The Decree of God
God’s decree is his eternal plan, whereby, according to his decretive will and for his glory, he foreordained everything that comes to pass.
The following list features the major characteristics of the decree of God:1
- Single: “the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11)
- Comprehensive: “works all things” (Eph. 1:11), including the ordination of the good actions of people (Eph. 2:10) as well as sinful acts (Prov. 16:4; Acts 2:23; 4:27–28), events that are contingent from a human perspective (Gen. 45:8; 50:20; Prov. 16:33), the means and ends of acts (Ps. 119:89–91; Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13), and the length (Job 14:5; Ps. 39:4) and place of a person’s life (Acts 17:26)2
- Unconditional and not based on outside influences: “according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11; see also Acts 2:23; Rom. 8:29–30; Eph. 2:8; 1 Pet. 1:2)
- Eternal: “who saved us and called us to a holy calling, not because of our works but because of his own purpose and grace, which he gave us in Christ Jesus before the ages began” (2 Tim. 1:9; see also Eph. 1:4)
- Effectual: “declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose’” (Isa. 46:10; see also Ps. 33:11; Prov. 19:21)
- Immutable: “he is unchangeable, and who can turn him back?” (Job 23:13–14; see also Ps. 33:11; Isa. 14:24; 46:10; Acts 2:23)
- Ordaining sin and controlling its effects: “God gave them up . . .” (Rom. 1:24, 26, 28; see also Pss. 78:29; 106:15; Acts 14:16; 17:30; Rom. 3:25)
- Purpose of the decree: to manifest and bring praise to God’s glory (Rom. 11:33–36; Eph. 1:6, 12, 14; Rev. 4:11)
This article is adapted from Biblical Doctrine: A Systematic Summary of Bible Truth by John MacArthur.
1. Larry D. Pettegrew, “The Doctrine of God,” unpublished notes (Sun Valley, CA: The Master’s Seminary, n.d.), 169–71.
2. Berkhof, Systematic Theology, 105.
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