Eph. 1: 17-19 Knowing the Will of God

Aug 8, 2021 // By:Dave // No Comment

last week I spoke about a common theme, a conceptual thread that runs through all of Paul’s prayers for the saints …

that is for the believers mind to be enlightened by a revelation of knowledge of God (and that this knowledge would result in wisdom)

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.

18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, so that you will know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints,

19 and what is the boundless greatness of His power toward us who believe. …

also mentioned that wisdom, biblically speaking, is a way of approaching life, handling challenges and decisions with a mind that is in alignment with God’s Word.

I showed similar verbiage in Phillipians 1 , Colossians 1, Philemon, Eph 6 , etc

knowing what God thinks

resulting in agreeing with God

resulting in thinking like God

resulting in doing what God likes

knowing God’s Word means knowing His will

There is an alternative popular method for determining the will of God

let’s call it the breadcrumb method (God drops little breadcrumbs into our lives

that we collect and follow to our destination)

there is no thinking or discernment involved, just being open to notice the hints

Here’s an example:

  1. woman hears a missionary at church speaking about the marshall islands (and the pictures of the kids creates an emotional reaction deep within her that she cant shake)
  2. at work the next day, there is a vacation pamphlet on the front counter for a getaway in the marshall islands
  3. a couple of days later, she sees a facebook post about a tropical storm that hit the marshall islands
  4. Friday night, her husband is upset because a key staff person left the company to work elsewhere … his name is Marshall.
  5. she tells her husband that God has been speaking to her and that He might be calling them to go to the Marshall Islands to become missionaries
  6. this will become their testimony of how it all happened
  7. others will hear this and think “I need to be more sensitive to what God is showing me and maybe I’m am spending too much time just reading this old bible. She is so much more spiritual than I am”

but you won’t find that method in scripture 

(oh sure, God does speak to some individuals, upon occasions, but it’s not common

because He wants us to use two things He tells us are already provided:

  1. bible
  2. wisdom

if breadcrumbs from heaven was the goto, then we would never read our bible

(and we would never think either)

just wait around for the next crumb

this is an issue of the mind, using the mind

We can circle this idea around and discover the heart of the concept in Rom 12:1-2

Rom. 12:1 ¶ Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

Rom. 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

how to know the will of God.

there are two main approaches:

we can be conformed or transformed

worldly method is to turn off the mind, blank out all your thoughts and wait for something to come in 

(this may include blank meditation, circumstantial interpretation, searching for “peace”)

biblical method is to search His Word, pray, seek council of other bible readers and prayers and sometimes waiting for clarity.

let’s look at the worldly approaches to tapping into this divine plan and will of God:

  1. blank meditation is dangerous because you are inviting any thought to enter without a filter 

-we are called to think our way through this world  2 Cor 10:5

  1. circumstantial interpretation is easily biased and sadly, is an attempt to avoid using the one thing that God has given us to discern with, our minds.
  • hearing names or words over radio or a movie that we were thinking about, 
  • looking for common denominators in details between different circumstances for guidance
  • looking for shapes in the clouds for a sign
  • horoscope or astrological signs
  • fortune cookies, 
  • reading tea leaves, or bones in a bowl

Matt 16:4 An evil and adulterous generation wants a sign; and so a sign will not be given to it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.

these are basically divination

defined as communication with a deity for the purpose of determining the deity’s knowledge, resulting in a clarification of a decision or discernment of the future.

Divination is the effort to obtain insight into a question or situation by way of an occultic, standardized process, or ritual. To engage in divination is to reveal mysterious knowledge by supernatural practices. It is correlated with the occult and involves fortune-telling or soothsaying, as it used to be called.

in short, it is seeking God’s knowledge outside of God’s chosen means: scripture.

Saul made this mistake in 1 Sam 15:23 and God tells him that his sin was as rebellion.

(Saul goes to a necromancer, the witch of Endor, to communicate with the then dead prophet, Samuel)

Another example of knowledge from a wrong source in in Acts 16:16-24 where a woman has a spirit of divination and kept saying of Paul and company “these men are servants of the most high God who proclaim to you the way of salvation”   Paul cast it out (resulting in a riot in the city)

the source of the information is more important than the information (even if might be truth in it)

God wants us to trust Him as the source of truth and knowledge.
(wasn’t that the problem in the garden of eden, don’t eat from this one tree which will give you the power to do what ?)

