The first post about free will, God’s will, & our everyday lives.
This post begins a series of posts about the concept of free will and God’s will. Each post will be limited to about 1000 words and hopefully deal with specific aspects of this discussion.
The concept of a will in modern culture is one we don’t like much, unless we’re mentioned in it of course. What I mean here of course is a “last will,” meaning one’s dying wishes for their possessions, money, whatever they have. These are legally considered very important as the last wishes of someone are to notonly be respected but are the final word on what happens with whatever possessions they have. Of course a will can be disputed, but in the end what’s in the will goes.
When it comes to God’s will there are a few similarities. In the New Testament, the word most often used when describing God’s will is theléma (θέλημα, Strong 2307). It shows up 63 times in the New Testament and more often than not with God’s wishes & desires for His people. For instance, when Jesus prays, “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done…” that’s theléma. The most used definition per Strong is, “what one wishes or has determined shall be done, a thing willed….” This is pretty straightforward, but what doesn’t tend to be straightforward is how God’s will, God’s wishes and/or determination of what shall be done interacts with our wills, our free will.
When we say we have free will what we mean is we have free choice, the ability to choose to do or not do a thing. We treasure this ability, indeed for many it’s an intrinsic virtue of being human. Scholars & philosophers have debated through centuries about this concept of free will, if we truly have the ability to choose what happens next or if its only our ignorance of the future that makes it seems like we are able to choose – this is called determinism- living what’s been determined by some outside force or not. This is without a true theological aspect mind you. When you bring in theology now we have the concept of God’s sovereignty. The paradox goes like this: “God is all-powerful & all-knowing. If He knows our choices before we make them, does that mean He’s controlling them too?”
Well there are a few issues here. First off let’s establish a little perspective. Our concept of choice is limited by our view of time. We do not know what choices we’ll have to make in the next few minutes, the choices of others, or how those choices will affect future choices & decisions. A classic example is if I come to an intersection and notice that my shoe is untied, I have a decision to either stop and tie it then, or wait until I’m across the street to tie it. What I don’t know is that there may be car that’s going to blow the red light. If I stop and tie it the car will miss me, but if I cross now I’ll be hit. Many people call this fate, where the consequences of decisions become apparent. So, theologically again here’s the conundrum(s): If God is all-powerful & all-knowing, is He the one driving the car? Couldn’t He stop the car? Did He cause my shoe to be untied? Did He make me walk or stop? If the car missed me, did God step in? If the car hit me, did God step in? You get the picture.
Besides driving ourselves crazy trying to figure out every scenario of post hoc ergo propter hoc (after it therefore because of it), how we often relate to this is by questioning which one was God’s will. If the car missed you one might say, “Oh, glad it was God’s will that you didn’t die.” The thing is, one might also say the same if you had been hit. “I suppose it was God’s will that this happen.” There’s a problem with this however. The problem is we are trying to color in a rainbow using only black & white. Let’s talk about the concept of God’s will.
From talking with many people I get the idea many view God’s will as a straight line, and we sometimes stay on it or we call off, and we hope that we’ve been on it more than we’ve been off it. There’s a strong case in Scripture that God’s will isn’t as much about what you do as who you become. Consider only a few verses from the New Testament epistles:
1st Thessalonians 4:3-7 – For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.
1st Thessalonians 5:16-18 –Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1st Peter 4:1-2 –Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God.
Consider that last verse from Peter calling to arm ourselves with that same way of thinking. Also make sure you notice whom we’re to think like – Christ. Granted these are only three verses out of a plethora or verses concerning God’s will, but notice what these three talk about. 1st Thess. 4:3 says that first the will of God is our sanctification, which begins with God Himself. The rest of the passage and into 1st Thess. 5:16-18 talk not so much about individual actions or black & white issues, but more ways of living. I’ve often said that the New Testament doesn’t deal so much with rules as it does giving us a way of thinking about life. That’s where God’s will begins- approaching life not with a right/wrong attitude, but with a Godly attitude, an attitude of what it means to live godly in this world, which Jesus showed us.
My first thing I’ll submit to you is that God’s will begins with us being, thinking, & living like Jesus in all circumstances. That’s the game plan, and it’s more a game plan than a blueprint. How to react to something like Jesus may differ from person to person depending on the situation, and to know how we must read Scripture that we may get to know Jesus, the standard of which we’re to be like. If this is true, we no longer have to worry about making “right” & “wrong” choices in the context of choosing God’s will or not every decision, but we can live striving to make our actions, our choices, our desires the same as Christ’s. We’ll mess up, but if that’s the goal we strive for it is by grace we’re saved! God’s will first and foremost is to strive to be like Jesus, and doing this we accomplish God’s will.
Now, this is a beginning. There are plenty of verses that talk about doing God’s will, and we’ll look at those next time. And we will will look at God’s sovereignty, our free will, how God interacts with the world, & how God causes His will be be done in future posts. Stay tuned, and feel free to comment. I hope this blog series will be beneficial for you, and will serve to increase not only your knowledge with God, but your confidence walking in His light. Grace to you.