Yours, O LORD, is the greatness,
The power and the glory,
The victory and the majesty;
For all that is in heaven and in earth is Yours;
Yours is the kingdom, O LORD,
And You are exalted as head over all.
Both riches and honor come from You,
And You reign over all.
In Your hand is power and might;
In Your hand it is to make great
And to give strength to all.
“Now therefore, our God,
We thank You
And praise Your glorious name.
But who am I, and who are my people,
That we should be able to offer so willingly as this?
For all things come from You,
And of Your own we have given You.
I Chron. 29: 11-14
God from all eternity did by the most and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so as thereby neither is God the author of sin; nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures, nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
Someone posted this question on Facebook:
Is it possible that the Lord ordains/wills a divorce even though He hates divorce? Are there any examples of this in Scripture?
God is sovereign and human beings are morally responsible. That's deep. Thinking saints needto understand these two inescapable facts.
God is the initial, original determiner/planner of all things. He is not necessarily the immediate, direct cause.
Nothing is excluded from God’s sovereignty; even sin and evil are used by God to accomplish His eternal Plan.
When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, “Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.” So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying, “Before your father died he commanded, saying, ‘Thus you shall say to Joseph: “I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you.”’ Now, please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your father.” And Joseph wept when they spoke to him.
Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, “Behold, we are your servants.”
Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.
Gen. 50: 15-20
Human choices, even poor ones, are used by God to accomplish His eternal Plan.
So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had directed, saying, “Come back to me the third day.” Then the king answered the people roughly, and rejected the advice which the elders had given him; and he spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!” So the king did not listen to the people; for the turn of events was from the LORD, that He might fulfill His word, which the LORD had spoken by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
I Kings 12: 12-15
One of the reasons people think there is a disharmony between human freedom of choice and God’s sovereignty is a failure to recognize the duel nature of God’s will.
Directive /Decretive Will
What God has decreed will come to pass. There are at least nine characteristics of God’s Decretive/Directive will:
1. It is Eternal.
2. It is based on God’s Wisdom.
3. It is decreed for God’s glory.
4. It produces the desired effect.
5. It is absolute.
6. It is unchangeable.
7. It is all-inclusive.
8. It the basis of foreknowledge
9. It is exercised through intervention or permission.
At times, God acts through direct intervention.
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Acts 9: 3-6
At other times, God acts through direct prevention.
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way.
II Thess. 2: 7
God’s precepts, like the Ten Commandments, express His desires for creation. These can be disobeyed.
For His own good reasons, God chooses to be passive and inactive toward humanity in some things we choose.
However, regarding the ambassadors of the princes of Babylon, whom they sent to him to inquire about the wonder that was done in the land, God withdrew from him, in order to test him, that He might know all that was in his heart.
II Chron. 32: 31
We also are men with the same nature as you, and preach to you that you should turn from these useless things to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and all things that are in them, who in bygone generations allowed all nations to walk in their own ways.
Acts 14: 15-16
God chose to include in His Plan things to be willed, initiated, and promoted by His created beings, without His direct participation or active promotion.
The reason many find the reality of God’s sovereignty and human freedom a mystery is because they do not understand the duel nature of the divine will.
Directive/Decretive Will was formed before creation and contains all that shall come to pass. It is immutable, unchangeable.
Preceptive/Permissive Will includes the things God allows, as well as the things which please Him. Permissive will may or may not be obeyed.
People have rejected the Reformed doctrines of unconditional election, limited atonement, irresistible grace, and perseverance of the saints, because of this ignorance.
Never confuse what pleases and displeases God with His eternal decrees.
Free Moral Agency
How can a person be a free and responsible agent
if his actions have been foreordained from eternity?
A person's acts must be without compulsion and in accordance with his own desires and inclinations, or he cannot be held responsible for them.
How can a sovereign God, Who controls everything, find fault with us if we have no choice? This isn't an original question.
Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens.
You will say to me then, “Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?” But indeed, O man, who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, “Why have you made me like this?”
Rom. 9: 18-20
The Bible does not teach fatalism; it teaches free agency.
Think bigger! The same God who has ordained all events has ordained human liberty in the midst of these events, and this liberty is as surely fixed as is anything else. In the Divine plan, which is infinite in variety and complexity which reaches from everlasting to everlasting, and which includes millions of free agents who act and inter-act upon each other, God has ordained that human beings shall keep their liberty under His sovereignty.
Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions; yet hath he not decreed any thing because he foresaw it as future, as that which would come to pass, upon such conditions.
Humans are free moral agents; we do not possess free will.
Free will: The power to select and initiate behavior according to one’s own preferences or desires on the basis of innate character or persuasion.
Free agency: Our choices are limited. We are morally responsible for the choices we make within our personal circumstances.
