The Decree of God
God, from all eternity, did—by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will—freely and unchangeably ordain whatever comes to pass. Yet he ordered all things in such a way that he is not the author of sin, nor does he force his creatures to act against their wills; neither is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.
God has pre-determined everything that happens. The future is as certain to Him as the past. All things happen according to the will of God. When did God give this blueprint for history? “From all eternity.” Before anything happened He decided everything that would happen. He wrote history before time. What guided His choices? “His own will.” But that will needs to be defined. His will is tied to His character. The ingredient of His will are His wisdom and His holiness. He made his determination freely, meaning, without any influence outside of His own character and will. This decree is unchangeable, meaning that it is not altered or tweaked by anything that happens in time.
This seems like determinism; like fate or destiny. Does it mean that God creates evil or that my decisions do not matter since they are determined beforehand? Those are the questions that immediately pop into our minds. God has ordained evil, He works to bring good out of evil, He has conquered evil and will punish it, He will display His glory with the backdrop of evil, but God is not the author of sin. This is deep and difficult truth and it raising many uncomfortable questions that our finite minds cannot answer, but it is truth nonetheless.
But this is not determinism. God has sovereignly determined our free choices and our choices are still free. “Violence (is not) offered to the will of the creature.” We are at liberty to live, move and have our being; and we are responsible for our decisions, and there are very real consequences (contingencies) to our choices. We are the second cause for all that happens to us. God is the first cause. We freely choose what God has previously determined.
God is God, and we are His creatures. “Why does he still find fault? For who can resist his will?” But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have your made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use?” Romans 9:19-21
This high doctrine is not difficult to understand on the surface but the details are bewildering. We cannot fully understand this and we often draw the wrong conclusions from it - “God is evil,” “my choices do not matter,”, “I am not free in, nor responsible for my actions.” We freely choose (second cause) what God has already determined (first cause).
All things where created and determined by God and all things shout His glory.