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?
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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 Practices.com.
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 Dictionary.com, 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.
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
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
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.
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I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic. Does God have a permissive will or only His perfect will?
Cindy Barnes has been called by God in the early 80s to be a teacher of His Word. She is a serious student of the Word, focusing on the Inductive Bible Study Method since 2007. Her passion is to teach women how to study the Bible using this method. In addition, she desires for women to develop an intense yearning to draw closer to God through reading and writing out the Bible.
Cindy teaches hundreds of women in her private online Bible Study Group who express their joy of growing deeper in their spiritual walk.
You can stay in touch with Cindy on Facebook through 215 Ministry.