Some Thoughts on God’s Decree

Last week, I posted the relevant article from the 1689 London Baptist Confession about God’s decree. Don’t be frightened by the word “decree.” The nifty Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary (11th ed.) provides the definition “foreordaining will.” It means God has determined what happens in this world.

Now, any Christian would probably agree with that statement in general. Its when we move beyond vague statements to brass tacks that we begin to have problems. Some of the reasons why Christians have developed creeds and confessions are because (1) they wanted a comprehensive document which could be used as a teaching tool for new believers, and (2) they wanted to lay out their systematic theology in a comprehensive and thorough way, in a binding document which could be used as a standard for orthodoxy.

  • By the way, if you want to understand what a particular group of Christians actually believe, look to that group’s creed or confession. Forget Pastor Google; he’s usually wrong. 

Thus, we have the 1689 London Baptist Confession, and it’s section on God’s decree. I will reproduce the excerpt from last week, with some brief comments. These comments are not necessarily my own views; I’m simply explaining what I understand the creed to mean:

  1. God hath decreed in himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever comes to pass;[1] yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein;[2] nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established;[3] in which appears His wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing His decree.[4]

Remarks on Paragraph 1:

  • God decided what would happen before creation itself (“from all eternity”)
  • These decisions were free and voluntary (‘by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will”). There is nothing which can bind or constrain God from doing what He wants, in accordance with His holy character and attributes.
  • Once God decided what would happen in creation, that decision was set in stone and irrevocable (“freely and unchangeably”). This usually makes Christians wince, and it isn’t long before charges of “fatalism” are issued. The folks who wrote this confession of faith understood that. Behold what cometh next . . .
  • Yet, despite this, God did not create sin and does not partake of sin (“neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein”). He has nothing to do with sin. He is the exact opposite of sin.
  • More than that, this does not result in fatalism. Do you see this? Calvinists do not believe in fatalism (“nor is violence offered to the will of the creature”). Men and women are not compelled or forced to do evil. They do it because they want to. Period. Men and women have free will to sin, and they choose to do it. Every. Single Day. Free. Will. Do. You. See. This? How, then, does God’s decree come to pass? Behold . . .
  • God’s will is done through secondary causes (“nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established”). He often does not act directly. He acts through intemediaries upon intermediaries. Jesus was executed by the people who wanted to kill Him. Yet, He “was handed over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God,” (Acts 2:23).
  • By operating this way, in a way far above our own capacity to understand or fathom, God shows Himself to be far wiser than any of us, His creatures, could ever be (“in which appears His wisdom in disposing all things”). He also proves that His will actually will be done, and nothing can thwart it (“and power and faithfulness in accomplishing His decree”). If God be for us, who can be against us?


[1] Isa. 46:10; Eph. 1:11; Heb. 6:17; Rom. 9:15,18

[2] James 1:13; 1 John 1:5

[3] Acts 4:27,28; John 19:11

[4] Num. 23:19; Eph. 1:3-5

Discerning God’s Will for Our Lives


This message is directly specifically at teenagers, but just for kicks, I’ll post it here anyway! It was preached for teen Sunday School at my church this morning. 

There are three basic, looming decisions facing any Christian teenager as their high school days come to a close and they face the prospect of escaping from home (at last!) and starting life on their own.

  • Am I a Christian? Do I live out my own faith or have I just been borrowing from my parents?
  • What career will I choose?
  • Who and when will I get married?

For a Christian teenager seeking to be true to God, each of these life-altering decisions are (hopefully) seen in the context of what God’s will for his life is. Questions such as these will naturally swirl through the mind:

  • What God want me to do?
  • Should I go to college? Which college?
  • Who does God have for me to marry?
  • Will I ever get married? 

We all probably remember wrestling with these issues in our own lives. In this lesson, I take a brief look at what a passage of Scripture has to say about (1) God’s universal will for every Christian and (2) discerning God’s will for our individual lives. The important takeaway is this:

  1. God’s specific will for our lives is predicated on His universal will for Christians. Basically, if we aren’t interested in fulfilling our most basic responsibility as Christians and walking worthy of God, then we’re wasting our time praying to God and asking for guidance and help on specific issues. First things first, after all!
  2. God does not reveal His specific will for our lives in a comprehensive, direct revelation. We frequently can only see God’s providential hand in our lives after the fact, years later, as we look back on life events. He does not provide us with a PDF instruction booklet outlining His specific plan for our lives! We have to make important decisions day by day as we (1) search the Scriptures, (2) pray earnestly for guidance, (3) weigh the counsel of other Christians we respect and finally (4) simply doing what we believe is best in light of all these factors. God will work through these situations to work things together for good.

We may not always appreciate or like what God has in store for us! However, if we can truly call ourselves children of God who have repented of our sins and trusted in Christ as Savior, we can trust God and live by faith as we await His glorious return!

I honestly wish I had much more time to flesh this out. Hopefully it was a blessing to our teens in church, and perhaps even to you. The Gospel of Mark continues next week.

Sermon notes