categories we can see how the Decrees, Laws and Commandments of God
interrelate with the Eternal Will of God, the Natural will of God and the
Temporal will of God. It is in this interaction where the “providence
of God” takes place and we will talk about it shortly. But let’s
first look at these three different aspects or levels of the will of God.
Eternal will of God
The eternal decrees reveal the eternal will of God, this is the highest level. Theologians call this the ‘decretive will’ of God. The eternal decrees flow out of God’s sovereign will and will accomplish what God wants – The will of God at this level is unchangeable, and without repentance. No one can stop, distort or change the eternal will of God (his decrees).
decree/will of God rules
natural and the temporal
will. At times, the
natural and temporal wills of God may seem to be against His eternal will
but they are still used by God himself to accomplish his eternal will and purpose.
Natural Will of God
The natural will of God, works in agreement with the eternal and temporal will of God and can be changed as God sees it fit in order to accomplish God’s eternal or temporal purposes. This natural will may change depending on situations that arise due to man’s actions or because God chooses to do so in order to show his power and glory. For example, it is the will of God that the oceans remain in their place; that the waters of the rivers flow downstream, that the sun give its light during the day and the moon during the night according to what He has established in his “natural laws.” However, we can see in the Bible instances where God miraculously parted the Red Sea and stopped the flow (against gravitational laws) of Jordan River for His people to cross on dry land. On another occasion He stopped the universe in place (the sun and the moon) for His people to win a battle and even made the universe (or the earth) go back to serve as a witness to a King.
Temporal Will of God
temporal will of God deals with the temporal events that are not
necessary directly related to the laws of nature.
This temporal will of God we can say is conditional and may
change as God sees fit and necessary depending on the actions of people.
For example, the kingdom was taken from Saul and given to David
due to Saul’s disobedience. The
Bible clearly states that God would have established Saul’s throne
forever if he had obeyed.
God had expressed his desire to establish the house of Eli (1 Sam. 2:30-31) to be high priests forever in Israel, but when they sinned against God, they lost the promise and the priesthood was given back to the family of Eleazar, the elder son of Aaron. From a "temporal will" point of view God really repented and went back on His plans. That is why the Bible states that God changes His mind and repents and at the same time says that God does not change His mind and repent (Numbers 23:19.)
the Bible says that God repented (changed His mind) of something he was
going to do, we can look at it from the
temporal will and purpose but not from his eternal will or decree.
This temporal will of God is the most apparent to humans but many
fail to see the different levels of God’s wills (eternal, natural and
temporal), by failing to make this distinction they also fail to see the
complete reality of God’s plan as He deals with mankind.
God deals with people at this lower level most of the time.
In the Old Testament days, God dealt with the people of Israel at
this level and as we have seen from the stories of the Bible, they
always ‘grieved’ and ‘offended’ God. However, that does not mean
that His eternal decrees, will and purposes were affected.
His eternal plans take place even
if people choose not to obey God or to submit to His will at this lower
providence of God is defined in this manner by Easton’s dictionary:
seem that the belief in the predestination of all things would rule out
divine providence. That would be true unless it is asserted that
‘divine providence’ itself has being predestined.
The way I understand the Bible and see God’s work, I think that
providence works at the lower level of things (i.e. thru commandments
and natural laws) and predestination deals with the higher order of
things (i.e. eternal decrees of God).
That God may use providential means to advance his predestinated
purposes is possible but divine providence leaves room for the freedom
of man and the contingent events that happen at this lower level that
could affect the outcome of the higher order of things.
God did not create the world and the things in it, set it in
motion, and forgot about it. He created all things according to his
decree; He put the creation in motion and in His sovereignty is wisely
actively guiding everything in a providential way to fulfill his ultimate and
final purposes and decrees.
acknowledging the place of divine providence in the order of things, we
can see how free moral agents as human beings can truly make free
decisions and still not destroy the ultimate plans of God. If
this possibility were not real, men would not be truly responsible for
their sinful actions and therefore not guilty of sin.
The Power of Decision Making
need to remember that the Bible does not deny the fact that we are
‘volitional’ beings. Yes,
it is true that according to Scriptures human beings have a natural
inclination to sin that is what is theologically called the ‘bondage
of the will’; but nevertheless, despite his limitations, in natural
order of things, man has the power of choice although according to the
overwhelming testimony of Scripture, but such choice does not include any
spiritual good toward God. Nonetheless,
we have being given the power to decide and many of the things that
happen in our lives are the product of the way we use that power of
choice (marriage, education, careers, jobs, health, wealth, etc.) We get into extreme debt because of the way we handle money.