  1. seeking “peace”

searching for some “divine peace” is also dangerous because it places a feeling about logic, even common sense

(I personally know multiple believers who are willing to stand their ground in violating scriptural foundations simply because they can justify their stance in sin because “they had a peace”

biblically , the peace we enjoy is the peace of not being at war with God, no longer being the object of His wrath against sins we have committed.  That peace is a declaration of “not at war” by God , not us.

the emotional peace we sometimes get to enjoy comes from knowing the first peace.

ever try to witness to a hostile person, that is not experiencing peace

doing something uncomfortable or dangerous, that we are told in scripture is usually a challenge to our peace

sadly, this idea of “tapping into the secret mind of God” to know His will is rampant in christian culture

knowing the “Will of God” has become a higher level of spirituality

but the way this is defined, understood, and sought after is doing much damage

we are told to start with the bible (God’s revealed knowledge leading to God’s wisdom)

read bible

think biblically

pray biblically

seek biblical council from others who read, think, and pray

 Rom. 12:1 ¶ Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.

in light of everything God has done for you and given to you, give all of yourself to Him, 

Rom. 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

this verse starts with a negative indicative

don’t walk like the world, don’t think like the world, don’t live like the world

separate from what is not biblical.

now we have a positive to do: be transformed  … how ?

by doing what is needed to facilitate the renewing of our  minds.

renewing (2x)  G0342 (2x)

[NIV Greek]

364   [342]   ἀνακαίνωσις, anakainōsis, n.  [324 + 2785]. made new

same word used in

2Cor. 4:16 ¶ Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer person is decaying, yet our inner person is being renewed day by day.

our body is decaying day by day, but our mind is being restored to what it was meant to be, as new

Rom 12:2 tells us that as our mind is renewed, we become transformed.

Look at the difference between counseling methods

world says “your problems are everything on the outside but your solution is on the inside”

bible says “your problems are inside (sin nature) but your solution is outside … God

the world seeks secret spiritual knowledge because the bible is not good enough, not specific enough

worldly counseling says we are the product of our environments

christian couseling says our problems stem from damaged relationship with God

and that we are meant to impact the environment around us by rising above it

we are told to not be conformed to this kingdom

but to be transformed internally by His kingdom

christianity is the most intellectual religion on the planet.

(our mind is expected to be fully engaged 24/7)

knowing, discerning, testing, resisting, praying, reading, discipling, preaching, evangelizing, apologetics, etc

Eph 4:17-24

17 ¶ So I say this, and affirm in the Lord, that you are to no longer walk just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their minds,

18 being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart;

19 and they, having become callous, have given themselves up to indecent behavior for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness.

20 But you did not learn Christ in this way,

21 if indeed you have heard Him and have been taught in Him, just as truth is in Jesus,

22 that, in reference to your former way of life, you are to rid yourselves of the old self, which is being corrupted in accordance with the lusts of deceit,

23 and that you are to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,

24 and to put on the new self, which in the likeness of God has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.

put off the old (way of thinking) and put on the new (way of thinking)

christianity does not despise the mind or teach us to bypass the mind, it speaks constantly to the 

absolute need to use it.


2Tim. 2:15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a worker who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

2Tim. 3:16 All Scripture is inspired by God and beneficial for teaching, for rebuke, for correction, for training in righteousness;
2Tim. 3:17 so that the man or woman of God may be fully capable, equipped for every good work.

scriptures equip us for every good work … 

so why do we feel we need to close our bible and search for signs and wonders to understand what God wants ?

Why do we follow the advice of those who tell us to quiet our minds, let them go blank to wait for a feeling or thought to pop in ?

the world says that’s how it’s done (but the world is darkened in their minds according to Eph 4:18)

God tells us that His Word is sufficient 

the enemy has convinced us to use occultism to seek God’s will (and to close our bibles to do so)

it the exact opposite of what God says to do

2 Pet 1:3-10

3 for His divine power has granted to us everything pertaining to life and godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.

4 Through these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world on account of lust.

5 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,

6 and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,

7 and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.

8 For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they do not make you useless nor unproductive in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

9 For the one who lacks these qualities is blind or short-sighted, having forgotten his purification from his former sins.

