WCF 3.1-2

The Westminster Confession of Faith

1. God, from all eternity, by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably ordained everything that ever happens, yet in such a way that God is not the author of sin nor is violence done to the will of the creatures, nor is the power or possibility of secondary causes taken away, but rather established.

2. Although God knows everything that may or can come to pass based on all possible conditions, yet he has not decreed anything just because he foresaw it as future, or as what would happen because of such conditions. (WCF 3.1-2)

From looking at our God and His revelation (WCF 1) to peering into the awesome mystery of the Godhead (WCF 2). We now turn to another mind bending but often misunderstood teaching of the bible and that is the doctrine of God’s eternal decree (WCF 3). Now before we look at something like this, it is always good to remember that we are made in God’s image and not the other way around; this is His revelation that the confession is attempting to sum up. And so when we look at such subjects as “eternity and decree” there will always be a bit of head scratching and mystery to it - that is perfectly normal. And so we want to try and understand that which has been given, while also keeping in tension that that which has been given has come from the mind of God and might not always be easy to comprehend (Ps 119:105 c.f. Prov 14:12, Rom 11:34-36).

As we looked at in WCF 2.1, God is eternal, which means he is outside of time because He created it (Gen 1:1-3a, Ps 90:2, 1 Tim 1:17) which means His not like us in that He grows in knowledge as time goes on (Mal 3:6a, Heb 1:12, Jam 1:17), in fact not only doesn’t He grow in knowledge - because He is immutable - He knows everything that may or can come to pass because He is omnipotent (most powerful in any given scenario), omnipresent (everywhere all at once - including being in and over time) and omniscient (all knowing). But this is the thing - our God doesn’t just have all power, all access and all knowledge, no from outside of time in eternity past He ordained everything that ever happens to happen (Eph 1:11, Rom 11:33, Heb 6:17).

Now one might start to see that there is something odd here. If God ordained (or ordered) all to come to pass, is He then the maker of sin? Well this is where we have to try to keep two things in tension. On the one hand, because God is good and holy it’s impossible for Him to be the author of sin (Jam 1:13-17, 1 Jn 1:5), yet on the other hand, the reality is that we live in a sin cursed world because of the fall. And in that we have our mystery to contend with - does God make His children sin?

Well lets put it this way, Jesus was always the saviour of the world (Rev 13:8, Isa 53:7, Jn 1:29) and yet we freely chose to rebel against our creator in the Garden (Gen 3:6,11-13 c.f Rom 5:12), thats because we were not preprogrammed robots or puppets on a string that work against our own will, no we live (and still live) according to our will and chose according to it and thus we sin wilfully and willingly - God didn’t “make” us to do it any more than He “makes” us do it now. To sum it up, Jesus has always been the Saviour, God never authored sin, yet God works all things to His awesome good and glorious end which He decreed in eternity past (Gen 50:20, Acts 2:23, Jn 19:11; Prov 16:33).

The Confession also points out that God didn’t stand outside of time and make decisions based off His creatures choices, but that God was completely free in his design from beginning to end in what he has commanded to come to pass. In short, our sovereign God is Lord of all and not captive to His creation - ruler of all and not random chance - and in the mystery of His goodness and wisdom we are His because He planned it that way and chose us to be His and we wilfully came running to Him and nothing, but nothing can change the way He feels about you and me and the plans that He has for those who love Him (Rom 8:28-32).

Published: April 11, 2024

Updated: April 11, 2024