Three Views of God’s Will

June 11, 2009 at 10:45 am | Posted in Theology, Wisdom | 1 Comment

         There are three different ways that Christians view God’s will for their lives.  I’m not writing here about God’s decretive will – those things God has decreed will happen.  We have no control or say about those matters; they will happen because God has said they will.  Nor am I talking about God’s general will – those things God desires for everyone.  This is just another name for the principles of God’s word.  I’m talking about those things God desires for me, such as job, vocation, dating marriage, etc.  I call this God’s specific will.

        The first view I call the “Narrow Bridge.”  In this view God has a special place for me and I must find it.  All decisions in this view are based on God’s will for my life; and sin is stepping off that path.  The emphasis of the Narrow Bridge idea is strict obedience; we must obey.  On the positive side, this idea recognizes that each believer has a special place in God’s kingdom, and it has a great emphasis on personal obedience.  However, this Narrow Bridge idea has numerous problems.  The first is that it denies God’s grace.  It seems to say that stepping off my bridge can derail me from God’s will for life, especially in the area of major decisions like marriage and vocation.  What if I marry the wrong person?  Does that mean I am out of God’s will from then on?  Biblically, God is gracious and forgiving, and he has a marvelous way of creating beauty out of sin.  Second, this view misunderstands sin.  As I expressed in my article called The Depths of Depravity, there are different levels of sin in our lives; this narrow bridge idea makes the shallowest level of sin the most devastating, something that is not necessarily true.  Finally, and ultimately, this view denies the sovereignty of God.  It puts way too much emphasis on what we do, rather than on who God is; it’s all about us, but life is all about God.  He will conform his people in the image of his son, in spite of their sins (Romans 8:28-29).

        The second view I call “Wisdom within Boundaries.”  In this school of thought God is more interested in character and wisdom than in vocation or specific decisions.  Therefore decisions are based on wisdom and knowledge, which are derived from God’s word.  Sin, in this view, is going outside the boundaries of God’s general will.  Here the emphasis is on wisdom – discovering what direction God gives to all his people.  On the positive side, all our decisions should be based on wisdom.  I constantly emphasize to my congregation that God’s will never contradicts God’s word.  This idea also frees us in matters of indecisiveness; we are free to go either way, if both ways are within God’s general boundaries.  However, this school seems to give me no special place in God’s plan, something I deeply desire.  The Bible indicates that God does at times give very specific guidance in matters beyond his general will.  Abraham, Moses, Gideon, Peter and Paul are just a few examples.

        The third view, and the one I believe to be most biblical, I call “In Step with the Spirit.”  In this school, God leads every step I take, but he leads in various ways.  Decisions are based on a moment-by-moment sensitivity to God’s Spirit; comforted by the fact that no misstep will destroy my relationship with him, because it is based entirely on grace; reassured by the fact that God will sovereignly and graciously move me where I need to be; and motivated by the fact that I can participate in God’s great work of redemption.

        An illustration of this view would be a father taking a small child on a hike.  The father knows where the trail leads, even if the child doesn’t.  Dad will get the child to the destination, even if the child wanders off the path and is distracted by many other things.  In Dad’s mind, the most important thing is not the destination, it is the time together.  Some distractions found by the child can become opportunities to better the relationship, even though they slow down supposed “progress” toward the destination.


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  1. For further explaination, see the next article called “Three Views of God’s Will — revisited.” You can find it here:

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