God’s will is something we often speak about and read about in his word, but what exactly is it? This is the question I want to answer over the weeks ahead.
Firstly it is important to distinguish that God has two wills: (i) his secret will; and (ii) his revealed will.
God’s secret will is making happen everything that he wants to do. Are there any limits to his secret will? No. Because God is sovereign, he can do whatever he wills. The reason this ‘will’ is called secret is because we usually don’t know what God has planned to happen.
An example of God’s secret will is the predestination of certain people for salvation: ‘For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will’ (Ephesians 1:4-5). Another more everyday example is given by Paul. As he leaves Ephesus Paul promised ‘I will come back if it is God’s will.’ (Acts 18:21). Paul knows he can only return to the city if God wants to bring him back, and because that is part of God’s secret will, Paul has no idea whether he will return – it is hidden from him.
Meanwhile God’s revealed will is what he wants us to do. What does God want us to do? Live according to his laws. And unlike his secret will, God has revealed to us in his word what his laws are so that we can obey them.
An example of God’s revealed will is given by Paul: ‘It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God’ (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5). The Thessalonian Christians are not heathens – they know God. And because they know God they know what God wants them to do – not engage in sexual immorality.
So when you read about God’s will in the Bible, always ask yourself which will is being spoken of here? God’s secret will by which he wills all things or his revealed will which he wants people to do. Also ask yourself whether you have kept his revealed will. If you’re honest you will admit that you haven’t and need to trust in Jesus to keep God’s will on your behalf and pay the penalty for all those times you’ve broken it.