02-January-2019 by Timothy Wanjohi
‘See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is’ - Ephesians 5:15-17.
Amidst the radiant man-made auroras lighting up the sky, and the voices of jubilation filling up the atmosphere, marking such a season as is this, is the world in wholesome unity, welcoming this New Year, 2019. It says a lot that this should be a global affair, every year. Everyone is applying great significance to this day, looking radiant as ever. Oh the seeming happiness!
Mankind seems to have an instinct to know the significance of time, so that man acts like this as at now. The knowledge of time implies the knowledge of a transcendent order. This should be reconciled in the knowledge of the will of God. Mankind however also has an incredible capacity to miss the point while in the moment. As a Christian man, I wish it had all to do with God, while I know all too certainly that it does not. As people spin through the figures as they dance, making merry as they go, does man ever stop to think where God comes in, in all of this?
Many did not make it to this year. Many more found out that they had conditions or diseases. Many feel no joy for this season. Their situation has slapped the spice out of their life. To them these festivities are a burden. They are lonely, feeling ever out of place as their circumstances continually marginalize them from the rest of the elated society.
Some plan as if they own tomorrow while others give not thought to it. Those who can afford it indulge their senses to the utmost. There are parents who are already beginning to regret their overspending over the holidays. The children need to go back to school. The youth are considering prospects for the future in their careers. While all this continues, let us be reminded that life is not our own. At any moment we could lose it. We are not better than those who did not cross over is why we are alive.
We must apprehend such a perspective, remembering that this year we might die. This should cause us to ponder upon the occurrences that might become our portion in 2019. Failing to plan is planning to fail as they say. We must be prepared to meet what life dishes out at us. Although future contingencies are hidden to us, so that we cannot really know what could happen to us, the general occurrences in life such as we have seen over the last year, and the years preceding, are not hard to know.
Things good or bad that happen to us every year can be expected to happen to us again this year. Other things that happen to other people can be expected to happen to us, seeing they befall the commonality of humanity. And to these I would exhort us to think on the fact that God's will is responsible for all that occurs in this world. I propose that the best time to think about the will of God, is at the beginning of the year. From that standpoint we can symbolically visualize those things which are before us under the model of time and chance.
We will not be astonished by anything if we do. Some will enjoy great prosperity. Some will face unimaginable troubles. Some will find Jesus Christ and make Him Lord and saviour. Others will persist in their presumptuous sense of carnal security. This year God might give up His promptings on the insubordinate heart. Among those who will be hurried into the afterlife you might be a member.
This year the strong and the healthy will die, and those who are weak and sickly will recover. All because God has a will, and it shall be done. Let us therefore adopt a proper posture for the days ahead. And how better than to seek to understand what the will of God is. “There is but one question, and that’s the will of God. That settles all other questions,” said William Glaxone. What is the will of God? The faithful witnesses who have gone before us after diligent study were able to answer this question in seven ways.
In ‘Theology For Every Christian,’ page 42, J. Oliver Buswell writes:
“Calvin, the great French Reformer, has probed most deeply into the mysteries of God’s decrees. It is hereby presented more graphically as “Calvin’s Clock of the Sevenfold Will of God.” A clock tells time by its three hands: the hour hand, the minute hand and the second hand. But these are outworkings of the mechanism beneath the face of the clock. The moving hands are simple to read, but not the inner workings of the clock. In this brief study of the complex will of God from Calvin’s teaching, we can classify them under four headings: The General: (1) Preceptive, (2) Desiderative. The Specific: (3) Directive, (4) Cooperative, (5) Punitive and “Chastitive” (Chastitive is a new word coined here from the word “chastise”). The Extraordinary: (6) Permissive. The Predetermined: (7) Decretive.”
Various writers help us to clarify more on these. You could read ‘Has God a plan for your Life’ by Rev. Dr. Timothy Tow, ‘The Clock of the Sevenfold Will of God’ by Rev. Dr. Timothy Tow, which is very comprehensive in its scope on this subject, and ‘Fundamentals of the Christian Faith’ by Dr. Jeffrey Khoo. Although many writers begin to address this topic from different start points, I like to address it myself from the Decretive Will of God.
