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Decree of God

His eternal purpose according to the counsel of His will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. - Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology

The Singularity of God's Decree

Author W. Pink (The Attributes of God) makes the point that the word Decree is singular not plural. The following passages also use the singular noun "purpose" (prothesin).
  • Romans 8:28 - And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
  • Ephesians 1:11 - In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will
  • Ephesians 3:10 - according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord
  • 2 Timothy 1:9 - who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began
We, as finite beings, think thoughts consecutively. Our minds were not created to dwell on more than one proposition at a time. As our minds reason, one proposition logically leads to another.

In contrast, God knows everything and contemplates this unlimited number of propositions all at once as one thought. Why is this important? What attribute would we be denying if we insisted that God's decree were plural (decrees)?

God's eternal decree is also mentioned in the following passages.
  • Acts 2:23 - Him, being delivered by the determined purpose (Greek boule is also singular) and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death;
  • Ephesians 1:9 - having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed (verb proetheto) in Himself

The Scope of God's Decree

What exactly is the object of God's eternal decree? Fatalism is the belief that some event (the end) is determined by God or fate, regardless of the means. A fatalist may reason that no amount of care or recklessness can cause a person to change their fate, since that fate will happen, regardless. In contrast, determinism is the belief that some event (the end) is determined by God as well as the means by which that event is accomplished.
Read Isaiah 45:7 & Isaiah 46:10. What do these passages say about the scope of God's decree?

The word "calamity" (NKJV) is "ra" in Hebrew, which means evil. Why would God ordain evil? How does evil serve God's purpose?

The Properties of God's Decree

  1. Eternal - goes back to the scope of God's decree, namely that it encompasses the past, present, and the future. One could also argue that, since God is omniscient, He is eternally thinking His one divine decree.
  2. Wise - God's purpose is perfectly wise. Eph. 1:8 mentions how God's grace abounds towards us in "all wisdom". Eph. 3:10 explains that God hid the mystery of the en-grafting in of the Gentiles in order to make known His "manifold wisdom".
  3. Free and Unconditional - In Isaiah 40:13-14 God defends the solidarity of His purpose from the influence of others. God's will is the only will that is free because He alone is sovereign. He shares His sovereignty with no one. He is the potter and we are His clay (see Isaiah 29:16; 64:8; Romans 9:21).
  4. Immutable - Going back to Isaiah 46:10 we see that God's decree "shall stand" and Daniel 4:35 says "All the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing; He does according to His will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth. No one can restrain His hand Or say to Him, “What have You done?”
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