The Shorter Catechism, 3
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Q7: What are the decrees of God?
A: The decrees of God are his eternal purpose, according to the counsel of his will, whereby, for his own glory, he hath foreordained whatsoever comes to pass.
From eternity, God has decreed what will happen. He has decreed that those things will happen, which He wills. He has foreordained whatsoever comes to pass. He decreed that once the world would be, and also the time when it would be. He foreordained its end. He predestinated those who will be saved, and who not. When Paul is blessing God because of His goodness, he says that we are "being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will. That we should be to the praise of his glory." (Eph.1:11,12) God has foreordained all things, according to the counsel of His will. All what was, is, and will be, is to His glory, whereunto He has decreed it.
Q8: How doth God execute his decrees?
A: God executeth his decrees in the works of creation and providence.
God, having decreed in eternity what will happen, began to execute His decrees when He created the earth, and He still continues executing them in His providence. He is executing the things once decreed, in order that they become reality.
Q9: What is the work of creation?
A: The work of creation is, God's making all things of nothing, by the word of his power, in the space of six days, and all very good.
God's creating of all things can be characterised in four points.
1. The work of creation is God's making all of nothing.
This appears clearly from Scripture, where is said that God created heaven and earth. "In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth". (Gen.1:1) Heaven and earth includes the whole universe, with all what is therein. When God created heaven and earth, He made all there is; so they are created from nothing.
2. God created all by the word of His power.
Repeatedly, we read "And God said", and then follows that He made, namely light, or a firmament, waters and grass, and all is made by God's word. "Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear." (Hebr.11:3) This text in Hebrews both says that the things are made by the word, and that they are made of nothing.
3. God created all in the space of six days.
"And on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made; and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made." (Genesis 2:2) There is no doubt that God made all in six days; not in six periods of time, but in six real days, as we know them now.
4. God made all very good.
"And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good." (Gen.1:31) After all was created, it was very good. All evil is of later time; it is not created.
Q10: How did God create man?
A: God created man male and female, after his own image, in knowledge, righteousness, and holiness, with dominion over the creatures.
How God created man can be summarised in the next points.
1. God created man male and female.
First, He created the man, Adam. And from his rib, He made afterwards the woman. "God created man (...) male and female created he them." (Gen.1:27)
2. God created man after His Own image.
Both Adam and Eve were created by God after His Own image. "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness." (Gen.1:26) "So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him". (Gen.1:27) What this means, to be created in God's image, will be explained in the next point.
3. He created man in knowledge, righteousness and holiness.
God created man after His Own image. Being created after that image means, that we originally had knowledge, that we were righteous and holy. These three, knowledge, righteousness and holiness, appear from Paul, when he speaks of the regenerated man. After the fall, we lost the greatest part of God's image, but who is regenerated, gets back that original image, in some degree. In his letter to the Colossians, he says to the people: You "have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him". (Col.3:10) So, the new man gets back knowledge, which is after God's image. In another letter, the same apostle says to the people: That you should "put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness." (Eph.4:24) In short, in the new man, the regenerated man, we see the image of God restored in some degree, consisting in knowledge, righteousness and holiness. This means that those, who have no knowledge of God, and who are unrighteous and unholy, are not regenerated, and have no part in the future life.
4. He gave man the dominion over the creatures.
"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." (Genesis 1:26) And after He had created man, male and female, "God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." (Gen.1:28)