The Decretive Will
The Decretive Will of God is the basis that tempers all the other ‘wills’ of God. A decree is a stated law. Only kings state laws. Laws cannot be changed. In the same way, the Decretive Will of God is unchangeable. God’s decrees as revealed in Scriptures may be seen in His creation of the world (Genesis 1-2, Psalm 33:6-9, 148:2-5), His governing of world events (Genesis 12:2-3, 2 Samuel 7:12-13, Daniel 7-11, Revelation 19), and His election of men and of angels (Romans 8:29-30, Ephesians 1:4-11; John 6:37, 39, 44).
The Preceptive Will
The Preceptive Will of God is the written down law. It is found in His laws or commandments. “The moral law doth forever bind all . . .” as a sword (Rom 3:19-20), a rod (Gal 3:24), and a lamp (Ps 119:105). All God’s precepts are not just found in the Ten Commandments, but in all of Scripture. Although the law does not save mankind to inherit for him heaven, great blessings are beﬆ owed upon those who abide by God’s Preceptive will (Deuteronomy 4:8-9, 7:11-13, Joshua 1:8, Psalm 19:7-11).
God’s Directive Will can be seen in Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths.”
The Preceptive Will is distinct to the Directive Will in that the former is general while the latter is speciﬁc. We can call it the personal law. The ﬁrst step towards knowing His secret or personal will in our lives is to know His Preceptive Will. His Directive Will is an extension of His Preceptive Will (Rom 12:1-2, Psalm 25:8-9, 12, 37:4). What God directs one person to do might not be the same thing He is directing another to do.
The Cooperative Will of God is when a person having comprehended God’s decrees, precepts and directions, chooses to do what God requires of them. It is the law of partnership. Dr. David Muriithi is his book ‘The Will of God,’ page 4, explains the root word will as ‘thelema’ to mean ‘the exact thing that God wants you to do.’ An example would be the narrative of Abraham’s servant seeking a wife for his son Isaac (Gen 24:1-4, 10-21, 26-27).
The Cooperative Will may also be seen in the work of missions. God enlists the help of His people in reaching out to the world (Matthew 28:18-20). In the work of sanctiﬁcation also, which we know is from the prompting of the Holy Spirit, we cooperate with the Lord by submitting ourselves to the ministry of the Spirit (Rom 6:11-13, 8:1-6). While it His will for us to become Christ-like, we actually put away the worldly man and put on the spiritual man (Colossians 3:5-10).
The Desiderative Will demonstrates the heart of God. It is the law of benevolence. God’s desire is that every sinner repents and be saved. ‘Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?’ (Ezekiel 33:11).
Murray and Stonehouse say that this will of God to repentance and salvation is universalized and reveals to us, therefore, that there is in God a benevolent loving-kindness towards the repentance and salvation of even those whom he has not decreed to save. This pleasure, will, desire, is expressed in the universal call to repentance. Consider again Ezekiel 18:23, 32, 2 Peter 3:9. God oﬀers salvation indiscriminately to the whole world; both to the elect and to the reprobate (John 3:16, Acts 2:21, Rom 1:16, 5:18, 1 John 2:2).
According to the Westminster Shorter Catechism Question 2: ‘What rule hath God given to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him? Answer: The Word of God, which is contained in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, is the only rule to direct us how we may glorify and enjoy him.’ What we need to take from this is that knowing God has to be on His own terms.
According to Howe, God’s Permissive will is His will to permit whatsoever He thinks ﬁt to permit, or, not to hinder, while what He so wills or determines so to permit, He intends also to regulate, and not to behold as an idle unconcerned spectator, but to dispose all those permissa unto wise and great ends of His own. God permitted Satan to test Job (Job 1:6-12). He also permitted Satan to sell of Joseph into Egypt by his brothers. God allowed him to be accused falsely (Gen 45:7-8, 50:20; cf Rom 8:28). The Permissive will is the law of allowance.
