Merriam Webster defines a decree as: “an official order given by a person with power or by a government.” The way this may transpire in our form of government; is the legislature giving a law to the judicial system to pass. If the judicial system passes, and the President does not veto the bill; then the bill becomes law, and in consequence it becomes a form of decree, which then must be enforced. On the receiving end of the decree are the subjects who are affected by the cause of decree. In some circumstances we have a say on the bill with our vote, but in many cases; we as subjects or citizens have no say on the matter; such as, the institution of the Federal Reserve System in 1913, or The Patriot Act of 2001. It was written by people we do not know, and voted by people in our government we do not know. We as the subjects of decrees do not write the decrees; we do not plan them, execute them, or enforce them. Although the passing of decrees by authorities affect our lives directly or indirectly; subjects have little interference, and for the most part we as the subjects are passive.
In contrast; A W Pink defines the decrees of God as; “His purpose or determination with respect to future things.”
Numbers 23: 19 “God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
Acts 15: 18 “Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world.”
Whenever man makes a plan to achieve a goal; or in a broader sense when authoritative figures makes plans for goals, we or they think of an idea based on some sort of ambition. We configure a plan; we speak about what and how we are going to achieve it, and then it becomes a form of decree. In the process of achieving this decree, or plan; circumstances may incline us to lie, or to change our mind according to some mishap we did not expect to occur. We with our finite minds cannot anticipate all of the contingencies that occur in our lives; as well as in the lives of our leaders. As a consequence we sometimes end up compromising our moral character to achieve our desired result. But God; is not a man that falls short of His plans. God does not need to lie to achieve his plans. He never changes His mind. Because God makes a decree; anything God has determined to do will be done in our universe as well as in heaven, and on earth.
Let us reflect for a moment a little theological philosophy. The mind of God is an eternal mind. Anything which is eternal does not have a beginning or an end. To suggest any form of time in relation to eternity is a contradiction. This includes reference points such as beginning and end. Since the mind of God is eternal; it is then logical to propose that the mind of God does not consist of reference points, such as beginning or end. What I am suggesting is that God’s mind is not a spontaneous mind like the mind of man. This gives us the confidence about God that; the eternal mind of God in eternity never had a beginning reference to when He thought of a concept. Everything God knows and everything God thinks He has already known throughout all eternity. So when we read verses like Acts 15:18 God has known all His works from the beginning of the world; it is hyperbolic language written so that the finite mind of man can have a sense of comprehension with the infinite mind of God.
Throughout the bible we see many passages including the word decree being used by common man, earthly kings, and God such as;
2Chronicals 30: 5 So they established a decree to make proclamation throughout all Israel, from Beersheba even to Dan, that they should come to keep the passover unto the Lord God of Israel at Jerusalem . . .
Esther 1: 20 And when the king’s decree which he shall make shall be published throughout all his empire, (for it is great,) all the wives shall give to their husbands honour, both to great and small.
Isaiah 10:1,2 Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed; 2 To turn aside the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!
The decrees of God are always a righteous decree. God has a genuine concern for widows and fatherless children; that for the powers that decree, or make laws that somehow suppress these particular people will someday be under the condemnation of God. Consider now the system of the world we live in. A demographist may show us how outstanding the statistical misfortune of single parents and fatherless children exist. It is amazing to think how patient God is in waiting for His people to repent, and how amazing His endurance to tolerate from this world the things that He hates the most; the sins of a sinner.
Daniel 6: 26 I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and steadfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end.
Let’s look at some of the verses involving the decrees of God from the books of wisdom.
Job 22: 28 Thou shalt also decree a thing, and it shall be established unto thee: and the light shall shine upon thy ways.
Job 28: 23-26 God understandeth the way thereof, and he knoweth the place thereof. 24 For he looketh to the ends of the earth, and seeth under the whole heaven; 25 To make the weight for the winds; and he weigheth the waters by measure. 26 When he made a decree for the rain, and a way for the lightning of the thunder:
Translating this in modern language; Job is telling us that, God has decreed everything consisting of natural laws. From the intensity and direction of each blow of wind; to the measure and density of the oceans and rain; and the warm water droplets that rub together in the air with ice crystal particles to create static electricity. It is interesting that job involves in this verse all the fundamental elements necessary for a storm. With the decrees of God; there is no such thing as chance, accident, luck, or coincidence. It may serve us best as students of God to remove those words from our language. No matter how devastating; every storm is a perfect storm because God orchestrated it, as a conductor controls an orchestra.
Proverbs 8: 15 By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. 16 By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.
