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God’s decreed will is one way to talk about His omniscience and sovereignty, but there is more to say about His decreed will. I’m choosing to use the term decreed will to juxtapose it against God’s moral will to show the interplay between sovereignty, omniscience, and human responsibility. There is much more to discuss regarding the idea of God’s decreed will. It’s a complex subject that needs deeper theological discussion.
For this podcast, I’m merely making a point that God knows all things and He sees all things to the end, according to His divine purposes. God knows all things, and we cannot overthrow His sovereign and mysterious plans. Then there is the Lord’s moral will: how we should live our lives. When you conflate and confuse God’s sovereign will with how you respond to His law, you will live in what I’m calling the “messy will of God.”
Biff did this. He transgressed God’s moral law and does not believe that God can use his mistakes redemptively, or that it was part of His grander purposes. For this podcast, I want you to think about His sovereignty and our actions while recognizing we’re dipping our toes into the deeper mysteries of God.
The decreed will of God is one way to talk about Him knowing all things in eternity past. God is not a learner but the originator and source of all knowledge. For God to learn something, He would cease to be God. The Lord knows everything (omniscient), is everywhere (omnipresence), and has all power (omnipotent). You cannot add any knowledge, space, or ability to who He is.
Thus, God can look into the future and script a plan to bring His grander purposes to pass. He lives outside of time, above time, looking down on time, seeing the beginning from the end. He is the primary causal agent, the author of the story. Within these dramas that we call life is a story line of good and evil.
And like any good writer, there is the protagonist and antagonist. Both are capable of doing good and evil. The author has given us a book that tells us what is true and false, right and wrong, and good and evil. These truths are His moral will. The protagonist and antagonist interact with God’s moral will—doing both good and evil.
It is not possible to function outside of what God predetermines. It would be like a character jumping from the book’s pages that the author has written and saying he’s not going to be part of the story any longer. Though we are actors and actresses in God’s story, we’re not robots. We make choices every day. Biff has made a wrong choice and does not see how God would know this in eternity past and could bring a redemptive story out of it.
Because of his long-standing, life-dominating shaping influence of penalizing himself for his sins, he cannot see anything positive coming from his wrong choices. “How could God know that I would sin, and I choose to sin, and He turns that sin event into a positive experience?” This scenario is what I call God’s messy will—the conflation of His sovereignty and our freedom to make choices.
God knew that bad stuff would happen, and He knew how to keep His plans moving forward despite our fallen choices. The most critical key is to make sure that you not only separate God’s eternal purposes from His moral will, but you prioritize one over the other. You could think of it as God’s sovereign will as being above all things, and His moral will as operating “under and inside” His decreed will.
There is an implication of parallelism here. The upper parallel is His sovereignty, and the lower parallel is the things we do, whether they are right or wrong. Biff believes that the Lord is sovereign, but when he thinks about his sins, he cannot bring himself to believe that the Lord can use his immorality for a greater good.
Biff talks about the penalty for doing wrong. He doesn’t see the redemptive purposes of bad choices. He uses David as an illustration. From a consequential perspective, David’s sin does show how bad things happen when a person sows to the flesh. Do you see why Biff thinks this way?
His dad trained him to blame himself when things go wrong. To think that God could decree it and a positive result would be the outcome is mind-blowing for Biff. Could his daddy be wrong? If you only see negative consequences for wrong actions, you will paralyze yourself from ever getting off the mat to do the right thing. Here is a diagnosis of Biff’s thought process.
There is a powerful, positive illustration of God using sin sinlessly—the cross of Christ. Because of some bad decisions of a few folks at the crucifixion, Christ died on the cross. I see this like Biff in that it’s negative, but I also see a redemptive purpose.
There were negative and positive results of their sin. God decreed that bad stuff would happen, and He used sinful men to accomplish His purposes. This verse shows God’s decreed will and how He used wicked men to achieve His objectives.
This Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men (Acts 2:23).
I would be a fool to think I could satisfactorily explain all of this to anyone, but I do understand it as much as my fallen, finite mind permits me to do so. Faith in the goodness of God is what fills my finite gaps of understanding, which is how all of us process everything.
What about Biff? Let’s say he did sin. He was outside of God’s moral will. I have been here many times. You can be outside of God’s moral will but not outside God’s divine plans. It’s possible to be outside of His moral will but inside His predetermined will. Thus, the Lord is working His plan in Biff’s life, even though Biff is stumbling through life imperfectly.
One more thing!
Perhaps a man at the crucifixion was part of Christ’s death and later repented of his acts. I would counsel him the way I would counsel Biff: stop looking in the rearview mirror about breaking God’s moral law—sinning against the Savior, and recognize that the Lord is working His plan through your mistakes.
Rick launched the Life Over Coffee global training network in 2008 to bring hope and help for you and others by creating resources that spark conversations for transformation. His primary responsibilities are resource creation and leadership development, which he does through speaking, writing, podcasting, and educating.
In 1990 he earned a BA in Theology and, in 1991, a BS in Education. In 1993, he received his ordination into Christian ministry, and in 2000 he graduated with an MA in Counseling from The Master’s University. In 2006 he was recognized as a Fellow of the Association of Certified Biblical Counselors (ACBC).