Terry W Lock
Acts 13: 22
Ephesians 1: 1-11
Romans 12: 1-2
It will be evident from the scriptures we have read that I desire to say a word in relation to the will of God. The will of God brings about everything that will ever be for the heart of God in a coming day, and those things are being formed now, on the earth, in persons. We sometimes think that the will of God is an onerous thing and a hard thing, but it is only onerous and hard if we step outside it. The will of God is the means by which God brings into effect the purposes of His love. It is a most remarkable thing to take account of the purposes of God, but you must see it first in Christ.
I therefore thought we should start in the book of the Acts. Prior to where we read, Paul was going over the history of the people of Israel to the persons in Antioch, speaking of the things they had done and proposed, until he arrives at the point where we began to read: “And having removed him”. That was Saul, son of Kis. He was the one that the people chose, who was head and shoulders above everybody else in Israel. They wanted a ruler; perhaps they thought that if they had a ruler, they would carry on and be able to fulfil the will of God; but God removed him. After it was proved that Saul, son of Kis, was beneath the dignity of the people of God, He removed him. Then Paul then goes on to say, “he raised up to them David for king, of whom also bearing witness he said, I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after my heart, who shall do all my will”. Paul does not say that the Lord said only, ‘I have found David who shall do all my will’. It is most important that he puts in there “after my heart”. So you can understand by that that the love of God is brought into effect, and the purposes of that heart are brought into effect, by the will of God. “I have found … a man, after my heart, who shall do all my will". What a thing it was for the heart of God to see one such as David come on the scene. If you follow David’s history, you can see how God led him, and you can even see in his failures and subsequently his recoveries how David arrives at the will of God. But here Paul was speaking about the purposes of God, what He was going to work out for Himself by the man of His choice. It looked on to Christ. So it is quite a thing to think that God had a Man, who was “after my heart”, and what a wonderful feeling it must have been for God to find Someone here like that. He had in mind, in working out His will by this blessed Man, that there would be many more men formed in heart to carry out the will of God.
I thought we would read that to begin with, but the primary scripture that I had in mind was in Ephesians. Ephesians is a wonderful book. The scope of the things in the purpose of God, and the elevation in which God holds things, maintains things and recovers things, are all found in Ephesians. But the first three chapters in Ephesians, as the brethren will well know, are what God does of Himself, for Himself, by Himself. So Paul starts here as the apostle, but he writes to them that he is an apostle by God’s will. This is not just anybody speaking. This is one speaking on God’s behalf according to God’s will, in relation to the persons that were there at Ephesus, to make them see what God intended them to be. We can follow through the history of Ephesus and see where they fell down from this; but it is a wonderful thing that the will of God does not act according to the failures of men, but according to the purposes of his heart. The will of God is not reactive, but rather works according to His own purpose in relation to bringing about what satisfies His heart.
So, did it affect the will of God when sin came in? No. Did it affect the purposes of God? No. God had it all in the Man of His choice; it was already there. As it says in relation to Adam in Romans, “who is the figure of him to come”, chap 5: 14. Who was that? That was Christ. He was going to work out His will in the Man of His choice, and He was going to show men that, up until the time of Christ, there was no one able to carry out the will of God in completeness. So he says here, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenlies in Christ; according as he has chosen us in him before the world’s foundation, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love”. That is the character of the persons that are according to Christ. Now, beloved brethren, in all of these things we must be sure that, yes, we can see this in Christ but, when we take account of the greatness and the excellency of the descriptive language in Ephesians 1, it should raise exercise in us to see the glory of what God has in mind according to His will in us. You can never work up to anything, nor can you ever maintain anything unless you have the object first. That is why the Spirit presents things as He does in Ephesians. He presents God’s Man first. What a thing it is that God, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ”, has given us this view of His Man and the operations of His will, by this Man, to bring us into conformity to that Man.
