Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?
Q. 7. What are the decrees of God?
A. The decrees of God are, his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.
“The counsel of the Lord stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” (Ps 33:11)
“The Lord has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” (Prov 16:4)
“The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.” (Prov 16:33)
“declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’” (Isa 46:10)
“For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” (Rom 11:36)
“even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him…In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will,” (Eph 1:4, 11)
I like going with the flow. What I mean, actually, is that I like saying, “I like going with the flow” because it makes me sound all cool and relaxed. I mean who wants to be all uptight and stiff? I can hang loose. I promise!
But sometimes I have no choice but to go with the flow. Life seems to teach me the same lesson over and again: I am not in control. I am not talking about self-control, which is the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23). What I mean is that I have no control over so many things that I would love to control. Here are some of those things in no particular order: weather, politics, people, my IRA, my future, etc. I have really no control over these and so many other things. So what can I do except to go with the flow? It will be absolutely exhausting (and impossible!) to try to bend them to my will. I know. I have tried. So my cynical and exhausted self has come to conclude I had better go with the flow or I will not last long.
Now, that’s just depressing. And it isn’t actually biblical at all. Instead, Christians should learn to say, “DV.” Deo Volente - Latin for “Lord willing” - is the biblical way of thinking about life. Remember what Scripture says. “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit”- yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.”” (Jas 4:13-15)
If the Lord wills. That’s what we mean by the decrees. Christians do not have to look at life with either tired cynicism or with fear over what we cannot control. Instead, we can find a wonderful and strong confidence in our God who carries out his eternal purpose without failing.
The decrees of God are his eternal purpose. That is, what God has purposed to do is not a hasty reaction to circumstances he did not anticipate. Rather, God’s purposes are founded on his “infinite, eternal, unchangeable being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.” There is nothing arbitrary or inconsiderate about God’s purpose. All that he does he has purposed from eternity according to his perfect goodness and wisdom.
The decrees of God are according to the counsel of his will. No one compels God one way or another. Who dares to force God’s hand? God acts truly freely, being under no obligation of any kind. He owes no one anything. He has no debt to pay. Think about God’s love for us in this context. Owing us nothing he has given us his Son. Being under no obligation he has sacrificed his Son on the cross. The beauty of the gospel of Jesus Christ is that God acted freely according to the counsel of his will. If God is that good, then how comforting that all things happen according to the will of such a God!
The decrees of God are for his own glory. If we hear this out of context, it would be troubling. Who, indeed, wants to be at the mercy of a capricious and selfish deity? That is why when we think about God doing all things for his own glory, we have to remember just what kind of a God he is. He is perfect in wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. So often our thoughts about God go astray because we do not keep in mind his character. But if our thoughts about God are grounded in his character, then our hearts sing to hear God does all things for his own glory, because we know that means he will act with (and for) his wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.
The decrees of God are his foreordaining whatsoever comes to pass. Aren’t you glad God is not like you and me? You and I very often have no ability to accomplish what we desire, even when our desires are good, because so many things are out of our control. So often, we get in the way of our good intentions.
But God is not like man. What he has purposed, he will do. And he will ordain all the means to accomplish his desire, so that nothing happens accidentally, unintentionally, or unknowingly. Our holy and wise God is fully in control of our lives, our future, our church, his kingdom, and this world. That is why we have a strong confidence in God. We can trust him to do well.
We will delve into the details of God’s decrees with Q. 8, DV, but for now let’s give thanks. God has so ordered everything with his holy wisdom, that his children have nothing to fear in this life or the next.