What the Bible teaches about God

The decrees of God.

Q: 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.1

Q8: How doth God execute his decrees?

A: God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.2

1 Ephesians 1:11-12Ephesians 1:11-12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. trusted: or, hoped  

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— In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.

2 Revelation 4:11Revelation 4:11
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.  

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— Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.

Daniel 4:35 — And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?

 

The decrees of God

The decrees of God — or it is better to speak of His decree, is the choice made by the Almighty God as to how He exercises His power. His decree extends to all things. There is nothing outside the purpose and foreknowledge of God.

The decrees of God are His eternal purpose.

There is an eternal purpose at work in all that God does. His actions are not a series of uncoordinated or haphazard events. Rather there is order and definite singular purpose. That purpose is indicated by the answer to Q7 — His own glory.

His purpose is eternal. It is therefore immutable, Heb 6:17Heb 6:17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

17 Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of promise the immutability of his counsel, confirmed it by an oath: confirmed...: Gr. interposed himself by  

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. Because it is eternal it is also something that was settled before time, Acts 15:18.

The purpose of God — and therefore His decree — is guided by ‘the counsel of His own will’.

1. The decree of God is free and independent. The choices that God makes are sovereign and free in that His decree is based on the free exercise of His own will. They are not produced by any external factors or pressures.

2. His decrees are absolute and unconditional. They are not contingent upon factors/conditions that are outside the control of God. His decree takes in second-causes; it determines not only the end but the means by which the end is accomplished. His decrees are the basis of His foreordination and not vice versa! He does not decree because He foresaw — this would make His decrees conditional upon what He foresaw and not absolute. Cp Isaiah 46:10Isaiah 46:10
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10 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:  

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, Psalms 33:11Psalms 33:11
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations. to all...: Heb. to generation and generation  

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, Proverbs 19:21Proverbs 19:21
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

21 There are many devices in a man's heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD, that shall stand.  

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.

3. His decrees are the exercise of infinite wisdom. The word counsel is used of the decretive will of God (Ephesians 1:11Ephesians 1:11
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:  

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). This infers the wisdom of His decrees. Cp Rom 11:33Rom 11:33
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

33 O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!  

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.

 

The decrees of God and sin.

If God has determined all things that occur, does this make Him the author of sin?

1. God is not the author of sin. This is plainly taught in Scripture — James 1:13,1 7James 1:13,1 7
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13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: evil: or, evils The General Epistle of James 1 1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.  

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, 1 John 1:51 John 1:5
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5 This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.  

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2. The wicked actions of men are, however, encompassed by the decree of God, Acts 2:23, 4:27-28Acts 2:23, 4:27-28
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23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain: 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.  

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.

3. The decree of God is either effective or permissive. By effective we mean that God accomplishes His purpose by His own direct agency. When it is permissive it relates to things that God has determined to permit man as a free, responsible agent to effect. It is this permissive aspect of God’s decrees that explains the role of sin and wickedness in God’s purposes.

* PERMISSIVE DECREE — In Reformed theology it is usual to speak of God’s decree regarding sin as a permissive decree. By this is meant that God’s decree rendered the sinful acts of His creatures absolutely certain, but God did not effectuate them by operating immediately upon the will of the creature. Rather, he determined not to hinder the sinful self-determination of the creature’s will and to regulate and control the results of this sinful self-determination. See Psalms 78:29; 106:15Psalms 78:29; 106:15
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29 So they did eat, and were well filled: for he gave them their own desire; 15 And he gave them their request; but sent leanness into their soul.  

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; Acts 14:16; 17:30Acts 14:16; 17:30
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16 Who in times past suffered all nations to walk in their own ways. 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent:  

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. The permissive decree is not a conditional decree; it is absolute. (Dr. Cairns’ Dictionary of Theological terms)

The decree of God and human liberty.

Some will argue that if God’s decree determines everything then man is a prisoner of fate and has no will of his own. He ceases to be a free agent. This is clearly not the case for Scripture teaches that men act freely (i.e. they act without restraint and according to the inclination of their nature) and they are justly held accountable for their actions. Here is a mystery that none can explain! God’s decrees permit man to act as a free agent and yet He has determined all that is to be done.

The decrees of God are executed in the works of creation and providence.

This is simply to say that everything is within the bounds of God’s decree. There is nothing in all the created universe and its government that is outside the will and purpose of God. All is governed by His decree. Cp Acts 4:24-28Acts 4:24-28
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

24 And when they heard that, they lifted up their voice to God with one accord, and said, Lord, thou art God, which hast made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is: 25 Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said, Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? 26 The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ. 27 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, 28 For to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel determined before to be done.  

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, Daniel 4:35Daniel 4:35
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

35 And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?  

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, Revelation 4:11Revelation 4:11
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

11 Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.  

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. The great work of God in redemption falls within His works of providence toward His creation, and so falls within His decree.

 

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