God’s Moral Universal Will
I want our study to be as practical as possible. In order to be practical we must start with a correct doctrinal understanding of the will of God. It is impossible to carefully teach this and any other Biblical concept without thoroughly thinking through the doctrine first. The more I study this doctrine in Scripture, the more fully I recognize its depth and richness. The God of the universe who does not need us, and is fully sufficient and content within Himself and apart from us desires to reveal Himself to us personally, and work uniquely in our lives for His glory. That concept ought to cause you to humbly rejoice. God is good!
Like so many Bible doctrines, it is important to see the multifaceted nature of this doctrine. Our salvation for instance is multifaceted. When I tell someone that I have been saved, I am speaking of my justification. God saved me in the past when I placed my faith in His finished work on Calvary. When I tell someone that I am being saved, I am talking about progressive sanctification and daily growth into Christ-likeness. When I tell people that I am anticipating my salvation, I am speaking of my future glorification, I John 3:2, “when we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He is.” Notice that the doctrine of Biblical salvation is deep, rich, and multifaceted. I did not even mention the fact the salvation in the Bible often speaks of a physical deliverance as well. In order for us to understand Biblical salvation, we must read carefully usages and contexts in order to understand the doctrine fully. The will of God is similar. I will attempt to do this in the doctrinal section of our study.
“God’s will” can be viewed in Scripture in three different categories. I have defined them as the moral universal will, the sovereign will, and the personal will. It is possible to break these three main categories down further, but for the sake of our study; I will focus on these three aspects of the will broadly.
First, notice the moral universal will. The moral universal will of God is His written Word. In order to understand God’s moral universal law, we must carefully read and interpret His Word within the controls of grammar, context, and the rest of Scripture. God’s Word is objective, and unchanging. He has determined to reveal Himself personally through this Word. In the narratives of human events, law, proverbs, prophecy, psalms, gospels, epistles, and eschatology, God has revealed His character and His past, present, and future dealings with mankind in ways always consistent with His unchanging character. God has given us specific commands for a host of unique situations, for instance qualifications for picking pastoral authority and deacons in I Timothy 3, as well as broad commands that encompass every aspect of out lives in Matthew 22:37, where He commands all men to love the Lord with all their heart, soul, and mind. God’s truth is unchanging, and directly applicable to every generation and culture of both believers and the unbelievers. In order for us to know this moral universal will of God in every situation of life, we do not need a sign, peace, or peculiar feeling. We simply need to carefully and humbly study God’s Word to see where it speaks specifically regarding our actions, motives, and desires.
Though God has taken the time to carefully reveal His moral universal will, He has chosen to give us the freedom to willfully obey or disregard it. This in no way weakens or limits the sovereignty of God. God has chosen to rule His creation with a limited degree of freedom; however, He will call all men to account. His sovereignty is fully upheld as He will righteously judge every thought, action, and motive of mankind.
I want to give you a synopsis of several passages referring to the will of God that fall into this category, the “moral universal will of God.” Romans 12:2 refers to the believer’s decision to present his body a living sacrifice as the “good, acceptable, and perfect will of God.” In other words, it is God’s will for every believer to be presenting his body a living sacrifice. In Ephesians 6:6 Paul uses the same phrase to refer to every believer’s responsibility to obey their human masters from the heart, “Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.” In I Timothy 2:4 Paul writes that it is God’s desires or will that, “all men be saved, and come unto the knowledge of the truth.” There is nothing to debate here. It is God’s moral universal will that every person be born again; however, we know that this will not happen. God as Sovereign over all has granted men a degree of freedom to either embrace or reject the proclaimed gospel message. In Colossians 4:12 Paul states that Epaphras, fervently prays for you, “that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Epaphras was pleading with God to bring these believers to maturity. This is the will of God for every believer. I Thessalonians 4:3 says that the will of God is that every believer be set apart, “that ye should abstain from fornication.” There are no exceptions. It is God’s will that every believer walk in moral purity. I Thessalonians 5:18 says that every believer must give thanks in the midst of every circumstance, “for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.” Hebrews 10:36 says that believers are to hold fast to the faith in the midst of persecution, because they, “have need of patience, that, after ye have done the will of God, ye might receive the promise.” God’s will for these believers, as well as all believers is that they hold fast, despite persecution, persevering in the faith. I Peter 2:15 says that submission to pagan governmental authority, “is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men.” I Peter 4:2 says that a believer should, “no longer live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.” II Peter 3:9 says that “The Lord is not…not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” Lastly, I John 2:17 says that, “he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.”
Each of these passages referring to the will of God has several common elements. These passages refer to God’s “moral will” relating to either every believer or unbeliever. It is objective and personal. His desires for these people can and often do not come to pass, yet God will hold these individuals accountable for their actions. This is how He as the Sovereign over His creation has chosen to administrate His rule at this time. The first aspect of God’s will is His moral, universal law. This aspect of His will is revealed objectively in His Word.