When God allows hardship to come your way, it is not out of malevolence. God has no ulterior motives. He is not a man that he should lie or trick or manipulate. If we trust Him in the storm, we will find that it was for an eventual end, surpassing by far in comparison the ‘little afflictions’ we go through as Paul put it after being beaten by rods, whipped, shipwrecked, starved, imprisoned, confronted by apostates, and being spitefully abused. It is witness of salvation if we go through these in this life.
After God has declared, instructed, desired, directed, and permitted, a consequence is imminent when we have not cooperated. God in His all-knowing and infinity often times leaves for a season His own children to manifold temptations, and the corruption of their own hearts. He does this to chastise them for their sins. He also allows it to humble them when they realize the hidden strength of their depravity. The Punitive Will is the law of consequence.
Only then can God raise us to a closer and constant dependence of our support upon Himself. This experience also causes us to more eagerly adhere to Christ’s command to always watch and pray lest we fall into temptations (Matthew 26:41). It makes us more watchful against all future occasions of sin. We should be encouraged in this, because if we learnt to depend on God, we would never fall into pride. This holy end is that cause of God allowing us to discover just how capable we are of going astray. This should serve to mitigate our judgment of others in their weaknesses. God chastises His own in order to bring them back to the Cooperative will of God.
However, for those for whom God has not decreed salvation, He hardens. From them He withholds His grace whereby they might have been enlightened in their understanding. Consider Dr. Chuck Missler’s treatment on the Judgments of God. This is called the Abandonment Judgment. When the Holy Ghost withdraws His conviction from the hearts of man, they inevitably will fall into the unpardonable sin.
God gives them over to their lusts, the vicious temptations of the world and Satan’s wiles. They harden themselves, even under those same means, which God uses to soften the hearts of others. It has always been puzzling to me how Pharaoh could face all those attacks from God and still remain untouched in His soul. Frankly, I have seen glimpses of the same in my own life, where consequences seem ineffective to constitute in me a worthwhile change. But thanks be to God He saved me.
To His enemies, God is vengeful (Nahum 1:2, Romans 1:18). He punishes sinners for their rebellion (Rom 6:23). Pharoah (Exodus 7:34) and Herod Agrippa I (Acts 12:20-23) are case studies among the many examples we could find. In Jude he punishes Israel in their apostasy, the angels who failed to keep their first estate and Sodom and Gomorrah (vss. 5-7). He also demonstrates apostasy in Cain, Balaam and Core (Jude 11). The study of the book of Jude, will change your life.
To the son whom God loves, He metes out discipline. ‘For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth (Hebrews 12:6). Consider these texts: Proverbs 13:24, 19:18, 22:15, 23:13-14, 29:15, 17. Examples of God exercising His chaﬆising can be found in the lives of David (2 Sam 11-12, see 12:11-12, 15-18), and Jonah (Jonah 1-2).
The punishments of sin in this world are either internal, as blindness of mind (1 Timothy 4:1-2), strong delusions (2 Thessalonians 2:11), hardness of heart (Psalm 95:8-9), horror of conscience (Luke 21:26), and vile aﬀections (Romans 1:26-32). They can also be external, as the evils that befall us in our bodies. There are diseases that come as a consequence of direct sin. There are famines and poverty spells that are specifically because we sin. Even death itself.
The punishments of sin in the world to come (Eschatological Judgment), include everlasting separation from God’s loving presence. There shall be most grievous torments both in soul and body, without any intermission, in hell forever. ‘In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power’ (2 Thessalonians 1:8-9).
In conclusion, let us remember this year, to have a proper standing before God. The will of God has provided the means necessary for our conversion. The acquisition of such a knowledge should temper us towards good. I pray for the conviction of God to give this blog efficacy where you are concerned my dear reader. Solemnly consider the dangers of ignoring such a gracious treatment that God has revealed. Take the kingdom by force. Compel your soul to ingest this medicine where it proves rebellious. God has not revealed this with ill intent. Conversely, the knowledge of His will is to procure you access to Christian Hedonism.
To God be the glory.
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