Messages By Ovid Need

August 15, 2010

London Baptist Confession of Faith of 1689

Chapter 3, Of God's Decree, part 2

We saw last time that:

1. Nothing frustrates God's decree
2. Nothing escapes God's decree
3. Nothing conditions God's decrees, or binding commands concerning history. That is, God's will alone controls all the events of individuals and nations.

We must consider:

The nature of the situation—that is, no one was there. That is, nothing existed when God established his decrees. Therefore, God took nothing into consideration except his own will when he decreed all things.

The assertion of Scripture—Scripture asserts that no one counseled God when he decreed (Isa. 40:13-14; Rom. 11:34; 1 Cor. 2:16).

1 Corinthians 2:16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he might instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.

The inference of its universality —We have already seen that God's decree is absolutely universal or comprehensive. His decree determines all things, but if it determines all things, then it is determined by none of those things which it determines.

There is a controversy over the Confession's doctrine of the decree

The Confession affirms both the absolute sovereignty of God and the reality of human freedom. Deny or mitigate either truth and Calvinistic Christianity will wither and die.

1. If we minimize or deny the reality of human freedom in order to preserve the sovereignty of God, we will be lead to "hyper-Calvinism". The water of life will be frozen.

2. If we minimize God's sovereignty in order to preserve human freedom, we will be led to Arminianism. The water of life will evaporate.

The common assumption of both extremes is that somehow divine sovereignty and human freedom are inconsistent and mutually exclusive.

One side, "hyper-Calvinism", chooses God to solve the problem. The other side, Arminian, chooses man to solve the problem. But both sides are in error. In places like Obadiah, Scripture teaches that God's freedom and man's freedom do not conflict. Man's freedom is not God's freedom. Human freedom does not challenge divine freedom, but coexists with it. As we saw in Obadiah, the same event may be both the result of human freedom and the determination of divine sovereignty.

Hyper-Calvinism and Arminianism are answered by faith when we accept what God's says.

Here are some Serious issues regarding the Confession's doctrine of the decree

1. The decree of sinful actions

How can we say that God ordains all things, yet he is not the author of sin?

God is the unseen cause of every event on earth. It is the responsibility of the secondary cause to bring the sin to pass.

This is illustrated by the case of God's decreeing that David should sinfully number Israel:

2 Samuel 24:1 And the wrath of the Lord was again kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them, in that he said, Go, number Israel and Judah. 2 For the King said to Joab the captain of the host, which was with him, Go speedily now through all the tribes of Israel, from Dan even to Beer-sheba, and number ye the people, that I may know the number of the people. 3 And Joab said unto the King, The Lord thy God increase the people an hundredfold more than they be, and that the eyes of my lord the King may see it: but why doeth my lord the King desire this thing? 4 Notwithstanding the King's word prevailed against Joab and against the captains of the host: therefore Joab and the captains of the host went out from the presence of the King to number the people of Israel.

1 Chron. 21:1 And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.

We read further starting in 21:7,

And God was displeased with this thing: therefore he smote Israel.8 Then David said unto God, I have sinned greatly, because I have done this thing: but now, I beseech thee, remove the iniquity of thy servant: for I have done very foolishly.

Referring back to the brothers selling Joseph into Egypt in Genesis. It certainly was a sin, and the brothers were held responsible, but we know the results was for God's purpose. 50:20.

2. The liberty of second causes

Freedom... Freedom may be defined as "the absence of external coercion".

In other words, if a man is not forced by any power outside himself to do that which is contrary to "what he wants to do", then we may properly say that he is "free". The wonder of God's predestination is that God does leave men free in this sense, even though he predestines everything that every man will ever do.'

As we saw in Obadiah, God, through various means, works with man's will to accomplish his decree. God never forces anyone to do anything.


3. The concept of permissive will

As we already said, God's decree is conditioned upon nothing. God only permits in history, God only moves in history according to what he has already decreed before history started.

However, the idea of a permissive will assumes there are two competing wills at work: man's and God's. But since no other will present when God decreed all that would come to pass, it is nonsense to speak of a permissive decree.

4. The nature of divine foreknowledge

Now we come to an Arminian argument; that is, God foresees that something will happen, before he decrees it will happen".

How foolish!

Only that which is certain to happen may be foreseen or foreknown. To foresee something is to be certain that it will happen. Since it is God's decree that makes certain all that shall occur, nothing can be foreseen as certain to happen until God decrees that it shall happen.

The idea that the perceived problems with divine decree, predesignation, can be solved by divine foreknowledge cannot be supported by Scripture.

Foreknowledge assumes that some future event is certain to happen. The question remains: `What made that event certain to happen?' The only possible answer is God's decree.

In the Bible, prophecies and predictions of future events are not viewed as based merely on divine foreknowledge, but as based on divine decree (Isa. 46:10; Acts 3:18; 4:27-28;15:15-18).

Isaiah 46:9 Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none other God, and there is nothing like me, 10 Which declare the last thing from the beginning: and from of old, the things that were not done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do whatsoever I will. 11 I call a bird from the East, and the man of my counsel from far: as I have spoken, so will I bring it to pass: I have purposed it, and I will do it.

Scripture prophecy cannot be viewed as a transcript of what God foresees in the future, but of what God decreed before time began would take place in the future (Matt. 26:54; Luke 22:37; John 13:18; 19:24, 34-36; Acts 1:16; 2:24-31; 13:34-35).

Acts 13:34 And as concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he said on this wise, I will give you the sure mercies of David. 35 Wherefore he saith also in another psalm, Thou shalt not suffer thine Holy One to see corruption.