The Will of God
"I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law is within my heart." Ė Psalm 40:8
††††††††††† The words recorded in Psalm 40:8 find their ultimate and perfect fulfillment in the Lord Jesus Christ. God the Spirit tells us this in Hebrews 10:7-9. How we rejoice to know that Christ, the God-man, our Substitute, has fulfilled all the will of God for us! By his obedience to God in our stead, the Lord Jesus Christ obtained eternal redemption for Godís elect. His obedience to God is our righteousness. His blood is our atonement for sin. We are complete in Christ; and we are accepted in him, because he delighted to do the will of God as our Substitute.
††††††††††† Yet, the words of the fortieth Psalm were also Davidís words. They express the desire, ambition, and driving force of every believerís heart. ďI delight to do thy will, O God.Ē All who are born of God bear this distinct mark of grace in the likeness of Christ. Believers in their inmost souls delight to do the will of God. Our joy and happiness is not merely in receiving good from God, but in rendering active service to God. We desire to obey and serve our heavenly Father in all things and do his will at all times, not reluctantly, but cheerfully. Godís will is our joy and delight.
More than that, we delight to see Godís will done in and by others, too. Our heartís prayer is, ďOur Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heavenĒ (Matt. 6:9-10). God the Holy Spirit has taught every believer in the world to pray with Christ, ďThy will be done.Ē
††††††††††† Were it possible to gather all the desires, ambitions, aspirations, goals, and prayers of all Godís saints in heaven and earth into one expression, it would be this: ďThy will be done.Ē Every believer delights to do the will of God! When the believing heart cries, ďI delight to do thy will, O God,Ē the meaning is: My heavenly Father, my God, in my heart of hearts, from the depths of my inmost soul, I delight to fulfill your will of purpose, to satisfy your will of pleasure, and to obey your will of precept.
††††††††††† We know that our heavenly Father, the God of the Bible, is a God ďwho worketh all things after the counsel of his own willĒ (Eph. 1:11). And all who know him delight to do his will in all things. It is not my purpose in this study to answer the objections which men raise against the sovereignty of God in the exercise of his will. If your heart is yet in rebellion to God, no words of mine can change you. You must bow to Christ. You must surrender to his dominion as Lord. My purpose is simply to instruct, comfort, and encourage Godís saints in seeking, doing, and submitting to the will of God. In order to dispel confusion about this subject and to help you who delight to do Godís will, I will make three statements and answer two questions.
1. It is the duty and responsibility of all men, women, and
††††† children to obey the will of God revealed in his precepts.
††††††††††† The Bible reveals Godís will to be made up of three parts, His precept, His pleasure, and His purpose. His precept is that which he requires and commands of his creatures. As a wise and loving Father demands obedience from his children, so God demands obedience from all rational creatures. Godís pleasure is that in which he delights and that of which he approves. As a father delights in a childís willing obedience to his parents, so the Lord God takes pleasure in the willing obedience of his children. He accepts us and what we endeavor to do for him, through Christ, and takes pleasure in our efforts to honor and serve him. Godís purpose is that which he is determined to accomplish.
††††††††††† These three things never contradict each other. They are never at odds. They are always in perfect harmony. They are, together, the will of God. Letís look at them one at a time, beginning with Godís will of precept. This is his revealed will, that which he requires of men, that which he commands us to do.
††††††††††† When a person in authority expresses his will to those under his authority, his revealed will is to them a law, a command, a precept, which they are responsible to obey. That which God has revealed to be his will and pleasure is to us a precept, a law, a command which we are responsible to obey. Godís will of command, or precept, made known to us, is our rule of duty (Eccles. 12:13; Ex. 20; Rom. 2:12-15, 18). In the day of judgment God will judge every man by that which has been revealed to him. No one will be held accountable except for that knowledge of Godís will that is within his reach.
The moral requirements of Godís law are revealed to all men by the light of nature. The tables of the law are inscribed upon every manís conscience by the finger of God, our Creator (Rom. 2:12-15). All men by nature, even the most heathen, barbaric tribesmen of ancient cultures, know that God is and that he requires man to love him supremely and love his neighbor as himself. It is manís unceasing violation of the law of God written upon his heart that floods his soul with a sense of naked guilt before God, though he does not know him.
God revealed his will upon Sinai in the giving of the law, summarized in what we call the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20:1-17; Rom. 13:8-9; Eph. 6:2). The decalogue, that which is commonly referred to as the moral law, reveals what God requires of all men in their relations to God and to one another. Though in Christ we are free from the yoke of the lawís rule and its curse, these requirements are never altered.
