“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, … So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15, 18)
In Paul’s instructions on how to walk wisely in Ephesians 5 he gives us some important advice and motivations for our lives. This week we look at the second of seven key areas – purpose. Let’s explore it together.
What is God’s Plan for My Life?
This has to be one of the most frequently asked question in Christianity, and the answers given vary greatly. From people claiming to have audibly heard God telling them to take a certain job or marry a certain person, to so-called prophets prophesying over their lives, there are tens of thousands, if not millions, of Christians asking this same question, with not many satisfactory answers being found.
How then should one answer it? After all, Paul does tell us in this passage to “understand what the will of the Lord is”. How can we understand it if we don’t know what it is? How then do we know what God’s will is?
There are two clear and very different meanings for the term “will of God” in the Bible. Firstly there is God’s will of decree, or sovereign will. This is God’s sovereign control of all that comes to pass. The clearest example of this is the way Jesus spoke of the will of God in Gethsemane when he was praying in Matthew 26:39, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will”. This refers to the sovereign plan of God that would happen in the coming hours leading up to Christ’s death – this was His divine plan, His decree, and there was no changing it. But for you and I, this is something that remains a mystery to us – we will never know God’s full purpose for our lives.
The second meaning is what we can call his will of command – in other words, His will is what he commands us to do. These are the commands issued to us through His Word that we can can choose to disobey and fail to do. And this is how Paul uses the term “will of God” in our passage – knowing God’s commands for us.
But how? There are three basic steps: (1) Study God’s Word – His will of command is to be found only in the Bible. (2) Apply and obey God’s direct commands – such as do not be anxious, do not be angry, etc. (3) Apply the Biblical truths/principles learned to the areas of your life that are not explicitly addressed in the Bible – e.g. it does not tell you who to marry, whether to own a home, or whether to take a certain job – but it does give you principles that can be effectively applied to thousands of decisions you may have to make every day.
Do Not Be Foolish
This then is the motivation, to not be foolish. And again, there are two uses of the word in Bible. The first applies to knowledge of God – a fool is a person who does not know God (cf. Psalm 14:1). The second use refers to application – a fool is a person that does not apply their Biblical knowledge to their lives.
Paul’s does not want his readers to be foolish, I believe, in both ways here. He wants them to both know God, to believe that He is, but also to apply His commands to their lives. This is a call for all to study and apply God’s Word to their individual lives – to become familiar with God’s will, to learn about His commands, understand who He is and how He wants us to live, and then to live it. You do not need to know if He has called you into a particular career or for Him to give you a roadmap of your life – that is all part of the mystery – but you do need to know who God is and what His commands are for you life.
The question I have for you is this: are you being wise in your understanding of who God is and what He wants for your life? But more than that, are you living out and applying God’s will in your every day life? Not cherry-picking and only obeying the things you like, but everything He has commanded – for that is the will of God for all of us.
Just a Thought!
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