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Thy Will Be Done

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
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March 6, 2024 12:01 am

Thy Will Be Done

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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March 6, 2024 12:01 am

Why should we pray for God's will to be done? Doesn't the Lord always accomplish His will? Today, R.C. Sproul examines the various ways that the will of God is described in Scripture.

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The will of God is always obeyed by angels and by glorified believers in heaven. There's no sin in heaven. There's no conflict between the will of the creatures who are gathered around the presence of God in heaven and His holy will, because all who are in heaven have been brought into full conformity to the law of God. Jesus tells us to pray that God's will would be done on earth as it is in heaven. But isn't the will of God always accomplished? Can there be something that He wills that can be hindered by us or some other means? I'm Nathan W Bingham and thanks for joining us for this Wednesday edition of Renewing Your Mind.

This week you're hearing select messages from R.C. Sproul's series, The Lord's Prayer. I want to remind you to request access to the entire series and receive his book, The Prayer of the Lord, by making a donation of any amount in support of this daily outreach at So why does Jesus teach us to pray that the will of God be done? And is it a sign of doubt, unbelief to include in your prayer the qualifier, if it be your will? Here's Dr. Sproul on this next section of The Lord's Prayer. We're looking at The Lord's Prayer and we're concerned about the petitions that Jesus gave to the church as a model that we are to follow in framing the petitions of our own prayer. We remember that the first petition that Jesus gave was that we should pray like this, hallowed be thy name. The priority of prayer for Jesus was first and foremost that the name of God be regarded as holy. The second petition in which Jesus said that we should pray that the kingdom of God would come, thy kingdom come on earth as it already has come in heaven.

Now the third petition is closely related to the first two and in a sense flows out of the first two. And the third petition of The Lord's Prayer is thy will be done. It's an interesting thing that Jesus tells us to pray that the will of God should be done on earth as it is in heaven, because it seems almost heretical that Jesus would make such a suggestion or give such a mandate to the church. Doesn't Jesus know that the will of God is always done?

Can Jesus understand the sovereignty of this king He told us to pray about? Well, if there's any concept about which there's confusion in our understanding of the Scriptures, it focuses on this whole idea of the will of God. You read in the New Testament, for example, God is not willing that any should perish, and yet some perish.

And we look at that, and it raises all kinds of questions for people, and as we examine that text I remind people that there are at least two different words in the New Testament that are translated by the English word will. There's the Greek word theleme or bulimai, which means will, and I wish it would all be this simple, but unfortunately both of them each have various nuances, different nuances of meaning, and so it's not always immediately apparent by looking at a text in the New Testament exactly what is meant by the will of God, because there are seven or eight different meanings to the word will referring to God. The three most familiar are first of all what we call the sovereign efficacious will of God. When the Bible speaks of the will of God in this sense, it describes that will by which whatever God decrees to come to pass comes to pass by His sovereign command. When God willed the universe to be created and said, let there be light, that expression of His sovereign power and of His sovereign will was obeyed instantly by the elements. The light came on. When Christ commanded by His will and by His authority Lazarus to come out of the tomb and to rise from the dead, that command was efficacious.

It was obeyed instantly and immediately. And so we refer to the sovereign, decorative, efficacious will of God that the Bible speaks of, that will that comes to pass by the sheer necessity of God's decreeing it. But there's also another way in which the Bible speaks of the will of God, and that's with respect to what we call His preceptive will. The precept of will, as the word suggests, has to do with His law, His commandments, the precepts that He issues to regulate our behavior. This is the will of God that you have no other gods before Him.

This is the will of God that you honor your father and your mother. This is the will of God that you remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy. That's the preceptive will of God.

Now, that can be violated and is violated every day. We, as sinners, disobey the will of God. The third most frequently used reference to the will of God has to do with God's basic disposition or inclination towards people, what is pleasing to Him. The Bible teaches us, for example, that He takes no delight in the death of the wicked, even though He sovereignly wills the death of the wicked.

He doesn't get His jollies from it, so to speak. Now, I don't want to spend any length of time on that text I mentioned as an example, God is not willing that any should perish. Obviously, we see how that text would be interpreted differently if we applied these different nuances to it. If the text means God is not willing that any should perish in the sovereign efficacious sense, then obviously none will perish. If it means that He doesn't will that any should perish in the preceptive sense, it would simply mean God doesn't permit or allow anybody to perish, that if they perish, then the very perishing, they're sinning. Or the third option is that God is not pleased, or His disposition is not such that He enjoys the reality that not all are saved.

I mean, those are different options. I think even more complicated in that text is the reference of the any. My personal view, just as an aside, is that the any is crucial. And I think in the context, the any has to do with the elect, and that God is not willing in the sovereign efficacious sense that any of His chosen people will perish, and none of them ever do perish.

