He Has Done All Things Well!

It is baptism this morning. After the long prayer the minister begins to read the form. John only listens half-heartedly. His thoughts aren’t with it at all. Oh, that pain inside he can’t get rid of. Yesterday, he stood with his mother at the open grave of his father. His thoughts ponder over the time when dad was still alive, ”He understood me so well... was always ready to help... was so tender and caring ... oh, why then that accident? Now he is gone! Unreachable! Always! Why did the Lord allow that? Didn’t he know how much I loved him? Didn’t he know how much mother and I needed him...?” Suddenly, John is awakened out of his thoughts. His ears catch the words the minister is reading, ”and therefore will provide us with every good thing, and avert all evil or turn it to our profit.” The minister reads on but John wrestles with those words.

Nice words, but ...
”...and therefore will provide us with every good thing, and avert all evil or turn it to our profit.” Beautiful how those old fathers could write that but does it really match reality of life. There sits a girl who has to grow up in a cold, selfish, and loveless family. Over there bleeds a heart of a young woman who still feels the scar of the sexual abuse she had to endure. A few benches ahead of John sits that blind boy. Another girl struggles with loneliness: she is already twenty- nine and nobody ever asked her. She will probably be left out! There sits that family whose father is just laid off. And I lost my father when I am just seventeen ... nice words but it doesn’t match with my life and so many others. Moreover, this sentence stands in that paragraph dealing with what it means to be baptized in the ”Name of the Father.” All those people are baptized...

There are young and old people who recognize this struggle. Perhaps events lay behind you which you can’t forget. Deep and painful furrows have been drawn in your life. Big disappointments and unfathomable things have happened. Maybe you also think those words are beautiful but empty. Let’s take a closer look at these words of the Baptism form.

The Covenant of Grace
The sentence John wrestled with is found within a short explanation of the covenant of grace. You can see that for yourself if you take a moment to read the form. Within the scope of this article, I cannot delve deeply into the form. Yet it is important to see these words in that context. Baptism in a sacrament which the Lord has instituted to strengthen faith.

Also the faith in the promise that ”all things will work together for good” (Rom. 8:28). The sentence ”and therefore will provide ...” is found in the second part of the doctrine of holy baptism. To experience the truth and comfort of this second part, one needs to have learned something of the experience which ends the first part, namely, ”and we [are] admonished to loathe and humble ourselves before God, and seek for our purification and salvation without ourselves.” The truth of this second part of the doctrine of baptism becomes a rich message for those who indeed learned to acknowledge that they have grossly transgressed all the commandments of God, kept none of them, and are still inclined to all evil. Therefore that self-loathing, that humbling and that seeking for purification and salvation outside ourselves because within it is so hopeless.

In the Word we hear of a God Who isn’t only willing but also able to save, In baptism God confirms this truth visibly. With Him is found that purification and salvation. In His covenant of grace He has supplied everything necessary for the salvation of sinners. Each Person of the Trinity has His part in this salvation. The part of the Father is described as, ”God the Father witnesseth and sealeth unto us that He doth make an eternal covenant of grace with us, and adopts us for His children and heirs, and therefore will provide us with every good thing and avert all evil or turn it to our profit.”

Fitting and unfitting
And ”therefore will provide us with every good thing...” That ”therefore” connects the first part of the sentence with the last. Those whom He adopts as His children and heirs. such He shall as a heavenly Father provide with every good thing and either keep them from all evil or make it turn out to their profit.

How often don’t we hear this truth quoted in the context of difficulties? You meet someone who is going through a deep trial. As you listen to such a person, you search for a response. It is so hard to say the right thing. No doubt with good intentions you part with a word of encouragement and say, ”Well, you know it is written that all things will work together for good.” That text fits almost always.

Yet are we allowed to use these words and thoughtlessly apply them to each and every situation we meet with or experience? When you look up these words in Rom. 8, you notice that Paul is writing these words in context of a much larger subject than just mere trials. Let’s read the whole text together. ”And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. For whom He did foreknow. He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren” (Rom.8:28-29). Notice that Paul wrote that ”for them that love God and who the called according to His purpose” all things work together for good.

