Summary: The will of God, as it is relates to man, is manifested in three basic expressions: sovereign, conditional and paternal. Each uniquely depicts His dealings with, and His relationship to, man in particular and His entire creation in general.
THE THREE-FOLD WILL OF GOD
“Epaphras, who is one of you, a bondservant of Christ, greets you, always laboring fervently for you in prayers, that you may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.” Colossians 4:12.
The will of God, as it is relates to man, is manifested in three basic expressions: sovereign, conditional and paternal. Each uniquely depicts His dealings with, and His relationship to, man in particular and His entire creation in general.
I. THE SOVEREIGN WILL OF GOD
The sovereign will of God is absolute, unchangeable and final. This can be clearly seen in the creation process: "And God said, Let there be light: and there was light." Genesis 1:3.
It is also seen in the boundary God has placed on man’s earthly existence. Consider: "And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment." Hebrews 9:27. The fact of our death is what is appointed…not the hour of death.
This is said in full recognition of Job’s declaration: "Since his days are determined, the number of his months is with Thee, and his limits Thou hast set so that he cannot pass.” Job 14:5 (NASB).
At first glance one might see in this scripture God sovereignly determining the exact hour of death of every man, woman, youth and child who has ever lived. Such a position would make every evil tyrant, murderer, the 9/11 terrorists, many drunk-drivers, etc., instruments of God to carry out His will. To the Christian mind, this is totally contrary to God’s very nature and is therefore untenable.
Job was saying that the outer limit to man’s earthly existence has been set by God. This is affirmed by the prayer of Moses: “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years, yet their pride is but labor and sorrow; for soon it is gone and we fly away.” Psalms 90:10 (NASB)
Man may affect how long he lives by his habits, diet, exercise, healthcare, safety precautions, etc. We would be remiss if we failed to also mention the sixth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the LORD your God gives you.” Exodus 20:12 (NASB).
II. THE CONDITIONAL WILL OF GOD
In all manner of law, a conditional will provides a benefit to a beneficiary if certain conditions are met. Failure to comply with those conditions precludes its validation.
It is no different on the spiritual level as it relates to the conditional will of God. In regard to His forgiveness of Israel’s sin and the healing of their land, consider: "If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, THEN I will forgive their sin and heal their land." 2 Chronicles 7:14.
Consider the condition God placed upon His outpouring of great material blessings upon His people: "Bring all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and try Me now in this, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you such blessing that there will not be room enough to receive it." Malachi 3:10.
Consider the conditions placed by Jesus upon His promise to give rest to the souls of those who trusted in Him: "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls." Matthew 11:28-29.
Jesus states the conditions that had to be met before He would enter the heart of man and share blessed fellowship with him: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20.
III. THE PATERNAL WILL OF GOD
Let us not lose sight of the fact that “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” 2 Peter 3:9 (NKJV). Our heavenly Father desires that all men be saved but our salvation is conditioned upon our repenting of our sins and trusting His only begotten Son as our Savior. (John 3:16)
Again, the paternal will of God for the salvation of man is shown in Matthew 18:14: “Even so it is not the will of your Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should perish.”
This aspect of the will of God is confirmed in I Timothy 2:3-4: “…that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. For 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.” I Timothy 2:3-4.