Much has already been said and written about The Lord's Will in all of the Christian sections of literature. It is magnified in the devotional materials of Christianity; we are alerted to the subject back in the time of the early Christian Fathers; and, sermon upon sermon has addressed this hope through every possible door of approach.
Undoubtedly, the only people on the face of the earth who really know the will of God are those who have come into union and communion with God through His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
In Every Generation
In every generation this has been a priority need for all of God's people and especially those called to the ministry of the Gospel. Man has two capacities: he can know the past by the reading of the writings of history or by the memory of his individual human experience. The second capacity marks with emphasis the present tense while the individual is going through each experience. These two human capacities also speak of the will of God in more of a past tense.
The future tense is the elusive tense as far as man's actually knowing what will happen. The Bible, of course, through its own history and prophecy, brings the will of God to the peoples of earth with a very sharp focus. The Bible reveals certain principles which guide the outcome of sinners and saints—unbelievers and believers. The prophecies of Abraham upon his sons; the prophecies of Isaac upon his children; and even more so, Jacob's prophecies upon his twelve sons—all consort to huge revelations of the way and will of God involving Israel—the Jews—for the future. Daniel commences his prophecies in his image of the empires of the world and yet speaks about their future destiny—both their successes and their downfalls. In the Book of Revelation, as given to John, we see from the present tense of certain churches in John's day, as well as from our study of the huge declaration of "The Day of the Lord" in the Old Testament, that God gave His greatest revelation of His will involving multitudes for the last days. In this we see great detail even of the order of certain events which will come to past.
For Every Individual
However, the Biblical revelation of the sovereign will of God through history is not one and the same with the individual's discernment of the will of God for the peoples of the past and the present, and on through the end of time.
Therefore, because of this need of the consciousness of the individual will of God's people, we advance the purpose of this treatise—The Lord's Will for the individual.
After the New Testament was completed there came into early church history the immediate acknowledgment of two great priorities: the Text and the Interpreted Text. It must be remembered, the Text was finalized into sixty-six individual books in the Canon. However, specifically speaking, the Text had not been interpreted. Of course, there are incidents within the Word of God that as the Text was being written certain interpretations, locally, became a part of the Text. However, and primarily, the Text was given to the future for those who would come and preach, teach, proclaim, and give final interpretation of the Text. We must acknowledge this distinctive between the Text and the Interpreted Text. God left His Word for the Body of Christ, as deposited in the individual will of God for certain individuals, to extend the clear interpretation of the Text—the Bible—down through church history.
The Jerusalem Principle of the Text would finally be extended through the Antioch Principle—the Apostleship of the Lord Jesus, the Twelve Apostles, and then on out through the Apostolic Message in God-chosen apostolic preachers and teachers. They would fill the future days in the will of God, preparing the hearers with evangelism for the lost and revivalism for the saved, as well as preparing the Bride of Christ for the end of the age.
The Unique Twelve
The uniqueness of not only the Twelve Tribes of Israel but also the Twelve Apostles of Jesus would give way to the spill-out of the Apostolic Ministry. Romanism perverted this will of God for church history and invented Apostolic Succession in spite of the fact that the Body of Christ is one, equal in each part, with each member distinct in gifts and callings. None of the individual callings, however, indicates that any member of the Body, within himself or herself, is above another. It is true, however, each equal member of the Body is called and led with an authority in the seven offices from deacon to "bishop," pastor, elder, or other. None of these seven offices allows a caste system to exist of any kind of institutional episcopacy. Therefore, there is no title of any person or ministry which may be construed to be "pope," "priest," with special powers or pieties above that to which any and every redeemed Christian has access or authority. All are unique, but there must be no eccentric or exceptional personality involved. Nothing greater could be said of any Apostle of the Lord Jesus, within himself, than that he is a redeemed child of God. Jesus settled this in his observations and responses to the Twelve when they spoke of being "greater" in the kingdom of heaven. Jesus persisted that being the last or the least could make one the first in heaven. The will of God is the will of God to each individual so that the Body of Christ may do the will of God.
The general continuance of the general will of God for the church would follow, in principle, until the Lord Jesus Christ would come and reign as King of Kings and Lord of Lords—in the Millennium. The Throne upon which Jesus would sit would not be a throne which could or would be shared with any other. That was all settled when the Word of God revealed that all men and any man would be saved by grace through faith alone.
