Can We Know God's Will For Us And What is The Mystery of What is The Mystery of the Will of God?

CAN WE KNOW GOD'S WILL FOR US <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
"Giving thanks always for all things to God our Father
in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."  (Ephesians 5: 20 and 21)By William Gray

          The will of God is a mystery.  Because of Israel's sin, God, in approximately 605 B.C., sent an ungodly king called Nebuchadnezzar, from the kingdom of Babylon, into Israel.  In three different invasions, ultimately Nebuchadnezzar took all Israel captive and carried most of Israel away into captivity in Babylon.  Included in this captivity and carrying away were the young men, Daniel, Hananiah, Azariah and Mishael.  It was a bleak period in the history of Israel.  Many people apparently think that the United States is in, perhaps, the bleakest period in its history with the re-election of President Obama.  There have been many articles written, including one, shortly after the election, which proclaimed the death of America on November 6, 2012.[1][1]  While many of these people may be correct, we must remember that GOD SENT NEBUCHADNEZZAR.  The Lord works ALL THINGS after the counsel of His own will.  Indeed, a good many people have expressed their feelings concerning the United States' presidential election as it were with the words of a song on the very popular television show from years past, "Hee Haw," which began like this: 


"Gloom, despair and agony on me, deep dark depression, excessive misery, if it weren't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all, gloom, despair, and agony on me!"


          The writer of Hebrews begins his Epistle to the Hebrew Christians, who were suffering from persecution, as follows: 


"God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they."  (Hebrews 1: 1-4 NKJV)


          So what is the mystery of the will of God?  Can we know God's will for us?  Has there been revelation of God's will for us?  All of these questions may be answered in the affirmative, although God has not yet chosen to reveal all of His will on every matter to us.  We can think in terms of what is God's will for us on a particular matter.  For example, should I leave the job that I have now and take another job?  Should I move from the location where I live at the present time and move to another location?  Should I marry this person whom I have been dating?  All of these are but examples of specific, particular questions that face individuals on a daily basis.  There is also revelation of God's ultimate will.


Specific Revelation of God's Will


          One of the things that we see from the Westminster Confession of Faith and the Shorter Catechism, which was drafted and written at Westminster, England, from 1643-1647, is that after the fall of man in the garden, God's will was revealed that He was not going to leave all mankind to perish in sin and misery.  The Shorter Catechism reveals to us that "God, having out of His mere good pleasure, from all eternity, elected some to everlasting life, did enter into a covenant of grace to deliver them out of the estate of sin and misery, and to bring them into an estate of salvation by a Redeemer."[2][2]  This statement of the ultimate will of God is taken in part from the first Chapter of Ephesians, verse 4, where we read:  "According as He has chosen us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love."  In the third Chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans, verse 20, we see:  "Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in His sight:  For by the law is the knowledge of sin.  (Verse 21)  But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets."  Verse 22 goes on to say:  "Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference."  Therefore, we see clearly that one of the revelations of God's ultimate will is "that God is 'not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance in Christ Jesus.'"  (II Peter 3: 9)


Revelation of God's Will as to the Manner of Salvation


          We see that Jesus gives eternal life to all that the Father has given Him.  In John 17: 3, Jesus, in what is sometimes referred to as His highly priestly prayer, prays to the Father and says:


"Father, the hour has come.  Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You, as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.  And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."  (John 17: 1-3)


          In the sixth Chapter of the Gospel of John beginning with verse 37, Jesus says:


 "All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.  For I have come down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him who sent me.  This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but raise it up at the last day.  And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life, and I'll raise him up at the last day."  (John 6: 37-40)


          Thus, the revealed will of God is that individuals will be given salvation, eternal life, in and through the Lord Jesus Christ.  All who will come to Jesus will receive eternal life, and all that the Father has given to the Son will come to Him.


Unity Among Those Who Come to Jesus


          Jesus also prays for unity in John Chapter 17 when He asks the Father "that they may be one as We are one," speaking of the disciples and those who would come after them.  (See also John 17: 20 and 21.)  God reveals His ultimate purpose in these matters in the redemption of fallen mankind in the eighth Chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Romans where we read that God redeems us, "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled by those who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit."  Thus, we are given eternal life as a sheer gift, to fulfill the righteousness of the law.  Jesus Himself said He came not to destroy the law, but to fulfill the law.  Those who are redeemed, who receive this eternal life, also receive unity among themselves.


          In Matthew 28, verses 18-20, sometimes referred to as "The Great Commission," Jesus reveals to the eleven disciples that "all authority has been given to Him in Heaven and on Earth," and He commands the disciples to "go into all the world and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded thee."  Therefore, we are given more revelation as to God's will for us, which is to continue to carry out this "Great Commission."


