Is the Permissive Will of God even Biblical? 1

Is the Permissive Will of God even Biblical?

I’ve been thinking about God’s will lately. I know that God has a perfect will for us, His plan that He designed for each of us from before the foundation of the earth. But my thoughts have been turning to the idea of God having a permissive will. I have heard it said from the pulpit that God has a permissive will so that got me thinking about this. Today, we’re going to look at the Bible itself to see if it talks about the permissive will of God. Are you with me?

Is the permissive will of God even Biblical? Does God have more than one will?

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The Various Wills of God

As I began to research this topic, I learned that theologians have determined that God has several wills. It can get confusing to say the least. So, depending on whose research you are reading, you can learn about:

  • the predestined / sovereign / decreed or perfect will of God
  • the preceptive will of God
  • God’s will of disposition
  • the directive will of God
  • the discerned will of God
  • and what we most commonly call, the permissive will of God

I hadn’t really thought about God having more than one will. The definitions and Scripture references (in the link below) shed more light on it but I still think, and this is my personal thought, is that God has only one will. God’s perfect plan or will for each of us.

If you would like to read the definitions with Biblical examples of the above list, check out The Different Wills of God by Growth

However, since I am neither a scholar, theologian or Bible seminary student, I want to talk about the permissive will of God because it is commonly mentioned from pulpits, in Bible study groups and online. The basis for my conclusion comes from what I have learned in the Bible.

The Choice to Obey or Disobey

To think of there being a perfect will and permissive will of God makes me think of one thing: free will.

Actually, it makes me think of two things: free will and does God make mistakes?

We have free will to either obey God or disobey Him. He is holy and has called us to live holy and blameless just like He is. You can read more about that in this post, 7 Steps to be Holy as He is Holy.

In living a holy life as He has commanded us, we will receive His full blessings. If we refuse to live holy, what do you suppose will be the result?

If we disobey Him and do our own thing, He doesn’t love us any less but we will reap what we sow through our disobedience. Because He is All-Knowing God, He knows that we will choose to disobey Him from time to time and He knows that He will have to chastise us to correct us.

God does not make mistakes. However, we do read that Abraham and Moses both talked with God and asked Him to change His mind. Once, about saving Lot and his family in Sodom and the other time, about the Hebrew children who sinned while Moses was on the mountain with God.

Look at the Israelites in the Old Testament. Time after time, they chose to do their own thing. While God disapproved and was even angered, He still loved them even as He chastised them.

And He still loves you.

The Permissive Will of God

Is there a permissive will of God? Not according to this author, R. C. Sproul. He wrote a short piece called Exposing the Permissive Will of God. It will help explain things.

I agree with R.C. Sproul’s explanation of “permissive will” that it tends to make man sovereign as God scrambles for a Plan B. This insinuates that God makes mistakes.

When we disobey God, the path we choose is ours. God doesn’t strike us dead or throw a lightning bolt at us when we disobey. He simply lets us live the path we’ve chosen.

God allows us to live in disobedience and the consequences it brings.

The Cost of Disobedience

I remember a time in my life when I clearly disobeyed God and chose to do things my way. At first, things were going well but then gradually I could see that I was not doing so well spiritually. I seemed to be drifting away from God.

Disobedience has a price. God let me do my own thing because He will never force me or you to be a puppet against our will.

God wants to give me His full blessings but if I am disobedient to Him, I won’t be receiving them. Instead, I will reap what I’ve sown when I do things my own way.

My choice is to obey Him the next time.

Perfect Will of God vs Permissive Will of God

Romans 12:1-2 “…And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.”

According to Strong’s, this word, “perfect,” in this verse, is G5046, τέλειος and means “lacking nothing necessary to completeness; perfect.”

That’s God’s will for you…full, complete, lacking nothing, perfect.

I compared that to “permissive will of God” and guess what I found? Nothing. Nada, Zilch. However, in, the meaning of “permissive” is “characteristically accepting or tolerant of something.

Tolerant of something. Hmmm. Do you want God to be tolerant of your choice made outside of His will for you? Is God tolerant of sin or does God hate sin?

Since the word ‘perfect’ is used in this verse, it introduces the idea that there is an imperfect will. A ‘will’ that He allows to happen.

The Permissive Will vs Perfect Will of God. Find out which is true!
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Does God have two ‘wills?’ A perfect will and a will that He permits outside of His perfect will? Does that mean that He made a mistake in His perfect will?

I think there are many people who would argue that this is His permissive will, the things that He permits us to do when we make our own choices. God lets things happen when we whine and want our own way, but that doesn’t mean that He sanctions it.

But in all honesty, it comes down to one thing. We are not sovereign and do not have any power to cause God to scramble for a Plan B.

God does not make mistakes.

I’m thankful that God is tolerant of us and still loves us. He will never leave us either but is that what we want, for God to tolerate us?