The ceremonial law given to the nation of Israel was Godís revealed will concerning worship in the Old Testament. It began when God commanded Israel to observe the passover (Ex. 12) and ended when Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us, when the handwriting of the ordinances was nailed to the cross (1 Cor. 5:7; Col. 2:14).
Since Christ has come and fulfilled all the requirements and types of the moral and ceremonial law, the revealed will of God to all men is the gospel of Christ (1 John 3:23). Because no man is capable of fulfilling the righteousness of God revealed in the law, Christ fulfilled the law in the place of chosen sinners; and we fulfill the righteousness of the law by faith in him (Rom. 8:2-4; 3:31). This is the only way in which sinners can fulfill Godís holy law. We look to Christ alone for both righteousness and satisfaction (1 Cor. 1:30).
††††††††††† This is what God requires and commands of all men - ďBelieve on the Lord Jesus Christ (1 John 3:23). Faith in Christ is the revealed will of God. This is Godís precept. All men are responsible to obey it (John 3:36). In this sense, every believer says, ďI delight to do thy will, O God.Ē
2. It is the desire of every believer to
††††† obey the will of Godís holy pleasure.
††††††††††† A loving child wants to do more than merely avoid his fatherís disapproval. He seeks to know and do that which is his fatherís pleasure. A loving wife wants more than to do just what her husband requires. She wants to please her husband in all things. And the believer wants something indescribably greater than to avoid the wrath of God. He wants to do the will of God. He wants to do that which gives pleasure, satisfaction, and delight to his heavenly Father. We do not and cannot add anything to Godís infinite pleasure. Still, believing sinners earnestly seek to do that which pleases him. Do we not? Do you seek to do the will of your heavenly Fatherís pleasure?
There are some things revealed in the Bible that please God (Mic. 6:6-8). Though we recognize our utter inability to do so, believers do endeavor to walk humbly before God, dealing with men in uprightness (justice), mercy, and love, following the example of Christ our Lord (1 Cor. 4:7; Eph. 5:18-21; Phil. 2:1-4; Eph. 4:32-5:1). There are also some things revealed in the Scriptures that are displeasing and grievous to our Lord (Eph. 4:17-5:1). While acknowledging, with broken hearts, that every lust and abomination known to man resides in our depraved hearts (1 John 1:9), we studiously seek to avoid the evils of our flesh. This is my constant prayer. I hope it is yours. Ė My Father, grant me grace that I not dishonor your name or offend in thought, word, or deed. Give me grace that I may not offend your children, bring reproach upon the name of your dear Son or the gospel of your free grace in him, or grieve your Holy Spirit.
Still, every heaven born soul is fully aware of the fact that the only way sinful men and women can please God is by faith in Christ (Heb. 11:5-6). God is pleased with his Son, only with his Son. God is pleased with us in his Son, only in his Son (Matt. 17:5; Eph. 1:6). Yet, our God is pleased with our feeble efforts to please him for his Sonís sake (1 Pet. 2:5). In this sense too, regarding the will of Godís holy pleasure, we say, ďI delight to do thy will, O God.Ē We delight to trust Christ as our only, all-sufficient Substitute and Savior.
3. We are assured in the Bible that all things
††††† obey the secret will of Godís eternal purpose.
††††††††††† Read Deuteronomy 29:29. Moses certainly does not there suggest that we can know nothing about divine predestination, or that God does not intend for us to study the subject. The only thing Moses is telling us is this -- We do not know what God has predestined and what must come to pass. However, we do know what God requires of us; and that is our duty.
It is a clearly revealed fact that the Lord our God has purposed, decreed, and predestinated all things that have ever come to pass and all things that ever shall come to pass, without exception (Psa. 115:3; 135:6; Isa. 46:10; Dan. 4:35; Acts 2:23; 4:27-28; 13:48; Rom. 8:28-30; 9:15-18; I Cor. 5:18; Eph. 1:11). In this sense, everything that is, has been, or shall be is the will of God. God is absolutely sovereign in directing the affairs of the universe. His will of purpose includes all things, evil as well as good, sin as well as salvation, error as well as truth. And Godís will of purpose is always, perfectly accomplished in and by all things. That is not a secret thing, but a revealed thing.
††††††††††† With regard to Godís will of purpose, we must understand that God wills whatever he does in providence (Job 23:13; Eph. 1:11). God acts voluntarily in all that he does. He is never compelled to do anything. Creatures do not force the hand of the Creator. The clay does not mold the potter. The potter molds the clay. God does in providence whatever he willed to do from eternity (Acts 15:18). Nothing comes to pass in time except that which God purposed in eternity. And nothing purposed by our God in eternity fails to come to pass in time. If God could will, desire, or purpose to do anything that he failed to accomplish, he would not be omnipotent. Godís will of purpose includes all things (Ps. 76:10; Pro. 16:4).
