Love God & Do What You Please: Five Demands

The phrase “will of God” appears several times in the Bible. In most of those instances, it is used to describe something that has happened, as when Paul describes himself as called to be an apostle “according to the will of God.”

We previously discussed Two Directives involved in a believer’s attempt to walk in the will of God: his moral will and mission instructions. Because the Bible does not direct us to find God’s personal, individual will for our lives other than these things, we start with these directives as a guide for making those choices which need it and for which there is no clear biblical answer.

In addition to the Two Directive of God’s moral will and his mission instruction, we also have God’s Five Demands (depending on how you count them…). In those few instances that the Bible describes the “will of God” and then actually defines it, we find further resources to make decisions. The Five Demands (“the will of God is…”) are:

1) that you be saved (2 Peter 3:9)

2) that you be wise (Ephesians 5:17-18)

3) that you be sanctified (1 Thessalonians 4:3-4)

4) that you be submitting (1 Peter 2:13-15)

5) that you be rejoicing (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Some describe 2) as that you be Spirit-filled, and include another description of the will of God that we be suffering. For them, the list looks like this:

  • that you be saved
  • that you be Spirit-filled
  • that you be sanctified
  • that you be submitting
  • that you be suffering

Regardless of how they are counted, the point is that these clear expressions of God’s will — in addition to God’s moral demands — provide the believer with ample material with which to evaluate decisions, opportunities and choices facing us for which there is no clear biblical direction.

If we are saved, are being wise (being Spirit-filled), are being sanctified, are submitting, and are rejoicing (in suffering, perhaps), then we need not resort to putting out the fleece, casting lots, reading signs, walking through open doors or around closed ones, or any of the other myriad ways we sanctify pagan notions of receiving divine guidance.

While neither the two directive or five demands serve as a checklist for each decision we face, they do provide us an overall “trajectory” for a life directed toward God, powered by the Spirit, legitimized by Christ, and aimed at making disciples.

Love God and do what you please: two directives

It should be readily apparent that doing the will of God is emphasized in Scripture, and that knowing the will of God is of paramount importance to those who follow Christ.

The problem comes when I seek to “know the will of God for my life” in terms as significant as who I should marry and those as mundane as what I should eat for breakfast.

Scripture is clear that God wills. Some of his willing he has revealed to us “ahead of time” in the demands for holiness and moral living that he places on his people. Some of his willing he does not tell us “ahead of time” and we never know until after the fact: as the old saying goes, if you want to know God’s will for next Tuesday, wait until next Wednesday.

But nowhere in God’s word do we find any instruction to find God’s will for our lives, other than his moral will. We are not promised to know God’s preference for each decision we make or for each choice we face before the deciding and choosing.

This does not mean, however, that God doesn’t have a revealed preference for how we choose. Broadly speaking, God’s preference for us is to live our lives and make our decisions following the way of wisdom. In so doing, we reflect the fact that despite the fall we still bear God’s image, which includes the mandate to have dominion over the earth. As we become conformed to the image of Christ, we conform our will to his, and can, as Augustine quipped, “Love God and do what we please.”

In the meantime, there are guideposts in the Scriptures to help us think through our daily decision-making. I suggest we think of these guideposts as the Two Directives and Five Demands.

The Two Directives: Moral Will and Mission Instruction

Informing and guiding the trajectory of our lives, including how we make daily choices, are the grand themes of God’s 1) moral will and his 2) mission instruction. God’s moral will is his demand that we be holy, for he is holy, including the Ten Commandments, the “be” commands, and all the other instructions for how we are to live while on the earth. God’s moral will is further delineated for us in the Five Demands, which I will discuss in a later article.

Mission Instruction

People are on earth for a purpose. God’s people are on earth and are his for a purpose. This “chief end of man”, as the Westminster Catechism describes it, is to love God and enjoy him forever. Specifically, while we are “between the times” of Christ’s first advent (the inauguration of the kingdom) and his second advent (the consummation of the kingdom), we are to carry the message of man’s chief end and the means to that end — the gospel of Jesus Christ — to all people on earth.

The primary statement of our mission instruction is the Great Commission, found in Matthew 28:18-20.

So, when we are faced with decisions regarding which school to attend, what course of study to pursue, who to marry, where to live, we should be thinking how the options we have either further the mission or impede the mission.

There are, of course, more details to consider, which we haven’t space to discuss here. But the point is that the believer should always be thinking of the mission — the Great Commission — and his responsibility in it before God when living life. We should be constantly resisting the common default decision-guiders, such as obtaining the dual-income-dual-garage-dual-kid life, pursuing the “American dream,” “finding oneself”, or even the rather wispy concept of “happiness”. (This pursuit of “happiness,” after all, is what frequently provides justification for the middle-aged man to leave his wife and children for another woman: hardly God’s will in any sense.)

Like soldiers on the field of battle, believers searching for guidance do well to consider the completion of the mission.