THE DECREES OF GOD
By C.D. Cole
By the decree of God is meant His purpose or determination with
regard to future events. It means that things come to pass according to
a Divine purpose rather than by a fixed natural law or blind fate or
capricious chance. To deny the decrees or foreordination of God is
practically to dethrone Him. It puts Him on the sidelines as an
interested but helpless spectator to what is going on.
"A universe without decrees would be as irrational and appalling
as would be an express train driving on in the darkness without
headlight or engineer, and with no certainty that the next moment it
might not plunge into the abyss" (A. J. Gordon).
"Plan and purpose as we may, the plans and purposes will turn
only to the final end which God has predetermined" (Henry).
"We give thanks to God for blessings which come to us through
the free actions of others, but if God has not purposed these blessings,
we owe thanks to others and not to God" (A. H. Strong).
"The Scriptures make mention of the decrees of God in many
passages and under a variety of terms. The word 'decree' is found in
#Ps 2:7: "I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me,
Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee." In #Eph 3:11 we
read of His 'eternal purpose':"According to the eternal purpose which
he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord"; In #Ac 2:23 'determinate
counsel and foreknowledge':"Him, being delivered by the
determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by
wicked hands have crucified and slain"; In #Eph 1:9 of his 'good
pleasure':"Having made known unto us the mystery of his will,
according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself."
God's decrees are called His 'counsel' to signify they are
consummately wise. "Counsel is mine, and sound wisdom: I am
understanding; I have strength" (#Pr 8:14). They are called God's
'will' to show He was under no control, but acted according to His own
pleasure. "Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by
Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will"
(#Eph 1:5). When a man's will is the rule of his conduct; it is usually
capricious and unreasonable; but wisdom is always associated with
'will' in the Divine proceedings, and, accordingly, God's decrees are
said to be the 'counsel of His own will" (A. W. Pink).
"Victor Hugo, recognizing the overruling divine hand, said,
'Waterloo was God.' God in the exercise of His infinite wisdom and
power, so personally directs and controls the free actions of men as to
determine all things in accordance with His eternal purpose" (E. H.
POSITIVE AND PERMISSIVE DECREES
All things were not decreed in the same sense. Sinful acts of men
were not decreed in the same sense as were righteous acts. God is the
efficient cause of all that is good, while evil is only permitted and
directed and overruled for His glory. The sinful acts of men which
God decreed permissively will certainly be done, but in doing them
men are giving expression to their own inherent depravity. "Surely the
wrath of man shall praise thee: the remainder of wrath shalt thou
restrain" (#Ps 76:10). The good deeds of men are decreed efficiently,
which means that God works in them "For it is God which worketh in
you both to will and to do of his good pleasure" (#Php 2:13).
"Careless seems the great avenger;
History's pages but record
One death grapple in the darkness,
Twixt old systems and the Word.
Truth forever on the scaffold;
Wrong forever on the throne;
But that scaffold sways the Future;
And, behind the dim unknown
Standeth God, within the shadow,
Keeping watch above His own."
GOD'S SECRET AND REVEALED WILL
The decrees of God belong to His secret will; the commands of
God belong to His revealed will. "The secret things belong unto the
LORD our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us
and to our children for ever, that we may do all the words of this law"
(#De 29:29). God's secret will is the rule of His actions; His revealed
will is the rule of our actions. God's secret will embraces all things; His
revealed will embraces all we ought to do. The secret will of God is
His program, according to which all things come to pass; His revealed
will gives us our program according to which we are to work.
The decrees of God are not addressed to men, and have nothing
to do with human responsibility. It may be that God has decreed a
poor crop year, but that is no reason for failure to plant and cultivate.
God may have decreed a famine, but that does not justify idleness.
God may have decreed the death of the writer this year, but that does
not keep him from regarding the laws of health and safety. God
decreed the death of His Son, but that did not make it the duty of men
to crucify Him.
GOD'S DECREES AND FREE AGENCY
God's decrees determine the free actions of men, that is, the
decree makes their actions certain but not a necessity. God's decrees
are not executed by compelling man's will, therefore they are not
inconsistent with man's freedom. "For of a truth against thy holy child
Jesus, whom thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with
the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to
do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be
done" (#Ac 4:27,28). God's decree made the death of Christ certain,
but it laid no necessity upon any man. None of the men were
compelled to do the foul deed. In crucifying the Lord of glory they
were giving free expression to their thoughts and feelings toward Him.
They were fulfilling the Scriptures, and executing God's eternal
purpose, without knowing it: "Which none of the princes of this world
knew: for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of
glory" (#1Co 2:8). "I speak not of you all: I know whom I have
chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread
with me hath lifted up his heel against me" (#Joh 13:18). "But they
cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith
unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We
have no king but Caesar" (#Joh 19:15).
GOD'S DECREES ARE ETERNAL
If God has any purpose concerning the happenings of the
universe it must, of necessity, be eternal. To deny this is to suppose
some unforeseen event that made it necessary for God to change His
purpose. All of God's purposes were formed in wisdom, and since he
has power to execute them, there is no reason for any change. "Known
unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world" (#Ac 15:18).
"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there
is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end
from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet
done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:"
PRACTICAL VALUE OF THE DOCTRINE
It magnifies God in His wisdom, power, and sovereignty. It puts
Him on the throne where He should be and is ever and always. There
are no crises with God, no perplexing problems to ponder, no forces
beyond His control. He moves with majestic step toward the
consummation of His eternal purpose in Christ to the praise of His
The believer is humbled at the sight of such a great God, and his
soul is bowed in adoring wonder and worship. It will save the believer
from undue familiarity with God in prayer and other acts of devotion.
Some men pray as if God were on their level; to them He is not the
August Being the Scriptures represent Him to be. Much of the poetry
and other literature coming out of this war is too irreverent and merely
represents God as a sort of comrade in arms. But the Scriptures say
that "God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to
be had in reverence of all them that are about him" (#Ps 89:7).
"This doctrine is one of those advanced teachings of Scripture
which requires for its understanding a matured mind and a deep
experience. The beginner in the Christian life may not see its value or
even its truth, but with increasing years it will become a staff to lean
upon. In times of affliction, obloquy, and persecution, the church has
found in the decrees of God, and in the prophecies in which these
decrees are published, her strong consolation. It is only upon the basis
of the decrees that we can believe: "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" (#Ro 8:28) or pray: "Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven" (#Mt 6:10)." A. H.