God’s Will Be Done: H.C. Lord’s Day 49

Q 124. What does the third petition mean? 

A 124. “Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” means:
Help us and all people to reject our own wills and to obey your will without any back talk. Your will alone is good.
Help us one and all to carry out the work we are called to, as willingly and faithfully as the angels in heaven.
 
Language about the “will of God” can be very confusing.  This is due in part to the variety of ways that this language is used in Scripture, but also finds it’s puzzlement in how Christians use the term to talk about what is going on in their lives.  We readily dismiss negative events in our lives, even those related to the presence and impact of sin, as being God’s will.  A tragic death, a fatal illness, and even injustice that we experience in the world around us is all chalked up to and dismissed as “the will” of God.
 
Yet, even in that rather dispassionate response, there is something unsettling that stirs in us.  The question of how a good God can allow for such evil arises.  When we dismiss sin as the “will of God,” we even begin to walk the line of blaming God for sin and potentially see Him as the cause of it.  Thoughts such as this are contrary to what we know about God; He cannot sin and is wholly separate from sin.  How can these two things be reconciled?
 
There are really two sides of God’s will that Scripture reveals to us: His will of decree and His will of Desire.  God’s will of decree has to do with His continual governing and provision of the entire universe.  His divine sovereignty covers everything from the orbits of planets and galaxies to the number of hairs on your head and the color of your eyes.  Most of all, God’s unthwartable will is the ultimate redemption and restoration of Creation and the annihilation of sin.
 
God’s Will of desire is what the Lord’s prayer is pointing toward.  God’s will of desire has to do with what God wants for His people and for the world, but it is a will that can be disregarded by His rebellious creatures.  This is where human freedom comes in.  While it is God’s desire that everything on earth be as perfect as it is in heaven; perfect worship, perfect obedience, perfect service, perfect holiness.  He has, however, instilled freedom in the human heart.  It is this freedom that ultimately led to sin entering the world and it is this freedom that continues to allow God’s creatures to turn from Him and reject Him.
 
Ultimately, this is why we pray that God’s will would be done “on earth as it is in heaven.”  As we have been talking about already, the Lord’s prayer is about teaching us to pray.  Clearly, praying these exact words does not enact God’s will of desire here on earth instantly.  If that were true, everything would be perfect once again.  Instead, this once again reminds us of who we are praying to and what He desires for us.
 
First, by praying this we are reminded that it is indeed God’s will, not our own will, that we are to desire.  For us, that also means that we are putting our own will aside.  Scripture describes this as “dying” to ourselves.  There are many examples of human desires and will taking center stage and God’s will being put aside.  Whether it is that time when we littered while we were driving in the country or the concentration camps of the Nazis in World War 2, when human will is allowed to run free, it always runs to sin.  Clearly, we need a Savior, and one of the results of God’s salvation is the changing of the heart; we desire that God’s will would be done, not our own.
 
For this to take place, a second thing needs to happen: we need to trust God’s will.  It isn’t enough to just want God’s will to happen, we need to trust that how He is working and what He is doing is the right thing too.  Often this is where Christians start to say things like “it’s God’s will.”  Certainly, nothing in the world happens without God allowing it to happen.  However, it is not God’s will that people would die, that people would abuse or kill, or that sin would continue to have all of the horrible impacts on the world that it does.  In the midst of this, however, God is at work.  As we desire His will over ours, and as we trust in Him, we begin to see things change in our lives.  Our faith grows, our trust grows, and we look to Him in the good times and the bad, recognizing God’s faithfulness and His love, even in the midst of our pain.
 
Finally, as we desire God’s will and trust His will, we must also carry out His will.  This is the ultimate end of transformation in our hearts; it overflows into and out of our lives.  As we learn to pray and learn from this prayer, we begin to see things as God sees them, to feel about people the way God feels about them, and our hearts begin to beat in sync with His.  In essence, God’s will of desire becomes the desire of our will!  It is to that end, then, that we begin to desire that heaven would come to earth and we work to that end, spreading God’s love and working God’s will in the world around us.


Ephesians 1- Predestined

Read Ephesians 1

Paul begins his letter to the church in Ephesus, a letter that was most likely meant to have a greater audience than just this one church, on a really high theological note.  In fact, he basically sums up salvation history in this one chapter, and it all begins and ends with God.