So Paul says here, “he has chosen us in him before the world’s foundation, that we should be holy and blameless before him in love; having marked us out beforehand for adoption through Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.” That brings in the heart of God. It brings into effect the things that God chose to do because they were pleasing to Him. What a thing it is to think that you and I can be pleasing to God, satisfying to His heart. What a thing that is: through the operations of God, and because of the way in which He has operated according to His will, He is able to bring about in us something suitable to Himself, and He brings us to Himself, as the scripture says, “for adoption through Jesus Christ to himself”. That is much greater than what it is just to be saved, because here are persons formed according to the purpose of God. The eternal day will be filled with saved persons. That is absolutely right, but it will be filled, it will be inhabited, and it will be responsive, by persons who are characteristically like Christ. That is what the will of God does.
So He brings us to Himself. How could you get there unless you were like Christ? If you are ever to understand what is pleasing to God you must see it in Christ, and to understand your place you must see it in Christ. You must see what Christ is to God to ever understand the fulfilling of the purposes of love according to the will of God. You must see what Christ is to God, for the sake of God’s heart. You will never understand the greatness and the scope of what God has in His mind if you do not see what Christ is for God.
So we go through then, “to the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he has taken us into favour in the Beloved”. This is a description from God, by the Spirit, a description which God gives of Christ because of the fulfilling of His will. It is the character of the Person. What a wonderful thing that is that God gives us that view - His Beloved. He has taken us into favour in the Beloved. The note there is very interesting. It is not just that He was the One by whom God did things. It is not, also, just a place, but it is “in the Beloved”. It is the character of the bringing to God. It is the character of the persons who are brought there and the manner in which it has been done. What a thing it is that God would bring us to Himself, in the Beloved, the One whom He chose to mark out with such a title.
Well, this was David’s title. That is what his name means: “in the Beloved” brings into view the One who carried out the will of God, who had operated according to the heart of God. So “he has taken us into favour in the Beloved: in whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of offences, according to the riches of his grace”. There will never, ever be anything in the presence of God that is contrary to Himself. So the offences had to go. But sometimes we tend to settle down, thinking that if God has saved us that is enough. It is not enough for the heart of God, and it is a paltry answer to such a will and such a love that we should think that all we had to do was carry on in a world down here, beneath the dignity of what the Beloved is. God never had that in mind. The will of God would raise the saints according to the glory of His grace. Grace does far more than meet your need, friend. Grace raises you to the level that God intended you to be according to the purpose of His love and the actions of His will. That is what grace does. We sometimes think that grace is something that just meets a bad state. No, wrong! That is not glory! The glory of the grace of God raises you to the level that God showed in Christ, the One He calls His Beloved. That is what grace does. Anything beneath that dignity is beneath the dignity of the purpose and will of God.
So Paul goes on, “according to the riches of his grace; which he has caused to abound towards us in all wisdom and intelligence”. There is one thing to be said in relation to the will of God and its operations: the manner of the doing is to make us intelligent persons, not intellectual persons. You will never arrive at the will of God by study. You will arrive at the will of God by spiritual intelligence, but it takes contemplation of Christ to arrive at the intelligence of the will of God. It is formative. Intelligence is something you get by the hand of God and it comes by revelation. It comes by what God does Himself in choosing to make things formative in you. Take account of the operations of God; take account of what He has done. If you want to understand the will of God, take account of what He has done - by Christ and in Christ. “Having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself.” Men in the world do not understand that the will of God is towards them and would raise them to the level of what Christ is to God. Do we understand that? Do we understand the operations of the will of God? When something comes along that is contrary to what you like, or when something comes along that is contrary to what you want, do you think you must have done something wrong? We should not think like that. What God does in making this mystery known is to change the persons. We said at the beginning that there are times when we may find the will of God an onerous thing. But it is an onerous thing if we do not understand that it was bringing about the purposes of His love. And if there is anything that is beneath that, or anything that is outside of that, anything that is not at that level, God allows circumstance to change the persons so that they come into conformity to His Beloved. He does that and it is the exercise of His will.
