by Bob Bolender – Several times in recent years I have encountered a bizarre attitude among evangelical Christians. Each time I have found it to be more and more bizarre. It’s happening with a greater frequency these days so I am concerned that bizarre is becoming normal.
There’s a particular, specific form of it I encountered recently but it is really a symptom of a larger, more general heresy. I will address both in this feature.
The bizarre attitude is this: there is no specific will of God for your life. More and more Christians are holding this view. They’re writing books about it, teaching it in conferences, and everything. I can understand the attraction. A God with only generalizations and no specifications is much easier to serve. Fuzzy and vague “be saved,” “grow,” and “bear fruit” generalizations are in themselves pretty low demands. A mostly not-terrible person could easily claim such things to be true in their life and be content that God is happy with them.
Specific convictions to the will of God are much more demanding. His directive will, geographic will, vocational will, marital will, etc. all add to the demands placed upon us.
The particular expression I encountered recently was this: God has not designed anybody specifically to be your spouse. Marry whomever you wish. Don’t marry an unbeliever, of course, and consanguinity has to be considered, but otherwise any postpubescent member of the opposite sex is acceptable.
That cavalier attitude seems entirely un-Biblical. They seem to throw a sop at 2nd Cor. 6:14 (not even a marriage passage) and maybe Leviticus. That seems even less likely, since I haven’t actually seen Leviticus mentioned in their writings. They seem more concerned for genetic inbreeding than anything else.
So, my response. Why do I believe that God has a specific will for my life? Why do I believe that His directive will is specific? Why do I believe that He has a vocational will, geographic will, marital will, etc.? Glad you asked!
Thelematology (the doctrine of God’s will) is vital to all believers. Colossians 1:9&10 tells us that knowledge of His will is essential to walking worthy of the Lord. Thelematology is entirely God-centered (theological) and not man-centered (anthropological).
Now, the Scriptures that leave me convicted:
We are commanded in Hebrews 12:1 to run with endurance the race that is set before us. We don’t pick and choose where to run. We’re not the race designer. God designed it and placed it in our path. Scripture doesn’t say “run whatever race you feel like.”
We are taught in Ephesians 2:10 that God prepared good works beforehand so that we would walk in them. We don’t pick and choose what works we want to do and call good. God called them good when He prepared them beforehand.
Proverbs 16:9 & 20:24 portray quite the contrast. You and I might plan what we want to do, but it is the Lord who directs our steps. This reality underlies the promise in Proverbs 3:6. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. It doesn’t say “in most of your ways,” or “in the spiritual matters,” or “in all your ways except your choice of a mate.” It says “in all your ways.”
So, the will of God, generally and specifically, is a matter for our obedience. God even calls us a fool if we don’t understand what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17 cf. Rom. 12:2 & Col. 1:9).
When it comes to our marital choices, the Bible presents even more specific additional evidence. God designed Eve specifically to correspond to Adam (Gen. 2:18). God appointed Rebekah specifically for Isaac (Gen. 24:14). Adam and Isaac are not unique in this. Any man should acknowledge as per Proverbs 19:14, that a prudent wife is from the Lord. Marry whomever you want like the bizarre increasingly popular attitude tells you to do, but then don’t blame the Lord for not giving you a prudent wife!
(Side note: it is possible to marry the wrong person for all the wrong reasons, and the grace of God can still turn cursing into blessing. Many marriages start terribly, like David & Bathsheba, but the grace of God can still shine forth. Just because that can happen doesn’t mean we should reject God’s marital will for us. Should we sin that grace may abound? May it never be!)
I could add more, but the weight of all these Scriptures has placed my faith under the conviction that I have before the Lord (Rom. 14:22). I will conclude with a rebuttal for the favorite text the other side loves to quote.
The folks who want to promote the “do whatever you want” attitude (God doesn’t have a will, so my will be done!) repeatedly and nauseatingly cite a snippet of 1st Corinthians 7:39. “She is free to be married to whom she wishes.”
Not to set up a straw man or anything, but they set up their own straw man so I will easily knock it down.
The “to whom she wishes” is specified to be a prerogative for a widow. It is a simple contrast with a virgin daughter under her father’s sovereignty (1st Cor. 7:36‑38). Whether the virgin is given to a man or kept virgin is within her father’s prerogative. The widow is a different social reality. She does not require parental negotiations for her remarriage (her parents may not even still be alive!). The virgin’s marital negotiations are subject to her father’s wishes. The widow is not under those conditions. So the “whom she wishes” expression in 1st Cor. 7:39 is really diminished in its impact and can in no way whatsoever establish the anthropological thelematology they are trying to create.
Beyond that, the “whom she wishes” is qualified by “in the Lord.” That’s an expression that ought to demolish the “do whatever you want to do” mindset. Decision making “in the Lord” is to surrender our will to His will (Matt. 26:39), and humbly respond to His leading in our lives (Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:18).
Would you like some more “in the Lord” passages? We should be convinced in the Lord (Rom. 14:14). We should receive (Rom. 16:2) work (Rom. 16:12) and greet (Rom. 16:22) in the Lord. See also Phil. 2:19,24,29 for more examples. Paul hoped to send Timothy to Philippi. His hope was “in the Lord Jesus” and entirely subject to a theological thelematology. “In the Lord” is an instrumental reality for the headship of Jesus Christ in our lives. What a great blessing! “In the Lord” is much preferable to “whatever is right in our own eyes.” (Deut. 12:8; Jdg. 21:25).
If this is a subject that you would like to explore more fully, I recommend reviewing our Basic Doctrinal Studies series. Thelematology was covered in lessons #41-44.