<< by Prof. Greg Oliver | Shorter Catechism >>

Q7: 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 (Eph. 1:11).

I. The decrees of God are His foreordained purpose or will (Election is addressed in Q20).

A. “Decree” is defined as an official order, edict, or decision.
B. “Foreordained” means to order before (“ordain” is from the Latin for order).
C. The purpose of God’s plan is His own glory (Isa. 43:7; Rom. 9:22-23; Rev. 4:11).

1. God’s plan is the reason for everything that happens (Rom. 11:36).

a. All things are worked out according to the counsel of God’s will (Eph. 1:11).

2. God’s plan of redemption in choosing the foolish, weak, and despised things in this world brings all glory to Himself (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

a. God made all for Himself (Prov. 16:4).

(1). If the creature is the ultimate object of God’s plan, then God is subordinated; error and confusion arise.

(2). God created, permitted sin, gave salvation for men and not angels, etc.; all for His own glory.


II. The decrees of God are eternal, immutable, and therefore absolute: the counsel of His will.

A. Analogy: In building a house, the builder plans all that goes into it. Likewise, God plans all.
B. Eternal: man plans in time, but God’s plan is eternal, there never was a time when He didn’t have it (Ps.
33:11; Acts 15:18; Eph. 1:4).

1. The “counsel of His will” is His eternal purpose (Eph. 3:11).

C. Immutable: God’s decrees issue from His perfection (Heb. 6:17).

1. God doesn’t change (Mal. 3:6; Ja. 1:17).

2. God’s purpose stands, for He has declared the end from the beginning (Isa. 14:24; 46:10).

3. God is omniscient, foreseeing all because He has planned it.

a. The counsel of God’s will is not dependent upon the foreseen (Deut. 7:7-8; Eph. 1:5, 9, 11).

(1). A builder has advisers/decorators, but God seeks no counselor (Rom. 11:33-34).

(2). A house is comprised of many parts with one purpose of being built. God’s plan has
infinite causes and effects but one purpose.

D. Absolute: God’s plan encompasses all (Rom. 8:28; Eph. 1:11).

1. Contrast: the builder has some control of the house’s plan, yet not every detail (e.g., nails, days,
etc.), but God has full control; His plan encompasses every detail.

2. Two kinds of events mistakenly thought to be out of God’s control: chance or accidental, and free

a. Chance does not exist.

(1). The lot was used in the ancient world to discover the will of the gods, and was not
forbidden in Israel, for the Lord rules (Prov. 16:33; Acts 1:24-26).

(2). An arrow shot at “random” kills Ahab (1 Ki. 22:34), which was the Lord’s purpose (cf.
vv. 19-20), fulfilling His Word (cf. 21:17-19; 22:37-38).

(a). Even smallest details are predetermined (Matt. 10:29).

b. Free agency: man’s choices are predetermined by God, whether in general, evil, or good.

(1). In general: the hearts and thoughts (2 Sam. 17:1-14; 1 Ki. 12:15; Prov. 21:1); relations
(Gen. 4:24; cf. Ps. 127:3; Gen. 24:44); every man’s time (Job 7:1; Ps. 39:4).

(2). Evil God decrees to permit (Acts 14:16): Christ’s crucifixion was foreordained by God
(Acts 2:23; 4:28; cf. also Amos 3:6).

(a). The Jews freely chose to crucify Christ (cf. Matt. 27:15-23, “whom they
wished…be crucified”).

(3). Good: believer’s good actions are planned in eternity (Eph. 2:10).

(a). God works in man to will and to do (Phil. 2:12-13).

(b). Man’s choice to believe has been preordained (Acts 13:48).


III. The decrees of God and two false conclusions: God is the author of sin, man is a pawn.

A. God is not the author of sin (Ja. 1:13; 1 Jn. 1:5), though sin is included in His plan (Gen. 50:20; cf. 45:5,

1. God purposes good and decrees to permit evil.

a. The rational second agent is responsible for evil (men, angels).

B. God is sovereign/man is responsible.

1. The Lord “moved David” and yet was angry with him (2 Sam. 24:1).

a. David confessed his sin (v. 10), and was chastened for it (v. 15).

(1). Satan “moved” David (1 Chron. 21:1).

(a). The rational second agent is responsible for his actions.

2. The Lord sent the king of Assyria (Sennacherib, c. 700 BC ) to be the rod of His anger (Isa. 10:5-6).

a. King not aware he was being sent, but had it in his heart to destroy (v. 7).

b. King was prideful (vv. 8-15).

c. King is punished for his sin (vv. 16-19).

(1). The motive of his heart was not God’s glory, but rather malice.


IV. Application.

A. Use, of knowledge.

1. Nothing occurs by chance. God has certain knowledge of all things, for He either decrees to effect or permit whatsoever comes to pass.

B. Use, of testing.

1. Do we murmur and complain at our lot in the world (cf. Job. 40:2), presuming to correct infinite wisdom that has decreed all things most wisely and judiciously?

2. Do we try to pry into God’s secret will (Deut. 29:29) when we should have our eyes upon His preceptive will?

C. Use, of exhortation: sinners and saints.

1. Sinners. Come to the Son and then you will have the Father and all His decrees will work toward your ultimate good.

2. Saints. Whatever or whenever the instruments of God’s decrees are, we must look above them to the hand of God, whether good or evil (2 Sam. 16:11; Job 2:10), and find comfort in that they come from a gracious friend and reconciled Father.

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