Archive for April, 2017

22
Apr
17

God’s Decree and His Declared will.

People often wish to hurl their meaningless insults [wicked heresy, damnable heresy, satanic heresy etc.] at Calvinists but seldom wish to engage in biblical investigation. Additionally, they often persist in their effort to demonstrate that we Calvinists believe a doctrine that we make no effort to deny, i.e., that God has decreed all that occurs in his universe. We take the words Paul wrote in Ephesians 1:11 seriously— “in whom [Christ] we have been predestined according to the purpose of him who works [energetically and effectively accomplishes] all things [not some things, not good things, not most things, not all the things we judge to be “good” but ALL THINGS] according to the counsel [God’s eternal, unchanging, wise decree that he is well-pleased to accomplish] of his will.” We live in this confidence based on the revealed truth, that “all things work [Some texts read “God works all things] together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). “He does according to his will in the army of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth and none can stay his hand [prevent him from acting when he begins to act] or say to him ‘what have you done?’ [no one has the right to question what he has done] (Dan. 4:35). Daniel reminds Belshazzar of his father’s experience and charges that he has not learned the same valuable lesson that his father had learned. He said, “. . . but the God whose is your breath and in whose hand are all your ways, you have not glorified” (Dan. 5:23).
We do not live in a world governed by blind fate, chance or luck, encountering one purposeless event and meaningless action after another, but in a world that is guided by the kind and unseen providential hand of our sovereign God. The wise man tells us that even in those matters that seem most random and fortuitous, God is in control. He wrote, “The lot is cast into the lap [the dice are rolled] but its every decision is from the Lord” (Prov. 16:33).
Additionally, we do not deny that God is actively involved in every event that occurs and every action that is performed. He does not govern his universe by bare permission. Assyria and it’s king, is the rod of his anger (Isa. 10:5) the ax of judgment in his hand (10:15). He does not merely permit these wicked people to pillage an ungodly nation but says “I will send him against an ungodly nation” (Isaiah 10:6). Amos asked, “If there is calamity in a city, will not the LORD have done it” (Amos 3:6). One could multiply such verses almost endlessly.
What we deny is that God is the author of sin in the sense that he causes the evil perpetrated by wicked and ungodly people. He may, in his providence, determine that Achan will stumble across a beautiful robe from Babylonia and two hundred shekles of silver and a wedge of gold weighing fifty shekles, but he does nothing to cause Achan to covet and steal those articles contrary to his holy law. The Scriptures clearly state that God cannot be tempted with evil, nor does he tempt any man, but every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed (see James 1:13-14).
Satan did not plant the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden in plain view of the newly created pair; God did. And he did so knowing full well that he had not designed human nature to act independently. He knew that the moment that Adam chose to act independently would be the moment of his fall. Though God had decreed what occurred in the garden, he did nothing to cause Adam’s fall. When Adam chose to act independently of God, he acted freely, voluntarily and culpably and not as a robot that had been preprogrammed by God to act as he did.
When God sent the king of Assyria against his people, he did not delight in the sinful actions of the pagan king though he had decreed to use him as the rod of his anger. In fact, the text makes it quite clear that God had intended to judge the Assyrians for their wicked designs, though he had decreed to use those very designs to accomplish his purpose. And he did so because those very actions suited his purpose though he did not delight in the actions themselves. Having spoken of his design, God says of the king of Assyria, “Yet he does not mean [intend] so; nor does his heart think so; But it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off not a few [many] nations” (Isa. 10:7). In verse twelve we read, “Therefore it shall come to pass, when the LORD has performed all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, that He will say, ‘I will punish the fruit of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria, and the glory of his haughty looks’” (10:12).
God’s declared will, that in which he delights, is often different from what he has purposed. He often uses second causes that act contrary to his revealed will to accomplish a higher purpose. He decreed the crucifixion (see Acts 2:23 and 4:27-28) which clearly violated commandments he had given Israel concerning the shedding of innocent blood (see such passages as Deut. 20 &. 21). That does not mean that he delighted in the sinful actions of these wicked men themselves. It simply means that he had determined to use their evil machinations to accomplish a higher purpose, i.e., to bring glory to himself and to secure the eternal redemption of his people.