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Grace Bible Church
Robert R. McLaughlin Bible Ministries

 

The Tree of Life is a weekly teaching summary.
The Tree of Life from the week ending 08/19/07
The Doctrine of the Divine Decrees.
 
We are in the book of Romans chapter 9, where as we have seen Paul writes about the sovereignty and omniscience of God. We are going to learn from this chapter why God said such things as we see in Rom 9 starting in verse 15: ROM 9:15-26, For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory, even us, whom He also called, not from among Jews only, but also from among Gentiles. As He says also in Hosea, “I will call those who were not My people, My people, And her who was not beloved, beloved. And it shall be that in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not My people,’ There they shall be called sons of the living God.”
So, we have begun the subject of the doctrine of Divine Decrees.
Point 1. Definition and description.
The decree of God refers to His eternal (always existed), holy (perfect integrity), wise (the application of omniscience to creation), and sovereign purpose, comprehending simultaneously all things that ever were or will be in their causes, conditions (status), successions (interaction with others that leads to certain decisions), relations, and determining the certainty of their future.
It is very important for you to understand this because, while it is technical, it is a reminder to you that billions and billions of years ago before man existed God had you personally in mind. EPH 1:3-6, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.” Or EPH 1:11also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will,” And as EPH 3:11 says,“This was in accordance with the eternal purpose which He carried out in Christ Jesus our Lord,”
By decrees is meant the eternal plan by which God has rendered certain all of the events of the universe (angelic history, human history) past, present, and future. So the decrees of God are the chosen and adopted plan of God for all of His works.
The decrees of God are His eternal purpose according to the counsels of His own will whereby for His own glory He has foreordained whatever comes to pass. ISA 43:7 Everyone who is called by My name, And whom I have created for My glory, Whom I have formed, even whom I have made."
2TI 1:8-9, “Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 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 granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity,”
God is omniscient; He knew everything that would ever happen in one moment of time. However, because of our finite mental limitations, we must perceive them by logical and chronological progression, or in other words, in stages. But, keep in mind that when the decree was given, all decrees were simultaneous. We are about to launch into the subject of lapsarianism, one of the most challenging and rewarding subjects in the Bible. Once we go through lapsarianism, you will be very thankful we have these things broken down by stages. The human mind, when thinking properly, thinks according to logic and chronology.
Now before we move on I want to give you one more definition of the divine decree, and back that up with some passages of scripture. The decrees of God are His eternal purpose according to the counsels of His own will whereby for His own glory He has foreordained whatever comes to pass. Everything in the divine decrees ultimately will bring glory to God. Whether elect angels like Michael and Gabriel or fallen angels like Lucifer and Abaddon. Whether believers or unbelievers. Whether loser believers or unbelievers! The divine decrees have been ultimately designed to bring glory to God. This means that God is going to be glorified with or without us.
NUM 14:21 says, “But indeed, as I live, all the earth will be filled with the glory of the Lord.” Remember in NUM 16:19when Korah, Dathan, and Abiram, the conspiracy leaders in Israel gathered together Moses, the Bible says “Thus Korah assembled all the congregation against them at the doorway of the tent of meeting. And the glory of the Lord appeared to all the congregation.” God will be glorified with or without us! Even in a conspiracy, the glory of God will be manifested! We also read in NUM 16:42 “It came about, however, when the congregation had assembled against Moses and Aaron, that they turned toward the tent of meeting, and behold, the cloud covered it and the glory of the Lord appeared.”
When it came to death of Lazarus, instead of mourning in sorrow our Lord said, in JOH 11:4 “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God may be glorified by it.” Even in death our Lord will be glorified!
In ROM 8:18, our sufferings and heartaches will bring glory to God, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.”
Speaking of our Lord's suffering and death on the cross, HEB 2:9 says, “But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels, {namely,} Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor.”
So, all decrees are efficacious in that they determine all that ever was, all that is, and all that ever will be, but the decrees are viewed by man from two standpoints: First, from the standpoint of the word “efficacious” which means that which is directly wrought by God from His sovereignty. Secondly, from the standpoint of permissiveness, which means that which is appointed by God to be accomplished by secondary causes or by the free will and action of agents (the free will of man).
So we need to note two words here, efficacious and permissive. Efficacious refers to the sovereign will of God. Permissive refers to the free will of man or the volition of mankind. From this comes that concept that the sovereignty of God and the free will of man co-exist in human history by divine decree.
Point 2. The five characteristics of the divine decrees.
1) First of all, the decrees are all-comprehensive. That means that not the slightest uncertainty could exist as to one of the smallest or most insignificant of events without confusion to all. Therefore, all events in the life of every person are interwoven and interdependent. God is not the author of confusion. Everything you think, why you think it, and the environment in which you think it, was all known to God in eternity past. This also says everything in life is a chain of cause and effect events. This is one of the meanings behind such passages as; LUK 12:6 “Are not five sparrows sold for two cents? And {yet} not one of them is forgotten before God.” Or LUK 12:7 “Indeed, the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
Now, although it may not seem to some of you that your life has been blended perfectly together by God, in heaven you will understand that it was!
God is perfect and therefore He gave you life at the exact time that He knew would be the best time and environment for you personally.
2) The divine decrees are eternal. God is not gaining in knowledge. What God has known at any time He has always known. Omniscience means God knew simultaneously everything that ever was or will be in their causes, conditions, successions, and relations. Understanding the omniscience of God is a great factor in understanding the divine decrees. Therefore, the decrees are the eternal and simultaneous knowledge of omniscience expressing the will of God by which all things are brought into being and controlled and are made subject to His divine pleasure, and result in His eternal glory (ISA 43:7). Look at ISA 46:8-11,“Remember this, and be assured; Recall it to mind, you transgressors. Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, Declaring the end from the beginning, And from ancient times things which have not been done, Saying, My purpose will be established, And I will accomplish all My good pleasure; Calling a bird of prey from the east, The man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it.”
