This paper follows in a logical sequence from the last three, in a progressive theme about the Flesh and the Spirit, about Obedience, and the crucifying of the Flesh, and now in this paper we shall look into the subject of the human will.
What is the WILL? It is man’s DECISION-MAKING APPARATUS. It is related to his MORAL RESPONSIBILITY. Sometimes it is better to use another word than WILL, in order to pinpoint the idea, and focus the mind more clearly. For example, we might exchange the word WILL for RESOLVE, or even DETERMINATION, a mental force that initiates action. A man is known by his WILL, because those who watch and listen to him learn by what he says, what manner of man he is. A man’s BELIEFS are really an expression of his WILL.
It may help to envisage the WILL as a throne, upon which man sits. Now one thing must be made clear. This is not a wrongstatement. Man MUST sit upon this throne, because it is an intrinsic part of his creation “in the image of God.” The animals do not possess this faculty. They are “programmed” to behave in a set fashion. But man has the faculty of CHOICE, and the human will is the apparatus of choice. Hence man must perforce sit upon the throne of his will, and USE this faculty. As a result, the following things may happen.
(a) he may become a negative person, disliking the throne, and shying away from all decision-making. He may always be found “sitting on the fence”, “waiting to see which way the wind blows”, “passing the buck” so that he is never held responsible for his actions. (They say that this is the first step in training for positions in government! ! !) Such a person abdicates his human will, and in some ways he is depicted by our Lord in the parable of the talents by the man who dug his talent in the ground, refusing to use it. A little probing often reveals that it is not just FEAR that causes a man to adopt this attitude. More often than not it is a result of a sour and embittered view of life.
(b) he may become a WILFUL person, highly charged with conceit, vanity, and self-importance. He firmly believes in his own thinking, and avers that he never makes mistakes. He is tenacious, hard-headed, and bent on having his own way. He is ruthless and self-willed, never allowing himself to think of the effect of his decisions on the lives of other people. He likes his own throne, and makes sure everyone else knows that he is sitting there firmly.
(c) He may become a disciplined person, a man “able to take orders” without smarting or being resentful. He recognises the need for good firm discipline for himself and others, and hence the need for authority dispensed with love towards other people. He will consider the effect on others of all his decisions, and weigh that before considering his own comforts. He is a person of firm resolve and determination, having received a vision of ultimate purpose and value, and who walks a steady road to play his part faithfully throughout life, even if as a result, he has to pay for it with his life.
Now clearly, no one is quite as negative as (a), and no one is quite as bigoted as (b), and certainly no one is as wonderful as (c). But the three classes have been chosen to highlight the possibilities of the will. On the other hand, our Lord was all and more of the character sketch in (c), and the antichrist appears to be all of the hateful character in (b), in fact one of the titles given to him in Daniel is the “Wilful King”.(See Daniel 11:36 “The king shall do according to his will.”)
Let us pick out a few of the N.T. references to WILL, and see what they teach us about human behaviour.
Matt.16:24 “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me.” If any man IS DETERMINED to come after me. If anyone is RESOLVED to follow me – -. A renewed emphasis is seen by replacing the original in this way. Perhaps this is the most important statement of all. It shows that self-will has to be DENIED. This is a very difficult step for a human being to make, because of the sinful tendency of his FLESH, as we have investigated in the last two papers. But the Lord shows that man needs to make a firm resolve in this. He needs to set his face in a determined way, and not shrink back when difficult times come.
Matt.20:26 James and John were seeking to sit at the Master’s left and right hand in the Kingdom. Jesus did not accuse them of pride, but showed them the way. “Whosoever WILL (or is determined to) be great among you, let him be your minister, and whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” Hence it is not wrong to seek the higher places in God’s Kingdom, but the way to get there is by self-denial, and a rigorous attention to the needs of others.
