The Electing Love of God For Men and Women
Today’s lesson is the first example of what I would call the “expansive nature” of the Larger Catechism. It’s not just that the WLC contains more stuff than the WSC, but the WLC is interested in broadening our understanding of what each of the parts of our faith means for our faith in total. Having studied the attributes of God and how the Trinity operates within itself the next step in the learning process is to see the way Jehovah works in His creation to do His will and as we see in the Q/A for this week the questions themselves almost take up our space:
Q. 12. What are the decrees of God?
A. God’s decrees are the wise, free, and holy acts of the counsel of His will, whereby, from all eternity, He has, for His own glory, unchangeably foreordained whatsoever comes to pass in time, especially concerning angels and men.
Q. 13. What has God especially decreed concerning angels and men?
A. God, by an eternal and immutable decree, out of His mere love, for the praise of His glorious grace, to be manifested in due time, hath elected some angels to glory; and in Christ hath chosen some men to eternal life, and the means thereof: and also, according to His sovereign power, and the unsearchable counsel of His own will, (whereby He extends or withholds favor as He pleases,) has passed by and foreordained the rest to dishonor and wrath, to be for their sin inflicted, to the praise of the glory of His justice.
Q.14. How does God execute his decrees?
A. God executes His decrees in the works of creation and providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will.
I know we spend a lot of time in these helps defining words, but it is good for us to know what some of these theology words mean so that we can help others (especially children and those young in faith) understand their God. The first term worth looking at is “decree”. At first that does not seem like something that needs specified. When Luke says, “And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.”
We know and can comprehend what happened.
Caesar is king. What the king says, the people put into action by their obedience. Is that the same thing we mean when we talk about the decrees of God? Yes and no. First of all unlike Caesar the Lord’s commands are not temporary, they are also not limited to following orders. Secondly, they cover things that Caesar has no ability to do anything about. When God decrees in His providence that a hurricane would strike the southwestern part of Florida He had a manifold, eternal, and infinite purpose in that. President Biden or Governor Desantis could neither declare the hurricane either to not exist nor to go somewhere else. They were, and are, at the mercy of the weather. Even in our example Caesar Augustus in his calling for the census was a part of God’s sovereign decree that Jesus Christ would be born in the City of David, as the prophets had spoken of in time before. He may not have in any sense understood himself to be following the commands of God, but that does not change the fact that he did.
The next thing is resolving a question about why does the Larger Catechism include both angels and men in seeking to answer God’s special decrees. Notice the big thing missing from the election of angels: Christ. The angels are chosen by the Lord out of His mere great love, whereas human beings are brought forward by His sovereign choice only in and through the redemptive act in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Making a clear statement about the difference between angels and men is central to understanding why we don’t “become” angels when we go to Heaven, for example. Men are higher than angels in the estimation of God, so we wouldn’t decrease in glory when we are glorified in death.
It is one of the reasons why for example Genesis 6 that the men of renown and the sons of God and the daughters of men cannot involve the inter-relations between angels and women. Angels are not physical beings, even when they appear as so, and are also a unique creation separate from man. The way they come into the presence of a holy God is just another example of what it is that makes humans special in the eyes of Jehovah. Whereas the angels are chosen by the Triune God to perform His will, man is elected to bear His image and to be the greatest picture of His love. Both are significant for sure, however, one other thing to note about the difference mentioned in the catechism question is the way that all providence and creation has been ordered by God to accomplish the electing of His most important creation, the one that was last in the day’s work.
On that subject it is worth thinking and meditating upon how vast the ordering of all the world to provide for the atonement of man from sin is when considering all that is the known universe. It is part of the way that the creation groans under the weight of sin. It shouts the truth of God’s word, as Psalm 19 reveals, and testifies to the need of a savior. The awesome power of the fallen earth exhibits a restlessness that should open the eyes of man as to their need. When we read in the last catechism question about how God goes about executing His decrees the reality becomes even more clear. When you think of your own deliverance how did it come to be? We know of the big picture stuff, God foreordained all things that come to pass including, “…and in Christ hath chosen some men to eternal life, and the means thereof” as we said above. But we also need to remember that He decreed the little stuff as well, including the individual preacher, time, date, etc… where you came to the Lord in a salvific way. That’s why we can have such peace and rest in these matters, both temporarily and eternally. As Peter says:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”
Here is something else to help:
Blessings in Christ,
Rev. Benjamin Glaser