Ephesians 1:9 refers to the “mystery of his will”.
Acts 2:23 refers to the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God”.
Romans 8:29 uses the word, “predestined”.
Ephesians 3:11 refers to God’s “eternal purposes”.
The decrees of God are, therefore, God’s purposes or counsel that is eternal and always come to pass.
The decrees of God relate to all future things, even sinful things, so that whatever is done in time was foreordained by God before time began.
Let’s be careful here: while God is the Orderer and Controller of all things and nothing catches God by surprise, God is not the author of sin. Sin cannot and does not proceed from a holy God; but yet, God overrules even in sinful things and evil things so that God’s purposes in all things are always achieved.
The implication of the decrees of God is that the world is not out of control; God is still on the throne ordering all things according to his eternal purposes and the mystery of his will.
Even in South Africa? Yes. Even Syria? Yes.
The earth is not like a clock. Many people think the world is like a clock that the clockmaker makes and then leaves to run on its own devices. May think God created the world with natural laws, like the law of gravity and the second law of thermodynamics, and then left the world to run on its own.
This is absolutely wrong. God did not create the world and leave us to our own uncontrolled guidance. God has decreed the circumstances of all individuals. God has decreed all the particulars that comprise the history of the human race. God’s decrees and providential rule reaches even to the most insignificant creatures and the most minute events – according to Jesus. God’s providential decrees reach even the death of a sparrow and the fall of a hair.
Things cannot happen outside the decrees of God. If anything happened outside the decrees of God, God could not be God for there would be something greater than him.
For many the truth of God’s decrees will be a hard pill to swallow, especially when living in a country filled with crime, evil, abuse, assaults, rape and death. And yet in a world that seems out of control, God is still on the throne.
Remember back to the most evil event in history: the killing of the Son of God. God overruled in the evil done by sinful humans. Because of that death, God has saved millions of lives. God used an evil event for a great good. God did not force the religious and political leaders to kill Jesus, they did it out of their accord. Nevertheless, Jesus’ death was ordained by God before the creation of the world.
The Christian finds great comfort in the fact that they can say to God:
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.
(Adapted from the chapter, “The Decrees of God“, in the book “The Attributes of God” by AW Pink.)