Now that is sometimes a very difficult and hard thing to understand. We have a brother local with us who says we do not always understand the ways of God, and we do not. We do not always understand those ways, the way He works out things according to His will, but what a most blessed thing it is to understand the God whose ways they are; to understand the God whose will it is, who fulfils the purposes of His love. So, He has “made known to us the mystery of his will”, things that have been hidden all through the ages. We can see, for instance, Noah’s pleading with men, Enoch walking with God. These are things that you can see, as the Lord said in Luke’s gospel, “having begun from Moses and from all the prophets, he interpreted to them …the things concerning himself”, chap 24: 44. All of that is in relation to the will of God. What a wonderful thing it is to take account of what that will was. Did the will of God mean that all He was going to do was to relieve men? No. The will of God is that He, God, would have persons for Himself eternally, characteristically like Christ.
So, He has “made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he purposed in himself for the administration of the fulness of times; to head up all things in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth.” The day will come when the culmination of the will of God will be seen in all its grandeur, when Christ comes out and every knee bows to Him and everyone recognises that the will of God was carried out by Him, and that He is the Man of God’s choice.
It tells us in the Old Testament of the people of Israel, and you might think how badly they failed - I am using this as an analogy. Some would say that the people of Israel are not the same as us, but I want to show in the people of Israel how the will of God comes into effect. If you read through the Old Testament - and you can read through all the things that the people of Israel and how far away they got from God; you can read all that happened at the time when Solomon began to fail after David at the end of his life - and it gets worse, and it gets worse, and it gets worse. And you may ask how this is ever going to work out according to the will of God? Then you come to a point in the Old Testament where it says in the prophets, “and they shall look on me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him,” Zech 12: 10. What is that? That is God bringing the people that He purposed for Himself, bringing them into accord with Himself and His Beloved, and He does it by His own will. When they look on Him whom they pierced and wail because of Him, that is because the operations of the will of God have brought into effect repentance in the people of Israel, to acknowledge that the Man of God’s choice was their Messiah whom they crucified. That is the will of God.
Now God is working on the same line with us. What a thing it is that God gives us the ability - and not just the ability, He gives us the intelligence and the spirituality, to be able to see the Man of His choice, enthroned in glory, waiting to come amidst His holy myriads to the very scene in which He was rejected, so that all men should recognise the Man of His choice, and what He has done in Him and by Him. He gives us that, but do we know that?
So then we go on here, “to head up all things in the Christ, the things in the heavens and the things upon the earth; in him, in whom we have also obtained an inheritance, being marked out beforehand according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his own will”. The counsel of God’s will is a remarkable thing to take thought of. The counsel of God’s will is the manner of the working. It is how the will was going to be brought about. In Hebrews it says, “Lo, I come (in the roll of the book it is written of me) to do, O God, thy will”, chap 10: 7. That is counsel. Prior to that reference, “Lo, I come to do thy will O my God” is what Christ is for the heart of God, but when He says, “Lo, I come (in the roll of the book it is written of me)”, that is counsel. That was how God chose to operate. You have both of those things there in Hebrews. You have not only the Man who did it but you have the operations of God in relation to that Man and how He would do it.
So we have in Hebrews as well, “by which will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all”, chap 10: 10. That is the ‘how’. That was according to the counsels of God. You look at the Old Testament in relation to Joseph, and what he was in relation to God. Was he the one that was to rule? Yes. Was he the one that was going to, to push the peoples together, Deut 33: 17? He was going to gather them all. His name means, ‘he will add’, Gen 30: 24. All those things were there in Joseph, in purpose, according to the will of God. His brethren delivered him up, went back to their father, treated him as dead. He spent thirteen years in captivity. You might wonder how any of this was according to the will of God but then he is raised up. That is according to the will of God. That is the will of God operating in relation to the purposes of His love. Before that, he had had a dream as to what he was going to be: “my sheaf rose up, and remained standing; and, behold, your sheaves came round about and bowed down to my sheaf”, Gen 37: 7. Then “the sun and the moon and eleven stars bowed down to me”, v 8. How great are the purposes of God according to Christ. Did his brethren understand this? No. That did not stop God. Joseph spent thirteen years in captivity, and he comes out the other side of that, and he becomes a leader indeed in relation to Pharaoh and all that was under Pharaoh’s hand; the whole administration of Pharaoh under his hand, chap 41. Well, that is like where we read a little earlier on in Ephesians. But then what follows? Joseph makes himself known to his brethren, and what does he say? “God sent me before you to preserve life”, Gen 45: 5. That was the will of God active according to the purposes of the heart of God. And then Joseph says, “to save a great people alive”, chap 50: 20. That was according to the purposes of the heart of God as well, His will operating in relation to that. You ask how that could be so. Joseph was special. It says in relation to Joseph - and it is figurative of what the Father sees in Christ - that “Israel loved Joseph more than all his sons”, chap 37: 3.
