The Will of God.

From the earliest days of man's sojourn on earth, the will of God has been set before him; and it has been his privilege and responsibility to order his life according to that will. When man obeyed God, blessing resulted: but disobedience brought its own recompense of reward. God has been pleased, not only to reveal His will for us individually, but has enlightened us with His thoughts and desires regarding the associations into which His calling has brought us. Moreover, He has unfolded to us, in the riches of His grace, the great secret of His will regarding the display of His glory in the fulness of times. How deeply solemn is the history of man, as viewed in the light of Gods will! From Adam down, it has been a long sorrowful record of great failure, with man turning from and rebelling against the will of God. Against this dark background, however, we are permitted to view God's well-beloved Son, coming into Manhood, and going into death, because of His devotion to His Father's will.

In the Life and Death of the Lord Jesus.

From Psalm 40:6, we learn that the Lord Jesus had purposed to come into this world for the accomplishment of the will of God. For Him that will involved a path of suffering, and a death of shame and judgment: but the doing of His Father's will gave Him delight. To the disciples in John 4 He said, "My meat is to do the will of Him that sent me, and to finish His work." Again, in John 6 He says, "For I am come down from heaven, not that I should do my will, but the will of Him that sent Me." Little wonder that we read in this Gospel that "The Father loveth the Son, and hath given all things into His hand." What deep, unbroken delight the Father must have had in this perfect Man, His own beloved Son, Who never thought of Himself; not of the alleviation of His weariness and sorrows, not of His own glory and honour; but only and ever of the carrying out of the will of Him Who had sent Him into the world.

When the hour of the cross approached, and its dark shadow fell upon Him, His soul was troubled. The accomplishment of His Father's will, although it necessitated His entering into the suffering of death, gave Him pleasure; but how real to His soul was the awful contemplation of tasting death. In His deep trouble, He asks, What shall I say? Father save me from this hour? No! He would not ask to be spared that hour; He had come to that hour to secure the glory of the Father's Name in the carrying out of His will. On account of this, when in Gethsemane; when the cup of woe was placed in His hand, He said to the Father, "Not My will, but Thine be done."

Outwardly, it seemed that God's will had been frustrated in the death of His dear Son, for Messiah was cut off and had nothing; but before going to the cross, the Lord had stated publicly, "This is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which He hath given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day." A new world has been opened up to man through the death and resurrection of Christ; and it is in this world, where sin and death can never come, that the Son has secured all for the Father's will and pleasure. In resurrection, all that has been given to the Son, is beyond the reach and power of death: Satan has no authority there; nor can he enter it to deceive, defile, or corrupt. Moreover, those who believe on the Son, receive everlasting life; a life that death cannot touch; and the Son will raise up, in resurrection power, those who have believed on Him. So that according to the Father's will, the companions of Christ are going to be with Him in resurrection, to have part with Him in those things that lie outside of what is temporal; where He shall be displayed in glory; yea, in the glory of all that the Father has given to Him.

God's Will For His Saints.

Many Scriptures speak of the will of God for His saints. We have just seen that that blessed will has eternal life and resurrection glory for us; and Hebrews 10 unfolds that according to it, we are perfected in conscience even now, and have been sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. But God has not richly blessed us to leave us in the world which hates Him; indeed, "Our Lord Jesus Christ … gave Himself for our sins, that He might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father" (Gal. 1:3-4). How few of God's beloved saints seem to apprehend that He desires to have His people apart from the world's evil system, that in separation, they might be for His own pleasure. Oh that we entered into the meaning of the Lord's words to the Father, "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world."

In Romans 12 we are taught that in presenting our bodies a living sacrifice, we prove the true character of the will of God. Every member of our bodies is to be at the disposal of God for His will. The bodies of the victims on Jewish altars would nevermore serve the will of any but God alone: thus, our bodies, not dead, but living, are nevermore to serve sin; but are ever to be at God's disposal. This is a holy service, acceptable to God; intelligent service, not dictated by the will of the flesh, but in obedience as led by the Spirit. Consonant with Galatians, verse 2 exhorts us not to be conformed to this world; and it is by avoiding conformity to the world that we are delivered from it. But something more is required to achieve this; we are to be transformed by the renewing of the mind, so as to prove that the will of God is good, perfect, and acceptable. The mind plays a very important part in our lives. If the mind is occupied with the things of the world, we shall be conformed to the world; but if the mind is engaged with the things of God, the mind will be renewed, and we shall acquire new habits of thought; we shall think in different channels of thought, and the life in result will be altogether different. This is of immense import, and we do well to ponder it. Anything of the world that enters the mind; whether its literature through the eye, or its music through the ear, yields its quota to conforming us to the world. Does not the blood on the ear of the leper tell that we have been separated from this world, and the blood on the ear of the priest tell that God has claimed us for Himself by the death of His Son? God's will is not acceptable to the worldly Christian; it condemns the things he is seeking to enjoy. Such may believe and speak of the good and perfect character of God's will; but only those who have been transformed by the renewing of the mind, have proved experimentally that the will of God is good, acceptable, and perfect.

God's Will For His Church.

We have not only our individual lives to live under God's eye; but we have our privileges and responsibilities in relation to the assembly of God on earth, of which, in His great grace, we form a part. Is it not interesting and instructive to see how Paul is concerned with the presentation of God's will in the assembly epistles? He speaks of himself as "Apostle by the will of God" in both letters to the Corinthians; also in Ephesians, Colossians and 2nd Timothy. In 1st Timothy he calls attention to the command of God our Saviour; and in Titus to the commandment of our Saviour God.

The church has been left in this world as a vessel for the expression of the will of God; the place where God's mind was revered, where He would dwell. When the saints are met together, in assembly, their conduct and order were to be such, that if an unbeliever heard the word of prophecy, he would be found upon his face doing homage, confessing that God was certainly among them. Paul claimed for his writings, that they were the Lord's commandment; the very expression of God's will. Any who thought himself to be a prophet or spiritual, was called upon to acknowledge this. Those who speak of these precious Scriptures as being merely the thoughts, opinions, or judgments of Paul, truly expose themselves as unspiritual.

The 1st Epistle to Timothy was written that one might know how to behave in the house of God, the church of the living God, the base and support of the truth. We are to support the truth not merely with lip testimony, but with lives expressive of the nature of the living God; and this in all the details and relationships of life. Elders, Deacons, old and young; all have their lives to live; and the end of all enjoined in the great commandment is, love out of a pure heart, a good conscience, and unfeigned faith. Such as Hymenaeus and Alexander, who made shipwreck of the faith, serve as a warning to those whose consciences are not exercised before God. We can well understand that if the affections become impaired, the maintenance of a good conscience will not assume its importance in its thoughts, with consequent effect upon faith. The point of departure of the church at Ephesus, where Timothy appears to have received this epistle, was in leaving its first love: Christ lost His true place in their affections.

Second Timothy brings before us the will of God for the saints in a day of ruin: where the church is likened to a great house, in which are found, not only vessels of honour, but vessels of dishonour. At the commencement of His public ministry the Lord recognised the temple as "My Father's house;" towards the close, on entering the temple, He speaks of it as "My house;" but in His closing words to Israel in Matthew He calls the temple "Your house." Although bearing God's name, the temple had lost its true character: it was marked by commercialism and robbery, instead of by righteousness and holiness. Is the church marked by righteousness and holiness today? Do men take account of it as the pillar and support of the truth? Alas! outwardly, the great profession is marked by the features of the world, from which commercialism and robbery are not absent. The Christian profession has Christ's Name, but it does not bear His character; it has lost its true character as God's house. Yet it is well to remember that there is a spiritual house, which is the work of God, where no failure can come, and which can not be defiled by man's evil.

God's Will in Relation to His Purpose.

The epistle to the Ephesians develops the teaching of God's purpose, and was written to enlighten the hearts of the saints with the knowledge of His counsels. We have already noticed that Paul presents himself in the introduction as apostle of Jesus Christ by God's will; and in unfolding God's purpose speaks three times of God's will.

In verse 5 we are marked out for adoption, according to the good pleasure of His will. What wonderful grace is this that brings us into the nearest possible relationship with God Himself, into sonship. This portion for us belongs to God's eternal counsels, which existed before we had any being; long before sin had entered into the world. It was not to unravel the dreadful confusion which sin introduced that God planned this blessing for us; it was no after-thought with God; He marked us out for this most wonderful relationship to give Himself pleasure, and that the glorious nature of His grace might be praised in what He has done. God desired to gratify His own heart; and to do so He has brought us into the place where we can he eternally happy before Him, in the knowledge of His thoughts and in the enjoyment of His love. This place is not of our choosing; left to ourselves we would have got as far from God as possible: but God has brought us as near as is possible: into association with His own Son, before His face. Such thoughts are too high for man; God alone could have conceived them.

Our responsible course found us far from God, sinners in our sins; but in the riches of His grace, God has forgiven us. In the same rich grace God has abounded towards us in wisdom and intelligence in making known to us the mystery of His will. Many parts of God's will have been publicly declared to men; but He has given to His saints the secret of what He intends to do in the coming day. None can discover from enquiry into the course of the world what God is going to do. Doubtless, many can see that the present trend of the world is towards destruction, self-destruction, if God does not intervene: but they cannot possibly learn, apart from divine revelation, how all is going to end. Men may well suppose from looking at the world, that God has little or no interest in what is transpiring; but if they could learn the mystery of God's will they would know that God is greatly concerned with His creation and very soon, man of the first order will be entirely set aside, after having fully proved himself incapable of looking after his own affairs, and God's Man will come forth, to take all into His hands. Christ, the anointed of God, will not only take up the earthly things, but also the heavenly all things will come under the great Head, the Lord Jesus, Who will be the Centre of the vast universe of bliss.