But that's another matter. I'm just simply saying in passing that this whole concept of the will of God is central to our understanding of the Christian life and of the Scriptures. And it's important here because high on the list of the priorities of prayer, Jesus says to His people that they ought to pray to the Father, thy will be done. Now, I think it's clear that this here is an expression that we are praying that God's precept of will will be obeyed.

It's not necessarily that as I'll come back to in a moment. But the prima facie view would be the thing that seems to make most sense on the surface is simply that what Jesus is saying is to pray that the people of that the people of God will be obedient. Now, as I said, it's not necessarily what it means. It could be a kind of redundant statement, thy will be done, in the sense of thy sovereign will be done, which certainly will be done. If there ever was a prayer that we uttered that we would know for certain would come to pass, it would be a prayer like that to say thy will be done. We know the will of God is going to be done ultimately.

And this could be what Jesus is simply saying is that I want you to remember again when you're on your knees before God who He is and who you are and whose will will prevail and who it is who is sovereign. I wish I had a dollar for every professing Christian I've heard say to me that the sovereignty of God is limited by the free will of man. And I just hope and trust that people who say that haven't really thought about it very deeply because it comes perilously close to blasphemy if it doesn't indeed transgress that border because it makes man sovereign. The more proper approach to it is to say, yes, we have free will, but our free will is always and everywhere limited by God's sovereignty. Because whenever there's a conflict ultimately between my will and His will, which one has to give way?

Who is sovereign? Not my will, but His will is sovereign. And so maybe all Jesus has in mind here is to remind us who is sovereign that He's built into the Lord's prayer a safeguard against Pelagianism and Semipelagianism and against an exalted view of the human will and to remind people that when they're on their knees who is sovereign and that they acknowledge it willingly that God is sovereign.

But I don't think that's the point. It's possibly the point, but I don't think it is the point and for this reason, because this is to this phrase that Jesus adds the qualifier that His will may be done on earth as it is in heaven. And that suggests at least that there is a discrepancy between the accomplishing of whatever will of God we're discussing here on earth and its being accomplished in heaven. Now, the sovereign will of God is not only always accomplished in heaven, it's also always accomplished on earth. So, that's why I don't think that the reference here is to the sovereign will of God. I think it must be to the precept of will of God because the precept of will of God is always obeyed by angels and by glorified believers in heaven. There's no sin in heaven. There's no conflict between the will of the creatures who are gathered around the presence of God in heaven and His holy will because all who are in heaven have been brought into full conformity to the law of God, and they glory in the law of God. Remember the catechism, the first question, what is man's chief end?

Man's chief end is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. When I learned that as a child, it didn't make sense to me, although I got the message. I figured that to glorify God meant that I had to obey Him, that to glorify God meant that I had to be a good boy, that I had to do what God wants me to do rather than what I want to do.

But what puzzled me was that I couldn't see the conclusion following from the premises. I couldn't understand how there could be any joy in that. And after years of studying theology, I still struggle with it, and so do you because we sin because we think we'll find joy there. We find pleasure. That's what makes sin so attractive is that it's pleasurable. But there's a difference between pleasure and joy, an eternal difference between pleasure and joy.

And that's what makes sin so attractive. And what the catechism instruction was seeking to communicate was the link between joy and the glorification of God. So my chief end, my chief purpose, the reason for my being is to glorify God.

And there's a bonus in that, that I may enjoy Him forever. And the point I want to make is that those who are gathered around the presence of God in heaven are doing two things. One, they're glorifying God. Isn't it interesting that the final stage of our sanctification is described in the New Testament in the language of glorification, that we will be glorified, and we who will be glorified will be glorified unto glorying. The glorified ones are the ones who glorify God in heaven. And with that, glorying of God in heaven in heaven is unspeakable, eternal, uninterrupted joy. Jesus said, I came that your joy may be full. One of the things I love about the Christmas season is that one of the great hymns of the church, which is sung sometimes during the year in other liturgies, comes to center stage during the Christmas season, the Gloria in Exoces Deo, glory to God in the highest. Jesus is saying, in heaven the will of God is done.

It's not done here. People are not seeking the glory of God. They're not seeking the kingdom of God. What Jesus said, seek first, and everything else will be added unto you. They're not hallowing the name of God.

Perhaps that's why there's not a lot of joy on our planet these days. And so Jesus says, when you pray, say, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Oh, sometimes I'm distressed when I hear people in their zeal for prayer in its fervency, in its efficacy, to say in that zeal that we should never pray if it be thy will, that somehow to attach those words, those conditional terms to our prayers is an act of unbelief. We are told today that in the boldness of faith we are to name it and claim it, to claim the answer to prayer before we have any evidence that it's there.