10 Therefore, brothers and sisters, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choice of you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble;

does it sound like scripture tells us that what we do need to know in in scripture ?

(or does it sound like we need to find secret knowledge to be productive christians?)

sometimes, yes, I hear the voice of my Father giving me some detail
(regarding a left or a right, or stop for a moment, but these are few and far between

and never contradict the scriptures He has given to each one of us)

yes, peace can mean different things:

  • I enjoy the peace of not being at war with my Father (declaration of peace by the Father)
  • I seek the peace of knowing that my thoughts are in alignment with His (peace of mind that I am doing well)
  • I may enjoy a peace of circumstances by following principles in scripture (circumstancial peace , lack of stress) but this peace that means lack of stress is the result of the first two applications and not something I ever arrive at by bypassing the first two (waiting for it to pop into my mind)

avoiding being conformed is to reject thinking that contradicts scripture 

being transformed is learning to think in agreement with scripture 

(and renewing is an ongoing process)

our ethics come from this process as well

  • how to discern right from wrong
  • how to have a good marriage
  • how to raise kids
  • 5 steps to a happy relationship with your spouse
  • 3 steps to better kids
  • 6 steps to have less stress in your life

the world system is completely opposed to scripture (on purpose)

this is why scripture speaks of teaching, discipleship, accountability to scripture

(we need all this to counter, to resist, the world’s thinking which our minds are steeped

in every hour of every day)

did you know that by the time someone graduates from high school

they have been exposed to the cosmos for over 14000 hrs

(6hrs/day, 5 days week, 9 months/year)

it in our “church culture”

go to a christian bookstore and look at the majority of writers

doctor of this or that, phd in this or that

notice how few are trained in theology or scripture

we are being migrated away from the sufficiency of scripture 

and steered towards “self-help” books and shortcut solutions

if we think its better to trust psychology more than scripture 

then we prove that we are being conformed more than transformed 

Rom. 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

prove = test, examine the will of God

Luke 12:56 used twice “interpret”

Rom 1:26 “see fit”

1 Cor 11:28 “examine himself”

through a process of testing we interpret what is the will of God, what is the “will” of the cosmos

will of God = 

will (9521x)  G2307 (60x)

[NIV Greek]

2525   [2307]   θέλημα, thelēma, n.  [2527]. will, decision, desire

3. Significant NT passages. Observation of a number of NT passages and their use of “will” helps us to understand the significance of the concept of the will of God.

Mt 7:21 (cf. 12:50); Mk 3:35. A person can “do the will” of the Father. This simply means that the individual is responsive to God’s revealed standards and desires.

Mt 26:39; Mk 14:36; Lk 22:42. Jesus prayed that “if possible” the cup of suffering he was about to drink be taken from him. But he concluded, “Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Mt 26:39). The human will is to be subject to the purpose and intentions of the Father; as it was in Jesus, so it must surely be in us.

Jn 1:13; 1 Pe 1:23. The new birth does not have its source in man’s will but in the divine will. The NIV translation indicates that the analogy is between types of birth; it does not make any statement about the role of the individual’s personal exercise of will in choosing to follow Jesus.

Jn 6:38-40. God has determined that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him will have eternal life. This set purpose assures us that Jesus will “lose none” (v. 39) of all those whom God has given him.

Jn 7:17. Choosing to do God’s will is basic if an individual is to discover that Jesus’ teaching is from God (cf. Jn 8:31-32).

Ac 4:28. Jesus’ death was according to the fixed purpose and determined will of God (cf. Ac 2:23).

Ac 18:21 (cf. Ro 1:10). Paul’s use of the expression “if it is God’s will” indicates Paul’s own uncertainty about the future and his confidence that God in fact controlled his personal destiny on earth.

Ac 20:27. The “whole will of God” is an expression indicating all that God has revealed to us in Scripture (cf. Ro 2:18; 1 Pe 2:15).

Ro 12:2. God’s will, as the perspective on life unveiled in revelation, is to be done so that by practicing it we will experience the fact that his will for us is good and pleasing and perfect.

Gal 1:4. God’s purpose, to rescue us from this present evil age through Jesus, is according “to the will of our God and Father.”

