What is God’s Will?
Many people are interested in knowing God’s Will for their life. Perhaps you are one of them. But most people are confused about God’s Will because the term is used to describe three different ideas. The goal of this Bible study is to help Christians understand God’s Will by explaining these three concepts regarding the Will of God.
Most sincere Christians would say they want to do God’s Will, particularly when they need to make a big decision. Unfortunately, knowing the Will of God seems like an elusive mystery to most people. We are often confused about how to be wise, “understanding what the Will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).
This confusion is partly due to three different concepts all being referred to as “God’s Will.” They are God’s “Perfect Will,” His “Proscribed Will” (which is revealed in His Word), and His “Predetermined Will” (or Plan).
1. God’s Perfect Will
The first “Will of God” is the idea that God may have a “Perfect Will” for our lives. Many preachers and teachers talk about “God’s Perfect Will.” So, Christians often wonder whether there is a “Perfect Will of God” for their lives, and if there is, how they can know it. They may be especially concerned about this when they have a big decision to make.
It should be noted that God’s Word never uses the term “the perfect will of God” or “God’s perfect will.” Some English versions (including the KJV) translate the end of Romans 12:2 as “that good, and acceptable (or pleasing), and perfect, will of God.” But the Greek original reads “that you may discern what the will of God is, the good and acceptable and perfect.” And teleios (the Greek word translated as “perfect”) means complete or mature.
The command in Romans 12:2 is not to do the perfect will of God. It is to stop conforming to the image of the world. Instead, we are exhorted to allow ourselves to be continually transformed by the renewing of our minds through the work of the indwelling Holy Spirit. Then we will be able to understand God’s Will by what is good, spiritually mature and pleasing to God.
So, “God’s Perfect Will” can be better understood as God’s Preferred Will, that which is good, spiritually mature and pleasing to God. The Preferred Will of God is what God desires. But even though God is omnipotent, His Preferred Will is often ignored or rejected in this sin cursed world. God allows this as a natural consequence of creating us in His image with a free will.
See pages 11–12 of “How to Understand God’s Will” for more discussion on the Perfect Will of God, which can be better understood as God’s ‘Preferred’ Will.
2. God’s Proscribed Will
If only there were a way to know what God desires so we could do it. . . Oh wait, there is. God has revealed it to us in His Word, the Bible.
God’s second Will is “His Proscribed Will.” God has clearly revealed many do’s and don’ts (positive precepts and prohibitions), and other guiding principles in His Word to show us how He wants us to live.
If only there were a way to know what God desires
These principles are often referred to as the “Moral” or “Revealed” Will of God. God does not want people to sin; He desires love, holiness, and obedience instead.
The best-known prohibitions in the Bible are the 8 “Thou shalt not . . .” commands in the Ten Commandments. Doing anything the Bible has expressly prohibited is sin.
The Bible contains hundreds of positive precepts (commands) as well. Failing to do what God has commanded us to do is also sin.
The Two Greatest Commandments:
Of all the commands in the Bible, Jesus revealed the two greatest commands which are the most important to obey.
The Greatest Commandment:
The greatest commandment is:
Thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.(Deuteronomy 6:5; 10:12; 11:1, 13; 13:3; 30:6; Joshua 22:5; Matthew 22:37-38; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27)
The Second Greatest Commandment:
Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself(Leviticus 19:18, 34; Matthew 19:19; 22:39-40; Mark 12:31; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8-10; James 2:8)
For all the law is fulfilled . . . in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.(Galations 5:14)
1. We should love God with all our heart, mind, soul, and strength. This is Godlike ‘agape’ love, which is a choice, not based on feeling. This precept means God should take first place in your life relative to everything else. You should love God more than your family, friends, possessions, and even your own life. If you truly love God, you will want to do the things that please Him.
2. We should love our neighbor as ourselves. This also refers to Godlike ‘agape’ love, and it applies to all people (as in the story Jesus told of “the good Samaritan”), not just the people who live near you. If you love others as yourself, you will treat them the way you want to be treated; with kindness, generosity and respect.
While the two greatest commandments set a high bar, they are simple Principles that are easy to remember and understand. If we live by these two ‘Positive Precepts,’ we won’t need to worry about remembering all the rest.
As we seek to love God with all our heart, mind and soul, we should remember that Jesus said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments” (John 14:15), and “He that hath My commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth Me” (John 14:21). He also taught us that the way to abide in His love was by keeping His commandments (John 15:10).
Jesus said, “If ye love Me, keep My commandments”
So, the way we please God is by loving Him enough to keep His Proscribed Will revealed in the Bible, which includes loving Him with all our heart, mind and soul, and loving others as ourselves.
3. God’s Predetermined Will
God’s third Will is “His Predetermined Will,” which can be thought of as “God’s Plan.” God’s predetermined plan is certain and unchanging. Before God created the world, He had already determined everything that would happen.
Nothing has ever caught God by surprise. Before “the beginning,” He already knew everything that would be.
God is purposeful; His plan is not random. Everything He predetermined was chosen for a reason. So, “God’s Predetermined Will” is sometimes referred to as His “Purpose.”
Our all-knowing God already knew us before He created the universe
This purposeful Plan of God is what people are often referring to when they talk about predestination, destiny, or “God’s Sovereign Will.”
Because God has already predetermined everything that will happen, we cannot deviate from His plan. His predetermined plan will be accomplished. Everything we will ever think, say and do was already built into God’s plan before He spoke the world into existence.
We are still responsible for our thoughts and actions, because God created us in His image, with a free will and gave us the ability to make choices. However, our all-knowing God already knew us before He created the universe.
Before time began, by His ‘foreknowledge’, God already knew how we would use our free will, including every choice we would make. God’s omnipotent power and omniscient wisdom enabled Him to weave all our choices (good and bad) into His predetermined plan.
Whatever you do, God has already woven you into His Plan
You don’t have to worry about living God’s Predetermined Will because you can’t miss it. Whether you choose good or evil, love God or reject God, whatever you do, God has already woven you into His Plan.
For more information on how God’s Predetermined Will relates to predestination, election, and foreknowledge, please see “What are Predestination, Election and Foreknowledge?”
God does not want us to be unwise, “but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17). So don’t be foolish, but understand God’s Will and behave wisely.
This post has sought to clear up confusion caused by there being three different concepts that are referred to as “the Will of God.” They are: God’s Perfect (preferred) Will, God’s Proscribed (revealed) Will, and God’s Predetermined Will (His Plan).
If you would like guidance on how to make wise decisions that will please and honor your Heavenly Father, please see pages 29–34 of “How to Understand God’s Will” for “Practical Principles for Decision Making.”
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