Finding and Following God’s Will, or, How Cessationists May Know and Do the Will of God, Part 2

In my last post I began putting forth my understanding of and belief in the idea that the sign gifts of the first century have ceased in this dispensation, a belief known as cessationism.  This belief includes the understanding that the canon of Scripture is complete and closed.  I ended my last post with my presuppositions, which include the following:

  1. The God of the Bible exists and is knowable
  2. He has spoken
  3. The Bible is the record of His speaking
  4. In speaking He has revealed His will
  5. Since He has revealed His will He must desire that we know it
  6. Since He desires that we know His will His message must be comprehensible (He is God after all)
  7. Therefore, we can know His will
  8. His will is found in Scripture

In this post I would like to demonstrate that Scripture demands that we know God’s will, and explain how Scripture teaches us how to know and obey God’s will.

The first requirement is that one must be a believer.  God’s desire is that men be saved (1 Tim. 2:3-4).  The natural man, a.k.a., the unbeliever, cannot know the will of God, cannot understand the message of Scripture, and indeed does not desire to understand the will of God or message of Scripture (1 Cor. 2:14).  Thus, the first step of knowing and doing God’s will is that you must first trust Jesus Christ alone for salvation from sin.

Secondly, believers are commanded to understand God’s will.  Paul, in Ephesians 5:17, states, “So then do not be foolish, but understand (present active imperative) what the will of the Lord is.”  We can also deduce from this verse that to not understand the will of God is to be a foolish believer.  However, in order for a believer to be able to understand the instruction of Scripture he must be one who is spiritual, i.e., not walking in darkness, but in fellowship with the Father (I Cor. 2:15; 3:1-3; 1 John 1:6-7).

Third, knowing Christ’s commands, including His further instruction found in the Apostles’ teaching, is to know His will.  Psalm 40:8 proclaims, “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your Law is within my heart.”  Knowing and obeying God’s Law was to do His will.  Later in the Psalms we find the following instruction: “How can a young man keep his way pure?  By keeping it according to Your word.  With all my heart I have sought You; Do not let me wander from Your commandmentsYour word I have hid in my heart, that I may not sin against You” (Ps. 119:9-11).  The clear idea is that knowing God’s word and His Law is equivalent to knowing His will.

There are several passages in the New Testament that give clear, unequivocal statements of what His revealed will for the believer is.  Such ideas as, be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:18), ™being sanctified (1 Thess. 4:3), ™be thankful (1 Thess. 5:18), sometimes suffering for Him (1 Peter 3:17), ™be subject to authorities (1 Peter 2:13), and ™do all without grumbling (Ph. 2:14).  These are just a few examples.

Fourth, obeying His commands is doing His will.  Jesus patterned this for us and went as far as to tell us so.  He said, “The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works” (John 14:10).  As a matter of fact, Jesus’ whole life of obedience was the outworking of doing God’s will: “Behold I have come to do Your will” (Heb. 10:9).  Jesus identified the fact that part of the Spirit’s ministry was to enable His disciples to obey His commandments and thereby demonstrate their love for Him (John 14:15-17).

From what I have put forth as I have found in Scripture, I believe that the clear teaching of Scripture is that we can and must know God’s will, that knowing His word is to know His will, and in doing what He commands we carry out His will.  However, there is more to this story.

There are several issues that must be addressed before we can actually know and then do God’s will.  First, there is the matter of knowing what His word says.  Our heritage is found in First Corinthians.  Paul teaches us that “we have (possess) the mind of Christ.”  I believe that what Paul is teaching here is the link between the fact that we have the indwelling Spirit as well as the Divine message of Scripture, which the Spirit enables us to understand.  Yet, before the Spirit can enlighten our minds to understand the word we must know it.  Therefore, Paul instructs Timothy to, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15).  Accurate handling of the word requires accurate understanding and application.  One of the main issues with believer’s who don’t know the will of God is that they do not take the time nor make the effort to know what the word teaches.  The belief that God gives direct revelation in order for individual believers to know God’s will for them is, in my opinion, an act of lazy discipleship, at least in part.

Another aspect of knowing and doing the will of God is that it takes wisdom to employ His will.  The Greek word for wisdom, sophia, may be defined as “the capacity to understand and function accordingly”.  It is this word that is used by James when he teaches us that, “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him” (James 1:5).  Therefore, we see that wisdom is necessary and available for the believer who would know and do God’s will.  That wisdom is for the purpose of employing what is known of God’s will in the life of the believer.

There is also the matter of the Spirit’s ministry within the believer and our cooperation with Him.  Paul taught the Philippians to “work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure” (Phil. 2:12b-13).  The Spirit’s work is accomplished fully when believers cooperate with Him by, “(being) filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).  The Spirit causes us to desire to do God’s will, enables us to do God’s will, but our obedience is required to carry out God’s will.

