Teaching: 1689 Chapter 3 On the Decree of God


Teaching notes for Reforming Truth Church's Conference "1689 Chapter 3 On God's Decree", May 18, 2024. These notes will be covering:

Livestream & Recording: Reforming Truth Church

Table of Contents

The Text

Isaiah 46:10 (CSB) I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will.

Romans 5:8 (CSB) But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!


The Intro

When God decides to do something anything at all--especially when it is pertains to us:

  • maxed out wisdom
  • maxed out love

Write this down. When I say something that makes you take pause, go back to this point and remember. Whatever God says or do or does not, it is always out of most perfect wisdom and most perfect love.

In other words, how God decides, how God ordains, how God decrees, how God acts, how God causes is unlike us. We always think our way is better--yet, the way it is now is what God has decreed and has ordained and it is the best way.

That sounds all fine and good if you never suffered or you have decided never to think about your suffering. That you have never grieved loss or hurt or pain.

But let us get right to the heart--by walking us through what it means to be the First Cause.

God is the first cause simply means just that: he is the first cause of everything.

Genesis 1:1 (CSB) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

Hebrews 11:3 (CSB) By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.

Revelation 1:8 (CSB) “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “the one who is, who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”

Revelation 21:6 (CSB) Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life.

Revelation 22:13 (CSB) I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.

God needs no inspiration--past or future--to create. God needs no substances since he can create whatever he wants out of nothing. God needs nothing outside of himself.

We understand from him as first cause is that he is creator and sovereign. Whatever he creates belongs to him absolutely and he has absolute sovereignty and control and power over his creation.

Now, we know this. There is no debating that when it comes to things not mankind and not angels. It is easy to talk about the sovereignty of God when the movement of the mountains, the rotation of the planets, the formation of black holes, the feeding of the animals on the earth. That is easy to wrap our heads around that.

But I suspect none of us here in this room want to hear about that and talk about that. What we want to discuss and debate until the return of Christ is one thing: is God sovereign over me and my life? Am I the boss of me or is God the boss of me? What if I don't believe in him? What if I need a little control and he gets the rest of my life that I don't really care about.

But us dig a little deeper--if we want to be honest with ourselves: Does God allow evil and sin to happen?

Or one step further: did God allow evil and sin to happen to me?

Let us talk about that.

Going back to Confession, Paragraph 1:

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; yet so as thereby is God neither the author of sin nor hath fellowship with any therein; nor is violence offered to the will of the creature, nor yet is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established; in which appears his wisdom in disposing all things, and power and faithfulness in accomplishing his decree.


  • God is first cause
  • God creates both angels and mankind
  • What angels do and what humans do are not primary causes of God but secondary causes of God--God creates creature and creature does something
  • The twist: God creates angels and angels sin against God
  • The twist again: God creates mankind and mankind sin against God
  • Just because God's creatures sin against God and others, does not mean God is the author of sin
    • If your kid does something bad, does that mean you, the parent has done something bad? Of course not
  • But now we must talk about control
    • We know God is sovereign
    • But does God have absolute control?
    • And just because God allowed the sin of man and angels to happen against himself and others, does not mean God is the author of sin
    • He cannot be--God did not commit the sin
    • Satan and Mankind are the originators and the authors of their own sin against God and mankind
    • YET BECAUSE GOD IS SOVEREIGN God has decreed and ordain all things
    • Is God all powerful and could have stopped the sin? Yes.
    • But that is not the question that any of us are asking...
    • The real question is: "Why would God allow that evil to happen to me?"
    • And why would God do that? if he was so powerful and could stop the evil against me, why didn't he stop it? Why didn't he allow it to happen?

The Decree of God

Romans 3:21–24 (CSB) But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, attested by the Law and the Prophets. The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.

When we want to navel-gaze, sit in our own pity, and wonder why God allowed this wickedness happen to us, we cannot forget that we too have sinned greatly against the Holy God. Within this creation--this earth and this mankind, you and me, we are completely broken by sin. We were born with sin and we continuously sin against God and others.

