“Discerning the Will of God.” Several excellent questions or comments have been made which I feel need to be addressed. I had at least six more ideas brewing for this little mini-series, and I hope to get back to them. Lord willing they will just simmer on the back burner and not evaporate. The first, excursus I want to take is to answer this question, “What is the Will of God?”
The Bible makes mention of the “will of God” very frequently. The bible uses a number of different words and terms to present this idea or concept to us, its readers. Some of those words are; “to will”; desire; favor; enjoy; have pleasure; and/or counsel.
The Apostle Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit really gets the “ball” rolling with the use of three major Greek words in Ephesians, chapter one. He writes in verse one, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” In verse five, Paul writes; “he [God] predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his [God] will.” Then Paul writes in verse eleven, “In him [Christ] we have obtained an inheritance according to the purpose him [God] who works all things according to the counsel of his [God] will.”
The first word that Paul uses in verse one is “thelema.” This word is used sixty two times in the New Testament and it means, “that which one has determined”; a choice. Paul was determined by God or chosen by God to be an apostle. He didn’t simply decide to become an apostle. Paul’s apostleship was determined by God. In this case, “thelema” gives us the idea that God determines things to take place. God as God and being absolutely sovereign takes it upon himself to determine that certain events or situations take place without fail.
The second word that Paul uses is in verse nine is “eudokia.” It is used of the will of God, but in the sense of delight or pleasure. God causes certain things to happen because it gives him pleasure and he delights in making these things happen or take place.
The third word that Paul uses is in verse eleven and it is “boule.” This word is used of God’s counsel or of God’s determined purpose. This is a very strong word.
These words bring us to an understanding that God’s will, his purpose, and/or his counsel is the final ground of all things. In other words, if God has determined or purposed that a thing takes place, then it will without fail. Why? Because God determined it.
We need to take a moment and make some comments that hopefully help us to understand this determination of God. First of all, God’s will, his determined purpose is necessary. It is necessary in that God since God in his perfection operates the various aspects or attributes of his character perfectly. As a result, certain things must take place in order to be in alignment with his character. For example, since God is comprised of love, that attribute will be discernible in various means that are determined or willed by God. Another example would be since God is comprised of justice, that attribute will be discernible in various means of events that are ‘just.” Note, before we go on that all of God’s attributes “work together” perfectly and harmonious. One attribute does not overshadow, control, or subjugate God’s other attributes. In other words, though God is love, love does not control wrath, or justice, or holiness, or mercy. God does not silence his wrath or anger in favor of his love. God loves those things and persons he has determined to love and God will display wrath or anger towards those things or persons he has determined to be angry with. All of the attributes operate harmoniously.
Secondly, God’s will or determination is free. In other words, God can not deny himself or his character. His will or determination will emanate forth. At the same time nothing can influence his will or determination. God will act in accordance with his character. Yes, we will discuss prayer in relationship to this also, just don’t let me forget.
There are some things that God must will or determine necessarily because it is in line with his character. God must or necessarily determine judgment and punishment for sin. His character demands it. God must or necessarily determine mercy and grace because his character demands it. God must or necessarily reveal himself to his creation because his character demands it.
Just as there are some things God must necessarily will or determine there are some things that God can not will or determine. These also are because of his character or nature.
• God can not will or determine to lie – Numbers 23:19
• God can not will or determine to lie or have regret – I Samuel 15:29
• God can not will or determine to be unfaithful to his character or word – II Timothy 2:13
• God can not will or determine to change what he has willed or purposed – Hebrews 6:17-18
• God can not will or determine to tempt man to sin – James 1:13
Please don’t demean God or this discussion and ask can God will or determine to create a rock so heavy that he can not pick it up or how many angels can God put on the head of a pin? Suffice it to say that God necessarily and freely wills purposes, determines, and takes pleasure in causing certain things. While, at the same time due to his character and nature cannot will, determine, purpose, or take pleasure in causing certain things to happen.
So, God’s will, God’s determine purpose, God’s good pleasure, or God’s counsel is identical with his being, or with his character and nature. God’s will or his determined council is always in line with his attributes working in perfect harmony. It is important to understand and to realize that one or more of God's attributes will never contradict, oppose, or otherwise negatively impact any other attribute or attributes of God. The attribute of love will never "trump" the attribute of wrath or anger will never trump love
This is why man, particularly true believers can find so much joy, satisfaction, and are able to rest in God’s will or God’s determine purpose or counsel. The things that happen are not fate, karma, fortune, luck, energy, or a mystery. Things that happen, or don’t happen for that matter, are determined, willed, counseled, or pleasured by a sovereign, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent God who is perfect in all he does.
I want to take some time tomorrow and finish off a definition and description of the what the will of the Lord is. Hopefully, on Friday, we can take a look at how this information pertains and applies to us personally in our daily lives.