Eph 1:5-11. God’s fixed purpose and conscious choices made concerning salvation’s plan are described in these verses.

Col 1:9-14. A practical and applied knowledge of that which God has willed is vital for growth in goodness. This is again a reference to revelation.

Heb 9:16-17. Here the reference is to what in our day is known as a “last will and testament.”

Jas 4:15. Plans that are made without awareness of dependence on God show an evil attitude. We are to plan, but we are also to be aware that what we plan will happen only “if it is the Lord’s will.”

1 Pe 4:2. The believer, rescued from sin, is to live according to God’s will rather than according to inner passions.

1 Jn 5:14. Believers can pray according to God’s will. When they offer such prayers, they have a basis on which to expect a positive answer.

The “will of God” is used in a number of senses. It expresses:

  • divine purpose, fixed and unalterable
  • God’s general and revealed standards for human behavior. 
  • God’s current involvement in human life, ranging from his call to perform a specific action to his shaping of our personal future.


The very fact that God has a will for an individual’s life indicates that it is possible to discover it. But passages dealing with the will of God do not focus on this personal aspect.

1Th. 4:3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification…

1Th. 5:18 in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.

1Pet. 2:15 For such is the will of God, that by doing right you silence the ignorance of foolish people.

Eph. 5:17 Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.

the “will of God”, what He deemed that we need to know, is revealed in scripture 

three basic meanings

  • sovereign decretive will 
    • (Hidden sovereign will , which HE WILL bring to pass)
    • this is His business, not ours
    • (this is usually the one we are trying to tap into)
  • perceptive will 
    • revealed law 
    • which we have the power to break but not the right
  • dispositive will
    • what is pleasing to Him
    • (act of mercy or grace from one to another)

when most people say they want to know the will of God, they are seeking the first decretive will (that which is not often known to us)

to want to know the decretive will of God (when He has not decreed it yet, is not seeking His will since He has not willed to show you yet) this is seeking a crystal ball.  

it is contradictory to say I want to know God’s will in an area that God has not decreed to you, since it is clearly NOT His will to make it known (basically saying “I want to step outside of His will in order to know His will)

this leads to soothsaying, or divination.

seeking the secret will of God is not a mark of spirituality, but of spiritism and is equal to an unwarranted invasion into the privacy of God Himself, using means that are outside of God’s perceptive and dispositive will.

it’s no better than a child stealing money from their father in order to buy the father a gift.

This is why the bible takes such a negative view of fortune telling, soothsaying and necromancy.

(seeking spiritual knowledge outside of God’s revealed will)

we all have decisions to make.

lets take an example … marriage

pagan discernment 

  • close my mind, 
  • shut out everything and 
  • wait for peace
  • wait for stories, or news article , or movie to use the persons name
  • maybe let the bible fall open and see where our finger lands
  • saw her face in the clouds
  • a bird flew by and it’s poop when it landed on the cement was shaped like the first letter of her name
  • the astrology article said she would be the perfect match
  • these coincidences gave me a peace about it
  • she’s pretty
  • no one else makes me feel the way she does

biblical discernment 

  • living my life right
  • she’s living her life right
  • we have common goals in living and ministry (putting God first)
  • we are compatible (intellectually, emotionally, direction of life)
  • her gifting dovetails well with mine
  • test according to perceptive will and dispositive will
  • prayer (check both hearts, check details, etc)
  • do they match up with the biblical description for their role
  • get wise council

this is how it is done.

remember our Marshall island example ?

The transformative way to approach this might look like:

  1. read about missions in scripture
  2. pray about the great commission together
  3. compare this to your gifting sets
  4. count the cost
  5. examine your god given responsibilities where you are currently and can you leave those behind without violating God’s perceptive will.
  6. seek council from others who read the bible, think biblically, pray biblically

open the bible, read it

think biblically

pray biblically

get council from others who also read, think and pray biblically

be transformed by the renewing of your mind, testing and discerning what the will of God is

the other methods for divining God’s will are just that, divination, and are part of the conformation package that the world system (the spirit of the age) tries to force upon us.

not only is it unbiblical, it is the exact opposite to scripture and leads us away from the very thing we are told to be doing …

using our mind (with scripture) as it interpret His perceptive and dispositive will. being transformed as we do so.

Rom. 12:2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.


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