Doctrine of God: Decrees of God III
January 17, 2021 Series: Great Doctrines of the Christian Faith
Topic: Default Scripture: Acts 2:14–2:36
Scripture Reading -> Acts 2: 14-36
As we continue our study in the Decrees of God.
Let us remind ourselves what the Westminster Confession says about the Decrees of God, Chapter 2, Article 1
God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass: yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
We spent our time last week discussing the first half of this sentence…namely à
“God from all eternity did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass”
In our study of this, we looked at:
Ephesians 1.4, 11 --- namely, these verses
“In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” (Eph. 1:11).
“Purpose” (or plan) is called pro-thises in Greek it means
to plan in advance, and the quality of being determined to do or achieve something
Furthermore, we see God speaking of Himself as the sole agent that is doing the working so as to leave nothing to be done by anyone else – not even by the well-intentioned creation known as man
- understood that the God’s decrees are founded upon His Divine Wisdom
Psalm 33.11, Proverbs 19.21, Isaiah 46.10, and Job 23.13,14 and
- understood that God’s decrees are efficacious
Ephesians 8, Acts 23.6, and 1 Peter 1.2 and
- understood that God’s decrees are unconditional
Ephesians 2.10, Proverbs 16.4, Acts 23.7, and Proverbs 16.33 and
- understood that God’s decrees are all comprehensive
2 Thessalonians 2.13, Ephesians 1.4, and Job 14.5 and
- understood that God’s decrees include the means as well as the ends and that it includes the duration of man’s life
Today we are going to look at a common charge laid against God:
The charge is that God is somehow responsible for and therefore the author of sin
We see that confession strongly opposes this view.
as thereby neither is God the author of sin
Although it is true that God does decree all things whatsoever that comes to pass…He is not and can never be the author of sin nor does He force man to act one way or the other.
This position brings into sharp relief two competing views:
- The doctrine of human responsibility; and
- The doctrine of the sovereignty of God.
Each one is often taken in the extreme and effectively negates the other.
And we must proceed carefully so that we do not turn a blind eye, or neglect, or wink at the truth in favor of a position or understanding that makes us feel better or excuses our behavior even when it is contradictory to the word of God
We’re all guilty of that…
But, do you know where the phrase “turn a blind eye” originated?
Neither do I. But my favorite story is this one….
Which attributes the popularity of the phrase from Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson
He was engaged in a battle from his ship off the coast of Copenhagen in early 1801. The fighting was so fierce that his superior, Admiral Sir Hyde Parker, ordered a retreat by signaling with a flag from his ship.
Vice-Admiral Nelson, who had lost an eye in a prior engagement, refused to leave the fight. Saying “I have only one eye and a right to be blind”, he raised his telescope to his right eye and declared à “I really do not see that signal.”
While that makes for a good story, we must guard ourselves from repeating this behavior.
None of us have a “right to be blind” when it comes to the word of God.
All of us have a responsibility to seek the truth as it is revealed to us in Scripture.
We may not always have a right understanding nor a perfect one.
But that does not give us the right to remain in our error.
We must move the telescope, so to speak, to our good eye.
As we push the boundaries of what we can understand about God, let us be careful not to add our own thoughts but let Scripture speak to us and hold to those teachings in faith and obedience.
God has given us many good gifts that we must not neglect as we search for truth…
- Primarily – His written Word
- He has also given us His Holy Spirit and the church (the elders, & assembly)
And none of these can be neglected or else we are saying that what God has given to us and commanded for us is not important and we possess the right to choose what to obey and when to obey based upon our wants, desires, and comfort.
We’d just be moving that telescope back to our blind eye declaring our “right” to believe whatever we want. We’d be engaging in idolatry – making ourselves God.
Doctrine of the Sovereignty of God
Let’s first then look at the doctrine of the sovereignty of God and remind ourselves of this doctrine.
- God is all-powerful and completely free to act in any way that pleases Him.
- God is not constrained to act in any way nor forced/ coerced in any way.
- Nothing happens without God nor His decree that it should happen.
If anything were to happen outside of the sovereignty of God, then that would mean that God is not sovereign and not all-powerful and in control of all of His creation.
