Does God Have Different Types of Will?

Question: “Does God have different types of will for different situations?”

Bible Answers

God’s will exists over the universe and mankind, and His will exist in three different types.

1. Sovereign will of God

What God declares, nothing can change. His will, will be done.

2. The permissive will of God

God’s permissive will are those areas were God states His will, but permits man to operate contrary to His will. God’s sovereignty says that those who go against His will must either repent or pay the price for disobedience. For example, 2 Corinthians 6:14 says, Be you not unequally yoked together with unbelievers. This is God’s will, but He permits it to occur. However, that person will later likely pay a price for being married to the wrong person.

Man’s choices or will can only operate within the limits God allows. He allows mankind to sin but their choices will never override God’s sovereign will. God’s will for mankind is clearly revealed in His Word. And His Word clearly reveals to all of mankind that man is not to break His commandments, but to repent, and to be holy as He is Holy.  Man has free will to disobey, but man will be held accountable for his disobedience.

3.  The secret will of God

God’s secret will or plans for us may be revealed in the future or they may be revealed after they have been completed. The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law (Deuteronomy 29:29).

God’s Permissive will

An example would be Jonah. God commanded him to preach repentance to the city of Nineveh, but Jonah’s will was clearly that he did not want to preach to Nineveh. While God did not force His will over Jonah’s will, He did changed Jonah’s circumstances, the whale, such that Jonah finally agreed to obey God’s will and go to Nineveh (Jonah 1).

God’s sovereign will is superior to His permissive will

Nothing that is good can exist which God did not will to be, and nothing that is evil can exist which God did not allow to be.  God’s will is supreme to all other wills.

We must realize that making the wrong choice is sinning against God and has repercussions. Sometimes the repercussions are mild, other times they may result in our death or captivity, like Israel’s numerous captivities, when the nation of Israel turned away from God. Captivity was not Israel’s will, but Gods, to bring them back to God.

God will provide opportunities to change.  He may change a person’s situation or circumstances, their desires, their view of what is true by opening their eyes, by giving them understanding, or by others crossing their path. He may let them fall into trouble to awaken them, he may do a thousand and one things to convince them to change including persuading them by the Holy Spirit, but in the end, they still have a choice.

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Philippians 2:13).

The king's heart is in the hand of the Lord, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will (Proverbs 21:1). God can direct the mind of a king so that the king's actions fulfill His intent.  If God can do that with a king, can He not do the same with us?

Should we cease to pray for situations that seem hopeless because someone has claimed to have made up their mind? No.  God can change the hearts of kings, spouses, and children.

Does that mean that God will normally control the minds of others to have them do things against their will?  No. I don't believe that God normally changes a person’s mind against their will.  But I do believe that He can and does create the circumstances that encourage minds to make choices that are in accordance with His will.  Can they still say no?  Yes, they can.  Can God turn up the heat on them until they change their mind?  Yes, He can.  Will He?  That is one of God’s mysteries. More Detail.

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