When you begin with the generations of Jacob you begin with Joseph, v 1, 2. He is at the front of everything. Christ is the beginning of everything for God and He gives character to everything for God. What a Man He is! So in order to understand how God has blessed you, you need to know Christ, and you need to know Him not just as He was here upon the earth, and what He did as a work, but you need to know the character of the Person. You see, the work served a purpose; the work served an end. But in eternity you will not be taken up with the work; you will be taken up with the Person who did the work according to the will of God. What do you know of the Person of Christ? What do you know of the Beloved? What do you know of Jesus? What do you know of the One who has done the will of God according to the purposes of His love to bring about for God’s sake all the things that were in His heart? What a Man He is; what a Man Christ is!
To think that God had in mind that He would raise persons like you and me and establish us in glory in the Man of His choice! It is a very interesting thing here, and I meant to make reference to this earlier, that it is very important to see in Ephesians that it is not ‘by the Beloved’ and it is not ‘by Christ’, it is “in the Beloved” and it is “in Christ”. It is not just an operation of power; it is an attachment of affection. That is how God operates. So He does not just operate according to power to bring you there, but He brings you in the affections of the Father for the Son and establishes you there. What a wonderful thing that is. That is what God does because that is what His will has purposed. What a thing it was for God to sanctify us. What a cost it has been for God to be able to express His purpose and to operate His will. It does us well to take account of that. It does us well to take account of what it has cost God to have His will operate according to His purpose. It is more than we will ever comprehend. We will see the fruition of it, but we will little fathom the cost that lay behind it.
Well, then we come to the other side of this matter. We have spoken of what has been from God’s side. We have spoken of the operations of His will according to His purpose. We have spoken of those things and what He has done, what He has established and how He has established it. And it is unshakable; that is another point to understand. It is unshakable because it exists according to the relationship that exists between the Father and the Son, the things that God purposed according to His will exist and can never be altered or changed. In order for them to be altered or changed, the relationship that exists between the Father and the Son would have to be altered or changed.
Well, now we are going to come to Romans 12. And that is a case of being like Christ for God’s sake. It says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the compassions of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your intelligent service”. We spoke earlier on in relation to intelligence and how it is formative. Well, your intelligent service in relation to what you should be for God, your intelligent service as to what you should be is, “holy, acceptable to God, which is your intelligent service”; intelligence includes that we understand what is due to God. It is not only just what is due to Him, but what is acceptable to Him. And how do you arrive at that? You arrive at that, not by what Christ has done only, but by what Christ is. If you ever want to know if what you are doing is according to the will of God, if you want to know if what you are doing is acceptable to God, if you want to know that what you are doing is in accord with His will, look at Christ. Look at what He is. Look at the operations that were carried out by Christ for God according to His will. Look at what they are. We hear a great deal in the day in which we live of people saying, ’Well, I am wondering whether it is the will of God’. I would say this, if it is at any point in time ever beneath the dignity of the glory of God, it is not according to the will of God. A most important thing; or we sometimes tend - and I do not mean in any way to lay anything on anybody else, that I have not thought of and have to work out myself - to seek to do the will of God without holding it according to the glory and the dignity of what God is. It will make a huge trauma among the people of God. Now the proof of that was seen in David when he became a king and wanted to return the ark to its place. Was that a right thought? Yes, it was, absolutely. Was he zealous for God? Yes. Was he zealous for the heart of God? Yes. What happened? He was zealous for the heart of God but he forgot about what was due to God, and he made a new cart, and persons went to bring it up that should not have brought it up, persons who were not intelligent in relation to the feelings of God. And so, although what he wanted to do was right, the manner of the doing was wrong, because it was not according to the will of God; and somebody died. That is very, very solemn; so much so that it upset David and the ark went away. Rather than having its rightful place, it went away and was put aside for a time, until it moved the heart of David to proceed according to the order established by God.
