The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)



The Bible has much to say regarding the "will of God." However, organization of the material is a complex task. Two words in the Greek New Testament basically represent the concept of the Divine will. Boule (and its kindred forms) suggest the idea of God's purpose or counsel (cf. Luke 7:30; Acts 2:23), and thelema denotes what Jehovah wills as a result of His desire (John 4:34; 5:30).  Some suggest that the former term gives prominence to the intellectual will, while the latter emphasizes the emotive will (cf. J. H. Thayer, Greek Lexicon, p 286). Jehovah knows what is best for mankind, and He wants us to conform to the proper standard. The will of God may be considered under several topical arrangements.


The Ideal Will of God


The ideal will of God represents that state of affairs which is wholly consistent with the character of the Creator. Ideally, for example, God would have us not sin, not even one time (so the force of the original verb in 1 John 2:1), but He granted men and women freedom of choice. We have abused that gift and sin has marred our planet. It is the ideal will of God that all sinners accept His plan of redemption (1 Tim. 2:4), so that not a single soul will be lost (2 Pet. 3:9). But the tragic fact is, many reject the divine counsel (cf. Luke 7:30) and thus will be lost (Matt. 7:13). The ideal will of God does not prevail on earth as it does in heaven (cf. Matt. 6:10). It is not the ideal will of God that suffering and death be the plight of humanity, but these are effects that have come in the wake of rebellion (Rom. 5:12).


The Permissive Will of God


The permissive will of God has to do with conditions which our Maker allows us (without approval) to obtain, due to the fact that He has constituted us as creatures of volition. Humans are beings of choice. This means that we must be granted the option of choosing either good or evil (i.e., that which is consistent with the will of God or that which is deviate from it). If we are to learn the value of choosing the good over the evil, there must be negative consequences attached to wrong-doing. Accordingly, the Lord has allowed an environment to exist wherein the devastating consequences of sin become dreadfully apparent, e.g., in pain and suffering. He does not will it ideally, but He allows it permissively (cf. 1 Pet. 4:19). This distinction must be recognized by the devout student of the Bible.


The Active Will of God


The active will of God involves the intervention of deity into the events of human history. This concept stands in opposition to the philosophy of deism, the idea that the Creator is an absentee God with no interest in earthly affairs. The active will of Jehovah may be expressed in two ways. He may act directly, as in the case of miracles. When Herod exalted himself, God acted directly and took the ruler's life (Acts 12:23). Biblical evidence indicates that the Lord is not operating miraculously today (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8f; Eph. 4:8-16). However, God does act in an indirect way in this age. We call it providence. Providence is divine activity through means. Jehovah used Joseph as a deliverer of the nation of Israel (Gen. 45:5-9), yet from the human vantage point, the events appeared perfectly natural. Heaven's will is providentially reflected in the bestowal of blessings which satisfy the Christian's every need according to the riches of divine glory (Phil. 4:19).


The Decreed Will of God


The decreed will of God might be described as the implementation of the purposes of the divine mind. Christ was delivered up according to the "determinate counsel" and foreknowledge of God (Acts 2:23). As a means of reconciling sinful man to the holy God (2 Cor. 5:18), the Heavenly Father appointed Christ (Acts 3:20) to be a tested (Isa. 28:16) but innocent sacrifice (Heb. 4:15). This agreement allowed God to be just, and yet be the justifier of tarnished man, who in faith, submits to Christ (Rom. 3:25-26). The "mystery" of this plan, not fully understood in former ages, is made known through the Gospel (Eph. 1:9; 3:3f). God has also decreed the ultimate destinies of people (Matt. 25:46).


The Objective Will of God


The objective will of God is made known in a body of written instruction that can be understood, believed, and obeyed. Note the following: (a) The divine will can be known (Luke 12:47; Col. 1:9), understood (Eph. 5:17), and tested (Rom. 12:2). (b) By the apostles it was fully proclaimed (Acts 20:27). (c) It is a teaching (John 7:17), which must be obeyed (Matt. 7:21; Eph. 6:6; Heb. 10:36; 13:21; 1 John 2:17), and not rejected (Luke 7:30). (d) By this holy will we are sanctified (1 Thess. 4:3; Heb. 10:10) and prepared for the Creator's presence. (e) In the divine will we must stand mature and maintain our confidence (Col. 4:12).


The Implied Will of God


Though the will of God is frequently made known in the form of statements (Mark 16:16), commands (Acts 2:38), and examples (as in the case of Gentile acceptance into the church - Acts 11:15-18), the Lord's will must sometimes be deduced from divine premises which have been given. Note an example: On his second missionary campaign, Paul and his companions were forbidden of the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia (Acts 16:6). Again, when they attempted to go into Bithynia, the Spirit would not permit it (v. 7). Obviously, the "soil" of honest hearts was more fertile elsewhere. When the company finally came to Troas, Paul saw a vision in the night in which a man of Macedonia kept begging, "Come over into Macedonia, and help us." Luke says that immediately "we sought to go forth into Macedonia, concluding that God has called us to preach the gospel unto them" (v. 10). The group had reasoned: (1) A vision has been seen urging us to help the people of Macedonia. (2) This vision was of such a nature that it can not be explained on any natural basis. (3) Thus, we must conclude that God wants us to preach in that region. Clearly the will of God can be logically implied, and such is as forceful as the more direct lines of communication.




God wants us to know and understand the workings of His will as much as we are able. Our prayer is for all Christians to continue their search of the Divine mind of God.

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