Today, we begin a study on the Sevenfold Will of God. Many of us ask questions such as, “How do I know God’s will for my life? How do I know for sure that He is guiding me to make a particular decision? Does God have a personal plan for every one of His children? What about the question of man’s free will and self-determination as against God’s sovereignty?” Over the next few weeks, we will examine these somewhat perplexing questions in the light of Holy Scriptures.
What is meant by “God’s Will”?
One comment we often hear from Christians is: “Well, I have prayed over my decision, and believe it is God’s will for me.” This statement may be used, in some cases, to justify one’s actions or to “sanctify” one’s decision. How do we know if we are acting according to God’s will or just exercising an individual preference in our decision?
God’s Will – Fatalistic or Dynamic?
The lyrics of an old song, “Que Sera, Sera – whatever will be, will be…” reflect the fatalistic view of life. Advocates of this view believe in remaining passive and letting things happen naturally, as nothing in life can be changed or avoided.
God’s will, however, is dynamic. This means that His will is bound up in His wisdom and sovereignty. One writer commented: “When we say that God is sovereign, we are saying that He is the Almighty Ruler of the universe. In eternity past, God formulated a perfect plan for all of history. He determines how nations will act and how kings will rule. The world was created by His will and our salvation is the result of God working all things after the counsel of His sovereign will. No one or nothing can resist or frustrate God’s sovereign will. It will inevitably come to pass.” Let us look at two examples of God exercising His sovereign will:
• The Fall of Adam and Eve
Tempted by the serpent, Adam and Eve fell into sin by eating the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God had given our first parents a free will, but they chose to disobey God: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Gen. 2: 16-17). Here, we see God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility. God’s warning was clear. Certainly, it was God’s sovereign will for Adam and Eve to obey Him. But the couple yielded to their self-will, and partook of the fruit. That single act of disobedience not only brought bitterness and misery upon their lives, but also corruption upon the whole human race (Rom. 3: 10-12).
We may ask: “If it was God’s will for Adam and Eve to obey God, why did He not prevent them from sinning? Did He not, in His omniscience, know of the serpent’s subtlety? Could not the Lord foresee that our first parents would fall? Why did not God step in at the crucial point when they were about to yield to sin?”
When God gave Adam and Eve a free will, He also gave them the choice to go against His will. When they disobeyed God, the fallen pair had to face the consequences of their folly. Tragically, their fall separated them from the presence of God, and brought the curse of sin upon all mankind (Rom. 5: 12).
• The Crucifixion of Christ
In his sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter declared: “Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by Him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know: Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain” (Acts 2: 22-23).
The crucifixion of Christ was divinely ordained – according to “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”. It was God’s will for Christ to go to the cross for the redemption for sinners. His death was therefore in accordance with the pre-determined counsel of God. Peter wanted the Jews to understand that Christ was not delivered to them because He was not able to rescue Himself, but because God had decreed it.
From the very beginning, the omniscient God knew of the evil acts of the Jews against His Son, the Messiah of God. Notwithstanding their wicked designs and actions, “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure” (Isa. 46: 10). Those who procured Jesus’ death did what they did because God’s will had to be fulfilled to the very letter. None can foil God’s perfect plan of salvation through His only begotten Son. This truth is reflected in Jesus’ declaration concerning the evil plan of Judas Iscariot to betray Him according to God’s pre-ordained will: “And truly the Son of man goeth, as it was determined: but woe unto that man by whom he is betrayed!” (Lk. 22: 22).
We thank God that He exercises absolute control over every single event in our lives. Though God is sovereign, He gives us a free will. In the exercise of that free will, however, man’s choices – even their wicked motives and acts – will fall within the purview of His pre-ordained counsel. In spite of our depravity, God is able to accomplish His perfect will because He is sovereign.
God executes His plans and purposes despite the evil acts of man. His decrees do not interfere with man’s freedom. Though God knows and permits our sinful acts, we are still responsible for every decision and action – we cannot excuse ourselves on the basis of “the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God”. (… to be continued)