Chapter 3: OF GOD'S DECREE
(Parts 1-3)

The third of thirty-two chapters of the Confession is “Of God’s Decrees.”  This is about the Sovereignty of God—over all things, all of the time.  The simple explanation of this is “Whatever God decrees, comes to pass; and whatever comes to pass, God has decreed.”  And God’s decrees are not issued on the fly.  His decrees are from eternity past.  The Confession states it this way: 

“God hath decreed in Himself, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely and unchangeably, all things, whatsoever come to pass.” 

The scope is so vast that God even decrees the sinful acts men commit, yet, as the Confession continues, God does this in a way that “He is never the author of sin, nor does He have fellowship with any sin.”  God does this without violating “the will of the creature.”  He does not cause anyone to sin, but rather He incorporates even our sin into the accomplishment of His eternal purposes. 

For example, though God decreed that Judas would betray Jesus (or else it would not have happened) God did not cause Judas to sin.  Rather, God allowed Judas to act according to his own sinful will, for the accomplishment of God’s divine decree. 

Who but an Almighty, Sovereign God could do that!

Part Two

“Whatever God decrees, comes to pass; and whatever comes to pass, God has decreed.”  We do not sin as we would otherwise except for God’s restraining grace.  His restraining grace does not violate our wills.  Rather God graciously changes our wills so that we do not desire the sin that we otherwise would commit if left to ourselves.  Whenever we are not sinning, instead of congratulating ourselves, let us thank God for His restraining grace.

At other times, God throttles back His restraining grace, allowing us to act according to our sinful desires.  When God does this, He is not causing us to sin (James 1:13-15), but allowing us to carry out the sin that is already in our hearts.  Here again, God does not violate our will, but gives us over to our will.  Thank God that He does not remove all restraining grace, or we would be more sinful than we can begin to imagine!

Even though (as stated in the Confession) God knows “whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions,” God does not make His decrees based on what He foresees in man or in man’s actions.  No, God decrees all things, and all things happen because God decrees them to happen.

Some people are very troubled by that.  Why?  Because they don’t like God being sovereign.  In other words, they do not like God being God! 

Part Three

The doctrine of God’s decrees teaches that God has decreed that some men and some angels “are predestined or foreordained to eternal life through Jesus Christ.”  The “others are left to act in their sin to their just condemnation.”   Those who are called to eternal life “before the foundation of the world was laid” are so called not because of anything in them, any virtue or any potential, but solely based on God’s “eternal and immutable purpose, and the secret counsel and good pleasure of His will.” 

God does not violate the will of either group.  The lost are merely left to act according to their sinful natures and do as they please.  The saved are not forced to believe.  God graciously changes their will, causing them to love and desire Him.

Those who are called to eternal life are called “to the praise of His glorious grace.”  Those who are allowed to continue in their sin are passed over “to the praise of His glorious justice.”