Beloved brethren, the will of God not only involves the purposes of His love, it involves the manner of the doing in relation to the purposes of His love. To be intelligent in relation to that you must study how Christ operated; not just whatHe did, how He operated, and the character of the Person of Christ. We hear quite often about there being a lack of grace, or an over-insistence on truth; but beloved brethren, when Christ carried out the will of God (and grace and truth subsist through Him), there was never at any point in time anything in the operations of Christ that was beneath the dignity of what God is; and to try and connect grace and truth in Christ in any way that is beneath the dignity of God is not grace and it is not truth. Grace is the operations of God according to glory. Truth is the manifestation of the moral qualities of God in expression in a Man. Those two things go forward in Christ. If at any time there is an operation that is beneath that dignity, it is not an operation according to the will of God.
But here we have, “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your intelligent service.” But then it goes on, “And be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” Now Peter speaks about this. And we will just turn to it so that we get it right. “Christ, then, having suffered for us in the flesh, do ye also arm yourselves with the same mind; for he that has suffered in the flesh has done with sin, no longer to live the rest of his time in the flesh to men’s lusts, but to God’s will”, 1 Pet 4: 1-3. If you are seeking to do things according to God’s will, and you are exercised in relation to that, the purpose must be God’s heart. If you are doing it for a place, or if you are doing it for anything other than what is for the heart of God, you are doing it for the wrong reason, and it will not be according to His will. It is important to understand that. You do not carry out the will of God for any reason other than the heart of God, be it in you or be it in others. So he says, “And be not conformed to this world.” To be not conformed to this world means you must keep yourself separate. It means you must act in a manner that is in accord with the heart of God, the glory of God and the sanctity of what He has made and done for Himself by Christ. So you would not touch things, and you would not go to places, and you would not speak in certain ways, and you would not act in certain ways, that are contrary to that.
But he says, “but be transformed by the renewing your mind.” Now that is a very interesting thing. You will find quite often that persons decide to turn over a new leaf, or that they decide that they are going to set themselves for God, but by reforming what they are. This is not a reformation, brethren; it is a transformation: there is a massive difference. A reformation means that you are going to try and improve on the old thing to make it acceptable to God. You are going to try and take that mind which has been occupied with things that maybe it should not have been, in matters it should not have been, and you are going to try and reform it into something for God: impossible, absolutely impossible. It is transformation that is the necessary thing. If you are going to think for God you need to be transformed according to God as He is manifest in Christ. It must be so. There is no such thing as reformation in persons for God’s sake. There is no such thing. “But be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God”. Now, this is where it gets very testing, because the goodness of God’s will is what it is in its character. What it is as acceptable is what it is to us when we become subject to it. And what it is as perfect is seen in its results. Have we proved that the will of God is good? Have we proved that?
