God’s Decretive and Preceptive Will

God’s Decretive and Preceptive Will

When it comes to the will of God, we must distinguish between His decretive and preceptive will. This is because some argue that there are apparent contradictions within the will of God.

A proper understanding of the two aspects of God’s will helps solve these contradictions.

What is God’s Will?

Everything depends on the will of God.

In creation and preservation (Psalm 135:6; Revelation 4:11; Jeremiah 18:6) and regeneration (John 1:13; James 1:18). We read God’s will in the suffering of Christ in Luke 22:42; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28. These are just a few of the clarity of God’s Word regarding the will of God in everything.

But what is God’s will? It is God’s perfect determination and sovereign ordination of all things, all unto the magnification of His utmost glory. When we say, “all things,” it pertains to both God Himself (including His decrees and actions) and His creation.

Discerning God's Will

Two Aspects of God’s Will

As Bible-believing Christians, we acknowledge the importance of knowing God’s will in our lives. But how do we know if we are living under the will of God or not? By knowing His Word! We cannot say that we know God’s will without knowing His Word because the will of God is the Word of God.

However, we also need to make a clear distinction between the two aspects of God’s will.

Decretive Will

Some have called God’s decretive will His “secret will.” Yet, while the full extent is hidden, aspects of it are revealed. Take for instance predictive prophecy, in which we will never know the full extent of it but there are clues to some of its aspects.

God’s decretive will is God’s pleasure, his eternal, unchangeable counsel, or decree in which He has foreordained all things. It characterizes all of God’s essence, so it is eternal, immutable, independent, and omnipotent.

This does not mean that He is the immediate or efficient cause of all things. But that all things exist or occur by His eternal sovereign decree. God’s decretive will makes everything certain, but He does not coerce His creatures to do anything. He ordains the free choices of men.

Sin is in God’s overall plan. He does not condone His creatures’ disobedience, nor is He the immediate or efficient cause of sin (James 1:13). Also, God does not delight in the existence of sin, but He ordains it by His decree to accomplish the most wise and holy end of bringing ultimate glory to Himself (Romans 5:20-21; 9:17-24).

One should bear in mind two cautions about God’s decretive will. First, whenever God’s decretive will includes sin, that sin is certain to occur. But it will be initiated by the volition of the sinner.

Second, God’s meticulous providence includes Him upholding the various natural processes and even crafting the circumstances of an individual’s decision to sin. Of course, God does this without compromising His holiness.

Preceptive Will

God’s preceptive will consists of God’s precepts in the law and the Gospel for man’s conduct (Matthew 7:21; John 7:17; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-8; 1 John 2:17). This is often called God’s “revealed” or “signified” will.

At times, God’s decretive will and His preceptive will coincide, but often as part of His decretive will. God ordains that the creature disobeys His preceptive will. The Lord reveals His preceptive will through Scripture’s commands, prohibitions, warnings, chastening, and judgments.

The preceptive will of God is God’s will only in a prescriptive sense, His decretive will is the perfection that results in actual occurrences. The preceptive will reveals not what God will do but what He demands of His people.


God has included sin in His plan, forbidding man to sin yet using sin as a means of bringing the greatest amount of glory to Himself. See Genesis 50:20 and Acts 2:23.

In both His decretive will and preceptive will, God does not take pleasure in sin, nor does He determine to save all people. God executes His decretive will through His preceptive will.

The decretive will and preceptive will of God must be held in tension. To deny His preceptive will is to commit injustice against God’s holiness and to ignore the gravity of sin. But to deny God’s decretive will is to deny His omniscience, wisdom, omnipotence, and sovereignty.


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4 Replies to “God’s Decretive and Preceptive Will”

  1. I do my Bible Study every morning at 5:30, and I’m in 1st Samuel 1: 19-28.

    Hannah has just given birth to Samuel and my immediate thought was who were the women in Jesus lineage? Your article addressed that question, and I’m sure the Holy Spirit caused me to look at your article to get the answer I was looking for.

    Thank you so much, and God bless!

  2. Dear Admin,

    I’m not sure if you understand all the terms you employ, or are just parroting what you think you heard or read.

    In particular, I believe the term that is often used is “preceptive” (i.e., relating to precepts, such as “You shall not steal”), NOT “perceptive” (which relates to observations or insights).

    I say this not intending to sound mean-spirited, but given you have used the word “perceptive” over a dozen times, it’s clearly not an isolated typographical error.

    1. Hello Derek,

      Thanks for pointing out my error, I appreciate it very much.

      And yes, what I meant is preceptive instead of perceptive. I will go over the entire write-up and make the necessary edits.

      Thanks again, God bless you.

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