          In Matthew 11, verses 28-30, Jesus calls all men to come to Him.  He says, "Come unto Me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn of Me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and you shall find rest unto your souls, for My yoke is easy and My burden is light."  So Jesus calls all men to come to Him, He invites all to come that they might have life.  Actually, He commands them to come and specifically to take His yoke upon themselves and "learn of Him!"  In other words, Jesus is calling everyone to be a disciple.  Thus, we see God's revealed will for individuals.


Contend for the Faith


          In the third Chapter of Jude, we are told that it is God's will for us to "earnestly contend for the one true faith delivered once to the saints."  This revelation requires us to first know what the "true faith" is!  Second, we must "contend" for this true faith!  This is not "optional," it is commanded, and "contending" speaks of engaging in the battle; engaging in the warfare, because in the "last days," false teachers will deceive many.  Are you prepared to contend?  Are you contending? 


Not Willing That Any Should Perish (The Redemption of Some of All Mankind

          Jesus acknowledges in the fifth Chapter of the Gospel of John that there are those who "will not come unto Me that you might have life."  So the fact that we see written in II Peter 3: 9 that God is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" is not a contradiction.  It is a statement of fact.  Some will not come to Jesus.  Here we see that the Lord God, in verse 9 of II Peter 3, reveals '"the Lord is not slack [He has not forgotten] concerning His promise, [regarding the return of Jesus Christ] as some men count slackness; but is long suffering to usward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.'  In other words, what we see is that God is intentionally delaying the return of Christ for the purpose of giving men time to repent and to come to Him because God's revealed will is that He does not want to have to cast these men who will not repent into hell."[3][3]  You pick up from verse 9 that God's delay in the return of the Lord Jesus Christ is not because of indifference or because of forgetfulness, but it is because of God's loving desire not to have to punish men with the awful punishment that they deserve for their rebellion against Him. 


"This is a very sincere desire on God's part.  Christ hasn't returned, but it's not due to indifference.  God is 'not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering . . . .'  It's not due to impotence or indifference.  It's due to patience.  It's due to God's desire not to have to punish men with the awful punishment that they deserve for their rebellion against Him.  The evidence of that, the proof of that, is that when Christ came before, He came not to judge but to be judged, to take our guilt upon Himself."[4][4]


So remember that "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners."  He came not to judge but to be judged, and to take our sin, our guilt for our sin, upon Himself."  "He who knew no sin became sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him."  (II Corinthians 5: 21)         


          In a sermon preached circa 1993-1994, Frank M. Barker, Jr., at that time the Pastor of Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham, Alabama said the following:


"God wants to forgive man.  God can't forgive man at the expense of God's justice.  If God is going to exercise mercy He has to do it in a way that doesn't compromise His justice.  And so the plan before He ever created the world was that God the Son would in time become man, live under the law, keep it perfectly, substitute for us, and be punished in our stead with that awful, awful punishment we deserve.  He came not to execute wrath but to endure wrath on our behalf.  And then he offers to us full, free forgiveness upon the condition of repentance and faith, that we truly repent, that we place our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  That's a sincere desire on God's part as evidenced by the gift of His Son.  It's a universal desire.  It says He is not willing that any should perish."[5][5]