Until the time of which we have spoken, God is working all things after the counsel of His own will. Even if things in the world are fast going to pieces, nothing is out of hand, so far as God is concerned. All the great movements that bespeak the failure of man are but working towards the end that God has in view; and it has been so from the beginning. Adam fell from his place of innocency and headship; Noah, the governor of the world lost control of himself; the Priesthood failed in the sons of Aaron, and kingship in the house of David and in Nebuchadnezzar; but God had a Man in reserve, Who as Head, Governor, Priest and King will secure God's glory, where every other man has failed. Behind all the outward confusion, which man has brought in down the ages, God has been working out His plan, and is still working it out, in view of the coming day. What God is doing may seem very small in man's eyes, for God is working in new creation, which the first man cannot take account of; but God's present work will be seen in its glorious character in the day when the saints are displayed with His own Son.

Filled With the Knowledge of God's Will.

The apostle Paul prayed that the saints at Colosse might be filled with the full knowledge of God's will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, for only thus can we carry out the mind of God for us. If this blessed knowledge is to fill heart and mind, other things will have to be displaced; nor shall we desire to carry out our own will, or the will of any but God. Diligent enquiry in the Scriptures will result in the acquisition of the knowledge of God's will; and this knowledge will have its proper place in the thoughts as it is held in communion with the Lord. The Lord Jesus was perfectly acquainted with God's will, and lived by every word of God. Our knowledge of God's will is very limited at best, for we are poorly instructed; and in our practical life, we live by few of God's words. Still, the whole scope of the truth is before us, and where there is desire, there will be spiritual increase. When upon earth, the Lord said, "If any man will to do His will, He shall know of the doctrine."

Wisdom and spiritual understanding should accompany the knowledge gleaned from the word of God in communion with Him. So far as wisdom is concerned, we are left in no doubt as to how we may obtain it: "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all liberally." Spiritual understanding is surely received by allowing the Spirit of God to control all our thoughts, to form the habits of thought, to control our feelings and disposition of heart and mind. These divine traits will help us to do God's will in the manner that pleases Him; for it is necessary, if we would be here for God's pleasure to carry out His behests in the Spirit of Christ.

God's will for His earthly people is found in the Old Testament Scriptures; but the "Full knowledge of His will" is found in the New Testament; and for us especially in the communications given by the Holy Spirit come down from heaven. How highly privileged we are to live in this dispensation, when the word of God has been completed; when God has unfolded all His thoughts concerning His Son, and His purpose in relation to Him.

If we are filled with the full knowledge of God's will, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding, these precious results will be manifest: 1. We shall WALK worthy of the Lord: 2. We shall BEAR FRUIT; 3. We shall GROW by the true knowledge of God.

Our walk is connected with the path of testimony. We are not to conduct ourselves like the men of the world but taking account of Christ's example, we are to follow in His steps. No other path is worthy of Him, Who is our Lord, and Whose steps were ever taken in obedience to His God and Father. In doing His bidding; in manifesting His features; men will recognise that we belong to Christ; and we are to walk in this way to commend our Lord to others in testimony.

Fruit bearing is for the pleasure of God, and the Lord Jesus, before leaving His disciples, taught them how fruit, can be borne. He said, "Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abide in the vine, thus neither (can) ye unless ye abide in Me." To abide in Him is simply to continue in dependence and communion with the Lord, drawing from Him the heavenly supplies needed by the soul; and this produces the matured expression of the life we have from Christ. Every babe in Christ has received His life. and this life is evinced in such: but at first it will necessarily be in an immature way, just as the bud on the branch manifests its life. As the saint grows in communion with Christ the rich fragrance of the blossom of the heavenly life will come; and then the fruits, so delightful to God, will be produced. Here, we learn that the fruit is to be borne in every good work; the good works that were found in their perfection in the Lord Jesus.

A tree not only bears fruit, but grows; thus increasing its capacity for fruit bearing. The figure is here continued: we are to develop our capacity for bearing fruit by growing in the true knowledge of God. How blessed that we know God Himself, and that as fully revealed in the Person of His beloved Son, and in the wonderful counsels of grace unfolded by the Holy Spirit come down from heaven. There is no limit to growth. John shows that we pass from babyhood to become young men, then mature to fathers; but there is no limit to the knowledge available to us of God and His dear Son. Long after Paul had become matured in the full knowledge of God, he said "That I might know Him." Many things may come in to hinder growth; the earth attracts, the world seduces, and the flesh entices. If however, we set our hearts to do God's will, we can count on the help of the Spirit; and as feeding upon the Word, we shall grow by the true knowledge of God.
Wm. C. Reid.