Question 7 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism asks, “What are the decrees of God?”
The answer given is, “The decrees of God are his eternal plan, based on the purpose of His will, by which, for His own glory, He has foreordained everything that happens.”
Four things jump out at me when I read this question and answer.
First, there is nothing that happens in the world that takes God by surprise. When our first parents rebelled against God by eating the fruit, God had a plan already in place to send Jesus to fix the resulting mess.
Fast forward to 2016. We are nearing a presidential election in the United States. God knows who will win the election and how he will use the resulting government to build the church. I find that I can so easily lose sight of this truth and get caught up in the hysteria surrounding the political climate. Good theology reminds us that God remains in control.
Secondly, knowledge that God is totally in control should not resign us to a passive fatalism. A search using my Bible software counts 563 imperatives in the New Testament epistles. We are called to live in a certain way and our wills are to be engaged in living out those commands. We are not pre-programmed automatons.
Thirdly, what God decrees is for his own glory. From Question 1 of this catechism, we learn that man’s purpose is to glorify God. So when we are participating in the fulfillment of our purpose, we are also fulfilling the purpose of God.
Fourthly, I am encouraged that I cannot mess up God’s plan through weakness or rebellion. I take great comfort in that fact. Because if the plan of God was up to me, it would certainly result in a train wreck. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said to Peter, “I will build my church.” Jesus is the builder, I am merely a laborer.