The Decree(s) of God
CONTEXT: Matthew Henry say of this chapter: God, by the prophet here, designing shortly to deliver them out of their captivity, prepared them for that deliverance by possessing them with a detestation of idols and with a believing confidence in God, even their own God. I. Let them not be afraid of the idols of Babylon, as if they could in any way obstruct their deliverance, for they should be defaced (v. 1, 2); but let them trust in that God who had often delivered them to do it still, to do it now (v. 3, 4). II. Let them not think to make idols of their own, images of the God of Israel, by them to worship him, as the Babylonians worship their gods (v. 5-7). Let them not be so sottish (v. 8), but have an eye to God in his word, not in an image; let them depend upon that, and upon the promises and predictions of it, and God’s power to accomplish them all (v. 9-11). And let them know that the unbelief of man shall not make the word of God of no effect (v. 12, 13).
Back in October I posted a quick devotional on this topic but felt it needed further study. Simply put the Decree(s) of God refer to the purpose of God’s will. What is it God purposes to come to pass. You will note that I keep using (s) that is because although we often refer to God’s purpose and will in plural terms it is in fact a singular act. Louis Berkhof in his classic, “Systematic Theology” wrote:
“ Though we often speak of the decrees of God in the plural, yet in its own nature the divine decree is but a single act of God. This is already suggested by the fact that the Bible speaks of it as a prothesis, a purpose or counsel. It follows also from the very nature of God. His knowledge is all immediate and simultaneous rather than successive like ours, and His comprehension of it is always complete. And the decree that is founded on it is also a single, all-comprehensive, and simultaneous act. As an eternal and immutable decree it could not be otherwise. There is, therefore, no series of decrees in God, but simply one comprehensive plan, embracing all that comes to pass. Our finite comprehension, however, constrains us to make distinctions, and this accounts for the fact that we often speak of the decrees of God in the plural. This manner of speaking is perfectly legitimate, provided we do not lose sight of the unity of the divine decree, and of the inseparable connection of the various decrees as we conceive of them.
Why study the Decree of God? Man’s greatest question has always been why am I here, for what purpose do I exist? I right understanding of the Decree of God helps in answering that question. Easton’s Bible dictionary1 defines it:
“The decrees of God are his eternal, unchangeable, holy, wise, and sovereign purpose, comprehending at once all things that ever were or will be in their causes, conditions, successions, and relations, and determining their certain futurition. The several contents of this one eternal purpose are, because of the limitation of our faculties, necessarily conceived of by us in partial aspects, and in logical relations, and are therefore styled Decrees.” The decree being the act of an infinite, absolute, eternal, unchangeable, and sovereign Person, comprehending a plan including all his works of all kinds, great and small, from the beginning of creation to an unending eternity; ends as well as means, causes as well as effects, conditions and instrumentalities as well as the events which depend upon them, must be incomprehensible by the finite intellect of man. The decrees are eternal ( Acts 15:18 ; Ephesians 1:4 ; 2 th 2:13 ), unchangeable ( Psalms 33:11 ; Isaiah 46:9 ), and comprehend all things that come to pass ( Ephesians 1:11 ; Matthew 10:29 Matthew 10:30 ; Ephesians 2:10 ; Acts 2:23 ; Acts 4:27 Acts 4:28 ; Psalms 17:13 Psalms 17:14 ).
The decrees of God are (1) efficacious, as they respect those events he has determined to bring about by his own immediate agency; or (2) permissive, as they respect those events he has determined that free agents shall be permitted by him to effect.
This doctrine ought to produce in our minds “humility, in view of the infinite greatness and sovereignty of God, and of the dependence of man; confidence and implicit reliance upon wisdom, righteousness, goodness, and immutability of God’s purpose.”
The Eternal Decrees of God
Dr. Martyn Lloyd Jones
Of God’s Decree Web Page by Baptist Confession
Exposition of the Assembly’s Shorter Catechism by John Flavel
Body of Divinity by Thomas Watson
God’s Decrees Are… Web Page by Thomas Boston
The Decrees of God Web Page by A W Pink
The Decrees of God Web Page by Charles Hodge
1 Modified from original Bible references