Daniel 2: 21 And he changeth the times and the seasons: he removeth kings, and setteth up kings: he giveth wisdom unto the wise, and knowledge to them that know understanding:
It is by God’s decree and His alone that all events leading up to the crowning and dictates of kings are made. It is by God’s decree from eternity past that some of us are Privates, some are Sergeants, and some are Officers. From the lowest level of authority to the highest; you and I, are only there because that is where God decided to place us, and we ought to be content with every position we acquire, and seek to do the greatest amount of utility we can because we are entrusted to do it with wisdom and for His glory. Remain humble in our positions of earthly and spiritual authority. We did not arrive their because of our own qualities, but only by God’s decree. Keep pride and arrogance far away from our ranks. Because before failure first comes pride.
In the New Testament the word decree is revealed to us in different terms such as; eternal purpose, determined council, foreknowledge, His will, predestinate, His good pleasure, which is to say that something was done resulting from His good pleasure. In Ephesians 3:11 we see:
Ephesians 3: 11 According to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord:
Acts 2: 23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
Ephesians 1: 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:
Romans 8: 29 For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
In relation to all of these scriptures clearly revealing the decrees and eternal purpose of God; A W Pink writes: “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. But with reference to the latter (evil) 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.”
I agree with most of what Pink writes. I do disagree with Pink on other theological issues unrelated to this doctrine. I say this because I agree with Pink’s statement about God ordering and controlling good and evil because that is what the scriptures reveal. It is a conflicting thought for me to know that God has eternally existed and nothing else existed unless He authored it. It then becomes illogical in my mind to propose that God created good but not evil; although evil clearly exists. Who then created evil? Neither men nor the Devil have creating powers, which is an attribute of God alone. This is where I, as a lover of God; have to surrender my finite intelligence to the issues that God decides to reveal until God decides to reveal it, and I hope you reader are able to do the same.
Arthur Pink explicates on four properties of divine decree, they are;
- Decrees are divinely eternal:
- Matthew 25: 34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
- John 17:24 Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world.
- 1Peter 1:19,20 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you.
- Revelation 13:7,8 And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. 8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
- We see here in these passages that all transpiring events are eternally decreed and ordained by God before the foundation of the earth. Jesus Christ and His Apostles believed and confirmed it through inspired scripture.
- Decrees are divinely wise:
- Psalms 104: 24 O Jehovah, how many are Your works! In wisdom You have made them all; the earth is full of Your riches.
- In the decrees of God we can trust that all of God’s workings in heaven and earth stems from the pure wisdom of God. All of His workings in our personal lives are perfect and rich in wisdom.
- Decrees are divinely free
- Isaiah 40:13-15 Who has directed the Spirit of Jehovah, and what man taught Him counsel? 14 With whom did He take counsel, and who instructed Him and taught Him in the path of judgment, and taught Him knowledge, and made known the way of understanding to Him? 15 Behold, the nations are like a drop in a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the scales; behold, He takes up the coastlands as a very little thing.
- God’s decrees are divinely free in the sense that they are contingent on nothing or no one other than His own direction, counsel, judgment, knowledge, and understanding. If there is such a thing as a free will; then it is God who has free will because His will is the only faculty that makes decisions absolutely free without the will being contingent. Our will as humans are contingent on the free will of God. It then makes no sense to think that an infinite God would through eternity consider the thoughts and emotions of finite beings when it came to establishing His decrees before the foundation of the world. The very concept is theologically illogical, and philosophically irrational.
- Decrees are divinely absolute and unconditional
- Isaiah 46: 10 Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.
- God has declared the beginning and the end from before the foundations of the earth to the things which have not yet been done. God will do all that He pleases and His council, or decree will stand. He is God.
In closing; A W Pink writes, “Finally, attempt to assume and then contemplate the opposite. To deny the divine decrees would be to predicate a world and all its concerns regulated by un-designed 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 trial? None at all. There would be nothing better than the black darkness and abject horror of atheism. How thankful we should be that everything is determined by infinite wisdom and goodness! What praise and gratitude are due unto God for His divine decrees? Because of them, “We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose . . . Well may we exclaim, “For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen”
This doctrine is amongst some of the hardest to accept. Many will refuse to believe merely because it leaves their minds with unresolved questions, and they are too mentally slothful to study the issues out; missing the majestic glory of God. Some will not believe merely because they find it psychologically or emotionally offensive. Some will not believe because they find it unfair that God would ever predestinate the fate of mans end. We are finite men incapable of judging God dealings. Let us not quarrel with our God and our Christian brothers over these issues. Let us react to these truths as the Apostle Paul does in 2Thessolonians 2: 13 “But we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation through sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth.” Fall to your knees and give thanks to God brothers. Because of God’s unconditional love for you; He chose to save you from the beginning. Fall to your knees and give God thanks.