Jeremy Sams Art Blog

Saturday, June 18, 2011

God's Perfect Will or God's Permissive Will?

What child doesn't like playing with play-dough? Many pounds of play-dough have been ruined here at the Sams' house from my daughter's love and neglect of this pliable medium. Maybe she'll be a potter or a sculptor one day.
In high school, I once tried putting my hands to the potter's wheel. I had these plans in my head of the exact pot I would make. It would have a large bowl area at the bottom, a tapered more narrow neck opening up to a wider spout with a little dip in the top for pouring liquids. As much as I could envision the final product, my hands and my inexperience prevented this work of art from coming to pass. As much as I loved getting dirty, I found out rather quickly that my artistic area was painting. So, I made a few ashtrays to accompany my leaning pots and called it quits.

However, in the bible, we have typologies and references to God as being the Master Potter. You can rest assured that this Master Potter is unable to make mistakes or have (as the PBS artist, Bob Ross would call) "happy little accidents". This brings us to question our understanding of God's will and His purpose. Does God have a permissive will which is separate and distinct from His perfect will? Or, is God's permissive will one in the same as God's perfect will? In a practical sense, does God, as the potter, begin forming a pot with a planned piece in mind (God's perfect will) only to have something go wrong...then, He changes His plans to form it into something else (God's permissive will)?

Upon examination of the Scriptures, it is my aim to prove that God's permissive will IS God's perfect will. There is no distinction. God is a God of complete sovereignty and will always fulfill His ultimate purpose. He is not merely a reactionary god who adjusts and adapts His plans and purposes according to human, satanic or natural occurrences.

In John 9, we read of the healing of the man who was blind from birth. The disciples begin the chapter by asking the question, "Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind?" Their question was one that focused on the causes of this man's illness. This is certainly man's natural reasoning to suffering...bad things don't happen to good people, so, this illness must be caused by someone's sin. However, the response of Jesus shows the flaws of our humanistic reasoning:
"Jesus answered, Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." (v. 3)
This is a very important response from Jesus which shows us the value relationship between human suffering and God's works being made manifest. Jesus does not put a premium on the causes of the suffering but rather on the purpose of the suffering. Even though this man suffered for possibly up to 30 years with this illness, Jesus shows us that these many years of suffering were incomparable in value when weighed against the glory that Christ would manifest in him. Realizing that Jesus let this man suffer for all those years will be a disturbing thought only if you believe that God's perfect will for man is human bliss and happiness. This is a product of a man centered gospel...that God has done everything just to make you happy, either in this life or the life to come. This, of course, is unbiblical for we know that everything God does is for His own glory...we just get to reap the benefits.

If this happened today (and it does), many Christians would explain this unfortunate birth defect of an innocent child as God's permissive will, which is true. But they will stop there and declare that this event (and those like it) were not God's perfect will. In contrast to this humanistic philosophy, Exodus 4:11 reveals who is ultimately in control of these birth defects:
And the LORD said unto him, Who hath made man's mouth? or who maketh the dumb, or deaf, or the seeing, or the blind? have not I the LORD?
Let's also examine the life of Job to see if this idea that God's perfect will and His permissive will are one in the same.

In Job 1, we see Satan presenting himself before the LORD and most know and realize that it was the LORD who brought Satan's attention to Job (Job 1:8). But, when Satan begins his attack, they want to remove God from the equation. Yes, Satan attacked Job...he even killed people in the process (Job 1:15-19). However, as stated before, this will be hard for those with a man-centered mindset to grasp. In the attack on Job, many innocent people were killed. Was it God's perfect will for Job to be tested? Yes. Was it God's perfect will for Job to lose his servants and family? hurts to say it but, YES. "But surely", some will say, "this was only God's permissive will and not His perfect will!" Let's let the Scriptures which should be our standard for every way of thinking be our guide. Notice what Job 1:21 says:
And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.
Here's a very disturbing verse for the humanistic minded found in Job 2:3:
And the LORD said unto Satan, Hast thou considered my servant Job, that [there is] none like him in the earth, a perfect and an upright man, one that feareth God, and escheweth evil? and still he holdeth fast his integrity, although thou movedst me against him, to destroy him without cause.
Who did Satan move against Job? Who destroyed Job without cause?  According to this verse, who was sovereign in this situation, Job, Satan or the LORD? Consider also this verse found in Job 42:11,
Then came there unto him all his brethren, and all his sisters, and all they that had been of his acquaintance before, and did eat bread with him in his house: and they bemoaned him, and comforted him over all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him: every man also gave him a piece of money, and every one an earring of gold.
Again, the author of the book makes it very clear who was in control of Job's suffering. Was this merely God's permissive will and not God's perfect will? According to the authority of the inspired word of God, ABSOLUTELY NOT.  Ephesians 1:11 says,
In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
Job's trials, from the death of his livestock, children and servants to the boils that covered his body, were under the sovereign rule of the LORD. If you want to cuss Satan and focus all your time and attention on your hatred to him for the causes of your fiery trials...then feel free to waste your time and remain in misery. However, you can look past the causes and focus your attention on God's ultimate purpose and find true comfort knowing that God really does work all things for good to them that love God to them who are the called according to His purpose.

Is Satan real? Yes. Does Satan have power to cause you much suffering? Yes. But, does Satan have any authority over your suffering? No, that old accuser is on a leash...he's just a tool in God's hand. Satan has no authority to mess up God's pottery forcing God to react to his or our devices. God is the Master Potter who declares the end from the beginning and He will do all His pleasure.
Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.1 Peter 4:12-13
 Rest assured and find comfort knowing that God's permissive will is His perfect will.


  1. Well said, Jeremy. I can certainly understand why this is such a difficult concept for so many people to grasp, but I know that once they do, they will feel such an amazing comfort and security in it. When you know that God is in control of absolutely everything that ever happens, you truly do not have to worry about anything! Nothing that we can do will get in the way of God's plan, because everything that we do IS A PART OF God's plan.

    I believe it was Allister Beck who made the statement that every single thing that happens is better for God's glory than the alternative. That Gives me so much comfort. I know that every trial I have ever faced, every loss I have experienced, and every gain, is in the perfect, sovereign hands of our Lord, and He WILL work all things together for good for those who love Him.

    Praise God for ALL things! Amen,