3) God is perfect; therefore, His decrees are perfect. They are not perfect in content, because they include evil, sin, failure, etc. But everything that would ever happen was always known to God. His is a perfect system of comprehension. It does not always appear that way as they relate to us because we have a tendency to be relative and temporal and not realize that God sees the end of what He's doing! But in the end, God will be glorified. We may not understand the adversities and the heartaches which come into our lives; yet in the end we will discover that God knew all along exactly what we needed and what was best for us! Remember what TLJC said to Peter in JOH 13:7, Jesus answered and said to him, "What I do you do not realize now, but you shall understand hereafter." So, the decrees are perfect since they have been determined to happen by God. DEU 32:4The Rock! His work is perfect, For all His ways are just; A God of faithfulness and without injustice, Righteous and upright is He.
4) The fourth characteristic is that the decrees are unchangeable and certain. Nothing can possibly occur to necessitate a change. God is never caught "not knowing" something. God has never had to make any changes or any adjustments in the divine decrees.ISA 14:24 The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand,
5) The decrees are the free choice of God in eternity past. This is the most important point to understand, one which many theologians do not understand. God is not bound to follow any necessary path. Now it is true, of course, that having decreed, He is bound by His infinite faithfulness and truth to complete what He has begun. But when He issued the divine decree, every bit of the complete contents included therein were the product of the totally free choice of our sovereign God in eternity past. This is precisely what Paul is getting at in our main passage back in Romans 9!
            Let’s look at the passage again! ROM 9:15-22, For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, “For this very purpose I raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.” So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires. You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?” On the contrary, who are you, O man, who answers back to God? The thing molded will not say to the molder, “Why did you make me like this,” will it? Or does not the potter have a right over the clay, to make from the same lump one vessel for honorable use, and another for common use? Having decreed, however, He is bound by His infinite faithfulness and truth to complete what He has begun. This includes completing the work He has begun in you! PHI 1:6“For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.”
            The free choice of God is very important because God, from His own sovereign volition, invented free will in two categories of creatures, angels and mankind, so that both categories can choose for or against God. However, remember that both categories of creatures were created for God's glory! REV 4:11 “Worthy art Thou, our Lord and our God, to receive glory and honor and power; for Thou didst create all things, and because of Thy will they existed, and were created.” It is because of the will of God that we were created and that we exist! However, it is also because of the will of God that we possess a free will! PRO 16:4 “The Lord has made everything for its own purpose, even the wicked for the day of evil.”This does not mean that He made the wicked, wicked; it simply means that ultimately God will be glorified either by the positive volition of His creatures or through negative volition. ROM 11:36 “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.”
            So the decrees of God are the adopted and chosen plan of God for all His works. Even the plan to crucify our Lord was a part of the divine decrees! ACT 2:23 this {Man} [Jesus Christ], delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put {Him} to death. ACT 4:27-28, For truly in this city there were gathered together against Thy holy servant Jesus, whom Thou didst anoint, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever Thy hand and Thy purpose predestined to occur. God the Father did not make them do it, nor did He violate their free will and make them crucify His Son and then send them to eternal damnation! In fact, He could not, because that would make Him unjust, and God cannot be anything but just and righteous!
            The decrees of God are His eternal purpose according to the counsels of His own will whereby for His own glory He has foreordained whatever comes to pass. However, foreordaining something does not mean to violate human volition. So again, the five characteristics of the divine decrees: 1) All-comprehensive. 2) Eternal. 3) Perfect. 4) Unchangeable and certain. 5) The free choice of God in eternity past. The free choice of God is very important, because God, from His own sovereign volition, invented free will in two categories of creatures, angels and mankind, so that both categories can choose for or against God.
Point 3. The principle of the pre-creation reality and lapsarianism.
            The Bible presents to us the principle of a pre-creation reality. Just as the decrees were simultaneously known by the omniscience of God, they were also simultaneously decreed by God. To appreciate the divine decrees, one must understand the nature of omniscience as a part of divine essence. Of all the decrees, five are related to the purpose of God in election. Therefore, they are called in theology, the five elective decrees. From this comes the concept of lapsarianism.
            The decrees must be in a logical order. Lapsarianism is a theological subject dealing with the logical order of the divine decrees. Lapsarianism provides the logical environment as well as the logical order for the five elective decrees. Furthermore, it provides the place for the insertion of escrow blessings for every believer in the portfolio of invisible assets. Remember that all decrees occurred simultaneously in the mind of God. We have to sort them out logically to explain the invisible assets, and the relationship to the PPOG for every Church-age believer. Logical order means that although the entire decree is one thought in the mind of God, the principle of cause and effect is involved in human perception and in human understanding. The term lapsarian refers to the doctrine of divine decrees from the standpoint that man is a fallen being or creature.
            We will be studying the different schools of interpretation in the order and arrangement of these five elective decrees. The first one is called Supralapsarianism which is what we call hyper-Calvinism or Beza's theory. Here, the decree to elect some to be saved (a false position) and to reprobate all others is presented (this is double pre-destination and it is heresy). Pre-destination is a word that applies to believers only! ROM 8:29-30, For whom He foreknew, He also predestined {to become} conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.” 1CO 2:7 “but we speak God's wisdom in a mystery, the hidden {wisdom,} which God predestined before the ages to our glory;”
EPH 1:5 He predestined us [believers only] to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, No one has ever been predestined to Hell! Nor has anyone ever been pre-destined to eternal damnation!
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