God’s Good, Pleasing, and Perfect WillRomans 12:1-2Theme: Trust and obey.This week’s lessons teach us that our happiness is to be found in following God’s will.
LessonWe need to prove by our experience that the will of God is indeed what Paul tells us it is, that is, that it is good, pleasing, and perfect. We need to check it out. Moreover, it is by checking it out that we will begin to find out what it actually is.
This is the exact opposite of our normal way of thinking. Usually we want God to tell us what his will for us is, and after that we want to be able to decide whether it is good, pleasing, or perfect, and thus whether or not we want to do it. Romans 12:2 tells us that we have to start living in God’s way and only as we do that will we begin to know it in its fullness and learn how good it really is.
Robert Candlish follows up on this idea, noting that the idea of proving the will of God experientially goes a long way toward explaining the Bible’s teaching about probation. This word is derived from the word prove and refers to a trial or test. According to Candlish, every order of free and intelligent being has been called upon to stand trial in the sense that ultimately it was created to prove that the will of God is good, pleasing, and perfect – or if the creature should reject that will and fail the test, to prove that the contrary will of the world is disappointing and defective. We are not told much about the trial of the angels in the Bible, but it is certain that they did stand trial and that some of them, even a large part of that nearly innumerable host, failed that trial and so entered into the rebellion led by Satan and passed under the severe judgment of Almighty God. Candlish speculates that the specific issue of that trial may have been the command to worship the Son of God: “When God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him’ ” (Heb. 1:6). But whether or not this was the specific matter the angels of God were to prove good, pleasing, and perfect, it is clear that many did not regard God’s will as such. It is why they rebelled against it. And even those who did adhere to God’s will must have adhered to it not knowing then the full goodness, satisfaction, or perfection of what they were being called upon to do. They have since been learning it by their doing of it, that is, they have been learning it experientially (cf. Eph. 3:8-11). The second case of probation is man in his pristine state. We know a great deal more about this than we do about the trial of the angels, since it concerns us most directly and is revealed to us for that reason. Adam and Eve were required to prove the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God in the matter of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, refusing to eat of it because God had forbidden it to them. We know how this turned out. When they weighed this against what they considered to be more desirable (“you will be like God, knowing good and evil,” Gen. 3:5), Adam and Eve chose the way of sin, ate of the tree, and paid the price of their transgression.
Candlish argues that if our first parents had kept the will of God, though it did not seem desirable at that stage of their lives, “they would have found by experience that what God announced to them as his will was really in itself, as the seal of his previous covenant of life and as the preparation for the unfolding of his higher providence, fair, reasonable [and] good…. They would have learned experientially that it was suited to their case and circumstances, deserving of their acceptance, sure to become more and more pleasing as they entered more and more into its spirit and became more and more thoroughly reconciled to the quiet simplicity of submission which it fostered.”1
1 Robert S. Candlish, Studies in Romans 12: The Christian’s Sacrifice and Service of Praise, (Grand Rapids: Kregal Publications, 1989), p. 85. Original edition 1867.
Study Questions

How do we find God’s will?
In what way do we stand trial?
How did the angels stand trial? What was the outcome?
If Adam and Eve had not sinned, what might they have learned about God’s will?

ReflectionThe term probation means a trial or test. A criminal proves to his probation officer that he is able to obey the law. He is under probation until he can prove that he can live within the limits of the law. What does the Bible teach about probation? How does probation relate to Romans 12:2?

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