The will of God can be confusing for some Christians because they have a misunderstanding of God’s sovereignty. Though God’s will may be mysterious at times, it is a mystery that can be uncovered via our relationship with Jesus (Colossians 1:26). God has always intended for His people to know and understand both His will for their lives and for humanity (Amos 3:7). Certain things about God’s will that He deems unnecessary can remain unknown until His Kingdom fully comes on earth, however, those things are not needed for a godly life.
Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Also, Peter wrote, “3 His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. 4 Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires” (2 Peter 1:3-4).
Therefore, everything God wants us to know about His will and everything He wants us to do according to His will has been revealed to us in Scripture and can be fully known by those who ask, seek and knock (Matthew 7:7-8). Truly, the Lord’s prayer can be answered in our lives, “Thy Kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven“ (Matthew 6:10).
Ephesians 1:1, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To God’s holy people in Ephesus, the faithful in Christ Jesus.”
THE BOOK OF EPHESIANS
- AUTHOR: Paul
- DATE: 60 A.D.
- OCCASION: After Paul’s third missionary journey and three year stay in Ephesus; while he was in jail in Rome. Written at the same time of Colossians and Philemon and brought to the people by Tychicus (Eph. 6:21).
- MAJOR THEME: Believers are, “in Christ,” which is mentioned 27x in different forms.
- ABOUT THE CITY OF EPHESUS: Ephesus was the capitol city of Asia minor, now located in modern day Turkey. It was the fourth largest city in the Roman world with upwards of 172,500 people due to its port location on the Aegean Sea. It had the Temple of Artemis for the goddess Diana, which was one of the “Seven Wonders of the Ancient World” and a theatre that could hold up to 25,000 people.
- ABOUT THE CHURCH OF EPHESUS: The church of Ephesus, which was primarily a Gentile congregation (Eph. 2:11), was established on Paul’s second missionary journey with powerful signs and wonders; along with a major riot as many pagans received Jesus (Acts 19:1-41). Paul then returned on his third journey and spent his longest time with the people (Acts 20:36-38) and eventually placed his favored spiritual son Timothy in charge, which were the occasions for the books of 1 & 2 Timothy.
TIMELINE OF PAUL’S LIFE
ANCIENT MAP OF EPHESUS
OVERVIEW OF ANCIENT EPHESUS
THREE COMPONENTS OF GOD’S WILL
- GOD’S DESCRIPTIVE WILL: That which God commands for all people to do (Matthew 6:10).
- GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL: That which God allows people to do (Jeremiah 19:5).
- GOD’S DECRETIVE WILL: That which God decrees He will do (Deuteronomy 28:1-2;15-16).
(Example A) Regarding Sin:
- GOD’S DESCRIPTIVE WILL: God: “It is my will that thou shalt not murder.”
- GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL: Man: “It is my will to murder.'”
- GOD’S DECRETIVE WILL: God: “It is my choice how I judge murderers because I make the laws and murderers are law breakers.'”
(Example B) Regarding the Problem of Evil:
- GOD’S DESCRIPTIVE WILL: God: “I want everyone to obey me.”
- GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL: Man: “I don’t want to obey God.”*
- GOD’S DECRETIVE WILL: God: “I will make a world where even those who don’t obey me bring me glory.”
*If God removed His permissive will, He would have to remove “free will” from mankind. Mankind would be forced to obey God and thus everything He commanded would be decreed for man to obey. However, since God has made man free He is not responsible for our sinful actions but only responsible to judge our sin. See this video for more information.
- SOVEREIGN: God’s attribute that describes His ability to do whatever is consistent within His nature of perfect love and holiness (Psalm 115:3,16).
- FOREKNOWLEDGE: God’s attribute of possessing all knowledge at all times (Romans 8:29 & Genesis 6:1-8).
- PREDESTINATION: God’s attribute of decreeing everything before anything ever existed or came to pass (Ephesians 1:11 & Acts 17:26-27).
UNDERSTANDING THE WILL OF GOD IN THREE PASSAGES
Adam & Eve
- GOD’S DESCRIPTIVE WILL: God: “You must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17).
- GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL: Adam & Eve: “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it” (Genesis 3:6).
- GOD’S DECRETIVE WILL: God: “14 So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this, “Cursed are you above all livestock and all wild animals! You will crawl on your belly and you will eat dust all the days of your life. 15 And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” 16 To the woman he said, “I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.” 17 To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’ “Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19 By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return [“you shall will certainly die,” Gen. 2:17]” (Genesis 3:14-19).
Cain & Abel
- GOD’S DESCRIPTIVE WILL: God: “6 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? 7 If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it” (Genesis 4:6-7).
- GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL: Cain: “Now Cain said to his brother Abel, “Let’s go out to the field.” While they were in the field, Cain attacked his brother Abel and killed him” (Genesis 4:8).
- GOD’S DECRETIVE WILL: God: “10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground. 11 Now you are under a curse and driven from the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand. 12 When you work the ground, it will no longer yield its crops for you. You will be a restless wanderer on the earth” (Genesis 4:10-12).
The Nation of Israel
- GOD’S DESCRIPTIVE WILL: God: “1 If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations on earth. 2 All these blessings will come on you and accompany you if you obey the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 28:1-2).
- GOD’S PERMISSIVE WILL: Israel: “But the people of Israel are not willing to listen to you because they are not willing to listen to me, for all the Israelites are hardened and obstinate” (Ezekiel 3:7).
- GOD’S DECRETIVE WILL: God: “However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come on you and overtake you” (Deuteronomy 28:15).
THREE WAYS TO DISCOVER GOD’S WILL FOR YOUR LIFE
- PRAY: Talk and listen (Matthew 6:10 & Ephesians 6:18).
- READ THE BIBLE: Study and apply your understanding on a daily basis (Acts 20:27, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 & Ephesians 5:17).
- GO TO CHURCH AND BE DISCIPLED: Follow the example of your leaders (Hebrews 13:17 & Ephesians 4:11-13).
Romans 12:2, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”