Knowing the Lord's Will
There are many human concepts concerning the knowing of the will of God for a person. There is the concept of Elihu, in the days of Job, of David, and of Paul, in a better time. We must study these concepts and profit by those who followed the Biblical truth of knowing the will of God.
Our Puritan Fathers gained much concerning the will of God in their coming, by faith, to the new world—to New England. The Old England had lost the will of God in the Biblical sense for its people. The Puritans were not perfect, but they were exceedingly right in many Biblical truths and leadings from God. They were indeed unique.
The prerogatives of the will of God are taught in the Holy Scriptures. No one can really know the will of God, personally, without the truth of regeneration by the grace of God and access to the Holy Scriptures and the Holy Spirit. Never have their been such days as we live in at this point of history. We would do well to set the first priority in each of our lives as knowing, commencing, continuing, and finishing The Lord's Will.
If we do not know His will today, let us begin today to know it and continue to do it to the very end through all of our tomorrows.
The Noble and Personal Will of God
We must never isolate the will of God from a noble and personal relationship with the Lord Jesus. Every Christian, after regeneration, must consider the doctrine of sanctification and its fruit of personal and ecclesiastical separation. The first deals with the individual; the second deals with his generation—the Age. Ecclesiastical separation must follow: the apostate and the apostasy must be identified, in spite of the fact we cannot build on what is wrong with our generation but rather with what is right and true. However, the true reveals the wrong. Scriptural separation must be practiced to restrain iniquity.
The Protections of God
This treatise must be resolved around the protections that God, Himself, has for His people in The Lord's Will. Regarding our lives, born in the spring season with our finale in harvest, we must be able to rightfully say, "God kept me all the way." Our prime resolve lies in the truth that we have laid all our pride and works down; we stand in grace alone! Therefore, it is necessary that God have certain protections for all who follow Him and live and labor and love in His will. We are not alone in our search to know and do and finish His will. The Word of God is our protection and support throughout life.
In my own lifetime as a Christian, I have kept a record of about two hundred passages from the Bible that I believe the Lord gave me across some fifty-two years in the diverging avenues in which I have served Him. They all were received at particular times in which I did not desire to do my own will. I had thought to share some of them with the reader but was then restrained, believing that the subjectivity of my testimony might get in the way of the greater hope of teaching the ways of the leadership of God through His Word and the Holy Spirit. Along with the good providential circumstances, He leads our lives in harmony with His Word. It may be yet that in an appropriate time, in a different purpose, those scriptures may be forthcoming as a testimony to others.
The Four-Panel Vision of Life
In my book, Charismatism: Awakening or Apostasy?, I presented "The Four Panels of the Whole Vision Needed in a Generation for Christ." This was taken from several Old Testament presentations: first, the fourfold vision of a generation (Proverbs 30:11-14); and, in the individual values of one being placed in proper estimations before God of a full life (Leviticus 27:1-8). These "estimations" of the individuals were as follows: (1) 1 month-5 years; (2) 5-20 years old; (3) 20-60 years old; and (4) age 60 and above. These four distinctives and evaluations were identified as: The Potential Vision of life in a child; The Preparing Vision in the life of a young person; The Prime Vision in the life of the most mature years; and The Past Vision of life in the elderly years.
The value of these estimations indicates what God had on His mind in the potential, preparation, prime purposes of His will for the whole life unto the elderly years. Therefore, the will of God may commence very early in His leadings even if and when the child may not be fully aware of this blessing from God. Of course, in the teenage years to twenty years old, the child now, as a Christian, could begin to see the guiding purposes of God's good providences and proceed with a consciousness voluntarily. The prime period of life, however, must be brought about by the individual's full consciousness and preparation to that end.
We could, therefore, identify a lifetime in The Lord's Will for the entire lifetime of a person with the following summary:
The Potential Will of God in a Child
The Preparing Will of God in a Young Person
The Prime Will of God in the Adult Years
The Past Will of God Finished in the Aged Christian
Thus begins the will of God in a life: to come to know His will; to begin to do His will; to continue to do His will; and, to finish the will of God through all the years.
This is the introductory chapter of the book The Lord's Will by Dr. Spence.