God's Good, Pleasing and Perfect Will

Thursday: Living in God’s Way

Romans 12:2 In this week’s studies, we learn what the will of God is for us, and that it is always the best.
Living in God’s Way

We 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 that it is only as we do that we will 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 experimentally 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 been learning it since by their doing of it, that is, they have been learning it experimentally (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 weighed 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 experimentally 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 

1Robert S. Candlish, Studies in Romans 12: The Christian’s Sacrifice and Service of Praise (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1989), 85. Original edition 1867.

Study Questions
  1. How do we find God’s will?
  2. In what way do we stand trial?
  3. What was the probation for Adam and Eve? Describe the details and results of their test. If they would not have sinned, what might they have learned about God’s will?

Key Point: Romans 12:2 tells us that we have to start living in God’s way and that it is only as we do that we will begin to know it in its fullness and learn how good it really is.

For Further Study: Download for free and read James Boice’s booklet, “How to Know the Will of God.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

For Further Study: In the opening two verses of Romans 12, we can learn much about the nature of the Christian life and how we as Christians are to think and act. James Boice’s careful exposition of these two verses is available in paperback.  Order your copy of Renewing Your Mind in a Mindless World and receive 20% off the regular price.

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