C.D. Cole stated the doctrine of Scripture very clearly -† Godís ďwill includes whatsoever comes to pass. Hence, everything that comes to pass is providential and not accidental so far as God is concerned. He worketh all things after the counsel of his own will (Eph. 1:11).Ē He goes on to explain, ďThe will of God includes the wicked actions of sinful men, but does not take away their blameworthiness. We may not see how this can be, but the Scriptures declare it and we should believe it. The Scriptures were not written to confirm our reasoning, but rather to correct it. On the day of Pentecost Peter said, concerning Jesus, ĎHim being delivered by the determinate counsel (will) and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slainí (Acts 2:23). And on a later occasion he said that Herod and Pilate, the Gentiles and the people of Israel were gathered together ĎFor to do whatsoever thy hand and thy counsel (will) determined (Gk. predestinated) to be doneí (Acts 4:27-28). We may not be able to see how God can will or determine a sin without becoming the author of sin, but the fact remains that the greatest of all sins, the slaying of the Son of God, was divinely ordained.Ē
The will of God, his eternal purpose of predestination, is in every way consistent with the character of his Being. It is his eternal will. It is his immutable will. It is his sovereign will. It is his unconditional will. It is his† effectual will. It is his wise and holy will. And Godís will, his purpose of grace, is the cause of our salvation (John 1:11-13; Rom. 8:28-30; James 1:18).
Because depraved rebels are ever bent upon perverting the things of God, a few words of caution regarding the will of Godís purpose are needful. The sovereignty of Godís purpose does not destroy manís responsibility, or even his will. Manís sin has put his will in bondage to sin, not Godís purpose. The universality of Godís purpose does not make God the author of sin. God is not the author of sin; but he is the author of the good which he accomplishes by overruling sin. God does not bear the blame for our ruin by the sin and fall of our father Adam; but he does get all the credit and praise for our recovery by his grace. He does not bear the blame for manís hatred toward and crucifixion of his Son; but he does receive all praise, honor, and glory as the author of that redemption accomplished by his Sonís death in the place of his people.
It must also be stated emphatically that the immutability of Godís purpose does not imply that God made some just to damn them. He did make all men just to save some men for the glory of his own great name; and believing hearts rejoice to praise his sovereign wisdom and grace. When we hear God say regarding all things, ďI will do all my pleasure,Ē we rejoice to bow before him and say, ďThy will be done,Ē ďI delight to do thy will, O God.Ē
ďThy will, not mine, O Lord, However dark it be;
O lead me by Thine own right hand, Choose out my path for me.
I dare not choose my lot; I would not if I might;
Choose Thou for me, O Lord my God, So shall I walk aright.
Take Thou my cup, and it With joy or sorrow fill;
As ever best to Thee may seem, Choose Thou my good and ill.
Not mine, not mine the choice In things both great and small;
Be Thou my guide, my guard, my strength, My wisdom, and my all.Ē
4. Is it possible for a believer to
††††† miss or be out of the will of god?
††††††††††† Without question, insofar as Godís revealed will, his precept, and his pleasure is concerned, a believer can miss, disobey, and be out of the will of God. Any act of sin, unbelief, or disobedience, and act, movement, or decision, made contrary to the direction of the Holy Spirit is, in that sense, out of Godís will. The thing which David did in the matter of Uriah ďdispleased the LordĒ (2 Sam. 11:27). Yet, Godís purpose was accomplished. Our Redeemer came into the world through the union of David and Bathsheba. Elimelech was out of Godís will of pleasure and precept in going down to Obed-Edom; but his disobedience was overruled by God to accomplish his will of purpose and predestination for the salvation of his elect.
††††††††††† Let it be understood and emphatically clear that no one, and no action performed by anyone, is ever out of the will of Godís purpose! ďHe worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.Ē Godís purpose is always accomplished, even when we are disobedient to his revealed will. That fact does not lessen our responsibility to any degree; but it does give us reason to adore and worship our God, whose purpose is ever wise and good. Even when it is contrary to our will, our choice, and our actions, believers still declare, honestly,, ďI delight to do thy will, O God.Ē
5. How can we know the will of god?
No one can determine what Godís will is for you, except you. Paul said, ďI conferred not with flesh and blood.Ē If we seek to find Godís will for us by the counsel of other men, we are sure to miss it. God reveals his will to those who seek it in three ways: (1.) By his Word, (2.) By his Spirit, and (3.) By his providence. And he will reveal his will to all who truly seek his will in faith (Pro. 3:5-6). Let this be our prayer - ďThy will be done!Ē Let this be our determination - ďI delight to do thy will, O God.Ē Let this be our attitude - ďIt is the Lord, let him do what he will.Ē