Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 11, 1956
NUMBER 23, PAGE 6-7b

The Revelation Of The Will Of God

Robert H. Farish, Lexington, Kentucky

Doing the will (wishes) of God involves knowledge of that will. No one who is ignorant of the will of God can do the will of God. The inability of men to acceptably seek God without knowledge of His will is demonstrated in the case of the men of Athens — their ignorant seeking had led to idolatry. Without the knowledge of the will of God they were unable to find God even though it had been designed that they "seek God." (Acts 17:27.) Paul points out that God "is not far from each one of us: for in him we live, and move and have our being." Yet those philosophers were unable to reason from their experiences to the knowledge of God. God must be "set forth" by the apostle. Following the wisdom of the world in the spiritual realm had led to idolatry.

That the Gentile world by its wisdom was unable to search out the will of God is also shown in the first chapter of Romans. Paul traces the spiritual decline of the Gentiles as they follow the course dictated by their wisdom. This course led to the grossest idolatry characterized by the basest sins.

The first chapter of 1 Corinthians deals with this matter. In this it is shown that the Gentiles seeking after wisdom failed to come to a knowledge of God. Their concepts formed from their experiences were gross and contradictory. The Jews asking for a sign (direct operation!) were unable to arrive at a true knowledge of the will of God. The Holy Spirit sums up the case this way: "Seeing that Jews ask for signs, and Greeks seek after wisdom: but we preach Christ crucified ..." (1 Cor. 1:12.) The will of God must be announced (expressed) by heaven's ambassadors, the apostles. It is not "impressed" upon man by a direct operation, nor is the knowledge of it gained by the wisdom of the world. In these scriptures the need of revelation of the will of God is shown and the fact of such revelation affirmed. In this matter of inspired expression those who are interested can find many theories of inspiration; our interest however is not in human theories but in the scripture's claim for themselves. The unity of the faith can be had by allowing the scriptures to define and express the inspiration which they claim for themselves. Ignoring scriptural terminology is one of the greatest sources of division.

When Christ sent forth the apostles to preach, to the "lost sheep of the house of Israel," that the kingdom of heaven was at hand, he told them to "be not anxious ("take no thought" A.V.) how or what ye shall speak for it shall be given you in that hour what ye shall speak." (Matt. 10:19b.) This language rules out the possibility of the apostles reasoning upon their experiences and thus speaking "from experience" — they were to "take no thought" what they should say. The reason for this is that "it shall be given you.... what ye shall speak."

Just before Christ was crucified he promised the chosen apostles that he would "pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth whom the world cannot receive; for it beholdeth him not, neither knoweth him: ye know him; for he abideth with you, and shall be in you." (John 14:16,17.) In the second chapter of first Corinthians there is a more detailed discussion of the things here promised by Christ. This discussion should be studied in connection with Christ's promise to the apostles.

The "world" through the means available to it cannot behold the truth, it knows it not by natural means. Observation and experimentation cannot explore the mind of God and thus learn the will of God. Paul uses the expression "natural man" in the sense that Christ used the word "world." The "natural man" receives not "the things of the Spirit" — The "world" cannot receive the "Spirit of truth." The apostles were told that the Spirit "shall be in you" (John 14:17b), while Paul writes "But we received ... the Spirit which is from God." The design of the Spirit being sent to the apostle was to "teach you all things." This is the design expressed by Paul — "But we received ... the Spirit which is from God, that we might know the things ...." (1 Cor. 2:12.) The truth — the will of God — abode with the apostles in the person of Jesus while he was with them. During the personal ministry of Jesus the apostles could address any question with reference to the will of God to their teacher and receive the knowledge of the will of God from him. This arrangement would be changed after his death, he would still speak the will of God unto the apostles, but not in person but by the Holy Spirit dwelling in them. "He . . . .shall be in you." Christ promised that the Spirit would be in the apostles and Paul said that they received it.

The knowledge of the will of God is within the reach of man today. It is the things spoken by the apostles — "which things also we speak." (1 Cor. 2:13.) The word is "nigh thee . . . . that is the word of faith which we preach." (Rom. 10:8.) We are not required to penetrate the veil to come to a knowledge of that which is within the veil, either by the avenue of a "direct operation" or by reasoning from human experience. This is not the province of the wisdom of the world — "the spirit of the world."

The apostle Paul stated that in preaching the gospel he "delivered" that which "he received." (1 Cor. 15:3.) The way he received it was "through revelation of Jesus Christ." (Gal. 1:12b.) The apostle rules out the wisdom of the world, that wisdom gained through human experience as the way whereby he received the knowledge of the will of God. "For neither did I receive it from man nor was I taught it." (Gal. 1:12a.)

We will next notice some of the claims made in the New Testament by another writer. In commenting on the salvation which is the goal toward which the faith of the Christian looks, Peter wrote "concerning which salvation the prophets sought and searched diligently, searching what time or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did point unto, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ . . . . To whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto you, did they minister these things, which now have been announced unto you through them that preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven." (1 Peter 1:10-12.) This claim includes all the apostles, for "them that preached the gospel" did it "by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven." Notice also that it is affirmed that certain features of the gospel had been "revealed" unto the prophets by the Spirit of Christ.

Peter assures us that the apostles "did not cunningly devised fables . . . . but were eye witnesses." (2 Peter 1:16.) And further states that "no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit." (Verse 21.) The apostles spoke only as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.

These are some of the claims made in the scriptures for themselves. If these claims are not accepted as true, then how can regard for any of the claims of scripture be held? If these claims are true, then all contained in scripture must be accepted as true. To attempt to measure the scriptures by human experience is absurd in the extreme. The knowledge to be gained in the scriptures is knowledge that is too far off to be reached through human experience. Human experience can neither ascend into heaven and thus qualify as a witness of the truth that Jesus is the Christ, nor can it penetrate the abyss and demonstrate that Jesus is not there thus proving that he is the Christ. That Jesus is the Christ is known through the word of faith which the apostles preached. (Study Romans 10:6-8.) Faith in Jesus as the Christ the Son of God comes by hearing. (Rom. 10:17.) The word of God presents the evidence upon which all that we believe relative to the will of God must be based.

Failure to accept the New Testament as the full, fixed and final revelation of God's will to man will always result in division. If the New Testament is not regarded as a binding pattern then knowledge which is based on human experience will be used as the pattern. Confusion and strife will always result when the authority of the scriptures is made subordinate to the authority of the "fundamental doctrine of the church of Christ" Neither human experience nor the practice of the church reveals the will of God. The will of God is reflected in the experience of men and in the practice of the church only as the experiences of men and the practice of the church conform to the revelation of God's will — the New Testament.