Let me illustrate: A man wishes to construct a building. He decides on his plan. Then he hires the carpenters, masons, plumbers, etc., to do the work. These men are not forced to do the work. No compulsion of any kind is used. The owner simply offers the necessary inducements by way of wages, working conditions, and so on, so that the men work freely and gladly. They do in detail just what he plans for them to do. His is the primary and theirs is the secondary will or cause for the construction of the building.
To an infinitely greater degree God can direct our actions. His will for the course of events is the primary cause and man's will is the secondary cause; and the two work together in perfect harmony. The certainty of an action is consistent with the liberty of the agent in executing it; otherwise God could not foreknow such actions as certain. We must either say that future events are certain and that God knows the future, or that they are uncertain and that He does not know the future.
The doctrines of God's foreknowledge and foreordination stand or fall together.
Our sovereign God, who is not constrained by time and space, foreknows freely chosen actions.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death. . .
Acts 2: 22-23
Acting According to Our Nature
Certainty is consistent with free agency. We are often absolutely certain how we will act under given conditions so far as we are free to act at all. The actions of a creature are to a great extent predetermined when God stamps upon it a particular "nature" at its creation. Where we were born, the genes we were given, the socio-economic position of our families, all limit the realm of our choices.
In the same manner and to an infinitely greater extent God controls our actions so that they are certain although we act freely. His decree does not produce the event, but only renders its occurrence certain; and the same decree which determines the certainty of the action at the same time determines the freedom of the agent in the act.
A wise parent will ask: Do you want to brush your teeth before I read you a story, or after? A parent who does not understand children will ask: Do you want to brush your teeth? Both parents are giving the child a choice, but only the wise parent is likely to get the desired response. God is a very wise parent.
We believe that, without destroying or impairing the free agency of people, God can exercise over them a particular providence and work in them through His Holy Spirit so that they will come to Christ and persevere in His service. We believe further that none have this will and desire except those whom God has previously made willing and desirous; and that He gives this will and desire to none but His own elect. But while thus induced, the elect remain as morally free and responsible as the man that you persuade to take a walk or to invest in government securities.
By allowing the child to make her own choice, the mother induced the desired behavior. If a wise parent can do this, how much more can our sovereign God fulfill His eternal decrees by allowing creation to make its own choices?
Unless God could govern the minds of men He would be constantly engaged in devising new expedients to offset the effects of the influences introduced by the millions of His creatures. If men actually had free will, then in attempting to govern or convert a person, God would have to approach him as a man approaches his fellowmen, with several plans in mind so that if the first proves unsuccessful he can try the second, and if that does not work, then the third, and so on.
If the acts of free agents are uncertain, then God is ignorant of the future except in a most general way. He is surprised times without number. But such a view is dishonoring to God, and is both unreasonable and unscriptural. Unless God's sovereignty is denied we must hold that He knows all truth, past, present, and future; and that while events may appear uncertain from our human view-point, from His view-point they are fixed and certain. If God is limited either by an outside force or by His own acts, we have only a finite God.
"This, therefore, is also essentially necessary and wholesome for Christians to know: that God foreknows nothing by contingency, but that He foresees, purposes and does all things according to his immutable, eternal, and infallible will. By this thunderbolt, Free-will is thrown prostrate, utterly dashed to pieces .... It follows unalterably, that all things which we do, although they may appear to us to be done mutably and contingently, and even may be done thus contingently by us, are yet, in reality, done necessarily and immutably, with respect to the will of God. For the will of God is effective and cannot be hindered; because the very power of God is natural to Him, and His wisdom is such that He cannot be deceived"
God is Sovereign and He expresses His will two ways:
Directive/Decretive: immutable, unchangeable (Election, nature, etc.).
Preceptive/Permissive: His divine pleasure. Humanity may or may not obey (Ten Commandments, etc.).
*Humans are free moral agents..
*Everyone is responsible for the choices they make.
*Christians are endowed with the Holy Spirit enabling us to choose a life which pleases God, or not. Christians aren't perfect; we still sin. The difference between Christians and others is not that we are better, but that they don't have an option to be other than they are. We do.
Few things in life are more annoying than the holier-than-thou self-righteousness of Christians who don't feel the need to confess People who won't take responsibility for their sins have very little credibility with the rest of us who know we fall short every day. For this reason, every Christian worship service needs to offer a prayer of confession and a Biblical assurance of pardon.
Our sovereign God is so great and He knows His creation/creatures so well that He has factored in all our choices in His eternal Plan.
“I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.”
Rev. 1: 8
O God, who art, and wast, and art to come,
before whose face the generations rise and pass away:
Age after age Thy saints seek Thee and find that of Thy faithfulness there is no end.
Where but in Thee have we a covert from the storms of life?
Take now the veil from our eyes,
and join us in one communion with Thy Chosen People of every age,
who have trusted in Thee and were not ashamed.
In Jesus' name we pray.