Truth: Doctrine of the Divine Decree

This doctrine was left in outline form for ease of discussion. 

The Doctrine of the Divine Decree

 

Introduction

     A.  The difficulties in understanding the Divine Decree relate to the finite understanding the infinite, the temporal understanding the eternal,  the sinful understanding the perfect.

     B.  Man has no need to be fearful of God, because God is holy and good.  Therefore if something is decreed, then it must be good.  It cannot be less than good from the divine perspective.  There is nothing more important than your view of God.

 

I.  Definition.

      The Decree of God is His eternal, holy, wise, and sovereign purpose according to His own pleasure, comprehending at once all things that ever were or will be– in their causes, conditions, successions, and relations– and determining their certain futurition.

    

     A.  The decree is eternal in that it was established in eternity past and is certain forever.  It can never be changed by man.

     B.  It is holy–set apart by God, pure according to God’s righteousness, transcendent in character in relation to the cosmos.

     C.  It was fixed according to the wisdom of God, not whimsical or without thought.  It is perfect according to His sovereign will.

     D.  God`s sovereignty is infinite, eternal, according to His own self-determining will, totally independent of any other being.  The decree is purposeful.  That purpose is to bring honor and glory to Himself.

     E.  Everything is according to His pleasure.  Without it we rob God of His freedom. The phrase adds the fact that it is personal in relation to His plan.  The decree originates in freedom, and is not obligated to His purpose. God purposes without constraint.  The only necessity placed on God is what comes from His perfection.  The decree wasn’t made by external compulsion or internal caprice.  It was not whimsical; it is purposeful.  When God acts, He remains free.

     F. In the decree God comprehended at once all things that ever were or will be.  In God’s omniscience God knew the actual and the possible.  God knew when you would believe in Christ or if you would.  God knew what would happen if you married this person or that, and the happiness if you would have married a person for their integrity and character, rather than for their looks or lifestyle.  God comprehended in eternity past everything that would ever happen.  The past was as perspicuous as the present or future to God.  We forget about our childhood or instances in our life, but each one is as clear to God as another.

     G.  Their causes refer to what brought about the circumstances you face.  The causes refer to what preceded the event or thing.

     H.  The conditions refer to the surroundings, environment, and the set up in which the event or thing takes place.

     I. Successions relate what precedes and what follows.  It relates how each fits into the chronology of history.

     J. Relations state how each event or thing is related to those around it.

     K. Determining their certain futurition means that by comprehending all that ever was or will be, God made the sovereign choice concerning the events in history according to His direct, indirect or permissive will.  It means that God’s will is not intimidated by man.  God does not coerce man, but God knew how man would decide and God fixed the decree.  Man does not change history in time, man lives out the history as it is fixed in eternity past as God saw history from eternity past.

     L.  Everything God does is for His own glory.

 

II. The omniscience of God is the key to understanding the Decree.

 

     A. God has three types of knowledge.

           1.  Self-knowledge whereby God knows himself perfectly and completely.  He has never had to learn about Himself.

           2.  Omniscience whereby God knows the actual and the possible for all things in human history and beyond.  The possible could have happened had God programmed that into the decree, but only the actual was programmed.

           3.  Foreknowledge, which is the subcategory of God’s omniscience, related only to the decree.

 

     B.  God’s omniscience is a giant computer, which has the storage capability of every fact and possibility of divine history.

           1.  God never tampers with volition.  Human history is as you have thought it and acted.

           2.  God knows which way you will choose, even though you are confronted with 20 choices. The choice you make is in the decree.

           3.  God knew all that would have been involved had He adopted an infinite number of plans of action.

           4.  God knows all the consequences had you chosen a different course of action that you chose.

 

     C.  Out of the computer comes a printout, which is the foreknowledge of God.

           1.  The foreknowledge makes nothing certain, but acknowledges what is certain.

           2.  Foreknowledge was not known, until it was first decreed.  It first had to come out of the computer.  God had to choose what plan or system would be reality for the believer.  God knew in Eternity Past what decisions you would make and every decision is perspicuous, because He has the printout from the computer.

           3.  Foreknowledge is based on the sovereignty of God and His right to choose.

           4.  Foreknowledge does not determine nor affect any event.  The cause is your freewill.  It is what you decide.

           5.  Foreknowledge is the reality of life, what actually would happen.

 

     D.  The decree does not coerce the free will of man.  The following five points are from A.A. Hodge. God’s decree determines only the certain futurition of events, it directly effects or causes no event.  But the decree itself provides in every case that the event shall be affected by causes acting in a manner perfectly consistent with the nature of the event in question.  Thus in the case of every free act of a moral agent the decree itself provides at the same time–

           1. Every agent will be a free agent.  No coercion on the will of the creature.

           2. What precedes will be what it is.  Once something happens, nothing can change it.

           3. The conditions for the act will be what they are.  God will not change the physical laws spontaneously.  Therefore we can depend on the consistency with which all things happen.  Will they happen by chance?  No, all things happen by the grace and immutability of God.