Carefulness and Honesty
You can see that we have to be careful with our applications of nice sounding truths. That also applies to the sentence out of the baptism form, which really forms a short exposition on this text. The Lord clearly disapproves such a practice. He says in Ps. 50:16-17, ”But unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare my statutes, to that thou shouldest take my covenant in my mouth? Seeing that hatest instruction’ and castest my words behind thee.”
When there is no sorrowing over sin, no repentance to God, no real love to God, we cannot and may not give comfort by pointing to God’s gracious covenant promise confirmed and sealed in baptism. We have to careful but also honest. That is very difficult but also very needful. In pastoral work we meet with cases in which you really desire to comfort the people. Your heart weeps with them as you listen to their story. Yet, at such moments, we need to think further than the trial they face. There is a soul at stake. If we then notice that everything in their life centers around oneself and this world, that God is mentioned but not served or loved, then it our task with tender love but faithfulness to point out that the Lord is calling to repentance with all the trials. And if this calling of pain, sorrow, sickness, loss doesn’t lead to conversion, then it will only testify against us. In other words, then it will not ”work together for our good but for our eternal woe.”  It may be that such faithful and honest love, which doesn’t just apply a comfortable truth, may indeed work for the sufferer’s good, namely conversion.

Restoration and Reunion
The longing of a re-born soul is to be again God’s image bearer or to be conformed to Jesus and to have fellowship with God. The greatest delight of such a soul is to live holy before the Lord. The more they try, however, the less successful they feel themselves to be, What a glad tiding then is found in the covenant of grace. In that covenant the sovereign Father promises that He shall do everything to restore holiness to the lost sinner.

What is now really the kernel of the covenant of grace? Is it that we would feel happy? That everything may go smoothly and fine? That we are successful? No, the kernel of the covenant of grace is mainly (1) the restoration of the image of God in the elect sinner who is conceived and born in sin, and (2) the provision of the way of reconciliation of God and His elect creature. The last part, the way of reconciliation, we leave now unconsidered.

It is exactly that ”restoration” which is the subject of the sentence in the form, ”and therefore will provide us with every good thing and avert all evil or turn it to our profit.” The Father (through the Holy Spirit) will restore in His Church His own image. Having adopted them as loathsome sinners, He will also beautify them with holiness.

To reach that purpose, God the Father in His providential government will make all things work together for that good purpose, to conform His Church to Jesus Christ. He uses for that every detail of life, also the crooked. the painful, the riddles, the loneliness, the emotional scars, and the empty places. The Father ”embroiders” each life of His children after His pattern. His people see here the hack side of this work. Often it makes no sense (John 13:7). But there comes a day that the Father will show how He fulfilled the promise referred to in the baptism form, ”and therefore will provide us with every good thing, and avert all evil or turn it to our profit.”

No child of God
But if I don’t know whether I am a child of God, how must I then see all those difficulties and pains in my life.’ In the first place, in the light of Ps.103:10, ”He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities.” There is still so much that Lord withholds from us that we do deserve. How true it is in our life that even in ”His wrath He remembers mercy.”

In the second place, observe God’s love even in your difficulties. Jeremiah observed in the midst of his incredible trial, ”For He doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.” The word ”willingly” in Hebrew means ”from the heart.” You must not think that God has a delight in grieving and paining His creatures even though they do that to Him all the time. Yet God causes the grief and pain in the lives of the children of men! Why? ”Besides other reasons, He does so because He is filled with the desire for your betterment, ”As I live, saith the LORD. I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked but that he turn and live.” Do you see what God has pleasure in"? In that you turn from your self-destructive ways and live. Since you will not listen to His pleading and inviting words, He needs to give a painful reminder, just as parent does with a naughty child. God is deeply concerned with your soul, my dear friend. He is so concerned about it that it pleased Him to cause you pain in your life. If such a burden brings us at His feet in repentance and faith, then it has become true in your life also: ”provide us with every good thing and avert all evil or turn it to our profit. ”

He did all things well
I would like to close by quoting a paragraph from Octavius Winslow. He wrote this beautiful passage in a sermon, ”In providence and grace, in every truth of His Word, in every lesson of His love, in every stroke of His rod, in every beam that has shone, and in every cloud that has shaded, in every element that has sweetened, and in every ingredient that has embittered, in all that has been mysterious, inscrutable, painful, and humiliating, in all that He gave, and in all that He took away, this testimony is His just due, and this our grateful acknowledgment through time and through eternity, He hath done all things well.” God grant us that grace to reflect in this light upon all the trials of our lives.

1 The Dutch marginal notes comment on this word as follows, ”with words or works, serving to the instruction and improvement of a sinner.”