Q12. What are the decrees of God?
Answer: God’s decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of his will whereby, from all eternity, he hath, for his own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.
References: Eph.1:11; Ron. 11:33; Rom.9:14-15,18; Eph.1:4; Rom.9:22-23; Ps.33:11
Many have often marveled at how the Divines could in the midst of civil war and a church being torn asunder, pen such documents that made a clear and concise statement of faith, yet endured the test of time. Here we see another key doctrine of the Reformed church passed beneath the nose of those who would have shred her to pieces. Almost as if a slap in the face to the monarchs of their day, here the Divines declare God is God and you aren’t to those who would set themselves above His church and governing of the nations.
None through the ages have dared to declare that God was not sovereign, though they have forever proceeded to act as if this was not in the least, a great truth. Though many have balked at this statement, especially concerning “foreordained” and “predestination.” This is a distinctive of the Presbyterian church, and none have ever set to flight this declaration of truth. The Divines chose only one or two verses for each element in the answers to the LC questions. Yet, even this meager “proof-text” is enough to cause the most scholarly of the world and church to stagger before God’s truth, and bow to His eternal Word.
The wording of the Divines, “… especially concerning angels and men.” deals with Limited Atonement, the third petal of the TULIP. Most will admit to Total Depravity, though they fall far short of God’s word about the depravity of man, history vindicates the Bible and they reluctantly give ground. Everyone loves Unmerited Grace and rush to the altar for its distribution. Many perhaps falter over irresistible Grace and were the truth known, this is perhaps the majority, as the creature tends to exalt itself, even before the throne of the Most High. And with a sovereign God who alone has saved man, why should not the TULIP burst into full bloom with a sovereign God who both began their salvation, and who will end it. Here we have all the petals of the Tulip displayed to the Glory of God, our beginning and end.
Paul taught us to “teach” this doctrine with care, for many will not accept it. He never gave us permission to trash it, but did say not make it an issue among the new or weaker brothers. The fact that God created every thing for the one purpose of glorifying Himself is abundantly clear from the Sacred Volume. The Scriptures also say that “creation” declares the glory of God. This being true, then how can any cavil over the height of this creation (angels and men) being the only portion of the creation able to actively fulfill God’s purpose of His own glory? This then places a special responsibility upon angels and men; whereby we find they are the only part of God’s creation to stand before the judgment seat.
Then as we note that God brought all into existence from nothing by the counsel and will of His own purpose, for His own glory, we also begin to grasp what the eternal decrees have to do with the glory of God. God’s purpose being to glorify Himself being the first priority of all that unfolds then at the utterance of His all powerful Word. Here we see that nothing short of this marvelous universe with such diversity, yet unity of existence reflecting the glory and power of its Creator could begin to glorify God in a way that befit the One and true living God. As we search the detail and order of this creation we begin to see God’s wisdom glorified. In His over throw of all living things in the flood we see the perfection of His anger and wrath glorified. Yet love and mercy are the most desirable of the attributes God has revealed to us. So much so that John saw fit to declare that “God is love.” In all of His creation what could better glorify God’s love and mercy than the salvation of rebellious mankind through the blood of His Son.
Here in the eternal decree of God’s love and mercy, the salvation of man shines as the brightest jewel in the diadem of the Monarch Supreme, Lord of Lord and King of Kings. It is small wonder then that even the angels desire to delve into and understand this marvelous revelation of God. Here in God’s glory, the Reformed TULIP stands as a sentinel, lest any wander, and fail in this the prime objective of all creation, but more especially the redeemed, to bow before God in obedience, that He might receive all the honor and glory!
What then are the decrees, and where are the limits? I have no limits I would dare try and lay to the charge of God. I find great comfort in a God who has foreordained all that happens. It is only serving such a God that I could know any peace and comfort in this temporal world. With my sovereign God, Paul’s words are peace to the tired and weary soul, sore tried by the world, “for all things work together for good … .”
God’s eternal decrees then rest on His own existence, His sovereignty, and His own will. It was the nature of man from the beginning to rebel against the idea there is only one God, and there were none like Him. It was this lie Satan used against Eve “you will be like God.” Since that faithful day, man has had a hard time bowing before anyone, even God. I see no other reason that can be given for man to balk at such an obvious truth from Scripture and the experience of life. Yet this distinctive of the Reformed church has long been the butt of cavil and jokes, which can be but blasphemy against a sovereign God. Nonetheless, it is indeed meat, and to be taught with care, love, and patience to the newcomer as directed by the wise counsel of the Apostle Paul. While central to the Reformed faith, and I believe biblical teaching; acceptance of this doctrine isn’t the first key in introducing our Lord and Savior to a hurting and lost world.
Dr. Chuck Baynard