My conclusion is that God has a perfect will and that man wants to believe in a permissive will.

Doing the Perfect Will of God

So, since I believe that there is no permissive will, that means then that we need to be doing the will of God, His perfect will.

How will we know if we’re doing His perfect will?

We know He has a divine plan for us. Ephesians 1:1-14 gives us a prelude to His plan in that we are predestined to be with Him from before the foundation of the earth.

In our regular everyday living, we can be obedient to God simply by knowing what the Bible says is His will for us. That means we need to study the Bible, read it and listen to sound Biblical teaching.

Here are a few examples of doing God’s will, emphasis mine:

  • Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you, 1 Thessalonians 5:18, ESV
  • For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality, 1 Thessalonians 4:3, ESV
  • Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is, Ephesians 5:17, ESV
  • If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness, 1 John 1:9 ESV
  • But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you, Matthew 6:33, ESV
  • and many more verses that teach us how we ought to live.

A Hypothetical Illustration

We get in trouble when we decide to do things our own way. Sure, God gave us free choice and most of the time, we do all right with our decisions, but, when we pray and ask Him for help and He answers, we really should be obedient. Otherwise, why bother asking for help?

Let me give you an illustration.

You’re praying for a job. You see a job opening on the local job board and it looks like a perfect job for you. So, you apply for it. As you submit your resume, you pray for God’s will in this matter.

After the job interview, you’re feeling pretty good about this opportunity. It really does sound like you would be a great fit with this company. As you wait to hear back from the Hiring Committee, you pray again, asking for God’s will. If He doesn’t want you to take this job, to shut the door.

God answers you with one word, “wait.” You hear it in your spirit.

That’s it, all God says is to “wait.”

As you wonder about this answer, you get the call offering you the job and in your excitement, you accept the job offer. You’ve already forgotten that God said to “wait.”

So, you start this new job and after a few weeks, you’re feeling pretty good about it and wonder why God said to “wait.” Things are working out just fine and so you think that maybe you heard wrong, that God didn’t say to “wait.” Maybe it was the enemy trying to distract you from taking this job.

After a few months, things aren’t going so well as you become aware of some unscrupulous decisions. This really isn’t a good place to work after all.

At this point, there is only one thing to do. God said to “wait” and you didn’t. You now repent, asking God to forgive you for doing your own thing.

And He does. You’re forgiven. You’re now walking in God’s divine, perfect, acceptable will once again. And you’ve learned that even though things may look good or sound good, Father really does know best!

And now that you’ve repented and quit the job, you’re out of work and once again waiting on the Lord to open the door for the job that He intended for you all along.

Is There a Permissive Will of God?

I want to go over this again. To say there is a permissive will of God is the same as saying that we have the power to change God’s divine plan for us. We decide to do our own thing so then God has to scramble and make a Plan B to accommodate us.

In all honesty, does this make sense? Do we have that kind of power over God? I think not. In fact, I know I don’t.

I love this verse, Romans 8:28, And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. I highlighted why all things work together…it’s for His purpose, not ours!

In the hypothetical story above, we walk along our own path until we either wake up and recognize that we’ve strayed or the path comes to an end. Either way, once we repent, God is quick to forgive us and lead us in the direction He wants for us. His purpose, His perfect will, is for us to walk in obedience to Him.

So, to answer the question, is there a permissive will of God, the answer is No. God has one will. It is divine, acceptable, and perfect. On our part, it requires that we be obedient to Him. And when we are, we will receive full blessings. When we choose to do our own thing, we are walking in disobedience and that never turns out good.

That’s a Wrap

While many theologians may come up with various Scripture verses supporting the various wills of God, when I look at Scripture, I see only one will. God has one divine plan for each of us. Anything outside of that is disobedience and is not part of God’s perfect plan for us.

While each of us are doing the will of God, we are blessed because of our obedience.

When we decide to disobey God and do things our own way, we have stepped outside of God’s will for us and will experience the consequences of that decision. When we are ready to return to God through repentance, God will welcome us and continue to lead us in His perfect will.

I hope you’ve found this post helpful in understanding that it all comes down to the perfect will of God and that He doesn’t have a permissive will. At least, nothing I’ve seen in Scripture states that He has a secondary will for us.

If this has been a blessing to you, please pin it on Pinterest! Thank you for helping me get the Word out! Unfortunately, sharing it to FB results in a message that my website link is spam. FB has blocked my site!

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Does God have a permissive will or only His perfect will?

Is the Permissive Will of God even Biblical? 2

22 thoughts on “Is the Permissive Will of God even Biblical?

  1. Excellent. You nailed it. I have heard the same thing, and fully disagreed. It is nowhere in scripture. Kenneth E. Hagin, wrote a book about this as well. That is the problem with Theology, (Opinions of men), it gets you to doubt God’s Word. God bestows GRACE on us now when we mess up, but by no means, does He accept our bad behavior. Great piece. I may re-blog it in the future.

