Ephesians 5:17-21 “
“Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”
Knowing and doing the will of God is the very heart of the Christian faith. Let’s look at four aspects of God’s will.
God’s sovereign will.
God’s purposes will be accomplished. He will make happen that which he wants to make happen. He is omnipotent, and nothing and no one can prevent God’s sovereign will from happening. “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases.” (Psalms 115:3).
God’s moral will.
This is God’s declared will concerning what we should or should not do. Sometimes referred to as God’s preceptive will (referring to the “precepts” in Scripture). This expression of God’s will is revealed both in his Word and in our conscience, through which God has written his moral law on the hearts of all men.
God’s permissive will.
Obeying God’s moral will is a choice. People can choose to obey or not obey. The Bible is clear, however, that there are blessings for obedience and consequences for disobedience.
God permits things to happen that fall outside of his moral will. The Lord does not sanction sin, but he does allow choice. God has created a world of cause-and-effect, and he has given mankind the ability to choose. We are always free to choose, but we are never free from the consequences of our choices.
God’s design will.
God is the author of the spiritual laws that govern the spiritual world, and God is the author of the physical laws that govern the physical world. What we do and how we do it matters. If our choices align with God’s laws (physically and spiritually), good things will happen. If our choices do not align with God’s laws, bad things will happen.
(Thanks to my friend Jeff Martin for suggesting the term “design will.”)
This is what is traditionally called “Natural Law.” It is the way God has designed the world to work. God designed the physical world with parameters. Those parameters are God’s architecture for the created world, and they govern everything: Physics, chemistry, astronomy, organizational dynamics, leadership, teamwork and collaboration, etc.
It is within the cause-and-effect framework of Natural Law that we must operate. Jump off a building, gravity takes over, and we fall. Mix certain chemicals, and we get a violent explosion. Drink poison or get bit by a poisonous snake, and we die. Love people, listen fiercely, speak the truth with respect, and we will build healthy relationships. Fail to do that, and there will be trouble.
The consequences to our choices are not always immediate, but eventually there are always consequences. This is one of God’s principles: you reap what you sow. And this theme is consistently evident in Scripture, especially the Old Testament: God teaches a principle—that is, he gives a command or directive to his people—and then Scripture records how they respond (the choice they make), and the consequences of their choices.
Man is able to use God’s Natural Law to benefit society: developing automobiles that move people quickly from place-to-place; inventing medical procedures that repair injuries and medicines that fight disease; building homes, manufacturing clothing, growing and distributing food, etc..
The Lord expects us to be students / stewards of his design will and use it wisely as we have dominion over the planet. Cause-and-effect within the framework of Natural Law is God’s design, and it is very unwise to ignore it.
To know and obey God’s will, then, means to trust his sovereignty, know and obey scripture, understand and wisely utilize the laws of nature, and avoid things that test the limits of his permissive will.
As Paul says in Ephesians 5, to do otherwise is to be foolish. Here is a link to a powerful worship song about choosing the way of the Lord …