Week 3 “Knowing and Doing the will of God”
So to summarize so far we understood in 1st John 2:17 that “doing the will of God” revealed whether we would be abiding for ever, or passing away along with the world.
Our first observation of what doing the will of God revealed that we should be being sanctified (1Thess 4:3). We have already studied John 17:17 that we are sanctified through God’s Word and we have already studied Romans 12:1-2 that we are proving the will of God by offering our bodies as sacrifices (this is our spiritual service of worship) as we renew (transform) our minds through His word.
In studying the will of God I came across a short article by R.C. Sproul that I believe is foundational to knowing and doing the will of God. This issue should be straight forward but I believe we blur the lines of distinction between the decretive and perceptive will of God. One example is how do we define the existence of a Sovereign God in the light of the existence of evil. A right understanding of the will of God and it’s distinctions will help.
In our memory work one of the biggest issues I believe we are addressing is changing our practical theology with God’s Word, (ie how we live in light of what we know God has said and has decreed) I think this little article will bring a lot of clarity to what can be very confusing.
…I hope you enjoy it, Alan.
The Preceptive Will of God
When the Bible speaks of the will of God, it does not always mean the decretive will of God. The decretive will of God cannot be broken, cannot be disobeyed. It will come to pass. On the other hand, there is a will that can be broken: “the preceptive will of God.” It can be disobeyed. Indeed, it is broken and disobeyed every day by each one of us.
The preceptive will of God is found in his law. The precepts, statutes, and commandments that he delivers to his people make up the preceptive will. They express and reveal to us what is right and proper for us to do. The preceptive will is God’s rule of righteousness for our lives. By this rule we are governed.
It is the will of God that we sin not. It is the will of God that we have no other gods before him; that we love our neighbor as we love ourselves; that we refrain from stealing, coveting, and committing adultery. Yet the world is filled with idolatry, hatred, thievery, covetousness, and adultery. Here the will of God is violated. His law is broken.
One of the great tragedies of contemporary Christendom is the preoccupation of so many Christians with the secret decretive will of God to the exclusion and neglect of the preceptive will. We want to peek behind the veil, to catch a glimpse of our personal future. We seem more concerned with our horoscope than with our obedience, more concerned with what the stars in their courses are doing than with what we are doing.
With respect to God’s sovereign will, we assume we are passive. With respect to his preceptive will, we know that we are active and therefore responsible and accountable. It is easier to engage in ungodly prying into the secret counsel of God than to apply ourselves to the practice of godliness. We can flee to the safety of the sovereign will and try to pass off our sin to God, laying the burden and responsibility of it on his unchanging will. Such characterizes the spirit of Antichrist, the spirit of lawlessness, or antinomianism, that despises God’s law and ignores his precepts.
Protestants are particularly vulnerable to this distortion. We seek refuge in our precious doctrine of justification by faith alone, forgetting that the very doctrine is to be a catalyst for the pursuit of righteousness and obedience to the preceptive will of God. 1
I hope this helps us understand how knowing and doing the will of God (think Jer. 9:23 knowing God, Luke 6:46 why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I say…Jesus). Knowing God and knowing His word and doing it reflects our relationship with Him. Hopefully as you are memorizing, you are meditating on Great Things? AW Tozer had a couple things to say that I think are of great significance: “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” and “Without doubt, the mightiest thought the mind can entertain is the thought of God, and the weightest word in any language is its word for God.”2
1 Sproul, R. C. (1996). Following Christ. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers.