The expression "will of God" is used in the Bible in two ways. God's sovereign will is His secret plan that determines everything that happens in the universe. It is unknowable (except through history and prophecy). On the other hand, God's moral will consists of revealed commands in the Bible that teach how people ought to believe and live.
What More Do You Need to Know?
The guidance God provides for Christian living through His moral will is more pervasive than many realize. Its abundance begins to emerge when we explore it in four distinct ways.
First, the moral will of God is the expression of the character of God. The following traits are among those that are to characterize the believer because they characterize the Godhead: holiness (1 Peter 1:15,16), righteousness (1 John 3:7), purity (1 John 3:3), love (Ephesians 5:1,2), forgiveness (Colossians 3:13), compassion (Luke 6:36), endurance (Hebrews 12:2-4), submission (1 Peter 2:21-24), humility and obedience (Philippians 2:5-8), kindness (Luke 6:35), and generosity in giving (2 Cor. 8:1-9).
Second, God in His grace made His moral will known to us, for it is fully revealed in the Bible, our final and complete authority for faith and practice (2 Timothy 3:16,17). It was authoritative for Jesus Christ (Matthew 4:4-10; 5:18) and His apostles (2 Peter 1:19-21).
Third, the imperatives of God's moral will touch every aspect and moment of life because they prescribe the believer's goals, motives, and attitudes, as well as his actions. To put it differently, God is not concerned simply with what we do; He's equally concerned with why and how we do it. God's moral will shapes the believer's perspective of reality, the context in which his decisions are made.
Finally, since the Bible expresses God's own character, contains God's complete revelation pertaining to faith and life, and touches every aspect and moment of life, it is able to equip believers for every good work. This is explicitly stated by the apostle Paul in 2 Timothy 3:16,17.
What is the First Thing to Do?
It is the moral will of God that each person believes on Christ and has eternal life. Believing in God's existence is not enough; heart trust in Christ is what's needed. The issue is man's sin. God's holiness has been violated, and the just penalty is God's wrath. God's love has not ignored His holiness, but satisfied it by paying the price for sin. The price was death, and the perfect Christ paid it in full. As a result of Christ's sacrifice, God can offer forgiveness and eternal life as a gift—purchased at a precious price.
It is God's moral desire that everyone accept this gift. "For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave Himself a ransom for all" (1 Timothy 2:3-6). In fact, God's judgment against sin has been "postponed" so that all will have time to respond. "The Lord is … longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
No excuse for rejecting Christ is excusable. A friend of mine likes to put it this way: "If you refuse Christ, be sure that you have a real good excuse thought up because it's the excuse you will give when you stand before God on judgment day." It is the moral will of God that everyone trust Christ. It is the sovereign will of God that those who do will certainly have eternal life. "This is the will of Him that sent Me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40).
Do you intend to live your life according to God's will? The very first step of obedience is to turn to God in repentance and receive His salvation through faith in Christ.
OK, Now What?
The moral will of God has been well illustrated as the area enclosed by a circle. The interior of the circle contains all the commands and principles that are morally binding upon the believer. But any thought, attitude, or action that falls outside of that circle is sin (1 John 3:4). Thus, it is of supreme importance that the believer learn where the perimeter of that circle runs. Jesus told His disciples, "If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them" (John 13:17). The blessing of obedience is impossible apart from fulfillment of the first "if"—"if ye know these things."
Accordingly, the Christian's first responsibility is to gain a good understanding of what is included within God's moral will. The source of such knowledge, as we have emphasized, is God's Word. The process for gaining such an understanding includes reading (1 Timothy 4:13), careful consideration (2 Timothy 2:7), search and inquiry (1 Peter 1:10,11), diligence in study (2 Timothy 2:15), meditation (Psalm 1:2; Joshua 1:8), memorization (Psalm 119:11), and learning from gifted Bible teachers (Philippians 4:9; 1 Corinthians 12:28,29). This requires time and effort!
The believer can expect that God will be at work within him to give understanding as he studies. Paul exhorted Timothy, "Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things" (2 Timothy 2:7). The Holy Spirit of truth does not work to illuminate the Bible's meaning apart from our diligent study, but rather through it.
Your Wish Is My Command
As the Christian grows in his understanding of God's moral will, he must also grow in his obedience to it. Obedience is one of the most important responsibilities believers have during this life. In his first epistle, John made a vivid contrast: "The world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever" (1 John 2:17). John expected that the one born of God will give evidence that he is a new creature by his obedience to the moral will of God as a pattern of life. Throughout the epistle, he describes what such a lifestyle looks like: keeping the commands of God (2:3-6), living a life of love (4:7,8), and believing in true doctrine (2:21-23, 4:1-3; 5:1). These characteristics are not the basis for our salvation, but are rather evidence of it. We are saved by grace through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9), but genuine saving faith can never be separated from good works, which follow from it (Acts 26:20; Ephesians 2:10; James 2:14-26). Obedience to the moral will of God is of supreme value. It is not optional.
—Condensed from Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen with J. Robin Maxson. Copyright (c) 1980, 2004 by Garry Friesen. Published by Multnomah Publishers.