Menu Keys

On-Going Mini-Series

Bible Studies

Codes & Descriptions

Class Codes
[a] = summary lessons
[b] = exegetical analysis
[c] = topical doctrinal studies
What is a Mini-Series?
A Mini-Series is a small subset of lessons from a major series which covers a particular subject or book. The class numbers will be in reference to the major series rather than the mini-series.

Scripture References

Scripture references on this site can be viewed by hovering your mouse cursor over the reference to see a pop-up window with the verse displayed. If you wish to use a different version of the Bible, you can make that selection below.

 

Bible Options

 

If you have Logos Bible Study Software installed, you can check Libronix to bring the scripture reference up in Logos.

The Doctrine of The Will of God. Col 3:15

Colossians 3:15 NASB "Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful."

We are looking at the questions that relate to how we know the will of God and how we know what God wants us to do. All of this really relates to the basic topic of, how do we make decisions? How do we make decisions about what we will not do and what we will do in our life? How do we make decisions about how we will utilise our time? The Scripture talks about "redeeming the time." It is so easy to waste time, to fritter away time. It is also easy to get a little over-obsessed with doing everything right and becoming a workaholic simply because we are afraid we might waste a minute or two. There has to be time for recreation, for relaxation. This is why God built the Sabbath principle into the Mosaic Law. It was to force a time of rest which emphasised also a time of dependence upon God for everything in life and to reflect upon who God is and what He has done for us. Now the Sabbath is not a part of the church age mandates, but the principle of that time of rest still is. So we have to learn to balance. That is probably the toughest word to deal with when we talk about priorities in decision making. Some of the decisions that we make are not always that monumental, not always that huge. Sometimes we are just talking about the day-to-day decisions, and so many things in our lives turn on small decisions. Those small decisions often can direct significant areas of our life. So it is not always the big decisions that we are talking about, it is how we manage time, how we manage the resources that God gives us on a day-to-day basis. All of this is part of understanding the will of God, because the real issue here is, how do we make decisions in light of God's will?

Paul is saying in verse 15 that this "peace of God" is something that should truly act as an umpire but we have to understand what the peace of God means, and it is the same thing that is said in Hebrews 12:14: that we are to pursue peace with all people. It is an objective rule. That fits the context much better than the idea of some internal peace. If we look at the context in verses 12-14 Paul is coming to a conclusion about the new life and the qualities of the new life of the believer. As the elect of God, i.e. the choice ones of God, "holy and beloved," and then we are to do something. This is the will of God, we are supposed to "put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience; bearing with one another, and forgiving each other …" That is applying the rule of peace. When there is not peace between those in the body of Christ then it usually becomes "we are not bearing with one another and putting up with one another, or forgiving one another as Christ has forgiven us." Then in verse 14 Paul says, "Beyond all these things {put on} love, which is the perfect bond of unity [maturity]." It is after that that he says to let the peace of God rule or govern your life. So it is because we have peace with God in reconciliation we have peace with others in the body of Christ.

There are some things we can't always fix. There are people who are going to go into various forms of carnality and will reject truth, and there will be a state of disharmony, antagonism, enmity between us and some believers, and there is nothing we can do about it. Quit feeling guilty about that, it is choices that other believers make that set up this problem. As a result of that we just pray for them that God will work in their life to open their eyes to the truth and face the arrogance of their own actions and return to a walk with the Lord in terms of humility. We can pursue peace only to a certain extent and if others do not respond then there is nothing more that we can do.

We began the doctrine of the will of God, talking about the position that is frequently taught in many evangelical circles, the idea of living in the centre of God's will. It is often represented by a circle with a dot in the middle, telling us that we have to be living on X marks the spot of God's will or we are out of God's will. We may be out of God's will a little bit or a lot but if we are living in carnality and we miss God's will—we picked the wrong college or university, picked the wrong spouse, picked the wrong career—then large decisions like that mean we are just going to be off for the rest of our life and will never really experience the best that God has for us in our lives. But if we think about that, it is such an affront to the grace of God: that we could make such a decision that is would destroy or damage the rest of our life. We are not saying there are not consequences for our decisions, but God's grace always provides some sort of recovery. God's will doesn't work this way, as we see in the Scripture.