You might have heard that God just allows things to happen.
That man can somehow choose to “over-ride” God and do that which God doesn’t want done. Or this is some other force in the universe that can content with God and cause things outside of His decree.
Sovereignty of God and Human Responsibility
Rather, think along these lines…
We know that God is all powerful and all knowing
That God knows what is going to happen.
- And, if man is going to sin,
- God knows in advance this is going to happen.
- And, being an all-powerful God,
- He has the ability to stop it if He so desired.
- And, in letting it happen,
- He has chosen to allow it to happen.
In this, God can still be seen to be in full control of whatsoever comes to pass and, yet, God is not the author of nor originator of sin.
The Confession talks also about secondary causes…
He works through secondary causes so as to not do violence to the will of man and all his sinful.
- This means that God does not force His creation to do what they do not want to do
- Man wills of himself to fulfill and carry out actions that ultimately fulfill the God’s decrees.
- Man freely acts and freely chooses to sin.
Man, as a free agent, is responsible for his own sin – God is not responsible.
Psalm 78:29 – God gave man his desire.
Psalm 106:15 – God gave them their requests.
- Man freely exercises these areas of his will but it is God who is actually directing each one.
- It doesn't say that God forced them to take their own desire.
- It was their own desire.
- It fulfilled God’s plan.
Acts 14:16 – God allows the nations to walk in their own ways.
- He did not force them by some secret means but through whatever secondary causes are necessary.
- Nations walk according to their own way.
- It was their own way to work.
- They were exercising their will to walk in that way.
Proverbs 21:1 – The King's heart is in the hands of the Lord.
- It is the king who will decree.
- It is the king who will judge.
- It is the magistrate who will carry out the works of the kingdom.
- These are secondary causes.
- But the first cause is God’s decree.
Deuteronomy 2:30 – God hardened the King’s heart
- Og, King of Bashan, willingly chose to fight against Israel
- He was not forced
- The King only acted according to his nature, as he chose
Clearly , it is God that is in control. Of all things. Even man – though He allows us to make our decisions according to our own will --- our own nature.
- God does permit sin but it is permitted within His decree and control.
- God rules over sin and sinners and decides the extent to which sin will go.
2 Kings 19:28 – God sometimes limits and restrains our sin
Genesis 50:20 – God sometimes uses evil men to preserve and benefit and prosper His people
We see that while God does, indeed, decree and ordain and control all things,
He also has given man the ability to determine his own moral actions freely and in harmony with his thoughts and judgments and character and inclinations and desires and nature.
We must remember who God is and that it is not man.
Just 3 more verses to review:
James 1:13-14 – Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
Psalm 92:15 - To shew that the Lord is upright: He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.
1 John 1:5 – This then is the message which we have heard of him, and declare unto you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.
Therefore, it is never proper to say that God is the author of sin.
Berkhoff says, “It may, however, be proper to say that the divine decree makes God the author of free moral beings who are themselves the authors of sin.”
And therefore, they are responsible for their own actions.
Application & Implication to Man (AIM)
Everything that comes to pass is ordained of God.
- In this, we take hope and we rest.
- In this, we know that nothing can happen to us outside of God’s will
- not one thing that is not approved by God
- In this, we know He causes what He knows is best for us
- We may not often understand
- But we accept it because he has told us in Romans 8:28
- all things work together for good to those who love God
Responsibility of Man
- We realize that any sinful action, any disobedience of God’s commands is our fault – plain and simple – there is no one else to blame but ourselves.
Ok, so what next?
First & Foremost -> return to Biblical, Christian doctrine.
- We must stop placing ourselves first
- We must stop placing ourselves above the commands of God
- We need to return to a Biblical model of living and of the church
We need to learn, again, what it means to have faith and obedience in God
We need to learn, again, what it means to submit to the visible church in God
Finally, we earn to cultivate a Biblical worldview so that, in everything, we strive to find our reasons and justifications as based in and founded upon Scripture.
…not in human reasoning or wisdom.
But in the fear of the Lord – doing our best to live in full faith and obedience for we know God does not endorse disobedience of any of His commands.