God." While this is true, it is also an act of God when the sun rises on a clear summer day and when it hides behind a cloud during a refreshing spring shower. Our physical bodies are one of many amazing creations that exist in this world to remind us of the work of God. When we consider the intricacies of the body we begin to recognize the immense wisdom and creativity of God. The human body is limited and directed through human nature. God put a human nature in man and God works his purposes in the world through that avenue.

     God does his work in other areas of our physical world. He has established the boundaries of the nations and the general course of human history. God is at work today in the internal and international affairs of many nations as he prepares all nations for the end times.

     The work of God in society. God has established three institutions upon which our society rests: the family, government, and church. These three institutions are the foundation of society. God accomplishes his work through these institutions.

     If these crumble, as some observers believe they may be doing today, the lives of many will crumble with them. It is important that we see God at work in the family, government, and church, and that we seek to work with, rather than against God in these areas.

     Marriage was ordained of God from the beginning. The plan of God has always been one man for one woman for one lifetime. God never intended that the family should be destroyed by divorce. Marriage is the legal and socially accepted practice which meets the cultural need for children to be born and trained by their parents. The traditional family is more than a tradition. It is the design of God.

     Government too is a divine institution (Rom. 13:1-3). It was established because the nature of God demands order. Even the worst form of government is better than anarchy. According to the Bible, government leaders are ministers of God. Although the establishment of government was by God, he is not responsible for bad leaders. The laws of governments ought to reflect the law of God. Christians are responsible to support, honor, and pray for all in authority. It is hard to understand how Christian leaders can support anti-God revolutionary movements committed to overthrowing their governments. This is directly opposed to the social work of God. Christians in every age have had to make difficult decisions concerning their support of governments that oppose the laws of God.

     The third institution established by God was the church. It too is foundational to our society, acting as the social con-science of the community. Jesus pictured the church as aggressively opposing and defeating the strongholds of the devil in the world (Matt. 16:13, 18).

     Each of these three institutions has a role to play in carrying out the work of God in our society. We need to recognize the divine authority which established these three institutions.

     God's eternal work-salvation. This third aspect of the work 'If God deals with the salvation and spiritual growth of men. God permitted sin to enter the world but also determined to provide for man's salvation. Lewis S. Chafer observed, "God determined not to hinder the course of actions which His creatures pursue, but He does determine to regulate and control the bounds and results of man's actions."

     God's provision for man's salvation is twofold. First, he provided the means of salvation in the blood of Christ. Man is unable to save himself Jesus alone was a suitable sacrifice to effect the forgiveness of sins. Second, God provides the messengers of salvation. God calls individuals into the ministry of proclaiming the gospel. Beyond that, he has directed that every Christian should be a witness, actively involved in bringing the message of salvation to every creature.


     God works through the law of nature. God, the Creator of this universe, has established the natural order of the universe. "While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (Gen. 8:22). When God works, he will normally work within the laws of nature. This work of God is often referred to as Providence.

     God works through the laws of human personality. God made us the way we are. Our nature is a product of his work and we should allow him to work through the strengths and limitations of our personalities. When God works, he often uses people to accomplish his goals. In doing so, he considers the laws of human personality. God will use us to accomplish that for which we are best suited. "The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will" (Prov. 21:1). The word "heart" often represents the seat of intellect, emotions, and will in an individual, the real person. Today we define the term "personality" as the sum total of all we are. Each personality rests in the hand of God to be directed and used by him in his work according to his will.

     God works through circumstances. God is sovereign in all the affairs of life. Because he is in control, he can direct our circumstances to accomplish his work. Paul told the Corinthians that "a great door and effectual is opened unto me" (1 Cor. 16:9). At other times God led in the life of Paul by closing doors of opportunity (Acts 16:6, 7). Back of circumstances we know that "All things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28).

     God works through the Bible. God always reserves the right to work beyond his natural laws within the boundaries of his supernatural laws. All of his laws have unity and God will never work contrary to his laws. The Bible is God's revelation of himself. As such, God would never contradict his nature by working inconsistently with biblical revelation. Jeremiah experienced the way God used the Word of God in his life to accomplish the work of God in his life (Jer. 20:9).


     God has probably directed our lives as we have sought his will on specific matters. The following twelve principles reveal how God can guide his children today.


1 Commit yourself to do God's will (John 7:17; Rom. 12:1, 2).
2 Look for God's will in the Bible (Ps. 119:105).
3 Pray for guidance in applying God's will (Luke 18:1).
4 Make sure your motives are pure in seeking God's will (Matt. 6:22).
5 Begin by doing what you know is right (Rom. 12:2).
6 Face your own thoughts, strengths, and weaknesses realistically (1 Cor 12:11, 29-31).
7 You will have inner peace if your decisions are correct (Phil. 4:7; Col. 3:15).
8 Seek spiritual counsel from godly people (Ps. 11:14).
9 Study circumstances to see whether doors are open or closed (Acts 16:6, 7; 1 Cor. 16:9).
10 Do not move forward until you know you are obeying the Bible (Isa. 40:31)
11 Judge decisions by the long look (Rom. 12:2; 8:39).
12 Be flexible about past decisions you have made regarding the will of God (Phil. 3:13).


     God is at work in our world today bringing men to a saving knowledge of himself and building them up in their faith. In accomplishing this work, God uses people. It is important that we make ourselves available to God and seek his direction in the affairs of life. As we do the will of God in our lives, we will be cooperating with the work of God in our world.


     Monday: Habakkuk 1:1-17

     Tuesday: Habakkuk 2:1-20

     Wednesday: Habakkuk 3:1-19

     Thursday: Psalm 19:1-14

     Friday: Isaiah 40:18-31

     Saturday: Psalm 33:1-22

     Sunday: Matthew 19:1-15  

Taken from: What The Faith Is All About by Elmer Towns