Luke 9:24 “Whosoever WILL save his life will lose it, but whosoever WILL lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Some Christians consciously or unconsciously tend to “look after themselves” at every turn, making sure that trouble or tragedy does not come their way. They take out insurance on everything, take meticulous care over their eating habits, never undertake any venture which might have a touch of danger attached, and surround themselves with all mod-cons and things which pander to their own comforts. But our Lord taught that this attitude was not what He was locking for in His children. He said, “Take no thought what you shall eat, or what you shall drink, nor yet for your body, what you shall put on – -your heavenly Father knows that you have need of all these things.” Hence the difference is this. We may either concentrate on our own needs, and pander to the flesh, or we may abandon ourselves to the Lord in this respect and find that He will supply our needs. It is a matter of the will. We must be determined about it. To abandon ourselves is not easy. It comes through careful consideration of what is involved, and then making a determined decision to live that way, through the strength of the NEW SPIRIT imparted at new birth.
Luke 14:28 “Which of you INTENDING (the verb to WILL) to build a tower does not first sit down and count the cost.”This is our Lord’s recommendation about “becoming a Christian.” It is not just a matter of signing on the dotted line after a rally. It is something far greater than that, involving the greatest danger, a life beset with persecution and misunderstanding, but attended by the deep peace of knowing that one’s sins are forgiven. There is therefore a great price to pay, and we need to “count the cost” before setting out on the journey. The Lord offers eternal life. But the route is via DEATH! Death to the Old Man, and all his selfish will.
Matt.6:1O & 26:42 “Thy will be done.” We are taught to pray this, and to make it a matter of continual prayer. Our Lord showed in Gethsemane just how dreadful it was for Him, when He had to contemplate the cross the next day. “Not my WILL but Thine be done.” It was the greatest test on His WILL of all His earthly days. But His absolute obedience, and the resignation of His own will to that of His Father has become the salvation of the world. Likewise, by how much we may follow His example, the outcome will affect many others for good, in a way which may not be apparent until the Kingdom comes in a manifest way.
Romans 7:15-21 Here is a classic example of what happens in life, showing the difficulty we all have in overcoming the natural desires of the flesh. Paul was describing his own experience. It is true of us all. “For what I do, I do not approve, for that which I WILL not, this I find myself doing; what I hate, this I practise. But if I do those things which I WILL not, I am consenting to the Law that it is right. Now then, it is no longer I that am out-working it, but the sin (or the old nature) dwelling in me. For I know that in me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing. For to WILL is present with me (i.e. the determination to do good) but not the ability to perform that which is good.” And so on. Paul bewails his lot showing that human nature is an obstacle, a hurdle, to be overcome. In the next chapter he shows how it is possible by “walking in the spirit”. This is not a ‘one off’ experience at conversion, but a life’s work of overcoming.
2 Tim.3:12 “All who WILL (or, who are determined to) live godly in Christ Jesus, shall suffer persecution.” Do you find this to be true in your own experience? We have heard it said, quite often, how thankful we should be to live in a land where we can exercise our faith with freedom. We used to think this way ourselves, many years back. But as soon as we experienced the baptism of the spirit, the whole thing came alive. Ever since then, there has been an intermittent struggle, as a fitting witness to Paul’s words. One doesn’t need to live in a communist or a Moslem land to learn the truth of this statement, that ALL who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
Matt.7:21 “Not everyone who says, “Lord, Lord” shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the WILL of my Father in heaven.” To have a part of the future Kingdom, and to rule under the headship of Christ, requires more than just a mental acceptance of certain theology. It requires more than lip-service to the King. It requires those things which have been given in the verses quoted above.
Romans 12:1-2 “Present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service, and be not conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect WILL OF GOD.” Paul has given us the complete recipe for knowing the will of God, and whoever tries to find it by some other route, will undoubtedly fail. He may think he has obtained it, but he will be deceiving himself if he does not follow the way set forth here in Romans. Paul comes back to this theme in 1 Thess.4:3,“This is the WILL of God for you, even your sanctification.”
So much for the will of man as it relates to the will of God. We must now look at a few statements that depict the WILL OF GOD, those things which are according to the determinate counsel of God, and cannot be changed. If man thinks that he has a cast iron will; if the antichrist thinks that he will succeed because of his implacable self-will; then each must come to see that the will of God is stronger than the will of the most wilful of His creatures. In the end He will have His way, because it is His purpose.
1 Tim.2:4 “God, who WILL have all men to be saved.” Yes, this is the sticking point for many a godly soul. They say that it would be very nice to think that hell-fire will not last for ever, but their fearful hearts find it impossible to take God at His word, when it comes to this verse. Let us put it more strongly. “God, who has DETERMINED that all men shall be saved.”Yes, it is His WILL. No matter what man thinks, no matter how his theology rejects it, it is a plain statement of Scripture, and we should learn to rejoice that it is true, and that one day God will have His way with even the most wilful of men.
