Will of God

April 29, 2007   Adult Class

Question:  “Is everything that happens God’s will?  How does our free will work with God’s will?  Does sin “mess up” God’s will or does he still use our sin to accomplish his will?

Towards an Answer: 

            Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Ed. W. Elwell, “Will of God”  p. 1172

            Systematic Theology, W. Grudem, p. 211-216

Theologians have made some helpful distinctions.  Let’s look at these and compare them with some scriptures:

God’s will is Necessary and Free

            Necessary – His will, within himself, shown in his actions and laws must be consistent with his own character.  For example:  God does not lie.

            (II Timothy 2:13; Hebrews 6:18, James 1:13, I Sam 15:29, Numbers 23:19)


            Free – His will is free with regard to his creation.  His actions in creation, preservation and salvation were freely chosen.

            (Is 43:7; 48:9-11; Rom 11:36; I Cor. 8:6; Eph 1:12; Rev 4:11)

God’s will is Secret and Revealed

            Secret (or “Hidden” or “Decretive”) – God has determined by his own plan (or decrees) known only to himself, how everything will be accomplished.  It is all inclusive (Ephesians 1:11) and not revealed to us in full (Dt 29:29).

            (Ps 115:3, Dan 4:17, 25, 32, 35; Rom 9:18-19; 11:33-24; Eph 1:5, 9, 11, Rev 4:11)

            Revealed (or “Preceptive”) – God revealed to us what he wants us to do, “his will”, though his commands, laws, precepts and teachings in the scriptures. 

            (Mt 7:21; 12:50; Jn 4:24, Rom 12:2; 20:8, Dt 30:14)

Exploring the distinctions:  the question has to do mostly with God’s Revealed or his Secret will:  Let’s discuss the following examples to see if these distinctions make any sense.

 “Is everything that happens God’s (necessary/free/revealed/secret) will?”

Class discussion – Things occure as part of God overall plan of everything.  Nothing surprises Him.  However, our rebellions are contrary to God’s revealed will whenever we violate the word of scripture or reject the witness of natural revelation.

“How does our free will work with God’s (necessary/free/revealed/secret) will?”

We are able to make choices to to good or bad things.  God’s secret (overall plan) is not diverted or overturned – as if he should say, “Oops, I didn’t think that would happen!”  Our freedom allows us to disobey God’s revealed commands.

“Does sin Mess up God’s (necessary/free/revealed/secret) will?”

It contradicts his revealed will (the laws, commands, wisdom of scripture) and it contradicts his character (necessary will) but it does not mess up God’s overall plan – as he knew sin was part of what would happen.

“Or does God use our sin to accomplish his (necessary/free/revealed/secret) will?

Without excusing us, yes.  Examples oare Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  Pharoah’s hardness of heart in the Exodus.  Pilate’s question, “What is the truth?”.    While contradicting his commands (revealed will) his plan is still accomplished.  Consider the verse: 

“But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquties; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.”  Isaiah 53:5

When we pray, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done…” are we asking for God’s secret will or his revealed will to be done?

When we ask for his Kingdom to come, we are asking for what God has revealed to be in our future to actually happen.  We are asking that his revealed will come to be.  Even while we know that God knows when it will happen already. 

Does I Tim 2:4 and 2 Peter 3:9 refer to God’s secret or revealed will?

Scripture indicates that not everyone will be saved.  However, it is God’s revealed invitation (the Gospel) that all who will come in faith will be saved.  These verses refer to God’s revealed will.  In his overall all plan (secret will) he knows that many will not be saved – if you don’t believe that to be true, read the Book of Revelation!

Does James 4:15 refer to God’s secret or revealed will?

There does not appear to be any command to go or not to go on the business trip.  It is not a matter of God’s revealed will, but a matter of wisdom.  However, in that God has an overall plan for everything (secret will) he alone knows what will happen – whether they will be able to go, arrive, do business, make a profit and return.  This verse refers to the hidden will of God.

Are these things always neat and satisfying? 

See Habakkuk 1


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