Of God’s Decree
Virtually everyone has a sense of norms; ideals; good & evil; things that ought and things that ought not. Coupled with that is a well-defined sense on the part of mankind regarding how God ought to manage the affairs of the world, what things He should be responsible for and what areas of life He should stay out of.
“One of the most flagrant sins of our age is that of irreverence—the failure to ascribe the glory which is due the august majesty of God. Men limit the power and activities of the Lord in their degrading concepts of His being and character. Originally, man was made in the image and likeness of God, but today we are asked to believe in a god made in the image and likeness of man. The Creator is reduced to the level of the creature: His omniscience is called into question, His omnipotency is no longer believed in, and His absolute sovereignty is flatly denied. Men claim to be the architects of their own fortunes and the determiners of their own destiny. They know not that their lives are at the disposal of the Divine Despot. They know not they have no more power to thwart His secret decrees than a worm has to resist the tread of an elephant. They know not that “The Lord hath prepared His throne in the heavens; and His kingdom ruleth over all” (Ps. 103:19).” Pink, Sovereignty
“God does as He pleases, only as He pleases, always as He pleases: that whatever takes place in time is but the outworking of that which He decreed in eternity. Psalm 115:3; Isaiah 14:27; Daniel 4:35; Romans 11:36” A. W. Pink, Sovereignty of God
“The plan of God comprehends and determines all things and events of every kind that come to pass. This is rendered certain from the fact that all God’s works of creation and providence constitute one system. No event is isolated, either in the physical or moral world, either in heaven or on earth. All of God’s supernatural revelations and every advance of human science conspire to make this truth conspicuously luminous. Hence the original intention which determines one event must also determine every other event related to it, as cause, condition, or consequent, direct and indirect, immediate and remote. Hence, the plan which determines general ends must also determine even the minutest element comprehended in the system of which those ends are parts. The free actions of free agents constitute an eminently important and effective element in the system of things. If the plan of God did not determine events of this class, he could make nothing certain, and his government of the world would be made contingent and dependent, and all his purposes fallible and mutable.” A. A. Hodge, WCF Commentary
A. If God is good and all-powerful, why is there evil?
“Every system of thought must deal with the issue of evil and figure out how to reconcile the existence of God with the existence of evil; historically this has been accomplished in a variety of ways. The existence of evil has been used as evidence that God cannot exist or that He is powerless to do anything about it. Others conclude there must exist two independent deities, one good and the other evil, and neither has yet destroyed the other. Still others redefine evil in such a way that it is no longer evil but rather varying degrees of good. Much of the discussion today either attacks or ignores religion altogether; if God is involved and concerned in any way with current events and behaviors, then His power must be limited to the degree that He must work with evil in turning it to good instead of eradicating or preventing it completely. Even Augustine went so far as to develop a theory of free will that allowed men to act apart from divine influence; when men make evil choices of their own free will they alone, and not God, are responsible. While the notion of free will might seem to absolve God of responsibility, it rests on the assumption that mankind are equally disposed to both good and evil. Since the Bible repeatedly denies the concept of free will, another solution to the problem must be found.” Summary of Gordon Clark, God and Evil
1. God is really not good.
He may do good (Allah the beneficent), but he is not inherently good in his nature.
2. God is really not absolutely sovereign.
God wants things to go a certain way but man, the devil and Mother Nature won’t cooperate. (darn it)
3. God is incredibly wise.
Consider the most immoral and barbaric act of all time – the Crucifixion, and all its connected acts.
B. If God is sovereignly executing his decrees, why am I responsible?
Man has the freedom to choose any of the courses of action open to him. He will only choose that which he desires the most. His desires are such as are consistent with his nature. Within the dictates of his (human) nature man chooses all his actions freely up to the point where God sovereignly overrules his choices for good. Since he has the freedom to choose his actions he bears responsibility for them. Genesis 50:20; Joshua 24:15
Man has the natural ability to make choices and carry out actions based on his free choice. He is thus responsible to use that ability for good and responsible for however he does use his ability. He does not have the spiritual/moral ability or inclination to do good so he won’t; but that does not negate his responsibility. Romans 1:21-25
Man is free to purpose what he wills regarding his actions – Proverbs 16:9 A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps. The wicked or unregenerate “devises evil continually”; his natural purpose is to serve self and not God, to do what will further his own ends and not (exclusively) those of others. Since he purposes freely, he is responsible for his actions.
Man’s freedom to will and to choose is not an absolute freedom – it operates within the “confines” of his own nature and God’s sovereign decrees and actions. It’s comparable to the distinction between liberty and license: liberty is the freedom to do what one sees fit up to the point where it infringes on the liberty of another; to cross that boundary is to enter the realm of license.
C. How can God’s sovereignty give us comfort?
5. It affords a sense of absolute security.
6 It supplies comfort in sorrow.
9. It guarantees the final triumph of good over evil.
Geneva Bible Notes:
Rom 8:28 (1) And we know that (2) all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his (3) purpose.
(1) Eighthly, we are not afflicted, either by chance or to our harm, but by God’s providence for our great profit: who as he chose us from the beginning, so has he predestined us to be made similar to the image of his Son: and therefore will bring us in his time, being called and justified, to glory, by the cross.
Remember what A. A. Hodge said!!
Within thy circling power I stand;
On every side I find thy hand;
Awake, asleep, at home, abroad,
I am surrounded still with God. Isaac Watts, Psalm 139