Yes there is that ‘emergency’ or that ‘accident’ that
caused us to get into unplanned debt but for the most part, things that
happen or that we experience are simply a ‘fruit’ of our own
decision and you know what, we have to learn how to live and learn from
our mistakes. The fact that
someone married the ‘wrong’ person is also part of the decision making
process. Yes, you could
have married someone else, or simply not married at all.
Our decisions (choices) have consequences that are either
beneficial or detrimental to the way you and I (and even our children)
live, and is not God’s fault, although He knew exactly what
your decision was going to be way before you did.
Issue of Sin
definition sin is the violation of God’s law.
The moral law of God reveals His holy and pure character, as he
desires it for mankind. In
presenting humans with His law, God is setting the standard of his will
for all of us. Sadly, men
have always gone against the revealed moral law and commandments of God.
It is at this level that every man is found to be a sinner
against God and justly condemned to hell and perdition. Even though sin
is a serious violation of God’s purpose and will for man, it does not
go against the eternal decree of God by which He permits it and uses it
to advance His eternal plans or decrees.
It is at this level of God’s plan and will where He most often
intervenes providentially as He sees necessary to accomplish His eternal
purposes and will.
Sin in the world did not take God by surprise. Sin was not an unforeseen or unknown event in God’s plans. We can safely say that sin is ultimately part of Gods’ plan and came into the world because of that reason. Can we say that God is the ‘author’ of evil? No, if we also acknowledge that humans are free agents and could have done otherwise, yet God indirectly provided the situation to make sin possible although not forcing it. By putting the forbidden tree in the midst of the Garden, the possibility for disobedience was created by God. The reality of sin came about from that possibility and when it took place it was an act against God’s revealed will (his commandments) but did not affect God’s eternal decree, to the contrary, it affirmed it. We may not be able to explain how this could be from a human point of view but that is a reality we see in Scripture time and time again. The best example of this truth is seen in the plot to kill Jesus. While it is true that Judas, the religious leaders of Israel and the Roman authorities all got together and kill Jesus through treason, lies and deception, it is also very true that in so doing they accomplished the eternal plan of God of providing redemption for the world through the death of Christ.
So, we can see how sin itself was a
part of God’s eternal will and purpose although in the process His
moral will (commandments) was violated time and time again.
Sin, is therefore a necessary and important part in the plan of
God and is NOT out of His control.
Can God be blamed for using sin as part of his plan?
face it, after all there are certain things about which someone can
still say “are not fair” or “just not right” and therefore
“it’s God’s fault!” Well, and if that were true, what can you or
I do about it? Honestly nothing! God
is God and that’s the bottom line.
Can we judge God? No! Can we accuse God... and if so, before
whom? After all there is no one higher that God who can punish Him for
doing what ‘we’ might think is wrong; we certainly cannot punish
him. Remember, He is God.
So, what are we to do? There are only two things we can do, we either
rebel against God facing the consequences (punishment) for our rebellion
or we trust God, submit to his government and power and receive the
reward for our trust and obedience.
The Correct Theology of Life
Bible we find the writings of a man who was considered the wisest man
that ever lived, his name was King Salomon.
Salomon was a very rich man who lacked nothing that a man would
ever want. Like many of us, he started on a quest to find “the meaning
of life”. He observed the
lives of the rich and the poor, the wise and the unwise.
He looked at everything that took place on the face of the earth
and scrutinized what takes place under the sun.
His final conclusion was that good and bad things happen in the
same way to good and bad people. Bad
people suffer and so do good people.
Bad people get sick and so do the good.
Bad people die and so do the good ones.
People work hard from dawn to dusk and get up the next day to
repeat the same routine. What
was his conclusion? He concluded that life is simply emptiness - all is
vanity! This truth destroys the false idea of many teachers who misguide
their followers when they say “come to Christ and all your problems
will be solved”. The fact
is that you may come to Christ and all your problems become worse, after
all that is exactly what Jesus said. The Bible assures increasing
‘tribulation’ and persecution for believers, not peace and lack
problems in life. We do not
deny that God blesses his children greatly but the gospel is not about
solving life problems. Christ is about solving the sin problem – and
that’s the real problem.
going on for a few chapters explaining and describing what he
encountered in life, Salomon finally gives us some wise counsel that
should help us to live our lives, he says “fear God and follow his
commandments because this is the all of man”.
is that God has given us a prescription of a better life, “obedience
to His word”, but that does not mean problems and adversity will not
be present. Although we
know that God has certain decrees that He has established and they will
come to pass no matter what, the main focus of our lives should be
placed on what he has expressly told us to do and not on what he has
determined in his secret counsel (Deuteronomy 29:29)
people who think about predestination and God’s control over His
creation tend to go to extremes, some completely deny it and others
affirm so much as to create a form of fatalism: “lo que sera, sera”
(what will be, will be.) That
happens because they fail to make clear distinctions of the different
aspects or levels within the will of God.