From all eternity, God has called us to be His own.

There is a tenant in the Christian faith known as the doctrine of predestination that is something that has been talked about and debated over the years.  Many different denominations of the Church see this differently.  Essentially, the picture that Paul is trying to paint here is a God that is far above any confines of human existence.  In fact, before the beginning began, God had worked out the plan of salvation and had even called people to Himself.  This calling, which happened before all time began, is what we know of as Predestination.

Now, this particular doctrine also raises a number of questions for us.  If God had the plan of salvation already worked out before He created the world, does that mean that God knew sin was going to happen?  How could He allow that?  Does that mean He created an imperfect world?

What about free will?  Humans were created with the freedom to choose God or not, yet God already knows who He has called and who will respond?  Doesn’t that conflict with free will?

These are good questions.  The responses would take more time and are more nuanced than this writing has time for or can address.  Some of it is beyond human understanding and comprehension.  However, it may suffice to say that what we know as salvation history, as recorded in the Bible, is far greater, more thought-out, and abundantly more complex than we may have initially thought.  Yet, even in that, God has taken care of every detail to the point that we cannot lose even a hair from our head without it being His will.  Truly, He is amazing!



Romans 9 – Election

Read Romans 9

Today Paul tackles the theological doctrine that we call “election” head on.  The doctrine of Election is both incredibly complex and abundantly simple in attempting to describe and give us an understanding of how God acts.  Simply put, the doctrine of Election speaks to the reality that some are chosen to be God’s people while others aren’t.  Those that are chosen as so due to no special circumstances or prior knowledge of potential good, but rather because of “God’s good pleasure and will.”

While that may sound simple enough, the issue is much more complex.  The doctrine of Election, as Paul describes it here, that there are those who are ethnically Hebrew who are not God’s people and also, by extension, those that claim to be Christian that also are not God’s people.  Why?  How?  Because it isn’t about physical descent or ancestry, Paul says, but rather that God’s people are given that identity through God’s mercy and promise only, not because of anything they or any other human did or will do.

Ok, perhaps we can accept that… but it doesn’t really seem fair… and doesn’t that impinge upon the theological notion of free will?  What about the people that never hear the Gospel?

Paul points out the reality of this being at the very heart of God.  Simply put: He is God.  His ways are higher than our ways.  We may not be able to fully understand it.

Yet there is a movement from specific to universal that takes place in Christ’s work.  No longer is the promise given only to the Jews, but it extends to the Gentiles as well.  God’s grace in Jesus Christ is available to all, and as John says, “Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.”



Romans 1 – No Excuse

Read Romans 1

Paul’s letter to the church in Rome is a systematic presentation of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and God’s over-arching plan of salvation.  There is no record, to my knowledge, of how the church in Rome was founded, and therefore it is possible that Paul is writing not simply to encourage but also to educate these brothers and sisters on the basics of Christian faith.  Throughout the letter, Paul does a great deal of work to show that both Jews and Gentiles (of which the Roman church was primarily made up) are alike, under the wrath of God and equal recipients of God’s gift of grace as well, when they put their faith in Jesus Christ.

To fully walk through God’s plan of salvation, Paul begins at the beginning, with creation and the fall of humanity into sin.  Neither the Gospel nor God’s plan of salvation makes sense (or are needed) without the reality of sin.

But there is another truth that Paul also points out here which is the fact that the general ability to know God, and therefore the ability to seek Him out, is made plain through creation.  Because of this, humankind, though sinful, is left without excuse for their sins before God.

The reality here that Paul is expressing is that humans were created by God, in the image of God, to be in relationship with God.  Yet, true relationship, true love requires a choice and so humanity was created with free will.  It is the deepest truth of love: the ability to choose means the risk of rejection.  Yet there is greater joy in the choice to love, something that God desires for us so deeply that He sent His Son to die and make a way for our relationship to be reconciled.

Check out what the Heidelberg Catechism says about this:

Heidelberg Catechism Q & A: 10, 14, 21, 35, 59, 96, 101, 106, 112

Check out what the Belgic Confession says about this:

Belgic Confession Articles: 2, 12, 13, 14, 15