Part Three of a Three Part Series.
By Pastor Don Strand
Over the last two weeks on this posting, we have talked about two of the three aspects the Bible presents on the nature of God’s will. The first was God’s decretive (dē-‘crē’tive) will which is that part of God’s will that cannot be resisted. What God has ‘decreed’ will always happen. The second way the Bible speaks of God’s will is of His preceptive (prē-‘cĕp’-tive) will. God has revealed in both our consciences and in His Word what He wants us to do. God’s preceptive will is to love Him and love our neighbor and He has revealed in summary form what that looks like in the Ten Commandments. The third and final aspect of God’s will is called His will of “disposition” (dis-pə-‘zi-shən). All three aspects of God’s will, decretive, preceptive and disposition make up the sum total of His perfect and complete will.
God’s will of disposition is His attitude; it is those things that are pleasing to Him. For example, God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, yet the Bible says that He does indeed decree the death of the wicked. Does this set God’s will of disposition at odds with His decretive will? Not at all. Because God’s will of disposition is to delight in His own holiness and righteousness. So when He decrees the death of the wicked the result is the display of His holiness, righteousness and justice. He is never delighted in a vindictive sense toward those who receive His judgment, instead He is delighted when His righteousness is displayed in His just judgment. In a similar way, God is pleased when we find our pleasure in obedience and He is displeased when we are disobedient. God finds His delight in His creatures when they mirror His attributes of love, holiness and righteousness.
So in summary, we have these three attributes of God’s will which together, make up the complete picture. They are His:
(a) Decretive will, the will by which God brings to pass
whatsoever He decrees. This is hidden to us until it happens.
(b) Preceptive will revealed law or commandments, which we have the
power but not the right to break.
(c) Will of disposition which describes God’s attitude or disposition. It reveals
what is pleasing to Him.
So, how does understanding the three types of the will of God help me to determine His will for me? First of all, if the will we are seeking to discover is His secret, decretive will, then our quest is a fool’s errand. It has been said that to pry into God’s secret will is an unwarranted invasion of God’s privacy. God’s secret counsel is none of our business. This is partly why the Bible forbids fortune-telling, palm reading and other forms of sorcery that attempt to predict the future.
Second, we know that God desires our obedience to his commands. His preceptive will is that we love Christ and demonstrate our love by keeping His commands (John 14:15). When we do God is pleased. The Psalmist writes in Psalm 112 that the generosity, steadiness, mercy and physical blessings are for the one who fears the Lord (keeps His commands) and delights in doing so.
This delight in keeping God’s preceptive will can only come from a heart that has been brought to life by God’s Spirit. It is the Spirit that gives spiritual life to a person and they are born again just as Jesus told Nicodemus (John 3:3). With this new birth comes first of all, belief in Jesus. That belief (faith) credits us with the perfect righteousness of Jesus so now God looks on us as forgiven for all our violations of His preceptive will. This is called “justification” a legal word that means “not guilty”. And justification is what allows God to adopt us into His family. We are His children now because we are in His Son Jesus. He is the basis of our redemption.
The new birth gives us new eyes to see our sin for what it is, a violation of God’s preceptive will and a new desire to live according to God’s preceptive will. We will never do this perfectly, yet there is always hope for us because we are justified by our faith in Jesus. The process of striving to be in God’s preceptive will is called “sanctification”. It is the process of becoming more and more like Jesus in our desire and ability to be in God’s preceptive will by the power of God’s spirit living in us (Romans 8:11).
Now we have arrived at God’s will for each of us. It is to be sanctified. The sole purpose of our redemption is to be conformed to the image of God in Jesus Christ (Romans 8:29). Led by the Spirit, the Apostle Paul writes to Christians in the church at Thessalonica these words; “For this is the will of God, your sanctification:” (1 Thessalonians 4:3a). Our sanctification is God’s decretive will; it will happen (Philippians 1:6). Our sanctification is aligned with God’s preceptive will and as we are conformed more and more to desiring to keep God’s preceptive will it delights Him, and this is His will of disposition.
When we ask “what is God’s will for my life in ______?” and you can put anything you like in that blank, the answer will always be whatever makes you more like Jesus. Whom should I marry? Answer, a godly spouse who knows God through Christ. What job should I take? Answer, the one that allows me to work honestly and diligently using the gifts God has given me for His glory. Where should I live? Answer, where He leads me through prayer and the opportunity to be a light for Him. When we seek to find the will of God for our lives, we always start with our sanctification. We use His Word, prayer and the fellowship and accountability of other Christians to guide us and at every junction in life’s journey. We always look to delight ourselves in keeping God’s precepts. That is His will for each of us and when we do, He promises to give us the desires of our heart (Psalm 37:4).