So in of all that, it would only stand to reason that we have sinned against others and others would have sinned against us. And all of us have sinned against God.

Could have God stopped this evil happened against me? Yes.

But also ask yourself this question: could God have stopped me from sinning against others and himself? Yes.

Could God have stopped you from sinning against Him? Yes.

But he did not. Did he? He did not stop you. He did not stop me. He did not stop my dad from hurting me. He did not stop my mom from abandoning me when I was 5 years.

Romans 3:25–26 (CSB) God presented him as the mercy seat by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. God presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be just and justify the one who has faith in Jesus.

God passed over sins previously committed. Why? Why would he do that?

God did not stop evil from happening. That is what you and I would have done. And if we were God, we would have stopped people from hurting us and hurting our loved ones. But God ways are not our ways.

What God chose to do--out of most perfect love and most perfect wisdom--was not stop sin from happening but rather completely, fully, truly, perfectly, lovingly, wisely, and completely resolve the problem of sin.

God has taken all of the sin of his people and placed it on his only begotten Son. We know that to be true.

But even so, God has taken all of the sins that were committed to his people and placed them on his only begotten Son.

Luke 23:33-34 (CSB) When they arrived at the place called The Skull, they crucified him there, along with the criminals, one on the right and one on the left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.” And they divided his clothes and cast lots.

God is going to resolved the problem of evil. And to say it correctly, because God is God, God is perfect, and God is the first cause of all things, God has already resolved the problem of evil:

God sent his only begotten Son--Jesus Christ our Lord.

This is the decree of God: Jesus Christ His Son! ] Here are

What God Decrees: God Already Knew He was Going to Send His Son For Us

Ephesians 1:3–10 (CSB) Blessed is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavens in Christ. For he chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless in love before him. He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he richly poured out on us with all wisdom and understanding. He made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he purposed in Christ as a plan for the right time—to bring everything together in Christ, both things in heaven and things on earth in him.

Isaiah 46:10 (CSB) I declare the end from the beginning, and from long ago what is not yet done, saying: my plan will take place, and I will do all my will.

Romans 5:8 (CSB) But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!

1 John 4:10 (CSB) Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Before we could have sinned. Before we could have strayed from him. Before we could deny God. Before we could worship not him. Put it this way... before we could died and perished in our sins, God had already chose us in his Son to be his people forever.

He predestined us to be adopted as sons through Jesus Christ for himself. He did this according to the good pleasure of his will. He did this to the praise of his glorious grace that he lavished on us in the Beloved One.

When we were born in sin and continued to sin, we were destined to die in our sins and be in the under the eternal wrath of Christ for our sins.

But in his great love for us, while we were all sinners, God predestined his Son to die for us who were the ungodly and the wicked!

What God Decrees: the Son of God Conquers Evil

The Death of Christ: Evil has been conquered

Galatians 2:20 (CSB) I have been crucified with Christ, and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

Romans 8:31-37 (CSB) What, then, are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He did not even spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything? Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. Who can separate us from the love of Christ? Can affliction or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
Because of you
we are being put to death all day long;
we are counted as sheep to be slaughtered.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

1 John 3:8 (CSB) The one who commits sin is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. The Son of God was revealed for this purpose: to destroy the devil’s works.

Revelation 20:11 - 21:11 (CSB) Then I saw a great white throne and one seated on it. Earth and heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them. I also saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life, and the dead were judged according to their works by what was written in the books. Then the sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them; each one was judged according to their works. Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And anyone whose name was not found written in the book of life was thrown into the lake of fire.

The Death of Christ: The People Of God Are With God Forever

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband.

Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them and will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away.

The Death of Christ: Only Answer to the Problem of Evil

Then the one seated on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new.” He also said, “Write, because these words are faithful and true.” Then he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life. The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son. But the cowards, faithless, detestable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars — their share will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.”

