Jun 112017

The Different Wills of God by Elder Yap Chee Kian

Romans 12:2 (KJV)

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.


People often asked “What is the will of God for my life?” We also know that we ought to pray in the will of God and Christians are to submit to God’s will. When speaking of God’s will, many people will see different aspects of it in the Bible. Therefore, it is instructive to know what they are as it would help us to search and discern the will of God in our lives.


The Will of God

The Bible speaks of the will of God in several ways. The three of them we are familiar with are:

  1. Sovereign Will
  2. Preceptive Will
  3. Desiderative Will

  1. Sovereign Will

This is also known as the decretive will of God and is that will by which God sovereignly brings to pass whatsoever He wills. This is according to His eternal, foreordained plan and purpose. Included in this is our salvation as revealed in Ephesians 1:3-6. Verse 5 tells us that “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will” and this is further affirmed in verse 11 “In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will.” This expression of God’s [sovereign] will can never be frustrated or thwarted and nothing happens beyond His control. Knowing this aspect of God’s will should give us peace and comfort.

Theologians call the decretive will the hidden will of God according to Deuteronomy 29:29 – “The secret things belong unto the LORD our God. “My readers may say “What does God want me to do in this case?” None of us can read God’s mind, but we can read God’s Word and that give us His revealed will. We know of God’s sovereign will only when He chooses to reveal them to us. Calvin himself made his comment at this point where he said, “Where God closes His holy mouth, I will desist from inquiry.” (http://www.ligonier.org/blog/secret-things-lord/)

  1. Preceptive Will

The Preceptive Will is also known as the revealed will of God. This includes the commandments or precepts that God has revealed to us in the Bible. This is God’s declared will in what we should or should not do. We know that God’s sovereign will cannot be resisted. But the preceptive will of God not only can be resisted by us, but is resisted all the time. The 10 commandments are God’s will and we have the power to break them albeit with consequences. There are many other commandments in the Bible which we often choose not to do.

  1. Desiderative Will

This tells us what is pleasing to Him and what is not. Moses appealed to God’s desiderative will to forgive Israel when the Israelites resisted the preceptive will of God again and again (Exodus 34:6-7). Moses knew that God loves to show mercy and yet he will execute judgment. We also appeal to God’s wish or desire according to 2 Pet 3:9 for God is not willing that any should perish and it is His wish that all should come to repentance. Ezekial 33:11 puts this across even more emphatically where it is written “As I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.”

Other aspects

There are two other aspects of God’s will – The Directive will of God and the Discerned will of God. They do not violate any of the wills above.

The Directive refers to the Holy Spirit’s direct guidance in our lives. He speaks to our hearts or other means. We see this prominently in at least three instances in the Acts of the Apostles – the guidance of Philip to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26), of Peter and Cornelius (Acts 10:1-3) and Paul’s Macedonian call (Acts 16:9).

There is the Discerned will where we seek God’s guidance through the application of principles in the Bible. John Piper writes, “Most of the decisions we make are not spelled out specifically in the Bible. Discernment is how we follow God’s leading through the process of spiritually sensitive application of biblical truth to the particularities of our situation. Romans 12:2 describes this: ‘Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.’  In this case God does not declare a specific word about what to do. But his Spirit shapes the mind and heart through the Word and prayer so that we have inclinations toward what would be most glorifying to him and helpful to others.” (http://www.desiringgod.org/articles/four-ways-god-leads-his-people)


There are many decisions we make in life from major ones like what career to pursue to routine ones like what to have for lunch. Many of them are not specifically written in the Bible but we can use Biblical principles to discern God’s will. Let us pray according to Psalm 119:66 “Teach me good judgment [discernment] and knowledge: for I have believed thy commandments. “