The final link in the chain of knowing and doing God’s will is found in adding all the 2’s together.  Here is the way I believe it all works, according to how I interpret all that we’ve seen.  The mechanics of doing His will when attempting to make a decision are as follows:

1. Know God’s revealed will
2. Obey God’s revealed will
3. Count the cost of your options, Luke 14:28-32
4. Do all for His glory – 1 Cor. 10:31
5. Do what you want to do – Psalm 37:4
This answer seems to be to “unspiritual” for some as if God doesn’t work within the mundane of the everyday life.  Too many want a mystical encounter with God, which I believe can be attributed to the Church’s refusal to accept Scripture as the only source of knowing God’s will.  The result is that many Christians remain in a perpetual state of immaturity waiting on a special message from God that never seems to come.
God bless.  I pray this helps.

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Finding and Following God’s Will, or, How Cessationists May Know and Do the Will of God, Part 1

I have been noticing an upswing in the discussion concerning how God speaks to HIs peopleImage today.  The arguments range from the idea that God still speaks to each individual believer through dreams, visions, audible voice, and other people, to those of us who are staunch cessationists.   First, allow me to explain what I mean by “cessation/cessationist”.

“Cessation” is a term used to explain that the miraculous sign gifts that existed during the first century, which God used to forward His plan and message, are no longer in effect.   This includes the belief that God is not presently granting new revelation of Himself to mankind, including His elect, His children.  A cessationist is one who holds to the aforementioned belief.  Notice that I did not say that God is not speaking today.  That is the popular and simplistic way of explaining the idea.  I believe whole heartedly that God is speaking loudly and clearly today, but believe that He is limiting His speaking to the completed canon of Scripture.  To further explain, I do not believe that God currently speaks audibly, or through dreams, or through visions, or hunches, or even through other believers.  I believe that God has spoken and that His word as recorded in the pages of Holy writ (fancy word for Scripture) is “living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing (penetrating) as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12).  If it is capable of determining whether the thoughts and intentions of the believer are pure, or good or bad, then surely it is capable of giving me direction in every aspect of life and decision making.

The Reformers left us with several excellent phrases that explain the heart and soul of the battle during the period known as the Reformation.  One of those phrases is Sola Scriptura.  This expression of theological truth was not a doctrine they created but one they rediscovered from their study of Scripture.  I’ve been reading some of what both Luther and Calvin believed and will emphatically state that Sola
 Scriptura is 1.) Self-explanatory, and 2.) An expression resulting from their unequivocal belief that Scripture is the only means by which man receives communication from God since the close of the canon of Scripture.  Both Luther and Calvin clearly believed in Sola Scriptura in the way that I believe in Sola Scriptura, namely, that God has spoken and the record of that revelation is in the Bible alone. It is living and powerful and has need of no further additions. As Peter stated, God “has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us…” (2 Peter 1:3).  I would suggest a review of the story of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19ff). The rich man begged Abraham to send Lazarus back to warn his brothers, but Abraham told him that they had the writings of Moses and the prophets and if they wouldn’t believe those writings of Scripture they wouldn’t believe even if one rose from the dead. 
 The centrality of Scripture is one of the points of Jesus’ story.

Too many believers today are spending their waking hours waiting for God to tell them where they should go to college, what job to take, whom to marry, and so on.  The resulting impotence is staggering and sad.  How can we overcome in Christ if we are frozen in place while waiting for God to deliver His will to us by special revelation.  And don’t be fooled; if you are waiting for God to deliver His will to you it must be by special revelation and therefore must be on par with the content of Scripture.  Scripture does not teach that some contents of special revelation are greater than others.  That is not to say that one passage of Scripture can’t have more of an impact on our lives today than another, but we also must realize that even what seems to be the most insignificant passage in Scripture is of grave importance to the overall message since every word, from Genesis to Revelation, is an invaluable part of the greater story of God’s Divine Plan.  Without the most insignificant points of the story the most valuable points of the story could not exist.

So, if I believe that God no longer speaks by way of additional special revelation, how do I propose that a believer go about finding and following God’s will?  Well, I’m glad you asked.  That is what I will address in my next post.

In closing I would like to offer my presuppositions, which will help to set the stage for part 2 of this discussion.  I believe that most who read these will offer no disagreement.

  1. The God of the Bible exists and is knowable
  2. He has spoken
  3. The Bible is the record of His speaking
  4. In speaking He has revealed His will
  5. Since He has revealed His will He must desire that we know it
  6. Since He desires that we know His will His message must be comprehensible (He is God after all)
  7. Therefore, we can know His will
  8. His will is found in Scripture

I may not have all of those in proper order, but you get my meaning.

Until next time, God bless.