The complete will of God

Many people think it a trifle to talk about the existence of denominations, the details of conversion, or the specifics of discipleship. They see it as a waste of time, an exercise in futility, or, worse, an attempt to proselytize people whom God considers righteous.

Christians committed to following the New Testament, however, seek to be different from the world and, in the renewal of their minds and the transformation of their hearts, follow the complete will of God.

The Lord Jesus Christ came to fulfill the Father’s will. At the end, he cried, “It is completed!” John 19.30. The same Lord instructed his disciples to teach converts to “obey everything I have commanded you” Matthew 28.19.

Paul looked for complete obedience from his converts, 2 Corinthians 10.6. He wanted the saints to “discover God’s good and acceptable and complete will” Romans 12.2 McCord’s Translation.

“In Rom. 12.2 Paul exhorts his readers to be transformed by the renewal of their minds so that they may know the ‘perfect’ (i.e., ‘whole’) will of God” (N.J. Opperwall, “Perfect” ISBE 3: 765).

Imagine that! A finite human being can know the whole will of God!

But is this not a logical truth? God is good, so he wants to make his whole will for man known to him. God is powerful, so he is able to make known his whole will for man. If man cannot know and do the complete will of God, it must be God’s fault! Who is willing to affirm such an absurd thought?

To know and do the complete will of God is not a belief that humans can, this side of eternity, avoid any and all sin. The New Testament views man realistically. God knows our weaknesses. The new covenant takes into account the error of the saints.

At the same time, it requires the Christian to strive “with utmost seriousness” (Opperwall). The Lord is kind to reveal to us all his will, which we can know. And he is powerful to provide us with all resources necessary so that we can do his will.

So it is that, in obedience to God’s will, the Christian can indeed “walk in the light, as he is in the light” 1 John 1.7. This brings fellowship with God, v. 3, and with one another. Walking in the light encompasses keeping his commandments, 1 John 2.3. By these we know God.

The complete will of God is robust and full, providing specific instructions about many aspects of life, general principles that cover all possible choices, and approved examples that give us guidance on how to worship the Lord, work in his kingdom, and walk in all his ways. The New Testament gives us God’s model and power for a godly life, 2 Peter 1.3-4.

Because of hope in Christ, the saint “purifies himself as he is pure” 1 John 3.3. The disciple does not ignore sin, nor deny that he sins, but he takes sin seriously by removing it from his life. God gives the knowledge of right and wrong. Christ’s sacrifice brings the state of sanctification to the life of the disciple. His Spirit provides the power to cleanse himself daily in imitation of the Lord.

The New Testament often presents Jesus as our example. If it were not possible to imitate Christ, this would be a commandment that generates only frustration and self-destruction.

It is possible, then, to know the complete will of God, and to do it. Not only is it possible, but essential. The requirement of complete obedience does not cause despair, unless, of course, one considers only one’s own resources.

Complete obedience is that path of the wise who discerns the right way to go and travels it, Proverbs 14.8. This path brings joy, security, peace, and hope.

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J. Randal Matheny

Servant of the Lord at GoSpeak
Randal and his wife have lived and worked in Brazil since 1984. They have three children, two daughters-in-law, and four grandchildren. Randal's a lefty, a chocolate lover, an author and a poet.

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