The Will of God
W. E. Vine, Bath
All quotations are from the Revised Version
In the book of the Psalms the will of God is directly mentioned twice only. The first expresses a delight in doing God's will, Ps. 40. 8; and the second is a prayer to be taught to do it, Ps. 143. 10. In each case the Psalmist addressed the Lord as 'my God', suggesting his joy in the almighty power of Him whose will is the law of his life. The language of Psalm 40 tells prophetically of the perfect obedience of the Son of God to His Father in the days of His flesh; never did He deviate from the path of delighted subjection to His will. Of Him alone are the words absolutely true, 'Lo, I am come: in the roll of the book it is written of me; I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is within my heart', vv. 7, 8. His joy in the law of the Lord found expression in the constant fulfilment of His Father's will. In this the Father publicly manifested His infinite pleasure, when, on the occasion of His baptism He said: 'Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased', Luke 3. 22; and again on the Mount of Transfiguration, when He said: 'This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him', Matt. 17. 5. Three times in the Gospel according to John our Lord speaks of His fulfilment of the will of His Father. On the first occasion, addressing His disciples, He spoke of His satisfaction therein: 'My meat is to do the will of him that sent me', John 4. 34. On the second occasion, addressing the hostile Jews, He stated that the will of the Father was the purpose of His life: 'I seek not mine own will, but the will of him that sent me', John 5. 30. On the third occasion, addressing the multitude, He specified the great object for which He came to carry out that will: 'I am come down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. And this is the will of him that sent me, that of all that which he hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that every one that beholdeth the Son, and believeth on him, should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day', John 6. 38-40.
To the natural mind it might cause surprise that for the first thirty years of His life our Lord remained in the seclusion of His Jewish home, and that even subsequently in spite of the fact that there were vast regions lying in darkness outside Palestine, His public ministry was confined to that small tract of country. Yet we know that in this matter, as in everything else. He acted, not by the guidance of circumstances, but in unbroken communion with the Father and in accordance with His will. Nor has any one ever been able to impute to Him failure either in the plan of His work or in its method or in its effects. His cross and its results will prove to be a sufficient answer to any such charge. With His perfect example before us we may learn not to allow even the best natural considerations to turn us aside from what we know to be the will of God. If we so walk as He walked, we shall neither run in advance of God's leading, nor lag behind in neglect of it. It is almost as easy to be carried away by our zeal and to be over-engrossed in our service and its possibilities, instead of making the will of God our guide, as it is to fail to do His will through carelessness. Well may we take up the language of the Psalmist, 'Teach me to do thy will', Ps. 143. 10. From the teaching of Scripture we shall now consider some of the implications of this.
The Knowledge of the Will of God We are to 'be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding'. Col. I. 9. The will of God is thus to engage our whole being. This is more than a mere mental apprehension of it. We are to be led by it 'to walk worthily of the Lord unto all pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God', Col. 1. 10. These mighty effects in our Christian life are possible only according as we are enabled to discern the will of God 'in all spiritual wisdom and understanding'. Thus the three blessed results will follow: a worthy walk, fruitful service, culminating in the knowledge of God Himself. No one can have a higher knowledge than this; it comes by diligent and prayerful meditation on the Word of God, and by the practical fulfilment of it in our Christian life and conduct.
Understanding the Will of God We are to 'understand what the will of the Lord is', Eph. 5. 17. This is set in antithesis to the foolishness of not walking circumspectly; just as being filled with the Spirit is contrasted with drunkenness. An understanding of His will leads us to a careful walk, and a careful walk leads us to redeem the time. For all this we need the filling of the Spirit, and then, just as the drunkard is given up to the power of drink, so shall we be given up to the Spirit for power to do the will of God.
Proving the Will of God
We are to prove what the will of God is: 'I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God', Rom. 12. 1, 2. This ex-hortation may be summed up in the three words, consecration, separ-ation, transformation. For the carrying out of God's will there must be the consecration of our body to Him as a living sacrifice. Then we must walk in separation from that which would interfere with our whole-hearted service. The process of transformation will inevitably follow. A life consecrated to the Lord leads to conformity to His character.
Perfect and Complete in the Will of God
We are to 'stand perfect and fully assured in all the will of God', Col. 4. 12. The word 'complete' in the Authorized Version is rightly rendered in the Revised Version 'fully assured'. Our adversary, who in the wilderness endeavoured to tempt the Lord to depart from His Father's will, is ever seeking to lead us to do the same. He only consults 'to thrust him down from his excellency', Ps. 62. 4, as he consulted against our Lord. What is our excellency but pleasing God? Oh! for steadfastness in the faith! These are times of declension, perilous times. Let us, like Epaphras, wrestle in prayer for one another, that we may stand 'perfect and fully assured in all the will of God'.
Living to the Will of God We are to live 'to the will of God', 1 Pet. 4. 2. This the apostle sets in contrast to our former manner of life when we followed carnal desires. If standing in the will of God denotes unwavering adherence to it, living to the will of God suggests constant and whole-hearted occupation in it. This the apostle tells us is only possible as we arm ourselves with the same mind which characterized Christ: 'Forasmuch then as Christ suffered in the flesh, arm ye yourselves also with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin', 1 Pet. 4. 1. We shall not in this life become sinless, yet death to sin means a life lived to the will of God.
Doing the Will of God
We are to do the will of God from the heart: 'Not in the way of eye-service, as men-pleasers; but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart', Eph. 6. 6. These instructions are addressed to servants, but they arc applicable to all believers, inasmuch as all are servants of Christ. Literally the phrase is 'from the soul', and the immediate explanation of this is, 'with good will doing service as unto the Lord'. This is the first great motive: 'as unto the Lord'; another follows, namely, the prospect of reward: 'Knowing that whatsoever good thing each one doeth, the same shall he receive again from the Lord, whether he be bond or free', Eph. 6. 7, 8. The realization of the Lordship of Christ will prevent our service from becoming drudgery. The prospect of reward will enable us so to toil for Him as to anticipate eagerly the time when, having received our reward, we shall use it in perfect service for Him in His eternal kingdom. Further, we are to delight to do the will of God. The words of Psalm 40, already referred to, set before us the divine ideal; happy are we if in any measure we can say: 'I delight to do thy will, O my God'. The path of willing obedience is the path of prosperity and happiness. Such delight can only be enjoyed in the realization of the smile of our God and Father upon us. Be it ours, then, to cultivate that condition of soul day by day in which we can enjoy the presence of the Lord, and constant communion with Him. The Will of God for us
In the first Epistle to the Thessalonians there are two passages in which the will of God for us is definitely stated. First, in chapter 4 and verse 3: 'For this is the will of God, even your sanctification', and this is immediately defined as purity of life. In whatever way the passage may be understood, whether of married life or the body of the believer, God's will is that we should be set apart for Him, free from all that would contaminate and hinder us from enjoying the peace and happiness of a life of holiness. The second passage is in chapter 5 verse 16, 17 and 18: 'Rejoice alway; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus to you-ward'. If we are fulfilling the first condition of sanctification, we shall then and only then, be able to fulfil the second. May we be led more and more to realize that constant prayer, and thankfulness in every thing, are the commandments of God for us, the commandments of One who has our best interests in view.