          Barker went on to talk about the necessity of repentance.  "We must repent.  Repentance has to do with our attitude toward sin.  Someone put it like this: 
Man calls [sin] an accident;
God calls it an abomination.
Man calls it a blunder;
God calls it blindness.
. . .
Man calls it an error;
God calls it enmity.
Man calls it infirmity;
God calls it iniquity.
Man calls it a luxury;
God calls it leprosy.
Man calls it liberty;
God calls it lawlessness.
Man calls it a trifle;
God calls it a tragedy."[6][6]
a.      Repentance
"What is our attitude toward sin?  Toward disobedience to God?  The Shorter Catechism defines repentance like this:  'Repentance unto life [meaning no life without it, no spiritual life without it] is a saving grace whereby a sinner, out of a true sense of his sin and apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ [sees his guilt and all of the awfulness of it but sees also that God is offering him mercy through Christ having died for Him], doth with grief and hatred of his sin turn from it unto God with full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience.'  He purposes to obey God.  He tries to obey God.  He will fail to obey God; that's alright.  He tries again.  It's genuine.  'Full purpose of and endeavor after new obedience' – that's repentance."[7][7]
b.      Faith
            "Faith is:  I believe the claims of Jesus Christ.  I believe that gigantic
           claim that He was God become man, that He wasn't dying a normal
           death but He was dying in payment for my sin, that He rose literally, and
           that one day He is coming back literally.  I believe the claims of Christ. 
           But I don't just believe those claims.  I place my trust IN Him to forgive
           me as a gift.
Upon a life I did not live.
Upon a death I did not die.
Another's life, another's death
I stake my whole eternity.
         Have you done that?  Have you surrendered your will to Christ where
         now your whole approach to life is:  'What does He want me to do?' 
        When you're conscious of going against His will you say, 'God, that is sin. 
         I acknowledge it.  Please forgive me.  Let me try again to do Your will.' 
        You surrender your will.  Have you placed your trust in Jesus Christ to
         forgive you as a gift?  God is delaying, giving you time to do that if you
         haven't done it.  That's why Jesus Christ has not returned.  Has a great
         change come into your life?"[8][8]
God's Ultimate Will or Purpose
          We have seen God's specific, revealed will regarding certain specific things such as repentance unto life and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.  We have seen His call unto all men that they might know Him, the only true God and Jesus Christ whom He has sent.  We have also seen that God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance through the Lord Jesus Christ.  In Ephesians, Chapter 1, verse 10, we see God's revealed will in His ultimate, overall purpose.  The verse in Ephesians 1: 10 states:  "That in the dispensation of the fullness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth, even in Him."  It is preceded by the great statement found in Ephesians 1: 8 and 9, to wit:  "Wherein He hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself."  Thus, we see in this letter to Ephesus a revelation of God's ultimate purpose.  The Great Expository Preacher of the 20th Century, Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, in his commentary and exposition of Ephesians Chapter one speaks about this verse as follows:
"This verse explains the nature of the mystery which God has been pleased to reveal to us. . . The Peculiar feature of this Epistle is that it is meant to be an exposition of this particular theme.  Indeed we can go further and say that this verse states what is the central theme of all Scripture.  From the standpoint of conception of thought and of range of meaning there is nothing greater. . . In verse 10 we are taken right up into the heavens and find ourselves looking at God's final purpose with respect to this world.  There is nothing higher than this, nothing beyond God's final purpose.  It is bigger and greater than our personal salvation.  In this verse we are transported above the matter of our personal salvation into the realm of the ultimate things – God's grand, comprehensive, final, ultimate purpose."[9][9]
          Dr. Lloyd-Jones goes on to state in substance that the climax of all of the ages happened at the incarnation of Christ, which we see referred to here as in the "fullness of times."  At that time, God's great plan began to come into operation, that is, at the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Today, as in all days following the death and resurrection of Jesus, this great plan is being worked out by God's divine providence.  These days are spoken of in scripture as "the last days," also "in the ends of the world," and it will continue until it is finally completed.  As you go back and read the first ten verses of Chapter 1 of Paul's Epistle to the Church at Ephesus, you will notice that everything is about the Lord Jesus Christ.  Paul is an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ by the will of God.  In this 10th verse, we see this culmination because it is "all in Him."  All is in Christ!  It is always the Lord Jesus Christ.  Dr. Lloyd-Jones says:
"I can never mention His Name too frequently for it is all in Him; so let us give Him all the glory and the credit – 'Even in him'.  The same note occurs in Colossians Chapter one, verse 20:  'by him, I say.'  Christ is central, Christ is essential, and anything which calls itself Christianity which does not go on repeating the blessed Name is ultimately a denial of Christianity."[10][10]  
          Notice that this is not about any other person, or, any perceived deity; it's all about Jesus!  This should raise questions in all of us about so called Christian ministers who do not want to talk about the deity of Christ, the incarnation of Christ, the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ.  "Christ in us, the hope of glory"! according to Paul's Epistle to the Colossians. 
          So we see that the plan that is revealed here in the first Chapter of Paul's Epistle to the Ephesians is that "he might gather together in one all things in Christ."  Notice that this unity is God's ultimate revealed will.  In reality, however, what we see in the verse is an omission of a very important word which Martyn Lloyd-Jones describes as "the word again."  This is actually a definitive statement on unity.  The Apostle is here calling for the restoration of unity again!  This is translated this way:  "To Re-unite all things . . . again, not merely to unite, but to re-unite."  (MLJ, God's Ultimate Purpose, An Exposition of Ephesians One)  The word "again" obviously points us to something else.  The thing to which this passage of scripture refers is to the perfect state of harmony that existed prior to the fall of man in the account of creation's original condition.  Again, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones refers to the first Chapter of the Epistle to the Colossians in verses 15 through 19, wherein he says: 
"'Who [referring to the Lord] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:  for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers:  all things were created by him, and for him:  and he is before all things, and by him all things consist.  And he is the head of the body, the church:  who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have pre-eminence.  For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.'"[11][11] 
          Thus, in the passage above from Colossians, what we are told is that "the Lord Jesus Christ was the head of all of these powers as He was also the head of the universe.  Everything that was made and created was made and created in Him and by Him and through Him, and for Him; not only the world and animals, but angels and thrones and principalities and powers.  Furthermore, there was perfect harmony in all of these realms."[12][12]   
          Dr. Lloyd-Jones continues:  
"Alas, the unity and harmony did not continue," in part because there was a revolt, a rebellion in heaven itself.  "The devil rebelled and fell, and a large number of the holy angels followed him and fell with him.  Immediately there was discord, even in heaven.  There is a most significant statement in the Book of Revelation, chapter 12, which throws great light upon the subject we are considering.  In verse 7 of that chapter we read:  'And there was war in heaven.' Discord in heaven!  War in heaven!  'Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels.'  But the discord was not confined to heaven.  The fallen angel, namely, the devil, Satan, came and tempted man, and man fell.  The result was discord amongst men – dispute, quarrelling, misunderstanding, warfare, bloodshed, murder, jealousy, envy, and all that follow in their train."[13][13] 
This verse tells us, however that perfect harmony will be restored again.  Thus, "the perfect harmony that will be restored will be harmony in man and between men."  
          Martyn Lloyd-Jones talks of:
"Harmony on the earth and in the brute creation!  Harmony in heaven and all under this blessed Lord Jesus Christ, who will be the Head of all!  Everything will again be united in Him.  And wonder of wonders, marvelous beyond compare, when all this happens it will never be undone again.  All will be re-united in Him to all eternity.  That is the message; that is God's plan.  That is the mystery which has been revealed unto us."[14][14] 
          Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones asks the question: 
"Do you know these things?  Are you prepared to give time to these things – to listen to them or to read about them?  Do you know that these things are so marvelous that you will never hear anything greater, either in this world or the world to come?  Do you realize that you have a part in these things? . . . Do not waste your time in attempts to fix 'times and seasons'.  What matters is God's plan, God's eternal scheme, this 'dispensation', this 'economy', this purpose of which we are a part, which is being worked out since the beginning of 'the fullness of times'.  Think of, and live for the ultimate restoration of that glorious harmony which is coming, when we with our whole being shall praise 'the Lamb that was slain'.  He has redeemed us.  Let us sing, 'Blessing and honour and glory and power be unto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.' (Revelation 5: 13)  Let wars come, let pestilences come, let hell be let loose, 'nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord'.  That is the Christian message for today.  Thank God for it, and rejoice in it."[15][15] 
          Wherefore, I give thanks always in every prayer of mine for you all, for your fellowship in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
          Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is well pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.


