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The Two Wills of God

There are so many ideas out there about God’s will.

In the decision-making episode, we brought up Colossians 1:9-10, “we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. . . .”

It’s interesting to read both the Gospel of John and 1 John, and how there’s a consistent reference of knowing and doing the will of God.  It’s inextricably linked to knowing God.

The will of God is huge and covers all parts of our lives, but it’s also often misunderstood by countless believers leading to much pain, sorrow, and foolishness that was not necessary.

Our approach on this topic is to begin with the Bible. People will use many methods, but we’re interested in what the Bible say about God’s will?  Not only does the Bible reveals God’s will itself (the content), but it also reveals how we can know God’s will.

Bad theology proper leads to bad decisions in general.

Example is open theism, once a heresy and now embraced by many who claim to be Christians.

The idea being pressed forward is that God knows everything that’s knowable.  But God cannot know anything that is not knowable.

Open theism states, that since man is created by God as a free agent, he’s able to make decisions that God could not have known beforehand.

Again, this is because those decisions and actions did not yet exists. Therefore, they weren’t knowable.

One man, Greg Boyd, wrote, “In the Christian view God knows all of reality –– everything there is to know. But to assume He knows ahead of time how every person is going to freely act assumes that each person's free activity is already there to know –– even before he freely does it! But it's not. If we have been given freedom, we create the reality of our decisions by making them. And until we make them, they don't exist. Thus, in my view at least, there simply isn't anything to know until we make it there to know. So God can't foreknow the good or bad decisions of the people He creates until He creates these people and they, in turn create their decisions.”

Another man, Clark Pinnock wrote: “Decisions not yet made do not exist anywhere to be known even by God. They are potential –– yet to be realized but not yet actual. God can predict a great deal of what we will choose to do, but not all of it, because some of it remains hidden in the mystery of human freedom. . . . God too faces possibilities in the future, and not only certainties. God too moves into a future not wholly known because not yet fixed.”

These are typical examples of what poor theology will lead to.

The point to understand, is this is always the result once a person frees themself from the absolute authority of the Scripture.

“Absolute” is a keyword. In our circles, no one might be holding to open-theism. Many will say that Scripture is their authority, but once you start pressing, it doesn’t take long to discover how much people aren't truly controlled by Scripture in every aspect.

All of this is usually due to the emphasis being upon the human will without first understanding God’s will.  So let’s talk about how the bible describes God’s will:

The Will of God

Decreed will:

This is the idea that God brings to pass whatever He wills by making a Divine decree.  This is called the decretive will of God.

It is the hidden, secret plan of God, that is not revealed to anyone until it actually happens.  Therefore, the decretive will of God is not something we can know ahead of time.

Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.” 

Romans 9:16-18, “So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. For the Scripture says to Pharaoh, "FOR THIS VERY PURPOSE I RAISED YOU UP, TO DEMONSTRATE MY POWER IN YOU, AND THAT MY NAME MIGHT BE PROCLAIMED THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE EARTH." So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”

Revealed will:

This is commonly called God’s preceptive, desired, or moral will.  It is revealed in the Scriptures through precept (clear statements or commands) and through principles.

This will is understood through careful study of the Bible.  In addition, God calls us to make decisions of obedience and submission to this will.

Deuteronomy 29:29, “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law.”

Matthew 7:21, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”

But it is when we begin to talk about these two wills that we start to make it sound like God is a Schizophrenic.

Basic assertions:

God does not sin.

"Holy, Holy, Holy, is the Lord Almighty." (Isaiah 6)

James 1:13 "Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God;' for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone."

Here we must stand firm.  If we don’t then we will go into heresy and blasphemy.

But, we also see places where the Bible clearly says that God desires or wills things that do not happen.

1 Timothy 2:4, “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

This simply doesn’t happen!

We also must embrace the truthfulness of God’s mystery.

Too often, when we enter into a discussion like this we can sometimes reject it too quickly, simply because of the vastness of its reality.

It is interesting that we accept all sorts of mysteries regarding God’s person, but often seem to stumble over those related to his sovereignty.

For example: How does God hear the prayers of millions of believers at the same time?

Psalm 7:11 says that God is angry every day against sin.  Yet He is also rejoicing as a sinner repents. How does He take constant pleasure in His people (Psa 149:4) yet be grieved (Eph.  4:29-30).

In light of that, let’s see what Scripture says.

The Wills of God:

First, we have to understand that God is in control. We cannot underestimate this.  It is the basis of all Christian hope.

Amos 3:6 "If a trumpet is blown in a city will not the people tremble? If a calamity occurs in a city has not the LORD done it?"

Isaiah 45:7 "The One forming light and creating darkness, Causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the LORD who does all these."

Lamentations 3:37 "Who is there who speaks and it comes to pass, Unless the Lord has commanded it? 38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High That both good and ill go forth?

These passages make no sense if we say that God’s will can ever be thwarted."

Examples of these two wills of God:

1 Peter 2:13-15; 4:1-2 with 3:17; 4:19 (the 1st two are what we are to pursue; the last two are something God is doing ).

Christ’s death:

John 13:2 the devil is seeking to have Judas betray Jesus to kill him.

Yet, Acts 2:23 says, “this Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death.”

Much of the events leading up to the crucifixion involved sin.  The betrayal. The denial. The lying witnesses. The mocking laughter and words. Not to mention murder.

Yet the Bible says that these things occurred as part of the fulfillment of prophecy.  They were part of the plan of God.

Hebrews 2:10For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.”

Therefore, on one hand, many were violating God’s revealed will of lying, hatred, etc.  Yet on the other hand were perfectly living out His sovereign will.

The war against the Lamb of God: Revelation 17.

The beast comes out of the abyss (8).

The 10 horns are 10 kings (12).

They will wage war against Christ (14).

They will also betray and destroy the harlot (16).

Here is the point: To fight against Christ is sin.  Lying, betrayal, and murder are also sin.

But notice verse 17: "For God has put it in their hearts to execute His purpose by having a common purpose, and by giving their kingdom to the beast, until the words of God will be fulfilled.”

God is said to be the One that hardens the heart so that it does not obey or believe.

Scripture is often clear that God is clearly working in men’s hearts so that they do and hold to things that God hates.


Exodus 8:1, Moses says “thus says the Lord....let my people go.”

Exodus 4:21; 7:3; 9:12-14 with 9:34-10:1 [God hardens Pharaoh’s heart over and over again].

Rom 9:18, “So then He has mercy on whom He desires, and He hardens whom He desires.”

Punishing the wicked:

Ezekiel 18:23 with 1 Samuel 2:25 [Same word for desire. One rhetorically states God doesn’t delight in the death of the wicked, yet the other states He does].

Psalm 5:5 with Romans 5:8 [God declares He hates all who do iniquity, yet He also shows incredible grace in not punishing sinners].

In other words, when you are in obedience and submission to the Word of God you’re in harmony with God’s preceptive will (revealed will) and decretive will (sovereign, unknown will).  However, if you are not, then though you’re not in harmony with the preceptive will (revealed) of God, you are still under the decretive will (or it would not have happened).

What is the will of God regarding evangelism?

Matthew 28:19 "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age."

Learn to look at the nations with the eyes and heart of God.  See that God has a real and deep care and compassion for the lost.  Tell them of the love of God! And do not lose heart, for God is our shepherd and He has decreed that people from every tribe and nation will repent and come to His Son to His glory.

There is a heart of compassion and urgency to evangelism.

But there is ultimately a certainty to evangelism as well.

And both of these truths come out from the reality that God somehow perfectly expresses His will in two unique and non-contradictory ways.

In short, there is much mystery.


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