Last week we saw a distinction in the will of God, he has a hidden will and a secret will. God’s hidden will controls all things while God’s revealed will is what he wants you to do. But if this distinction is true, isn’t it a contradiction? If God is in control of all things by his hidden will, doesn’t that include people doing or not doing his revealed will? Why reveal his will if God controls what we do anyway?

The Bible clearly shows that God’s hidden will is in control of everything that happens, even when man sins by breaking God’s revealed will. A classic example is Joseph’s brothers in the book of Genesis. The brothers had sinned terribly by selling Joseph into slavery but Joseph tells them that this sinful action was in God’s control: ‘You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives’ (Genesis 50:20). God’s hidden will was to save lives through the sinful actions of Joseph’s brothers. Yet the Bible also clearly shows that God cannot be held responsible when you do not do what his revealed will says. John tells us: ‘God is light; in him there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5). No evil can be pinned on God just because he is in control of all things by his hidden will.

The sovereignty of God and the responsibility of humans is one of the most difficult Christian doctrines. It is difficult because it is irreconcilable in our minds. Many theologians have tried to reconcile it but all they end up doing is one of two things: (i) They reduce God’s sovereignty by saying that man alone is in control of his actions; (ii) Or they reduce God’s goodness by attributing to God some responsibility for man’s sin.

The truth is that we have to choose what our authority is when we come to Christian doctrine. Do we allow our minds to have the authority and anything we don’t understand we say must be wrong? Or do we allow God’s word to be our authority and accept in faith those things that our mind cannot reconcile? This second option is not a dumb option. It admits that you are a finite creature with an infinite God who has greater wisdom than you. Thus there are going to be some things that God can reconcile which you cannot. Such as, God’s hidden will controlling you while you alone are responsible for not obeying his revealed will.

So what is your authority for understanding the will of God? Your small mind or God’s mind revealed in his word?

Joel Radford