The Decrees of God

Arthur W. Pink writes:

The decree of God is His purpose or determination with respect to future things. We have used the singular number as Scripture does (Rom 8:28; Eph 3:11), because there was only one act of His infinite mind about future things. But we speak as if there had been many, because our minds are only capable of thinking of successive revolutions, as thoughts and occasions arise, or in reference to the various objects of His decree, which being many seem to us to require a distinct purpose for each one. But an infinite understanding does not proceed by steps, from one stage to another: “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world” (Acts 15:18).

The Scriptures make mention of the decrees of God in many passages, and under a variety of terms. The word “decree” is found in Psalm 2:7. In Ephesians 3:11 we read of His “eternal purpose.” In Acts 2:23 of His “determinate counsel and foreknowledge.” In Ephesians 1:9 of the mystery of His “will.” In Romans 8:29 that He also did “predestinate.” In Ephesians 1:9 of His good pleasure.” God’s decrees are called His “counsel” to signify they are consummately wise. They are called God’s “will” to show He was under no control, but acted according to His own pleasure. 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” (Eph 1:11).

The decrees of God relate to all future things without exception: whatever is done in time was foreordained before time began. God’s purpose was concerned with everything, whether great or small, whether good or evil, although with reference to the latter we must be careful to state that while God is the Orderer and Controller of sin, He is not the Author of it in the same way that He is the Author of good. Sin could not proceed from a holy God by positive and direct creation, but only by decretive permission and negative action. God’s decree is as comprehensive as His government, extending to all creatures and all events. It was concerned about our life and death; about our state in time, and our state in eternity. As God works all things after the counsel of His own will, we learn from His works what His counsel was, as we judge of an architect’s plan by inspecting the building which was erected under his directions.

God did not merely decree to make man, place him upon the earth, and then leave him to his own uncontrolled guidance; instead, He fixed all the circumstances in the lot of individuals, and all the particulars which will comprise the history of the human race from its commencement to its close. He did not merely decree that general laws should be established for the government of the world, but He settled the application of those laws to all particular cases. Our days are numbered, and so are the hairs of our heads. We may learn what is the extent of the divine decrees from the dispensations of providence, in which they are executed. The care of Providence reaches to the most insignificant creatures, and the most minute events—the death of a sparrow, and the fall of a hair.

Let us now consider some of the PROPERTIES of the divine decrees.

First, they are eternal. To suppose any of them to be made in time is to suppose that some new occasion has occurred; some unforeseen event or combination of circumstances has arisen, which has induced the Most High to form a new resolution. This would argue that the knowledge of the Deity is limited, and that He is growing wiser in the progress of time—which would be horrible blasphemy. No man who believes that the divine understanding is infinite, comprehending the past, the present, and the future, will ever assent to the erroneous doctrine of temporal decrees. God is not ignorant of future events which will be executed by human volitions; He has foretold them in innumerable instances, and prophecy is but the manifestation of His eternal prescience. Scripture affirms that believers were chosen in Christ before the world began (Eph 1:4), yes, that grace was “given” to them then (2 Tim 1:9).

Secondly, the decrees of God are wise. Wisdom is shown in the selection of the best possible ends and of the fittest means of accomplishing them. That this character belongs to the decrees of God is evident from what we know of them. They are disclosed to us by their execution, and every proof of wisdom in the works of God is a proof of the wisdom of the plan, in conformity to which they are performed. As the Psalmist declared, “O Lord, how manifold are Your works! in wisdom have You made them all” (104:24). It is indeed but a very small part of them which falls under our observation, yet, we ought to proceed here as we do in other cases, and judge of the whole by the specimen, of what is unknown, by what is known. He who perceives the workings of admirable skill in the parts of a machine which he has an opportunity to examine, is naturally led to believe that the other parts are equally admirable. In like manner we should satisfy our minds as to God’s works when doubts intrude themselves upon us, and repel any objections that may be suggested by something that we cannot reconcile to our notions of what is good and wise. When we reach the bounds of the finite and gaze toward the mysterious realm of the infinite, let us exclaim, “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!” (Rom 11:33).

