A Way Forward In Knowing God's Will
Knowing God’s will is an ever-present issue in Christian living, and rightly so. We are called to follow Christ, to submit to his will, and to obey. These commands make it necessary to know what God wants us to do. This much is clear. But after that clarity, the chaos begins. There is no end to the wild ways people have pursued knowing God’s will. People have done everything from following prophetic words, looking for signs in the sky, laying out the proverbial fleece, and following gut-feelings. Each of those deserve its own critique, but today we are only going to look at a couple verses to illustrate a biblical approach.
There are numerous times that Paul prays for God’s people to know God’s will. If this fills Paul’s prayers, it should fill our prayers also. But what Paul prays for is an instruction for us about what knowing and doing God’s will entail.
I want to turn your attention to Paul’s prayer in the first chapter of Philippians. In verse 9, Paul prays that their “love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment.” We first notice that love is the core the issue. There is no controversy in saying that love is the critical piece of obeying God. It is what drives the first two great commandments. So how are we going to love more and more? Paul says by being filled with knowledge and discernment. Love is far more than an emotion; love is only love to the degree that it is driven by truth and free from error. Knowledge brings truth, discernment protects from error, and those two combined is the way of true love.
Why is a truth-filled, error-free love important? Because Paul goes on to pray “so that you may approve the things that are excellent.” This is where we draw near to the knowing God’s will. That phrase “approve the things that are excellent” should sound familiar to Christians who know the book of Romans. In Romans 12:2, we are called to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds so that you may prove what God’s will is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” We see that Romans 12:2 is about God’s will and Romans 12:2 is tied very closely to Philippians 1:9-11. How are they tied together?
First, the word “approve” in Philippians 1:10, and the word “prove” in Romans 12:2 are the same greek word used for testing something for soundness. Secondly, the concepts of what is approved are the same. The excellent things in Philippians are those which stand apart from what is inferior. And in Romans 12, there are three words that capture the same idea: good, acceptable and perfect.
Therefore, Romans 12:2 is interpreted by Philippians 1:9. If you want to know what God’s will is, you need to have your mind transformed by knowing what the most loving action (the excellent) is in any given moment. And the only way you can know that is by having more true knowledge from God’s Word about what love is and does, and more discernment about the faulty and deceptive ways error and selfishness are at work. Both of those are accomplished by growing in wisdom through God’s word rightly divided and rightly applied.
Obviously that takes time. Which is why Paul is praying that we would grow in it more and more. Which is also why we are admonished to do this in the protection of God’s people, who can give us the biblical ways of love that we are still unacquainted with.
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