This idea that God has a specific will for how and what each believer thinks, that God has a specific operational will for each believer, or that He has a specific geographical will for every believer at every time. It is the word "every" that we have to pay attention to. What we are saying is that there are times when God does have a specific operational will or geographical will for certain people at certain times. We can't miss it. Jonah tried to miss it and is a classic example. When God wants us at X marks the spot we can't choose to be anywhere else. God will get us to that spot, so we don't have to worry that somehow we are going to make the wrong decision. We just have to trust God, and even if we do make the wrong decision it won't work out.

We have some technical terms in relation to the will of God. One is God's sovereign will, which has to do with what God determines will take place—what God has decreed will happen as opposed to what God expresses His desire to be. We can only know the sovereign will of God after the fact. A second category is God's moral will or His revealed will. This is included in the Scripture; it is what God says He wants us to do. What we find when we look at the Scripture is that when God does have specific things He wants a person to do He reveals that to them through special revelation. So His specific will, functional will, operational and geographical will that we find in the Scripture is always expressed through some sort of special revelation. E.g. Ezekiel 4:1-4; Acts 10 where God reveals to Peter a new dimension of His plan that is now going to include Gentiles within this new spiritual body that we call the church, and He sends an angel who appears in a vision. Then the category is God's overriding will, e.g. Jonah.

God's sovereign will also includes His permissive will or what He allows people to do. We don't know God's sovereign will until it happens. We will define the will of God in terms of a large circle, because that circle is really defined by the mandates, the imperatives and the prohibitions in the Scripture. There are over 560 imperative moods in the New Testament, just from Acts to Jude. Some of those are prohibitions, but there are more ways to express a command in Greek than just using an imperative mood verb. There are imperatival participles, sometimes subjunctives that are used as a sort of first person plural "let us do this"—another way of stating a command, and so there are a lot of different ways that God expresses His will but there is a minimum of 560 commands, specific imperative mood verbs. So there are probably a thousand or more in the Scripture that define this circle of what is God's revealed will to us.

When we are walking in the light, we are walking according to Scripture, we are obedient to Scripture, we are in fellowship, we are doing all of the things that God says to do—praying without ceasing, walking in peace with one another, forgiving one another, consistent in our study of the Word—all of the many, many different things that are part of what should characterise the maturing, spiritually-oriented believer, then we are in God's will. When we sin we are out of fellowship, we are out of God's will; we are living on the basis of the sin nature and anything and everything that we do when we are energised by the flesh is by definition out of God's will. It doesn't matter of we are doing what God says to do—such as study the Word, memorize the Word, pray, witness, whatever—if we are doing it in the energy of the flesh we are still out of fellowship and out of God's will. We can do what God wants us to do but do it the wrong way, so we are out of God's will. That is where we ought to be focussing our energy. Too often when we ask the question, what is God's will, we are thinking in terms of the big issues in life: someone to marry, where to live, whether to buy this house or that house, go to this school or that school, accept this job offer or that job offer. When we look at the Scripture the issue of the will of God is always oriented toward that moment by moment life, that walk of dependency upon God the Holy Spirit that is going to bring forth a character, and is going to establish and build in us the character of Jesus Christ.

So inside of God's will is basically walking in fellowship with God in obedience to the Word; outside of God's will is when we are out of fellowship.

God's sovereign will. Daniel 4:35 NASB "All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, But He does according to His will in the host of heaven [relating to the angelic conflict] And {among} the inhabitants of earth; And no one can ward off His hand Or say to Him, 'What have You done?'" Nebuchadnezzar recognises the authority of God. God is in absolute and complete control. That doesn't mean that God is manipulating every being with intelligence (angels and human beings) as if they have no volitional responsibility, but it does mean that ultimately God is in charge and in control of history. It doesn't matter what political decisions are made, what judicial decisions are made; it doesn't matter how chaotic things appear to be around us, God is in control. God is often teaching us in the chaos of human events that we really need to get our eyes off of human solutions and on to divine solutions.

