Home > Hermeneutics > Distinguish between things that differ: Example 3

Distinguish between things that differ: Example 3

In order to understand certain passages it is absolutely needful to recognize that there is a twofold “will” of God spoken of in the Scriptures, by which we do not mean His decretive will and His permissive will, for in the final analysis that is a distinction without a difference, for God never permits anything which is contrary to His eternal purpose. No, we refer to the very real distinction which there is between His secret and His revealed will, or, as we much prefer to express it, between His predestinating and His preceptive will. God’s secret will is His own counsels which He has divulged to no one. His revealed will is made known in His Word, and is the definer of our duty and the standard of our responsibility. The grand reason why I should follow a certain course or do a certain thing is because it is God’s will that I should do so—made known to me in the rule I am to walk by. But suppose I go contrary to His Word and disobey, have I not crossed His will? Assuredly. Then does that mean that I have thwarted His purpose? Certainly not, for that is always accomplished, notwithstanding the perversity of His creatures. God’s revealed will is never performed perfectly by any of us, but His secret or foreordinating will is never prevented by any (Psalm 135:6; Proverbs 21:30; Isaiah 46:10).

What has just been referred to above is admittedly a great deep, which no finite mind can fully fathom. Nevertheless, the distinction drawn must be made if we are not to be guilty of making the Scriptures contradict themselves. For example, such passages as the following evince the universality and invincibility of God’s will being accomplished.

“But He is in one mind, and who can turn Him? and what His soul desireth, even that He doeth” (Job 23:13).

“But our God is in the heavens. He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased” (Psalm 115:3).

“He doeth according to His will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay His hand, or say unto Him, “What doest Thou?” (Daniel 4:35).

“For who hath resisted His will?” (Romans 9:19). On the other hand, such passages as the following have reference to the revealed or preceptive will of God which may be withstood by the creature.

“And that servant, which knew his Lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to His will” (Luke 12:47).

“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

“In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). God’s secret will is His eternal and unchanging purpose concerning all things which He has made, and is brought about by means and through agencies which He has appointed to that end, and which can no more be hindered by men or devils than they can prevent the sun from shining.

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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