[1][1]   "The End of an Empire," by Dr. Ileana Johnson Paugh, November 8, 2012.

[2][2]   Shorter Catechism, Question 20 and answer thereto.

[3][3]   Frank M. Barker, Jr., Sermon on II Peter 3: 1-12, circa 1994.

[4][4]   Frank M. Barker, Jr., Sermon on II Peter 3: 1-12, circa 1994.

[5][5]   Frank M. Barker, Jr., Sermon on II Peter 3: 1-12, circa 1994.

[6][6]   Frank M. Barker, Jr., Sermon on II Peter 3: 1-12, circa 1994.

[7][7]   Frank M. Barker, Jr., Sermon on II Peter 3: 1-12, circa 1994.

[8][8]   Frank M. Barker, Jr., Sermon on II Peter 3: 1-12, circa 1994.

[9][9]   From a sermon preached by Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on a Sunday morning in 1954 at
          Westminster Chapel, London, England.  See also, God's Ultimate Purpose, An Exposition of
           Ephesians One, page 196.

[10][10]   From a sermon preached by Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones on a Sunday morning in 1954 at
          Westminster Chapel, London, England.  See also, God's Ultimate Purpose, An Exposition of 
          Ephesians One, page 200.

[11][11]   Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God's Ultimate Purpose, An Exposition of Ephesians One, page 203.

[12][12]   Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God's Ultimate Purpose, An Exposition of Ephesians One, page 203.

[13][13]   Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God's Ultimate Purpose, An Exposition of Ephesians One, page 204.

[14][14]   Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God's Ultimate Purpose, An Exposition of Ephesians One, page 207.

[15][15]   Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, God's Ultimate Purpose, An Exposition of Ephesians One, pages 206-207.

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