The Decrees of God
Updated: Feb 9
Notes compiled by Marty Zide and Steve McAtee
A study of the decrees of God will stretch our minds to the point where we will need to submit ourselves to the revealed Word of God. We won’t be able to understand everything that we’ll see about this wonderful subject, but the hardest part will be to accept it.
Nothing presents more difficulty to the untaught mind than the Bible's teachings about God’s sovereign control of people, plans, and things. It is offensive and preposterous to multitudes to imply that God has a plan for the whole universe down to such minute details as the hairs on someone’s head and the ways of a sparrow. But He does!
Matt. 10:29-30 - Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.
When we contemplate the eternal counsels and purposes of our great God, we must stand in awe and realize our total dependence upon the Holy Spirit for illumination on the subject. The natural mind views this as total foolishness and even the spiritual mind has difficulty with believing such deep truths. We must not come to hasty conclusions, but allow the Scriptures to clearly speak for themselves.
As this section will demonstrate, God’s government of the world is controlled by a plan. God’s government of His creation is what theologians call providence and the plan that providence executes is called predestination, or the doctrine of the decrees of God.
The decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, he has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.
The decrees of God may be defined as that just, wise, and holy purpose or plan by which eternally, and within Himself, He determines all things whatsoever that come to pass.
The decree of God is his firm decision by which He performs all things through His almighty power according to His counsel.
The decree of God is that term given to describe His determination of all things according to His eternal and wise purpose.
Eph. 1:11 - In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.
Eph. 3:11 - This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Messiah Jesus our Lord.
No one suggested to God that it might be good to do this or that. It was not only not suggested to Him by anyone else, it was not even suggested to God, as some have supposed, by reason of His foreknowledge whereby He saw that certain people were going to think and do certain things, in consequence of which His own thoughts were determined. Such an idea is a complete denial of what the Apostle teaches here. Everything is according to the counsel of His own will. He thought with Himself, He deliberated and meditated with Himself [in Triune relations]. The whole plan of salvation from beginning to end is exclusive of God, with nothing at all from the outside. Everything originates in God, everything comes out from God. I said at the beginning that we were considering high doctrine. A quote from Lloyd-Jones.
A. The Decrees of God and Fatalism
The decrees of God and fatalism are not synonyms. Fatalism views God as nothing more than the workings of natural or unknown impersonal forces which make all things come out in some predetermined way. The Stoic calls it destiny.
One individual explained fate by imagining man as a water beetle caught in a torrent of water. He may struggle, or he may let himself be swept along in peace simply accepting his doom. If we see God’s providence as nothing more than fate, then the best we can hope for is to resign ourselves to the horrors that may lie ahead, and be swept along by blind destiny. That is not the biblical picture of God’s providence. Fate is like the workings of a machine without reason or purpose.
The God of Scripture acts personally to carry out His plan to a specific, known goal by directing all things for His own glory and for the blessing of His people. Fate drags us to an irrational destiny with no purpose and does not consider us as real persons.
Predestination has a good purpose and is designed by a loving God to reveal His own glory and to produce benefits for His people. The Biblical doctrine treats us as persons who participate as real beings who reflect the sovereign work of God on our hearts. The Biblical teaching does not let us blame God for our rebellion, yet it will equally not let us take credit for our restoration or for the good we do.
Coming Next – The Extent of the Decrees