Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Chapter Three: Of God’s Eternal Decree

The Westminster Confession of Faith in Plain Language
1.  Before time began, God planned everything that would ever happen.  What happens could not happen any other way than the way he planned it.  This plan was based upon his own wisdom and desires without any outside influences.   The fact that he planned everything does not mean, however, that he is the author of sin.  It also does not mean that human beings are merely robots.   What it does mean is that God controls and coordinates every part of creation so that what he wants to happen does indeed happen.

2.  Even though God knows everything that can possibly happen in the future, he did not plan the future by seeing the options and then ordering them up like someone orders from a menu.

3.  According to God’s plan, he displays his glory by choosing some humans and angels to live eternally in his presence while allowing the rest to be eternally punished for their sin.   

4.  The number and identity of those who have been chosen for eternal life and those who will be allowed to die is set in stone and will never change.

5.  God chose those who will live forever before he created the world.   He keeps to himself his reasons for choosing some and not others, but he chose them with a love and grace that was not based upon anything he saw in them.  For instance, he did not look into the future and pick them because he saw that they would someday believe in him, or that they were better than other people, or tried harder.   No, God’s grace alone deserves the credit. 

6.  God chose those who will have eternal life, and he also planned the ways that they would be saved as it best suited him.  Even though the elect are guilty of Adam’s sin, Christ redeems them from their sin.   The Holy Spirit ensures that they will believe in him when the time is right.  God declares them to be righteous and adopts them as his own children.  He begins to work in their lives to free them from sin.  He uses his power to keep them from falling away until they are finally saved.  They will always believe in Christ.   Only those people that God has chosen will be redeemed in this way.  No one else will be called, declared righteous, adopted into God’s family, freed from sin, or saved. 

7.  According to God’s plan, he has not chosen to save the rest of humanity.  No one knows why, but he has the right to do whatever he wants.  He uses his power and authority over his creation to demonstrate his own glory. Instead of giving them mercy, he gives them what their sin deserves—wrath and dishonor.  God should be praised for this, because it is the right thing to do.

8.  We should not allow the mysterious and difficult nature of these teachings to cause us to neglect them.   Even though they are difficult to understand and accept, we should believe them because they are taught in God’s Word.  If we believe them as God intended they will give us assurance of our salvation—we know that we have been chosen, because the Holy Spirit has ensured that we believe in Christ.  In other words, our salvation depends upon God, and not upon ourselves.   This teaching should have several effects: We should praise, worship and serve God wholeheartedly; we should be very humble; and we should also be very encouraged that we are able to believe the Gospel.

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