Eph.1:9-1O. “Having made known to us the secret-purpose of His will, according to His good pleasure, which He purposed in Himself for administration of the fullness of the seasons, to head up THE ALL in the Christ, those in the heavens, and those upon the earth.” Once again, it is clear. Even though it may be a long way off, God will bring all the families of the earth, and all the families in heaven into one fully redeemed company “in the Christ”. Why in the Christ? Because God has given no other name under heaven by which anyone can be saved.
Rev.4:11 “Worthy art Thou 0 Lord to receive glory and honour and power, because Thou didst create THE ALL, and for Thy WILL they exist, and were created.” The whole of creation was brought forth for God’s WILL, and as the A.V. translates, “for His pleasure.” Or as Paul put it in Colossians, (1:16) “By Him were THE ALL created, in the heavens and upon the earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones, lordships, principalities, or authorities, THE ALL have been created by Him and for Him.” Should anyone feel that 90% of all this great creation will then be consigned to an EVERLASTING TORMENT (for His pleasure!!) then we believe that he should come before the Lord again, and seek His guidance about these verses just quoted. They are Scripture, just as much as the ones about the Lake of Fire, and what is more, they are straight doctrinal statements, not FIGURES OF SPEECH. May the Lord indeed attain His full pleasure. May the creation see that ultimately even the most wilful being will bend the knee and declare with inner conviction, that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of the Father.
Eph.1:5 “We have been predestined to sonship by the good pleasure of His WILL.” And the context shows that this decision was made BEFORE the founding of the world! If we are counted to be part of God’s inheritance, then let us bask in the sunshine of His great love, and yield to God the deep thankfulness of our hearts, that this sonship was according to His good pleasure. It is almost too wonderful to be true, that we, born as creatures in Adam, with a sinful nature, could be picked out beforehand by the God who can see the events of time stretched out as upon a canvas.
Col.1:9 “That you might be filled with the knowledge of His WILL, in all wisdom and spiritual understanding.” To those who are ‘worthy seekers,’ and ‘humble enquirers,’ God delights to manifest Himself, and make known His DETERMINATE COUNSEL for ages to come. He gave Paul much insight, and he, as a faithful apostle, has written it down for our learning. And in these last days it seems that the Lord is pouring out fresh knowledge because the days are nearing another climax in history, and He wants His people ready for the next stage of His work, in the Kingdom of God.
John 4:34 “My meat is to do the WILL of Him who sent me, and to finish His work.” Jesus frequently affirmed His stand, saying, “I come to do Thy will, 0 God”. And “I seek not my own WILL, but the WILL of the Father” (John 5:30) and “I came down from heaven, not to do my own WILL, but the WILL of Him who sent me. And this is the Father’s WILL, who has sent me, that of all that He has given me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day. And this is the WILL of Him that sent me, that everyone who sees the Son, and believes on Him, may have eternal life, and I will raise Him up at the last day.” How amazing that anyone can expect to follow his Master, and preserve any aspect of his own will! If Jesus gave us the divine example during His earthly life, then “the servant is not above his Master” in this respect. A true and godly life must be one that has WILLED to enthrone his Master in his own WILL, to seek to do only those things which the Master desires, neither more nor less.
We have recently received a most encouraging letter from a friend in Scotland, and she writes as follows:- “The Lord began to show me the disastrous results that man’s self-will has brought on the world – Saddam Hussein of course is a magnified version of much that is in all of us. What the Lord showed me was that Satan sets up a stronghold in each man’s self-wi1l and operates out of it and through it to the utmost of his ability. Conformity to the death of Jesus, who never acted from Himself, means the total cutting off of this channel to Satan. This could be the last hurdle for the Overcomers, the culmination of dying daily, taking up the cross daily, leading to the sting of death, which is sin, being totally neutralised and swallowed up in victory. ‘If you know these things, happy are you if you do them. ‘ Praise be to Jesus!”
We are pleased to be able to quote this. It is a fitting climax to a godly theme, and needs no further word. Praise be to God. Amen.