           4. The act itself will be perfectly free on the part of the agent.

           5. The act will be certainly future.  It is recorded history before the event occurs. Therefore, it must take place as recorded according to the Foreknowledge of God.

                 a.  This means that Hyper-Calvinism is wrong because God does not predestine anyone to go to heaven or hell.  People go because of their choice. You go to heaven because you choose to go to heaven.  You were elected in eternity past and God knew you would go to heaven in eternity past and God chose you to go to heaven in eternity past, but God did not turn your decider to positive so you would go to heaven.

                 b. This means that Arminianism is wrong because man’s volition is not beyond the control of God.  Man cannot cause things that are not in the decree.  Man is not elected or chosen the moment he believes in Christ.

 

           6. Application: When you witness, every person is first of all an unbeliever, but has the potential to become a believer.  No one but God knows whether they will believe in Christ, or not.  Therefore, you witness to every person God brings your way.

                 a. What was known about the person who rejected God is that they were not elected in eternity past.  That person has lived out the pre-recorded printout of history.  But the person chose to reject salvation.

                 b. What was known about the believer is that he/she was elected in eternity past.  Their salvation was sure, that it would happen, but the manner or the time is completely unknown to us. Death bed conversions are a reality.

 

III. Evidence for the Divine Decree.

 

     A. All things are included in the decree.

           1. Is. 14:26,27, “This is the plan devised against the whole earth; and this is the hand that is stretched out against all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has planned and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand. who can turn it back?”

           2. Is. 46:10,11, “Declaring the end from the beginning And from ancient times things which have not been done. Saying My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure; Calling a bird of prey from the east The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.

           3. Dan. 4:35, “And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing. But He does according to His will in the host of heaven And among the inhabitants of earth. And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, What hast Thou done?”

           4. Eph. 1:11, “Also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.”

 

     B. Special things and events are included.

           1. Stability of the physical universe Ps. 119:89-91, “Forever, O Lord, Thy word is settled in heaven.  Thy faithfulness continues throughout all generations. Thou didst establish the earth, and it stands.  They stand this day according to Thine ordinances.

           2. Length of human life Job 14:5, “Since his days are determined, The number of his months is with Thee, And his limits Thou hast set so that he cannot pass.

           3. Mode of our death Jn. 21:19, “Now He said this signifying what kind of death he would glorify God.”

           4. Circumstances of nations Acts 17:26, “And He made from one, every nations of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation.

           5. Free acts of man Eph. 2:10, “For we are His workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.  Gen. 50:20, “And as for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result to preserve many people alive.”

 

     C. Salvation of believers Eph. 3:10,11, in order that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

     D. The nature of God.

           1. The sovereign, eternal and omniscient God implies complete order to history.

           2. God can be sovereign and still allow man to have freewill.

           3. Man cannot intimidate God with His decisions. 

                 If there is anybody or anything that is absolutely free, referring to will, you do not have a sovereign God.

                      (1) Divine foreknowledge implies fixity, which implies a decree.

                      (2) Divine wisdom operates according to a divine plan.

                      (3) Divine immutability indicates that there can be no increase in power or knowledge.

                      (4) Divine benevolence requires that both the course and end of history be determined by God`s will rather than by chance or the creature’s will.

                      (5) That fact that God is eternal means that His purpose is eternal.

 

IV. Characteristics of the Divine Decree.

 

     A. The ground of the decree is God’s grace, love, and good pleasure

           1. Matt. 11:25-26, “At that time Jesus answered  and said, I praise Thee, O Father. Lord of heaven and earth, that Thou didst hide these things from the wise and intelligent and didst reveal them to babes.  Yes, Father, for thus it was well-pleasing in Thy sight.”

           2. Luke 12:32, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has chosen gladly to give you the kingdom.”

           3. Eph. 1:5,9,” He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ in Himself according to the kind intention of His will. . .He made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His kind intention which He purposed in Him.

           4. Rom. 9:21, “Or does not the potter have a right over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use?”

           5. Application: It doesn’t arise from outside of His nature. For example in a puzzle, all the pieces are in the box, but only when all the pieces are put together can you get the full picture.  God knows all the pieces before the puzzle is assembled.

 

     B. It is eternal

           1. 1 Cor. 2:7, “but we speak God’s wisdom in a mystery, the hidden wisdom, which God predestined before the ages to our glory.”

           2. Eph. 1:4, “just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him.”

           3. 2 Tim. 1:9, “who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity.”

           4. 1 Pet. 1:20, “for He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you.”

           5. Application: every event is related to another, no event can be isolated from the whole.

                 a. lust–sin–death.

                 b. Death of Christ–personal faith–salvation.

