The Will of God

Essential Truths of the Christian Faith

The Will of God
Doris Day sang a popular song entitled “Que Sera,
Sera,” “What will be, will
be.” At first glance this theme communicates a
kind of fatalism that is
depressing. Islamic theology frequently says of
specific events, “It is the
will of Allah.”

The Bible is deeply
concerned about the will of God—His sovereign authority
over His creation and
everything in it. When we speak about God’s will we do
so in at least three
different ways. The broader concept is known as God’s
decretive, sovereign,
or hidden will. By this, theologians refer to the will
of God by which He sovereignly ordains everything that comes to pass. Because
God is sovereign
and His will can never be frustrated, we can be sure that
nothing happens
over which He is not in control. He at least must “permit”
whatever happens
to happen. Yet even when God passively permits things to
happen, He chooses to permit them in that He always has the power and right to
intervene and
prevent the actions and events of this world. Insofar as He lets
happen, He has “willed” them in this certain sense.

Though God’s
sovereign will is often hidden from us until after it comes to
pass, there is
one aspect of His will that is plain to us—His preceptive will.
Here God
reveals His will through His holy law. For example, it is the will of
God that we do not steal; that we love our enemies; that we repent; that we be
holy. This aspect of God’s will is revealed in His Word as well as in
conscience, by which God has written His moral law upon our

His laws, whether they be found in the Scripture or in the heart,
are binding.
We have no authority to violate this will. We have the power or
the ability to
thwart the preceptive will of God, though never the right to
do so. Nor can we
excuse ourselves for sinning by saying, “Que sera, sera.”
It may be God’s
sovereign or hidden will that we be “permitted” to sin, as He
brings His
sovereign will to pass even through and by means of the sinful
acts of people.
God ordained that Jesus be betrayed by the instrument of
Judas’s treachery.
Yet this makes Judas’s sin no less evil or treacherous.
When God “permits” us
to break His preceptive will, it is not to be
understood as permission in the
moral sense of His granting us a moral right.
His permission gives us the
power, but not the right to sin.

The third
way the Bible speaks of the will of God is with respect to God’s
will of
disposition. This will describes God’s attitude. It defines what is
to Him. For example, God takes no delight in the death of the wicked,
yet He
most surely wills or decrees the death of the wicked. God’s ultimate
is in His own holiness and righteousness. When He judges the world,
delights in the vindication of His own righteousness and justice, yet He
not gleeful in a vindictive sense toward those who receive His judgment.
is pleased when we find our pleasure in obedience. He is sorely
when we are disobedient.

Many Christians become preoccupied
or even obsessed with finding the “will” of
God for their lives. If the will
we are seeking is His secret, hidden, or
decretive will, then our quest is a
fool’s errand. The secret counsel of God
is His secret. He has not been
pleased to make it known to us. Far from being
a mark of spirituality, the
quest for God’s secret will is an unwarranted
invasion of God’s privacy.
God’s secret counsel is none of our business. This
is partly why the Bible
takes such a negative view of fortune-telling,
necromancy, and other forms of
prohibited practices.

We would be wise to follow the counsel of John
Calvin when he said, “When God
closes His holy mouth, I will desist from
inquiry.” The true mark of
spirituality is seen in those seeking to know the
will of God that is revealed
in His preceptive will. It is the godly person
who meditates on God’s law day
and night. While we seek to be “led” by the
Holy Spirit, it is vital to
remember that the Holy Spirit is primarily
leading us into righteousness. We
are called to live our lives by every word
that proceeds from the mouth of
God. It is His revealed will that is our
business, indeed, the chief business
of our lives.

The three meanings
of the will of God:

(a)Sovereign decretive will is the will by which God
brings to pass whatsoever
He decrees. This is hidden to us until it happens.
/ (b)Preceptive will is
God’s revealed law or commandments, which we have the
power but not the right
to break. / (c)Will of disposition describes God’s
attitude or disposition. It
reveals what is pleasing to Him.

sovereign “permission” of human sin is not His moral approval.

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