The decree of God is a notion I’ve found puzzling since I first heard it while watching Calvinists discussing theology on YouTube. I simply didn’t understand the term. To me, a decree is a kind of command or order. But this didn’t seem to be the meaning of the term conveyed by Calvinists when using it in a theological context.
With my curiosity piqued, I decided to do a little research, a summary of which I’ll recount below. Then I’d like to open this one up to my readers to get your insights, if you would be so kind…
God has been working for thousands of years on His plan or decree of redemption for mankind, particularly those who submit to God in repentance and faith.
Okay, this is helpful. So God’s decree is just a way of describing the Gospel. Or is it broader than that? Perhaps God’s decree is His plan for humankind. Or actually, is it broader still? Does it mean His eternal plan for the entirety of creation?
The Decrees of God are His eternal purpose, according to His will, whereby He has foreordained whatever comes to pass.
I understand by this that God’s decree is His plan for the entirety of existence throughout all eternity. So is the word ‘decree’ just a synonym for ‘purpose’?
The decree of God is His purpose or determination with respect to future things. We have used the singular number as Scripture does (Rom 8:28, Eph 3:11), because there was only one act of His infinite mind about future things.
Romans 8:28 talks of God’s ‘purpose’ and Ephesians 3:11 talks of God’s ‘eternal purpose’, providing further evidence that we’re honing in on the meaning of the term under investigation.
It’s worth noting that Calvinists talk about God’s decree (singular) rather than decrees (plural). I found this confusing as well. If we take the literal meaning of decree (order or command) then it’s somewhat illogical to apply this to God (what would it mean to speak of God’s single eternal command? The plural ‘decrees’ – commands – would make more sense). So again the point is that ‘decree’ is being used by Calvinists in a non-literal sense.
So my conclusion, based on this (admittedly, limited) research, is that when Calvinists talk about God’s decree it’s just a fancy way of say His ‘plan’ or ‘purpose’. The word ‘decree’ isn’t used often in Scripture in the context of God’s plan or purpose, which I think is why I felt somewhat frustrated and confused hearing the term used by Calvinists in this non-literal and not necessarily intuitive way.
Got something to add? Feel free to leave a comment below. Thanks for reading!