Thirdly, they are free. “Who has directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being His counselor has taught Him? With whom took He counsel, and who instructed Him, and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and showed to Him the way of understanding?” (Isa 40:13-14). God was alone when He made His decrees, and His determinations were influenced by no external cause. He was free to decree or not to decree, and to decree one thing and not another. This liberty we must ascribe to Him who is Supreme, Independent, and Sovereign in all His doings.

Fourthly, they are absolute and unconditional. The execution of them is not suspended upon any condition which may, or may not be, performed. In every instance where God has decreed an end, He has also decreed every means to that end. The One who decreed the salvation of His elect also decreed to work faith in them (2 Thess 2:13). “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure” (Isa 46:10): but that could not be, if His counsel depended upon a condition which might not be performed. But God “works all things after the counsel of His own will” (Eph 1:11).

Side by side with the immutability and invincibility of God’s decrees, Scripture plainly teaches that man is a responsible creature and answerable for his actions. And if our thoughts are formed from God’s Word, the maintenance of the one will not lead to the denial of the other. That there is a real difficulty in defining where the one ends and the other begins, is freely granted. This is ever the case where there is a conjunction of the divine and the human. Real prayer is incited by the Spirit, yet it is also the cry of a human heart. The Scriptures are the inspired Word of God, yet they were written by men who were something more than machines in the hand of the Spirit. Christ is both God and man. He is Omniscient, yet “increased in wisdom” (Luke 2:52). He was Almighty, yet was “crucified through weakness” (2 Cor 13:4). He was the Prince of life, yet He died. High mysteries are these, yet faith receives them unquestioningly.

It has often been pointed out in the past that every objection made against the eternal decrees of God applies with equal force against His eternal foreknowledge. “Whether God has decreed all things that ever come to pass or not, all that own the being of a God, own that He knows all things beforehand. Now, it is self-evident that if He knows all things beforehand, He either does approve of them or does not approve of them; that is, He either is willing they should be, or He is not willing they should be. But to will that they should be is to decree them” (Jonathan Edwards).

Finally, attempt, with me, to assume and then to contemplate the opposite. To deny the divine decrees would be to predicate a world and all its concerns regulated by undesigned chance or blind fate. Then what peace, what assurance, what comfort would there be for our poor hearts and minds? What refuge would there be to fly to in the hour of need and trial? None at all. There would be nothing better than the black darkness and abject horror of atheism. O my reader, how thankful should we be that everything is determined by infinite wisdom and goodness! What praise and gratitude are due unto God for His divine decrees. It is because of them that “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Rom 8:28). Well may we exclaim, “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to Whom be glory forever. Amen” (Rom 11:36).

Spurgeon Thursday

The sermon I have chosen to share, I’m afraid, would more than likely get the Prince of Preachers booted out from behind the pulpit of most churches today.  I hear many people talk about Spurgeon and the fact that he was a great preacher, but then I hear their doctrine, and have to think to myself, they only say that Spurgeon was a great preacher based on reputation, not because they read his sermons and know what he taught.  For if they did happen to read just 15 or 20 of Spurgeons sermons, and there are over 3000 to choose from, I think they would find that their own views of Doctrine are vastly different that what Spurgeon believed.  I love to read Spurgeons sermons and I think he was a tremendous preacher and theologian.  I don’t believe this because of his reputation for packing out a church Sunday after Sunday, I believe this because his sermons make me angry; they cut me; they make me take a look at the absolute sovereignty of God.  Hebrews 2:9-10 –

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.  For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.

God, was for a short time during His incarnation, made a little lower than the angels, but as the verse above states, ALL things flow from Him and ALL things belong to Him.  That, my friend, is a sovereignty that none of use can claim.  Until we learn that God is sovereign in all things, and that is a process that will continue until we are perfected in glory, our theology, our doctrine, our beliefs are beneath what they should be.

