RI 21: Theology Proper Pt. 5 | Divine Decrees

Lance Burroughs
Lance Burroughs
TJ Daugherty
TJ Daugherty
Reformed Informants
Reformed Informants
RI 21: Theology Proper Pt. 5 | Divine Decrees

The Informants conclude the Theology Proper series by discussing God’s decrees, asking the question of whether or not God is ultimately in control of everything that occurs.


  • The Names and Being of God
  • The Attributes of God
  • The Trinity
  • The Work of God
    • Primarily focused on the work of God the Father
      • Will come back later and discuss the person and work of Christ as well as the person and work of the Holy Spirit
    • Creation: God’s Originating Work
    • Providence: God’s Continuing Work


Episode: The Work of God – Divine Decrees


What do we mean by the concept or the term ‘divine decree’?

  • This is the pre-determined plan of God whereby he accomplishes whatsoever shall come to pass and works his sovereign will in his entire creation, but natural and spiritual.
    • “In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, ”– Ephesians 1:11
    • This will is the decretive will of God.
  • In short, God determines what shall come to pass and is in absolute control of everything that happens because he has decreed or determined that it shall happen.
    • (Michael Scott – “declares” bankruptcy)
    • God – decrees or declares whatsoever shall come to pass
  • “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 comes to pass…” – 1689 2nd London Baptist Confession of Faith
    • This is not merely to say that God simply knows based on his divine foreknowledge what will happen. Rather God knows what is going to happen because he has determined that it would.
  • Major stress is placed on the absolute sovereignty of God.
    • This is his plan, desire, intention, will, purpose, etc.
    • “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” – Psalm 115:3
    • “The LORD does whatever pleases Him in the heavens and on the earth, in the seas and all their depths.” – Psalm 135:6 
  • This is unique to Reformed Theology.
    • Other systems de-emphasize the sovereignty of God.


The divine decree is the determination of God by which all that happens will happen. It is the author of the story determining every chapter and every page and every paragraph and every sentence and every word and every letter and every single punctuation mark. It is God determining what the story of creation will be according to his own good pleasure.


What is the alternative?

  • God is not in control of whatsoever comes to pass.
    • He knows what will happen, but it’s not what he wanted to happen.
  • God is reacting to whatever happens in the world – making him either unknowing or unconcerned.
    • Logical conclusion – open theism.


*Must trust the Scripture

*Must be consistent in our hermeneutic [that is why we believe this doctrine]

*Must let the Scripture speak

*Must let the Scripture teach

*Must fight our flesh [flesh doesn’t want this doctrine]


What are some of the characteristics of the divine decree?

    • It is eternal / from eternity
      • “him who planned it long ago…” – Isaiah 22:11
      • God “chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world.” – Ephesians 1:4
      • God planned all of our days before they even come to pass.
        •  “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” –  Psalm 139:16
      • “This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,” – Ephesians 3:11
      • “…the Lamb who was slain from the creation [foundation] of the world.” -Rev.13:8
      • See also Acts 15:18, 2 Timothy 1:9
    • It is efficacious
      • What God has decreed will most certainly come to pass, for nothing can thwart his purpose.
      • ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ – Isaiah 46:10
      • “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.” – Psalm 33:11
      • “Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the LORD that will stand.” – Proverbs 19:21
    • It is immutable
      • God does not change his mind
      • Numbers 23:19 – “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?”
      • Psalm 33:11 – “The counsel of the LORD stands forever, the plans of his heart to all generations.”
      • Malachi 3:6 – “For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed.”
    • It is free
      • God is under no compulsion to act in any way
    • It is grounded in supreme wisdom
      • “O LORD, how manifold are your works! In wisdom have you made them all; the earth is full of your creatures.” – Psalm 104:24 


  • The LORD by wisdom founded the earth; by understanding he established the heavens;” – Proverbs 3:19
  • Who has measured the Spirit of the LORD,


or what man shows him his counsel?

Whom did he consult,

and who made him understand?

Who taught him the path of justice,

and taught him knowledge,

and showed him the way of understanding? – Isaiah 40:13–14

    • “For who has known the mind of the Lord,

or who has been his counselor?”

“Or who has given a gift to him

that he might be repaid?”

For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen. – Romans 11:34–36


  • Job 38–41


  • It is comprehensive / all-inclusive
    • Whatever comes to pass in this world – ”all things according to the counsel of his will,” Ephesians 1:11)
    • Good actions of men
      • “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” – Ephesians 2:10
    • Wicked actions of men
      • “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” – Proverbs 16:4
      • “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” – Acts 2:23
      • “for truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, 28to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place.” – Acts 4:27–28
    • Contingent events
      • “So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” – Genesis 45:8
      • “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” – Genesis 50:20
      • “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” – Proverbs 16:33
    • The means and the end
      • “Forever, O LORD, your word

is firmly fixed in the heavens.

Your faithfulness endures to all generations;

you have established the earth, and it stands fast.

By your appointment they stand this day,

for all things are your servants.” – Psalm 119:89–91


  • Romans 10


      • The duration of man’s life
        • “Since his days are determined, and the number of his months is with you, and you have appointed his limits that he cannot pass,” – Job 14:5


  • Psalm 39:4


      • The place of his habitation
        • “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,” – Acts 17:26
      • Everything else that occurs (roll of the dice, weather, etc.)
      • Because it is all inclusive, it also includes the salvation of men – God is the author and perfecter of our faith, and he is ultimately of the eternal destination of all human creatures.
        • (Separate episode on this topic)
    • It is permissive with reference to sin
      • God renders certain, but not necessary, the free decisions and actions of individuals
      • By his decree god rendered the sinful actions of man infallibly certain without deciding to effectuate them by acting immediately upon and in the finite will.” – Berkhof
      • God does not positively work in man to cause him to sin.
        • “This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all.” – 1 John 1:5
        • “Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” – James 1:13
      • Man loves sin, and God gives them over to it.


  • Romans 1


    • Gives evil sin significant purpose – it isn’t meaningless because God is in control of it


What objections are raised to the idea of the divine decree?

  • It is inconsistent with the free will of man.
  • It takes away all motivation for human exertion.
  • It makes God the author of sin.


How does the doctrine of the divine decree affect our life today?

  • History is not moved forward merely by chance happening, impersonal atoms, or blind fate. Rather, history is guided by the hand of the sovereign God who has decreed that it would be so.
  • The absolute sovereignty of God is perhaps the most comforting doctrine in all of Scripture.
Lance Burroughs

Lance Burroughs

Lance currently lives in Ft. Worth, Texas. He served for more than a decade teaching Bible courses including Old and New Testament Survey, The Life of Christ, and Systematic Theology at Liberty Christian School in Argyle, Texas. He currently works at Countryside Bible Church and will begin pursuing a Masters of Divinity from The Master’s Seminary this fall. Lance and his lovely wife, Lynsay, have a son named Jason. | Twitter |

TJ Daugherty

TJ Daugherty

TJ is originally from Owensboro, Kentucky and currently lives in Fort Worth, Texas, and holds a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematical Economics from the University of Kentucky. He received a Masters of Divinity from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary, and is currently pursuing his Ph.D. in Systematic Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. TJ serves as the Senior Pastor of Central Baptist Church in Paris, Kentucky. He and his lovely wife, Chloe, have a little girl named Blakely. | Twitter | Instagram |

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