 

     C. It is wise

           1. Rom. 11:33, “Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways.”

           2. Eph. 3:10,11, in order that the manifold awisdom of God might now be bmade known through the church to the crulers and the authorities in dthe heavenly places. This was in aaccordance with the 1eternal purpose which He 2carried out in bChrist Jesus our Lord,

           3. Ps. 104:24, “O Lord how many are Thy works! In wisdom Thou hast made them all: The earth is full of Thy possessions.”

           4. Application: nothing is irrational or arbitrary, although it may be beyond our comprehension at the moment.

 

     D. It is free.

           1. Is. 40;13-14, “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord Or as His counselor has informed Him? With whom did He consult and who gave Him understanding? And who taught Him in the path of justice and taught Him knowledge. and informed Him of the way of understanding?

           2. Rom. 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

           3. Application: His determinations are influenced by no other.  No one was present when He decreed the decree.

 

     E. It is unconditional.

           1. Is. 46:10, “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”

           2. Acts. 2:23, “this man delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”

           3. Eph. 1:11, “also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will.

           4. Eph. 2:8, “for by grace you have been saved through faith and that not of yourself it is the gift of God.

           5. Application:There are no contingencies. Nothing is uncertain. Nothing in the decree is conditioned by anything not in the decree.  God is not waiting for anything to happen in order to know the outcome of the event.

 

     F. It is all-inclusive.

           1. Eph. 1:11, “ This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He 2carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord, “.

           2. Acts 17:26, “And He made from one, every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times, and the boundaries of their habitation.”

 

     G. It is immutable.

           1. Ps. 33:11, “the counsel of the Lord stands forever, The plans of His heart from generation to generation.”

           2. Is. 46:9,10, “Remember the former things long past. For I am God and there is no other; I am God and there is no one like me, Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying My purpose will be established and I will accomplish all My good pleasure.”

 

     H. It is efficacious.

           1. Is. 14:27, “For the Lord of hosts has planned, and who can frustrate it? And as for His stretched-out hand, who can turn it back?”

           2.  Application: the works of God always succeed in having their intended effect.

           3. Some things God has decreed to do Himself immediately–direct cause.

           4. Some things He has decreed to do through the agency of natural laws–indirect cause.

           5. Some things God decreed to do through the exercise of the will of moral creature moral agency.

           6. Shedd in his Dogmatic Theology, “If God does not first decide what shall come to pass, he cannot know what will come to pass.  An event must be made certain, before it can be known as a certain event.”

 

     I. It is permissive regarding sin.

           1. Ps. 78:29, “So they ate and were well filled; And their desire He gave to them.”   God did not cause them to sin.  God did not cause them to crave for the food.  God permitted them to sin.  God cannot cause something to happen contrary to His own character or He would be denying Himself.             

           2.  What about Pharaoh.  God did not cause the hardening of Pharaoh’s heart.  God hardened His heart by allowing Pharaoh to make the decision, which God foreknew would happen in eternity past.

           3. Ps. 106:15, “So He gave them their request, But sent a wasting disease among them.  God did not cause them to have the desire. They had the desire by their own freewill.

           4. Acts 14:16, “And in the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways.”

           5. Application: The decree renders the future sinful act certain, but does not hinder the sinful self-determination of the finite will.

           6. Permissive does not mean passive (which would imply that something was beyond his control).

           7. It does not mean compulsion (which would negate free agency and place the responsibility with God.

 

     J. The decree to act is not the act itself.

           1. @@ The decree to create is not creation itself.

           2.  The decree to redeem is not redemption itself.

 

     K. The purpose of the decree is the glory of God.

           1. Eph. 1:6,12,14,” to the praise of the glory of His grace which He freely bestowed on us in the beloved; v. 12 to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ should be to the praise of His glory, v. 14 who is given as a pledge of our inheritance with a view to the redemption of God’s own possession to the praise of His glory.”

           2. Rev. 4:11, “Worthy are You our Lord and our God to receive glory and honor and power, for Thou didst create all things, and because of They will They existed, and were created.”

 

     L. The decree is all comprehensive.

           1. Not the slightest confusion could exist as to one of even the smallest events without confusion to all events.

           2. The decree does not eliminate the need for prayer. God in His omniscience saw what believers would pray.  The effective prayer is what God can answer in the affirmative. Is. 65:24, “It will also come to pass that before they call. I will answer and while they are still speaking I will hear.”

 

V.  Application of the divine decree to us.

     A. The decree is the sum total of God’s plan and purpose in eternity past, and centers around the person of Christ.

           1. Eph. 1:4-6, “Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world that we should be holy and blameless before Him, In love he predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself according to the kind intention of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”

           2. 1 Jn. 3:23,”And this is the commandment that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as He commanded us.”

     B. Therefore the free will of man must face Jesus Christ before and after the cross.

     C. Without violating free will, God designed a perfect plan for every believer.

     D. There are primary, secondary, and tertiary functions within the plan of God.  All of which affect you in every decision you make.

     E. God is not unfair and He deals with reality.

 
Dedicated to many great teachers who have gone before.

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