      • Jimmy Dueck

        In the case of the job offer, and one taking the job, even after God said to wait, you indeed did take God’s permissive will. It was not His perfect will, therefore it was His permissive will.

      • Sam

        i hate to say it but your point is semantics to most christians and pastors…the term permissive will is only a term used to describe exactly what you describe it as, God allowing our free will to disobey…we dont actually believe its a will in the sense that God chooses or wants it…i say this as a pastors son who knows why and how my father uses this term and as someone who was looking into permissive will for other reasons

  2. I couldn’t agree more with your conclusion. For me, you summed it up with one simple comment “we are not sovereign and do not have the power to cause God to scramble for a plan B.”

    • Cindy

      Hi, Melissa! I’m glad this post resonated with you. Thanks for reading this. Feel free to share this with your friends!

  3. Chyk

    My thoughts: God’s will is one and one only but if He permits what you really desire, it is still His will for you because it becomes His will by permission. If He would not will it, He would not permit it. Eg, in a marriage situation, if the person He willed for you dies or something happens that the marriage did not happen, would you now say you will not marry again since the other person is not forth coming? To me, no matter the nomenclature affixed before the Will, it is His Will eventually if it happens.

  4. The way I see it, permissive will of God is not about man doing anything they want and God standing aside watching things falling apart. This is about God. It is God’s will and not man’s will. God permits some things in His sovereignty so that His perfect will is done. God’s will is perfect, and this can be predetermined or permissive. For example, God allows us to pray for some things and it works. However, there are some things it is useless to pray, God has a predetermined will for such things, e.g. some christians praying for the devil to die or perish, simply it won’t work! Because God has predetermined his destiny.

    I think the challenge here is the way we perceive things. I believe Biblically it is very clear about this two wills of God though both of them are His perfect will.

  5. John Mullally

    God in His sovereignty has directed hundreds, maybe thousands, of exhortations to men through the Bible like the ones below. This huge mass of exhortations infers that there is something akin to a Permissive Will:

    Joshua 24:15 And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

    John 5:14 Afterward Jesus findeth him in the temple, and said unto him, Behold, thou art made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come unto thee.

    God desires good things for the whole of mankind that are not occurring as indicated by the “not willing that any should perish” phrase in the verse below. This can be thought of as an expression of God’s Perfect Will.

    2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

    In the Lord’s prayer, Jesus says that we are to pray that “God’s will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven”. If Jesus said to pray for something, it means it is reachable and it is His will. But this is largely not occurring as there are a mass of poor, sick, and troubled people here – unlike Heaven. This indicates a failure of the Church – not a lack of God’s desire.

    If someone disagrees, please provide scripture in your argument.

    • John Mullally

      Another way of thinking about it is that the Permissive Will represents the Gap between God’s Perfect Will, such as “not willing that any should perish” and reality.

    • Dakota Simson

      Very insightful.
      I love this discussion. .
      When I think of the story of Abram. I am convicted of a perfect will and a permissive will. Ishmael versus Issac.
      God made a promise.
      Was it God’s perfect will for Abram to be with Hagar and make Ishmael?

  6. Rulanda Taylor

    Wow! This was a great post as well as some insightful comments. I like where @John Mullally gives the example of God’s “permissive” will as the gap between His perfect will and reality. I think this point t and the the author’s point go hand in hand.

    “God’s perfect will is that His will be done here on earth as it is in heaven and that is not happening because of the failure of the church” and God is obviously “permitting” it to happen. The failure of the church is disobedience and outside of God’s will. In America right now, that is the catalyst for all of the racial and social unrest, because unfortunately it dates all the way back to the founding and building of America.

    This was a great post and commentary. Loved it!

  7. Toyin

    Great write up, but I will like to ask about this. What if someone marries wrongly, and he or she later seeks the Lord for forgiveness. I think that’s where we see the permissive will coming in. The marriage will be permissive by God but that wasn’t His perfect will for that person.

    • Great question. Yes, you are right. When we make decisions for ourselves and they are the wrong decisions (disobedience in action), we have to live with them. Even though we make wrong decisions, God ALWAYS loves us. His love for us never stops.

      Upon repentance, we experience God’s forgiveness and mercy. He will continue to lead us and as we continue to seek His will, He will guide us. And in the case of marrying the wrong person, He will help you to make the marriage work. However, if there is abuse happening, that is a whole other situation. My post, Expecting Hate but Received Love: Marital Abuse tells of my situation when I made the decision to leave my abusive husband of 29 years. Neither of us served the Lord at the time of our wedding but I did have a soft heart for Jesus though I was not following Him.

      Thanks for asking this question, Toyin.

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