God’s will is that believers obstain from fornication. Paul wrote, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given us His Holy Spirit,” (1Thes 4:3-8). It is clear that Paul recognized that some Christians could reject the “will of God,” and resist it.
God’s will is that believers continually give thanks. “pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you,” (1Thes 5:17-18). Does anyone suppose that all the Thessalonians (or all Christians) perfectly carry out God’s will concerning prayer and giving thanks? Hardly!
That God’s will is not always accomplished extends to the salvation of people as well. “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth“ (1 Tim 2:3-4). Peter said precisely the same thing. “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance“ (2 Peter 3:9).
If God is sovereign and can save whomever He chooses, and His will is that none perish, why isn’t everyone saved? The fact that most people are not saved logically demands that one of the following four things must be true.
1. Peter and Paul were mistaken about God’s will. (These passages are inaccurate)
2. God is incapable of saving everyone He desires to save. (God is impotent)
3. God does not act according to His own will. (God is schizophrenic and irrational).
4. God has chosen to limit His own sovereignty to allow man to freely choose. (God has a purpose in permitting free will).
It is obvious that #4 is the only rational choice. But how can this be? The answer is simply that there is a conflict of desires within God. That is, there is tension between His desire for all to be saved, and His purpose in man’s salvation which demands free will on the part of man. The tension between allowing man free will, and desiring all to be saved, fully explains God’s actions recorded in Scripture. God’s actions are perfectly consistent with His expressed desires. He wants all to be saved. And He has provided the means for all to be saved at great cost to Himself. But He also values free will, without which the kind of loving, intimate relationship God desires with man is not possible.
God is sovereign, and is in total control of His universe. He is all powerful, and nobody can resist His will when He decrees something. But, it does not necessarily follow, as Calvinists insist, that He wields His sovereignty in every circumstance. It is quite possible that under many circumstances, God allows men and angels to make their own choices, and reap the results of their choices, both good and bad. As parents, we do this at times as a necessary part of parenting. Our children need to experience the harsh consequences bad choices in small things so they will avoid the terrible consequences of bad choices in big things. As parents, we increasingly permit the free will of the child. This in no way implies that we have given up our sovereignty as parents.
Copyright © Tim Warner – 10/2003