People have been upset this last week because of the Supreme Court decision and a lot of people have been upset for the past four years over political decisions, but probably the reason God continues to let this country spiral down into this morass of socialism is because Christians put too much focus on the political solution and not enough on the spiritual solution; their hope is based on man and not on God. Until believers in this country start getting their focus on the Lord and off of their own little self-absorbed issues we are going to continue to go down hill. It is all about self-absorption in this whole culture and the church is becoming the classic example; it is more self-absorbed than most pagans are. It is almost unbelievable what is happening in Christianity among those who ought to know better.

Proverbs 21:1 NASB "The king's heart is {like} channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes." Whoever the king is, or president or prime minister, ultimately God is in control. He is the one who is moving history according to His plan and not according to your plan or my plan or somebody else's plan. He allows things in His sovereign will; that is a category we call His permissive will—allowing morally free agents to make bad decisions. This is why there is evil in the world. Often people look at things that are going on in the world and say, how can a good God let these things happen? A good God lets these things happen because He allows His creatures to exercise their moral responsibility, which means that just as they are free to do good things they are free to do evil things, and to stop that would bring an end to human history and human civilization. So God in His will is allowing people to make really bad decisions that bring horrible consequences and suffering into the lives of untold millions because that is all part of the lesson that God is demonstrating within the angelic conflict which is the greater good.

Revelation 4:1 NASB "After these things I looked, and behold, a door {standing} open in heaven, and the first voice which I had heard, like {the sound} of a trumpet speaking with me, said, 'Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.'" This is where there is a major shift from the things that are to the things that will take place after these things. This is the opening verse of the prophetic section of Revelation. There are certain things in history that must take place. There are other things that are optional. The issue for us is, are we going to exercise our decision-making responsibilities on the basis of God's Word so that He can be glorified in our life?

Ephesians 1:11 NASB "also we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined …" "Predestined" " … has to do not with God choosing who will be saved or not but that our ultimate destiny with Him is set. "… according to His purpose who works all things after the counsel of His will." Again, God works out, oversees, supervises all things according to His will which is based upon His omniscience. In Romans 9:19 Paul talks about the fact that no one can resist God's will.          

The specifics of God's decreed or sovereign will are secret, un-revealed and unknown. We can't know it ahead of time; they cannot be known until after the fact. Once something happens we know God allowed that; that was His decree, His sovereign will. It doesn't mean that is His desired will, it means what He allowed to take place. Human history is the outworking of this decree of God. His sovereign will includes His permissive will which allows for the actions of free moral agents. We can make decisions that are contrary to His revealed will (living in sin).

Examples: He told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil. That was His revealed will. He told Abraham that he was to leave Ur of the Chaldees, leave his family behind and go to the place God would show him. He told the Israelites that they were to enter the land that God had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and that they were to annihilate the Canaanites. He also in the Mosaic Law has the mandate, "Do not murder." However, in God's sovereign will He allows the freedom for Adam and Eve to eat from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil which plunged the human race into sin. He allowed Abraham to leave Ur of the Chaldees and to drag along his father. Because of his father he stayed at Haran for a few extra years. And he took Lot along who was the source of subsequent problems. God often lets us only partially obey him but later on it shows up with some other problems. The Israelites, instead of fearing God feared the Canaanites and failed to trust God, and so that generation was not allowed to enter the land. In violation of the mandate not to murder God's sovereign will included the illegal execution of Jesus on the cross.

So God's sovereign will is not something that is known ahead of time; only His revealed will. So when we raise the issue in our life as to what we are to do the issue is: we are to study the Word, we are to walk with the Lord in the light of His Word, we are to talk in the light, we are to follow all of these mandates in Scripture. And of we are doing that then God is going to make His will and path clear to us. That is the principle of Proverbs 3:5, 6 NASB "Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him …" That is putting doctrine first and putting your spiritual life first. " … And He will make your paths straight."