What God Decrees For Us: Not Vengeance But Love

John 3:16 (CSB) For God loved the world in this way: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

1 John 4:10 (CSB) Love consists in this: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

Back to the Confession:

Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass, upon all supposed conditions, yet had he not decreed anything, because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.

Romans 5:8 (CSB) But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

It used to be taught, "God saw that you chose him so he chose you." And that is not true.

I used to teach, "God saw me in my wickedness and he chose me." As though he needed my sinfulness and wickedness to elect me and predestined me to himself.

Perhaps we will never understand this about God: that God is not a reactionary god, like an ambulance. But, as we have said time and time again, whatever God does for us and towards us is always out of most perfect wisdom and most perfect love.

You and I will always think we can come up with a better way. But will never be the best way. Our way is a temporary relief from pain. God perfect plan is to bring you all the way home to be with him so you will feel the pain of sin no more.

What God Decrees For Us: Not Condemnation But Grace Upon Grace

Romans 2:4 (CSB) Or do you despise the riches of his kindness, restraint, and patience, not recognizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?

John 1:16-18 (CSB) Indeed, we have all received grace upon grace from his fullness, for the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side —he has revealed him.

Romans 5:20–6:5 (CSB) The law came along to multiply the trespass. But where sin multiplied, grace multiplied even more so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace will reign through righteousness, resulting in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. What should we say then? Should we continue in sin so that grace may multiply? Absolutely not! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.

What God Decrees For Us: Not Endless Just Wrath But Never Ending Mercies

The challlenge: Reading Romans 9

  • Is it about Predestination. A little bit.
  • But read it once more and tell me what you think Romans 9 is about
  • Use sola Scriptura: keep in mind the writings of Paul to the church, all of the Epistles, the New Testament and the Old Testament:

What God Decrees For Us: Nothing In What We Have Done But God Has Done

Romans 9:11-16 (CSB) For though her sons had not been born yet or done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to election might stand — not from works but from the one who calls — she was told, The older will serve the younger. As it is written: I have loved Jacob, but I have hated Esau.

What should we say then? Is there injustice with God? Absolutely not! For he tells Moses, I will show mercy to whom I will show mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then, it does not depend on human will or effort but on God who shows mercy.

What God Decrees For Us: God Gives

Romans 9:17-18 (CSB) For the Scripture tells Pharaoh, I raised you up for this reason so that I may display my power in you and that my name may be proclaimed in the whole earth. So then, he has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy and he hardens whom he wants to harden.

  • to some of us, like the wicked, like Pharaoh, what we want--heaven here on earth
  • to his people, his elect, his beloved, God gives us what we need--his Son Jesus Christ

"For the wicked, this life on earth is as good as it is going to get. For the Christian, this is the absolute worst that we will ever experience."

What God Decrees For Us: To Be His Objects of Mercy

Romans 9:22-26 (CSB) And what if God, wanting to display his wrath and to make his >power known, endured with much patience objects of wrath prepared for destruction? >And what if he did this to make known the riches of his glory on objects of mercy >that he prepared beforehand for glory — on us, the ones he also called, not only >from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As it also says in Hosea,
I will call Not My People, My People,
and she who is Unloved, Beloved.
And it will be in the place where they were told,
you are not my people,
there they will be called sons of the living God.

God is absolutely sovereign. Like Romans 9 mentions, he is the potter who not only makes the clay, owns the clay, but God gets to do to the clay what he pleases. God is sovereign Creator--all that he created belongs to him. Since he created everything, everything belongs to him.

We are no different the other lumps of clay. Our best efforts in this life is no more remarkable than lumps of clay. Because of original parents sinned, we have fallen in wickedness and ungodliness just like them. Like lumps of clay, we cannot do anything or go anywhere or be with anyone like God unless God, the Sovereign Creator, does something with us.

What does God do with us? Gives us steadfast love, grace upon grace, and never ending mercies--and he does so only and in and through his Son, Jesus Christ.

Let us pray.