3 dimensions to God’s will

Jesus taught us to ask our Father in Heaven for His “will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.” 

Yet so much that happens on earth is not God’s will.

  • How can this be? God is sovereign over all things.
  • How could His will not be done?

We need to understand three dimensions to God’s will to know how His will functions in a world with so much that violates His will.

  1. God’s prescriptive will – God promised Abraham and his offspring the land of Canaan for an inheritance (Gen. 12).  He commanded them to dwell in the land to claim it for their inheritance.  In accordance with this God commanded Isaac; ‘Do not go down to Egypt’ (Gen. 26:2). This was God’s prescriptive will. It is what he desired for them. This prescriptive sense of God’s will involves only good.
  2. God’s permissive will – It’s only in the permissive sense of God’s will that he allows some evil. Abraham and his descendants failed God under testing (famine) and departed the land of promise for greener pastures in Egypt. God permitted this but did not prescribe it. God commands only good, but he concedes to evil. God never encourages evil, though he does allow it.  So, eventually God said to Jacob: ‘Go now to Egypt.’ This he said, not because it was God’s perfect will or permanent desire, but because it was his permissive will for the time being in order to accomplish his ultimate goal for their lives. As Jesus said, ‘Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard’ (Mt. 19:8).  Not that it was in accord with God’s ideal will, but that it was his accommodation to our stubborn will. 
  3. God’s providential will – We must also speak of God’s providential will. In spite of Israel’s failure to claim and live in the land, God’s sovereign purposes for them could not be frustrated. God’s prescriptive will was that they not go to Egypt. His permissive will was to allow them to go to Egypt.  But eventually God’s providential will was accomplished when he declared ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’ (Hos. 11:1).  (See: Predestination and Free will, ed. By David Basinger & Randall Bassinger, p. 83).

Four stages in human history

Another way to understand how God’s will functions in a fallen world is to recognize four stages in human history.

  1. Creation – (God’s prescriptive will) – Original humanity: (possible to sin)- created in the image and likeness of God with an unconfirmed favorable disposition (Gen. 1:27; 5:1-2; 9:6).
  2. Fall – (God’s permissive will) – Fallen humanity: (Impossible not to sin)- A marred image of God (Gen. 9:6; I Cor. 11:7; Ja. 3:9; Act. 17:28 w/ Eph. 2:1-3; Jn. 8:44; I Jn. 3:13).
  3. Redemption – (God’s Providential will) – Redeemed humanity: (possible not to sin)- Being conformed to Christ’s image (Ro. 8:29; II Cor. 3:18; Eph. 4:23-24; Col. 3:10; II Cor. 4:11; Ro. 13:14).
  4. Consummation – (God’s Providential will) – Glorified humanity: (Impossible to sin)- Conformed to the likeness of Christ (I Cor. 15:44 – 53; Phil. 3:20-21; I Jn. 3:2).

“This may not be the best of all possible worlds, but it is the best way to the best world. If God is to both preserve freedom and defeat evil, then this is the best way to do it” (Norman Geisler, When Skeptics Ask, p. 73).

Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in God's Patience, God's control, God's Will, Sovereignty, Will of God and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to 3 dimensions to God’s will

  1. Harriman Saragih says:

    Reblogged this on harrimansaragih and commented:
    This is really helpful to enrich the knowing of God’s will in my life.


  2. questions: is ‘prescriptive’ synonymous with ‘perfet’ ? AND is ‘providential’ synonymous with ‘prevailing’ ????


    • Not if by “perfect” we mean “final.” So we must think of it as provisional on certain matters. Some of God’s prescriptive will is concessionary to life in a fallen world (see: Matthew 19:3-9). I am not sure what you mean by the second part of the question.


  3. Pingback: God Will Hunting… | Running to Obtain The Prize

  4. Rick says:

    Just curious as to why you did not include God’s decretive will?


  5. Anonymous says:

    For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.


  6. pastor joel ogbonnia onu says:

    greetings i have really been blessed going through your teaching on Gods will
    thanks very much and i will like you to take me as your student for i enjoy all you said concerning the will of God.thanks very much i pastor a young church here in uyo akwa ibom state nigeria


  7. Pingback: Wisdom in Times of Trial | Athletes Devotional

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