I suppose I should be calm and quiet and sensitive in criticizing that, but let me just say in passing, beloved, that's madness. And I can't think of anything more foreign to the teaching of Christ than that. We come to the presence of God in boldness but never in arrogance. And, yes, we can name and claim those things which God has clearly promised in Scripture. We can name the name of Jesus as our Savior, and we can claim the certainty of our forgiveness if we have confessed our sins before Him because He promises that absolutely. But whether I'm going to get a raise or whether I'm going to move to this city or whether I'm going to get that position, you know, God hasn't made those kinds of specific promises.

And what specific promises and whether I'm going to be healed of a particular disease, God has not given any absolute promise to that anywhere in Scripture, and so we don't name it and claim it. Because when we come before God, we are to come remembering the two rules, remembering who He is and remembering who we are. We're talking to the King. We're talking to the Sovereign One.

We're the creature. He's the Creator, and when we pray to Him, we pray politely, if you please. And we say, by your leave, as you wish, if you please, that's the way we come before God, if it be Thy will.

And if we raise the objection that in principle it is a manifestation of unbelief or a weakness of faith to say to God, if it be Thy will, then we have just slandered the very Lord of the Lord's Prayer, who in His moment of greatest passion prayed regarding the will of God. We read the record of it in Luke's gospel. We read it in Luke chapter 22, beginning at verse 39, immediately following the Last Supper. We read that coming out, He went to the Mount of Olives as He was accustomed, and His disciples also followed Him. And when He came to the place, He said to them, pray that you may not enter into temptation. And He was withdrawn from them about a stone's throw, and He knelt down and prayed, saying, Father, if it is your will, take this cup away from Me.

Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done. Now, in Luke's version of this, something extraordinary, almost bizarre, takes place immediately after this prayer in the agony of Christ in Gethsemane. After He says, nevertheless, not My will, but Yours be done, we read in verse 43, that an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him, and being in agony, He prayed more earnestly, and His sweat began like great drops of blood falling down to the ground. He says, not My will, but Yours be done. And the first thing that happens is an angel comes to strengthen Him. The angel is the messenger of God.

The angel came with the answer to the petition, drink the cup. See, Jesus was not saying, I don't want to be obedient. Jesus was not saying, I refuse to submit. Jesus is saying, Father, if there's any other way, and of all things being equal, I just assume not to have to do it this way. What you have set before me is more ghastly than I can contemplate.

I am entering into my grand passion, and I'm terrified. But if that's what you want, that's what I'll do. Not My will, but Your will, because really My will is to do Your will.

That more than anything. That's what it means to pray for the will of God, friends. Not that we get what we want, but it is the highest expression of faith to submit to the lordship of Christ, to the sovereignty of God. And the prayer of trust, the real prayer of faith of which the Scripture speaks, is the prayer that trusts God for the answer whether it's yes or no. It doesn't take any faith to claim, like a robber, something that is not yours to claim. But you come and you tell God what you want, you tell God what's on your heart, but you trust Him if He says no because that's what Jesus did.

Thy will be done. I mentioned that the text that follows Jesus' prayer, Thy will be done, is extraordinary because the first thing we are told is that the angel comes and strengthens Him. So we would think that the agony of His soul would have been alleviated, ameliorated by the presence of that heavenly being sent to minister to Him, to strengthen Him. But then we're told that with the coming of the strength from the angel comes an increase in the agony of Christ, an increase so profound that he begins to sweat drops of blood from his forehead. Jonathan Edwards said that this escalation in agony, and Edwards is speculating here, was due to his full realization now of what the will of God was. And now his fear was not that he would have to drink the cup. That's the fear that he came with in the first place. The fear now was that he would not be able to do it, that he would not be able to fulfill all righteousness, to be complete and perfect in the obedience that he would render to the will of God.

But he did it, and he drank from the cup to the last drop. And in that moment, Jesus didn't give us words to show us how to pray. He gave us his life as an example of praying that the will of God be done on earth as it is in heaven. And aren't we thankful every day that Jesus did give his life for us?

That was R.C. Sproul from his series, The Lord's Prayer. I can still remember first hearing Dr. Sproul teach on the different ways that the Bible speaks of God's will and how helpful that was for me, especially helpful as we seek to understand today's petition in the Lord's Prayer. And it's these kinds of insights that you'll find when you listen to the complete 10-message series and read his book, The Prayer of the Lord.

You can own both when you give a gift of any amount at or by calling us at 800 435 4343. Your generosity is fueling the global outreach of Renewing Your Mind and Ligonier Ministries. So thank you for your regular support and for your prayers for Renewing Your Mind. Give us this day our daily bread and forgive us our debts as we also have forgiven our debtors. That will be tomorrow here on Renewing Your Mind. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-03-06 03:10:11 / 2024-03-06 03:18:26 / 8

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