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GOD’S DECREE and FREE WILL

Dr. Grant C. Richison

 

The doctrine of decree His eternal purpose, according to the counsel of God’s own will, whereby, for His own glory, He hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. Foreknowledge is part of His omniscience. Foreknowledge is His prior knowledge of all things included in the actual course of events.

There is only one decree involving everything, though in the outworking of events there is successiveness.  There is also a convenient distinction between directive and permissive decrees.

The decree is all-inclusive (Eph. 1:11) although God does not sustain the same relationship to each thing in the decree. All the desires of God are not necessarily incorporated into His plan. What God has decreed is ultimately for His own glory. Wrong is never made right simply because sin was included as part of God’s purpose.

 Some claim decree is inconsistent with human freedom. All means like prayer and witnessing are part of His plan. Others claim the decree makes God the author of sin. Although God has included sin in His plan, He is never responsible for the committing of sin. Some say that the doctrine of decree is the same as fatalism. However, fatalism emphasizes only ends, and makes chance, not God, the governing power.

A decree is God eternal plan. It expresses His eternal, wise and sovereign purpose, comprehending at once all things that ever were or will be in their causes, courses, successions and relations. This plan determines His decree to come to certain futurition.

There is only one decree which is the sum total of God’s plan. His omniscience is the key to understanding His decree. First, God knows Himself totally; He has complete self-knowledge. Secondly, God knows all things outside Himself both actually and possibly. Third, His foreknowledge acknowledges the actual facts of reality. Foreknowledge in itself does not make anything certain; it only acknowledges what is certain.

The function of decree operates under His omniscience. God knows perfectly, eternally, and simultaneously all that is knowable, both actual and possible. Such perception and sagacity is totally compatible with His essence. Omniscience sees the free as free, the necessary as necessary, together with all their causes, conditions, and relations as one indivisible system of things. Every link of which is essential to the integrity of the whole. Every cause and effect is related to another cause and effect. Volition is the uncaused cause of human function so that the course of history is just as man thinks it, wills it, does it.

“Predestination” does not mean that God forces us into an action. Even though God knew which way man would choose to go and decreed only that one to become reality. He knows all the repercussions of each alternative.

The decree is the complete and consummated right of the sovereignty of God to determine the certain futurition of all things. God has rights because He is absolute. He, therefore, has exercised this right to make all things certain. Because God cannot contradict His own nature, the essence and attributes of God necessitated His willing the highest and best for mankind.

No event is directly effected or caused by the decree. The decree merely establishes what will be caused, but the decree itself is not the cause. The cause may be, for example, the free will of an individual. The cause of some events is the free will of man but this, on the other hand, does not mean that man’s will is beyond God’s control (that man can cause things that are not in the divine decrees). God has decided in eternity past what human beings would be like: we would be rational creatures with free will. Our souls would have self-consciousness. 

Election, foreknowledge and predestination flow from divine decree. These terms describe the act of the infinite, eternal, omniscience of God which determined the certain futurition of events related to the believer. God’s decree never originates from His foreknowledge. Although all three exist simultaneously in the mind of God. The separation is logical, not chronological.

Election is the plan of God for believer’s only. Election is God’s complete agreement with His own foreknowledge (1 Pe 1:2). God knew ahead of time who would choose freely to believe in Christ. God decreed that such an act of faith would actually occur. God agreed not only that their positive volition about Christ would occur at a certain point in time but also that all the blessings of salvation plus certain unique blessings would be their eternal possessions (Ep 1:4; 2 Th 2:13). Election is declared through God’s foreknowledge; election is a function of predestination.

 Characteristics of the decree:

  • The decree includes all facts of history.
  • There is one all-inclusive will and purpose of God concerning all that will ever be.
  • The decree originated entirely within God Himself.
  • The decree is efficacious by the direct work of God; His work always succeeds in its intended effect.
  • The decree guarantees certainty; certain because omniscience always knew that these things would occur under the circumstances of the particular moment in history.
  • The decree is all-comprehensive.
  • The decree is eternal.
  • Everything in the decree is decreed simultaneously. 
  • The decree is perfect.
  • God’s perfect plan includes all imperfect persons, however, God maintains His perfection and integrity through His policy of grace.
  • The decree is unchangeable; it is unchangeable because it only deals with reality.
  • The decree is the free choice of divine sovereignty.
  • God has decreed ends as well as means, causes as well as effects, conditions and instrumentalities as well as the events which depend on them.
  • Some things God decreed to do Himself. We call these things “immediate” things in contrast to “mediate” things which He decreed that some other agency, such as the free will of man would perform. For example, creation is “immediate.”
  • God accomplishes some things through secondary causes acting under the law of necessity.
  • All events are equally certain to occur whether primary or secondary causes.
  • We must distinguish between the decree of God and the desire of God.
  • Distinction must be made between the decree of God and the laws of God (set up for human volition).

There is a distinction between decree and human freedom. God concurs with some things and other things we attribute to the immediate agency of God.

  • One admits and the other denies the reality and efficiency of second causes.
  • One makes no distinction between free and necessary events; the other admits the validity and unspeakable importance of this distinction.
  • The one asserts and the other denies that the agency of God is the same in sinful acts that it is in good acts.
  • One admits that God is the author of sin; the other repudiates that.
  • Free agency means:
  1. That we have the natural authority to act freely.
  2. That acting freely implies we originate our own acts.
  • Decree is not inconsistent with our liberty to be induced to exert our ability to act by considerations addressed to our reason or inclinations.
  1. God can hinder an action because He decreed free agency.
  2. God can determine an action.
  • Note the relation of providence to freedom:
  1. God sometimes allows man to do as he pleases–puts restrains in the way. 
  2. God sometimes keeps a man from doing what in his freedom he would otherwise do. He uses circumstances, influence of friends, inner restrains to accomplish His purpose. 
  3. God overrules what man does to his own ends. He even makes the wrath of man to praise him.
  • Prayer is an example:
  1. God does some things only in answer to prayer.
  2. God does some things without prayer.
  3. God does some things contrary to prayer.
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