If we only look at the highest level of his will, the decrees of
God, his ‘eternal will’ we will have a fatalistic way of thinking
and living that will promote idleness, lack of personal responsibility
and disrespect toward God. On
the other hand, if we deny it, then God will cease to be God in the
sense the Bible describes Him. He would not be “all powerful” and
would not even be able to keep his promises.
A balanced (I mean biblical) view of God looks at the whole
picture. It knows that God is sovereign and has established decrees that
will never change, that he governs the world providentially and that he
has also allowed room and some liberty for the actions of men to make a
difference in their lives and the lives of others.
What you and I do, plan and say, matters, things can be different
because God has given us the ability to choose, but as with every
freedom, our freedom has a limit, the eternal will and purpose of God.
Although some might not think so, that is something good, it also means that if we make
mistakes, big or small, as we often do; or if we disobey God (sin), as
we normally do, the eternal plans of God with our lives and His creation
will not change one bit.
Soli Deo Gloria!
Created: July 7, 2006
Last Revised: March 7, 2009
[i] That to
say that there is no God is a fool’s way of thinking can be proven
theologically, scientifically and logically. The most a person who
does not wish to ‘recognize’ that there is a God and still sound
a little bit more ‘intelligent’ is to say that he or she does
not know whether there is a God. That would be of course, a
statement made despite all undeniable evidence that points to the
existence of a higher supreme being which religion calls God.
[ii] No serious theologian or Bible student will deny that
absolute predestination is a true Christian doctrine even though
some have attempted to redefine the concept.
[iii] Even though by ‘permissive’ will many suggest that
since going against God’s revealed commands is sometimes
‘permitted’ by Him, that also means that He approves of it, such
understanding I believe to be erroneous.
We either follow God’s revealed will or we don’t.
If we follow it, we are doing his will, if we don’t follow
it, we are not doing his will but being disobedient and sinners no
matter whether in His mercy He may allow it.
Now it should be also clear that whether we follow or not
follow his will has an immediate impact and direct consequences on
God’s temporal plans for our own lives and the lives of others,
but in no way does it destroy His eternal decree and will.
Literally means foresight, but is generally used to
denote God's preserving and governing all things by means of second
causes (Psa_18:35; Psa_63:8; Act_17:28; Col_1:17; Heb_1:3). God's
providence extends to the natural world (Psa_104:14; Psa_135:5-7;
Act_14:17), the brute creation (Psa_104:21-29; Mat_6:26; Mat_10:29),
and the affairs of men (1Ch_16:31; Psa_47:7; Pro_21:1; Job_12:23;
Dan_2:21; Dan_4:25), and of individuals (1Sa_2:6; Psa_18:30;
Luk_1:53; Jam_4:13-15). It extends also to the free actions of men
(Exo_12:36; 1Sa_24:9-15; Psa_33:14, Psa_33:15; Pro_16:1; Pro_19:21;
Pro_20:24; Pro_21:1), and things sinful (2Sa_16:10; 2Sa_24:1;
Rom_11:32; Act_4:27, Act_4:28), as well as to their good actions
(Phi_2:13; Phi_4:13; 2Co_12:9, 2Co_12:10; Eph_2:10; Gal_5:22-25).
As regards sinful actions of men,
they are represented as occurring by God's permission (Gen_45:5;
Gen_50:20. Compare 1Sa_6:6; Exo_7:13; Exo_14:17; Act_2:3; Act_3:18;
Act_4:27, Act_4:28), and as controlled (Psa_76:10) and overruled for
good (Gen_50:20; Act_3:13). God does not cause or approve of sin,
but only limits, restrains, overrules it for good.
The mode of God's providential
government is altogether unexplained. We only know that it is a fact
that God does govern all his creatures and all their actions; that
this government is universal (Psa_103:17-19), particular
(Mat_10:29-31), efficacious (Psa_33:11; Job_23:13), embraces events
apparently contingent (Pro_16:9, Pro_16:33; Pro_19:21; Pro_21:1), is
consistent with his own perfection (2Ti_2:13), and to his own glory
©1999-2009 Jorge L. Trujillo
Vida Eterna Ministries.
teh freedom to duplicate, show, or distribute this publication to whom
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