Along with God’s sovereign will, we must teach His dispositional will. This aspect of God’s will reaches deeply into the innermost intention of God.
- II Peter 3:9reminds us that God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
This clearly refers to something other than God’s sovereign will or predetermined plan – because some will perish. This dimension of God’s will reveals that God is not inwardly disposed to or delighted by people perishing – even though in His judgment He will cause some to perish.
- “All things being equal, God does desire that no one perishes, but all things are not equal. Sin is real. Sin violates God’s holiness and righteousness. God also is not willing that sin go unpunished. He desires as well that His holiness be vindicated. When the preceptive will is violated, things are no longer equal. Now God requires punishment while not particularly enjoying the personal application of it” (Following Christ, pp. 217-18, R. C. Sproul).
- Ezekiel 33:11 – “‘As I live,’ declares the Lord, `I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn from his way and live’ ” (cf. Lamentations 3:33a).
God makes moving pleas for human repentance
- Ezekiel 18:30-32 (a window into the heart of God) – “`Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, each according to his conduct,’ declares the Lord God. `Repent and turn away from all your transgressions, so that iniquity may not become a stumbling block to you. Cast away from you all your transgressions which you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! For why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone who dies,’ declares the Lord God, `Therefore, repent and live.’ “
- I Timothy 2:3-4 – “This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”
“Despite everything it (Scripture) says about the limitless reaches of God’s sovereignty, the Bible insists again and again on God’s unblemished goodness. `The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and kind in all His deeds’ (Ps. 145:17). `His work is perfect, for all His ways are just; a God of faithfulness and without injustice, righteous and upright is He’ (Deut. 32:4)” (D.A. Carson).
One might argue, “If God is sovereign, and He desires all be saved, why doesn’t God decree what he desires?” An absolutely sovereign God could have decreed a world without the possibility of sin.
3 truths must be understood
First, when God originally created the earth and man, He declared all He provided to be “very good.” Secondly, the apostle Paul wrote, “For by one man sin entered the world and death by sin…” (Rom. 5:12). Thirdly, and most importantly, God has decreed a world without the possibility of sin– the new heavens and new earth. “Nothing impure will ever enter it” (Rev. 21:27; cf. Rev. 21:3-5; II Pet. 3:13).
Only those who (in this world) have confessed with their mouth “Jesus is Lord” and “believed in their heart that God raised Him from the dead” will enter this perfect world (see: Romans 10:9-11). This reveals the extent of God’s respect for human responsibility (cf. Josh. 24:14-15).
A serious warning must be heard
Scripture is quick to warn humans not to take lightly the kindness of God.
- Romans 2:4-6 – “Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to every man according to his deeds.”
God is willing to judge evil, but restrains his wrath so that more people might come to salvation.
- Romans 9:22-23 – “What if God, although willing to demonstrate His wrath and to make His power known, endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction? And He did so in order that He might make known the riches of His glory upon vessels of mercy, which He prepared beforehand for glory.”
If God operated the world on a principle of immediate judgment, who would be saved? No one! No, not one!
Are you respectful of God’s dispositional will— His unblemished goodness? Respecting the multi-dimensional nature of God’s will, helps one avoid misunderstandings and misrepresentations of God.
We certainly don’t want to be like Job’s three friends to whom God twice said, “I am angry with you… for you have not spoken accurately about me” (Job 42:7-8).