God’s Dispositive Will

June 24, 2015 at 1:18 pm | Posted in Where There's a Way There's a Will | 8 Comments
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A third broad category of thought about the will of God is called the dispositive will, or the will of disposition. Your “disposition” is how you are inclined to feel about something. It does not necessarily dictate that you will act in accordance with your feelings, but it can certainly influence your actions. It can be helpful to think of it as God’s “emotive” will because we know that God does have emotions. His emotions are holy and perfectly controlled, but if we ascribe human emotions to Him for the purpose of being able to discuss His character and actions (and the Bible does this) it is called anthropopathism.

The Bible does not always let us in on God’s inclination or disposition about certain matters, but sometimes it does. For example:

The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.

II Peter 3:9

What does this tell us about God? It does not reveal His decretive will because obviously many are going to perish despite the fact that He is not “willing” that any should perish.

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

Matthew 7:13-14

Nor is II Peter 3:9 dealing expressly with God’s preceptive will, because, although He does command everyone to be saved, this is talking about His desire rather than a command. What it is revealing is God’s dispositive will – His inclination or His feelings about those who reject Christ, regardless of how they wound up in that condition.

Another example of the Bible describing God’s will in dispositive terms is:

Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord God: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

Ezekiel 18:23

This verse is speaking about earthly, temporal life, not eternal life, and it asks a rhetorical question, so the answer should be clear.

Say unto them, As I live, saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?

Ezekiel 33:11

The Lord could force the wicked to turn from their ways, and His disposition is inclined toward delighting in repentance, but He does not always do so. In fact, the punishment of the wicked conversely satisfies His justice, wrath, and holiness, but it gives Him no predispositional or emotional delight, and – emphatically and obviously – no sinful delight.

Here is another example:

Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.

Ephesians 4:29-30

These verses express God’s will in the preceptive sense because they command us not to do certain things, but they also give us insight into the dispositive sense of His will because they tell us He can be grieved (a combination of sadness and anger). Am I really powerful enough to grieve the Spirit of God? My “power” is not really the issue, but my sin and rebellion certainly do affect our loving and caring God, and He responds with love and what seems in our finite human understanding to be a “hurt” response, although He keeps His promise to eternally seal us, despite our sin.

Neither the apparent conflicts between these operations of God’s will (preceptive, decretive, dispostive), nor the recognition of their complementarity, can be explained away by appeals to the “free will” of man, because God is still omniscient and omnipotent and omnipresent and omnibenevolent, which leads us to consideration of God’s secret, or hidden, will, which we will look at next time.

Catechism Question 8

June 25, 2014 at 3:02 pm | Posted in Children's Bible Catechism | 3 Comments
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Question 8: What is the punishment for sin?
Answer: The punishment for sin is death.
Prove it.

Behold, all souls are mine; as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sinneth, it shall die.

Ezekiel 18:4

If this is true (and it is!) then why don’t we die the very first time we sin? God in His grace and mercy does not immediately kill everyone who sins, although that would be just.

How can the sinner’s punishment be eternal if death is the end? Just as the gift of God for those who trust in Christ is eternal life, so the punishment for sinners who die apart from Christ is eternal death, which means the soul consciously existing in torment forever, experiencing the eternal wrath of God.

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 6:23

God has woven into the curse of sin a natural progression toward death, although He is free to intervene in the process and rescue sinners.

Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.

James 1:15

Face to Face

November 30, 2011 at 2:49 pm | Posted in Common Expressions, Ezekiel | 9 Comments
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In Chapter 18 Ezekiel begins to address the excuses of those who were being convicted by his messages. Their chief excuse seems to have been the age-old excuse of, “It’s someone else’s fault.” The people were saying that God wasn’t fair, even though He was keeping the covenant. The covenant breakers were blaming the Covenant Keeper.

God does not take pleasure in the death of the wicked.

Have I any pleasure at all that the wicked should die? saith the Lord GOD: and not that he should return from his ways, and live?

Ezekiel 18:23

For I have no pleasure in the death of him that dieth, saith the Lord GOD: wherefore turn yourselves, and live ye.

Ezekiel 18:32

In Chapter 19 Ezekiel lays the responsibility at the feet of the the leaders. Israel is compared to a lion, but a lion that has been captured and taken into captivity.

And say, What is thy mother? A lioness: she lay down among lions, she nourished her whelps among young lions.

Ezekiel 19:2

Then the nations set against him on every side from the provinces, and spread their net over him: he was taken in their pit. And they put him in ward in chains, and brought him to the king of Babylon: they brought him into holds, that his voice should no more be heard upon the mountains of Israel.

Ezekiel 19:8-9

Ezekiel also compared Israel to a vine, but a vine that had become withered and unfruitful.

Thy mother is like a vine in thy blood, planted by the waters: she was fruitful and full of branches by reason of many waters.

Ezekiel 19:10

But she was plucked up in fury, she was cast down to the ground, and the east wind dried up her fruit: her strong rods were broken and withered; the fire consumed them. And now she is planted in the wilderness, in a dry and thirsty ground.

Ezekiel 19:12-13

This comparison would have reminded them of Israel’s blessing in Genesis 49.

In Ezekiel Chapter 20 the elders come to Ezekiel’s house, supposedly to “enquire of the Lord.”

And it came to pass in the seventh year, in the fifth month, the tenth day of the month, that certain of the elders of Israel came to enquire of the LORD, and sat before me.

Ezekiel 20:1

But they had forgotten that Ezekiel was getting his discernment directly from God, and he gave them a history lesson instead. He reminded them that, even though they had been required to dwell among the heathen, they should not have been converted to the heathens’ ways. As Christians we should beware of becoming a part of the culture we’re trying to reach. “Undercover evangelicals” may think that they can lift up sinners out of their sin, but what usually winds up happening is that the Christians wind up getting dragged down into sin and ruining their testimony. Jesus ate with the publicans and sinners. He talked with them, and cared for them while they were yet in sin. But He did not sin with them.

And that which cometh into your mind shall not be at all, that ye say, We will be as the heathen, as the families of the countries, to serve wood and stone.

Ezekiel 20:32

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That is what was happening to these Israelites. They had not learned from the mistakes of their forefathers and they were experiencing the same type of chastening from God.

And I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face.

Ezekiel 20:35 (emphasis added)

God told them that He would bring them into a figurative wilderness and deal with them face to face. This is in contrast to God telling Ezekiel to “set his face” toward Jerusalem. New Testament Christians look forward to seeing God “face to face,” because now we see through a glass, darkly. We are excited because we will know as we are known. But we have to make sure that we’re not like the people of Israel in Ezekiel’s day, who didn’t really “know” God. Seeing God face to face is different than seeing eye to eye with God. Seeing God face to face is an exciting and joyful prospect to those who know God through Jesus Christ, but it is terrifying for those who are known by God for their unfaithfulness, and do not know Him via Christ.


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