Well, to illustrate that we will go to Jacob’s life. Jacob in his life started out as understanding by his mother what his lineage was, and understanding what he was to be. When you look at the manner in which he moved, and the things that he did, and the way that he went, and the things that he took up, could you say that was all according to the will of God? No, it was not. Most decidedly it was not. But it is the most interesting thing that, when he was doing things according to the will of God, God helped him, and appeared to him and strengthened him. Now one of the things that comes into Jacob’s life is on his way back to Bethel. God did not wrestle with him on his way out to Padan-Aram. God wrestled with him when he was on his way back after Joseph had been born and he was going to Bethel, Gen 32: 24. Now Jacob might say to himself that he was going back and doing all right now; because he was good and it was in his own power. What happens? He wrestles with God, and God touches the joint of his thigh and he limps, v 25, 31. He became despised of men because of his limp, but he was there according to God. He walked the rest of his life according to God. He comes to the end of his life, and worships on the top of his staff, Heb 11: 21. He becomes one who says, “the God that shepherded me all my life long to this day”, Gen 48: 15. Was that the man according to the will of God? Absolutely. Now, how long did it take him to get there? Far longer than it ought - as with us - but, the point is he got there. Are you getting there? Am I getting there? Are we going to be here according to the will of God? Are we willing to do things not just according to what we know is right, but are we willing to do them God’s way and in God’s timing? That is the proof of the will of God.
So, if you go, for instance, to Job, you see the operations of the will of God. You might say he was an upright man at the beginning, and everything was in order. And on the outside so it was. Did he really know God? No, no he did not. He knew of God, and he knew what he should do, and he knew the way that he should govern his house, but he did not really know God. So the will of God in relation to the purposes of His love was to have Job know Him, really know Him. So he goes through deep suffering, and it is very, very deep suffering. And what comes out at the other end of it? Job no longer stands on what he is in all his outward demeanour, but the manner of the heart of Job would have been entirely different. Why? He says, “I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now mine eye seeth thee”, Job 42: 5. And he repented in dust and ashes. Is he a man now that is going according to the God he knows? Yes. Did it come about according to the will of God? Yes. It came about according to the operations of His love, although the operations of His love involved massive suffering for Job. Those are things we have to leave with God. Everybody knows what tests are when they come, some more than others. To ever think of them as being retribution is beneath the glory of the God that loves us. I find it very testing to speak of that, because that is the first thing that generally comes to mind, but God loves us too well to leave us as we were. He is going to operate by His will according to the purposes of His heart and sometimes it must be extreme to bring us into accord with what He intends us to be. What a God He is and how faithful He is. This is the God we know. Beloved brethren, by becoming subject to that will, to the operations of God, what glory there is, because that is what Christ was.
Now, I would just say one short thing in relation to the word “acceptable”. In order for the will to be acceptable as we said, we have to become subject to the will of God. It is not subjugated by the will of God, or to be obedient to the will of God only, but to prove what is acceptable means you must be subject to the will of God. And to be subject to the will of God you need to love it, a most important thing. Christ did not carry out the will of God just by obedience. He was subject to it. He loved it. So it should be with us. So when we look on the will of God, and what it is, and the way it operates, and the manner of the doing in all things, do we love it? That is the point. If you are going to be subject to something, if you are going to be subject, in order for the will of God to be acceptable, you must love God, but you must love the way that God operates. You must love what He is arriving at and how He is arriving at it. Is that us, beloved brethren? Is that us? I find that massively testing. But if we are ever to find the will of God acceptable it must be that way. We must arrive at that in ourselves, that to be subject to God and subject to His will, means we love it and we carry it out because we love it. This is a necessity in order for things to go forward according to God.
But then we have the perfection of the will of God. We said right back at the beginning that you cannot operate and you cannot carry on in relation to the will of God unless you see the object. If you want to see the end of everything that has been done by the will of God, the end of 1 Corinthians 15, and Revelation 21 display it. You come to the settled things that have been brought about according to the purposes of His love, by the will of God. Are they perfect? Absolutely. The holy city comes down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. That is the purposes of His love according to the working of His will. What a thing that is. What a thing to have part in that, what a thing to be clothed like that and have that testimony. Do you desire that? That is the point, beloved brethren. It is not just that there is something done legally; it is done because you have desired it thus. You have desired to bring yourself into conformity to the will of God; and that is a wonderful thing for you and for God.
Well, may we be encouraged. May we be exercised, beloved brethren, but may we be encouraged, because the will of God has operated according to His love to bring us to this place. May it be so for His Name’s sake.
2nd January 2016