So, with that, I share the following:

UNCONDITIONAL ELECTION

NOS. 41, 42

A SERMON DELIVERED  ON SABBATH MORNING, SEPTEMBER 2, 1855,

BY THE REV. C H. SPURGEON,

AT NEW PARK STREET CHAPEL, SOUTHWARK.

 But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God has from the beginning chosen you to salvation through  sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth: Whereunto He called you by our Gospel, to the obtaining  of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.

2 Thessalonians 2:13, 14.

spurgeon 2IF there were no other text in the Sacred Word except this one, I think we would  all be bound to receive and acknowledge the truthfulness of the great and glorious Doctrine of God’s ancient choice of His family. But there seems to be an inveterate prejudice in the human mind against this Doctrine—and  although  most other Doctrines will be received by professing Christians,  some with caution, others with pleasure—this one seems to be most frequently disregarded and discarded! In many of our pulpits it would be reckoned a high sin and treason to preach a sermon upon Election because they could not make it what they call a, “practical”  discourse! I believe they have erred from the Truth of God. Whatever God has revealed, He has revealed for a purpose. There is nothing in Scripture which may not, under the influence of God’s Spirit, be turned into a practical discourse—“for all Scripture is given by Inspiration of God and is profitable”  for some purpose of spiritual  usefulness. It is true, it may not be turned into a free will discourse—that  we know right well—but it can be turned into a practical Free Grace discourse. And Free Grace practice is the best practice when the true Doctrines of God’s Immutable Love are brought to bear upon the hearts of saints and sinners! Now I trust, this morning,  some of you who are startled at the very sound of this word will say, “I will give it a fair hearing. I will lay aside my prejudices. I will hear what this man has to say.” Do not shut your ears and say at once, “It is high Doctrine.” Who has authorized you to call it high or low? Why should you oppose yourself to God’s Doctrine? Remember what became of the children who found fault with God’s Prophet and exclaimed, “Go up, you bald-head! Go up, you bald-head!” Say nothing  against God’s Doctrines, lest haply some evil beast should come out of the forest and devour you, also! There are other woes beside the open judgment of Heaven—take  heed that these fall not on your head. Lay aside your prejudices—listen calmly, listen dispassionately—hear what Scripture says! And when you receive the Truth, if God should be pleased to reveal and manifest it to your souls, do not be ashamed to confess it! To confess you were wrong, yesterday, is only to acknowledge that you are a little wiser today. Instead of being a reflection on yourself, it is an honor to your judgment and shows that you are improving in the knowledge of the Truth of God! Do not be ashamed to learn and to cast aside your old doctrines and views. But take up that which you may more plainly see to be in the Word of God. And if you do not see it to be here in the Bible—whatever I may say, or whatever authorities I may plead—I  beseech you, as you love your souls, reject it! And if from this pulpit you ever hear things contrary to this Sacred Word, remember that the Bible must be first—and  God’s minister must lie underneath it!

We must not stand on the Bible to preach—we must preach with the Bible above our heads. After all we have preached, we are well aware that the mountain of Truth is higher than our eyes can discern—clouds  and darkness are round about its summit and we cannot discern its topmost pinnacle. Yet we will try to preach it as well as we can. But since we are mortal and liable to err, exercise your judgment—“Try  the spirits, whether they are of God”—and  if on mature reflection on your bended knees, you are led to disregard Election—a thing which I consider to be utterly impossible—then forsake it! Do not hear it preached,  but believe and confess whatever  you see to be God’s Word. I can say no more than that by way of introduction.

Now, first. I shall speak a little concerning the truthfulness of this Doctrine—“God  has from the beginning chosen you to salvation.” Secondly, I shall try to prove that this Election is absolute“He has from the beginning chosen you to salvation,” not for sanctification, but, “through  sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Thirdly, this Election is eternal because the text says, “God has from the Continue reading