WCF 3.1 — Pastoral Comments

Posted on May 20, 2018 by admin

3.1 God from all eternity, did, by the most wise and holy counsel of His own will, freely, and unchangeably ordain whatsoever comes to pass:1 yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin,2 nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures; nor is the liberty or contingency of second causes taken away, but rather established.3

1 Eph 1:11; Rom 11:33; Heb 6:17; Rom 9:15, 18; 2 Jas  1:13, 17; 1 Jn 1:5;  3 Acts 2:23; Mt 17:12; Acts 4:27–28; Jn 19:11; Prov 16:33.

Apart from the doctrine of Trinity, another distinctive feature of the Christian Faith is the doctrine of God’s Sovereignty.  This is the teaching that God has decreed or planned everything that comes to pass in the universe; and that He is sovereignly bringing to past moment by moment all that He has decreed. It is true that throughout the history of the Church there have been branches of Christianity that denied this important doctrine. But we must not forget that God himself has declared that this is what distinguishes Him from all the false gods of man’s imagination. “I am God, and there is none else,” He says; “I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa 46:9–10). The living and true God is sovereign.

But what about things that happen by chance? Well, nothing really happens by chance. Solomon says: “The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the Lord” (Prov 16:33).

What about disasters and the sinful actions of man? Surely these cannot be happening according to God’s plans? Well, they are; for the LORD himself declares: “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil [i.e., disaster]” (Isa 45:7); and “The Lord hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil” (Prov 16:4).

But doesn’t God sovereignty violate the freedom of man? Well, no!  Man is created as a free agent who makes choices. He is not a robot. God does not violate his freedom by manipulating his heart or will. The decisions and actions of man are dependent on what he thinks is best for him at the moment. This is why God holds him responsible. He sins when he chooses that which is contrary to God’s revealed will. Our Confession expresses this idea beautifully in the words, “neither is God the author of sin, nor is violence offered to the will of the creatures.” This is the reason why Judas Iscariot is guilty even though his role in the crucifixion of the Lord was decreed from all eternity. Judas was not compelled to do what he did. He chose to do it. Thus the Lord Jesus himself declared: “The Son of man goeth as it is written of him: but woe unto that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! it had been good for that man if he had not been born” (Mt 26:24).

Similarly, God’s absolute sovereignty does not mean that “the liberty or contingency of second causes [is] taken away, but rather established.” What are second causes? Second causes are simply ‘means’ to accomplish an end. So if God has ordained that you pass an examination, He would ordain that you study hard; you pray for wisdom; you get to school on time; your pen works; your teacher likes your answer, etc, etc. All these second causes must concur to fulfill God’s plan for you to pass your examination. Thus you must never entertain the attitude that whatever will be will be. You must work hard and you must pray for any desired outcome in anything.


Westminster Confession of Faith — With Brief Pastoral Comments
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