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Vol.  10  No. 8 August 2008  Page 4
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T. Pierce BrownHave You Made Your Will?

T. Pierce Brown

    Jesus said, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless, not my will but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42). Many of our readers may know that in that verse there are two words translated “will,” and therein lies some very important lessons.

    When Jesus said, “Father, if thou be willing,” He used the Greek word “boulomai.” When He spoke of His own will, He used the word “thelema.” This does not mean that God’s will is always “boulomai” and man’s will is “thelema,” but it means that each of us—God and man—may have a fixed and determined purpose (boulomai) and a wish or desire (thelema), and they may differ.

    A look at some related words and the way they are translated may be of some value. The word “boule” is translated ten times “counsel,” once “will.” The word “boulema” is translated “purpose” once, “will” once. The word “boulomai” is translated “be disposed” once, “be minded” twice, “be willing” once, “intend” twice, “list” once, “will” 26 times, “would” 11 times. The word “thelema” is translated “desire” once, “pleasure” once, and “will” 62 times. The related word, “thelo” is translated at least 16 different ways, but “desire” 13 times, “will” 98 times, and “would” 70 times.

    When one checks all the uses of the terms, one discovers that both God and man may have certain fixed purposes. For example, it is not God’s fixed purpose (boulomai) that any should perish (2 Peter 3:9), so Jesus was delivered up by the determinate counsel (boule) of God to die for our sins. Ephesians 1:11 is interesting in its use of both terms. God has predestined and foreordained a certain kind of person to be saved: namely, “those who first trusted in Christ” (v. 12). This was, as expressed in verse 11 “according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel (boule) of His will (thelema).” We see that it was God’s desire or wish (thelema) that all men be saved. Therefore, He determined (boulomai) to prepare a plan whereby they could if they would be saved. He worked all parts of that plan according to that fixed purpose. No matter who hardened his heart, betrayed the Lord or denied Him, God’s fixed purpose would be achieved.

    Although we do not want to dwell on it at this time, it may be of some value to point out that the expression “all things” is from the Greek expression “ta panta” and as far as we have been able to ascertain does not mean “all things without reservation,” but “all things to which the context refers.”

Hence, the first lesson we may get is that God has fixed and determined purposes, and all the plans, hopes, wishes or actions of man will not change them. However, the wish of God for all men to be saved (1 Timothy 2:4) will not happen, for men will not choose to let their wish and/or fixed purpose coincide with God’s desire and fixed purpose.

    The second lesson we may get is that each one of us should have a fixed purpose that coincides with God’s fixed purpose. If our fixed purposes or paramount desires are in conflict with, or even far inferior to God’s, we are in trouble. For example, 1 Timothy 6:9 says, “They that will be (boulomai) rich fall into temptation.” That is, if our primary desire—our fixed purpose—is to get rich, at whatever cost, we are in mortal danger.

  There is a third thing we may learn from an examination of all the uses of “thelema” and “boulomai.” That is, even though it is of supreme importance that our fixed purpose be determined by what we perceive to be God’s fixed purpose, it is also important that our wishes and desires be to do His will (thelema). When Jesus said in John 6:38, “I came not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me,” He used the latter term—wish or desire—not fixed purpose. It is most desirable that we so cultivate our lives so that even our little transient wants and wishes—even our inclinations become more and more whatever God wants. Even when we are not sure exactly what He wants because it is not spelled out in specific detail in the Bible, if we have developed the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5), we will try to develop such tastes, desires and habits that we automatically do what pleases Him.

    The fourth lesson we may learn is that we do not necessarily sin when we discover that at any given moment our wish does not coincide with God’s will or fixed purpose, or even with our own fixed purpose. In fact, that condition is one thing that makes a temptation a temptation. If you are a Christian, your fixed purpose is always to do what pleases Him. You are one with Him. If your transient desire never differed from your fixed purpose, you would never be tempted to sin. It need not disturb us unduly when we do not at a given moment feel an urgent desire to do what we know we should do—what we know is God’s will. This is why Paul had to buffet his body (1 Corinthians 9:27). What should disturb us considerably, however, is either one of two things: 1. That our fixed purpose or determined will (boulomai) is not really the same as God’s purpose. If that it true, it may be that we have never been Christians! 2. That we have allowed our wish (thelema) to become more important than either our will (boulomai) or His will. If what you wish ever becomes more important to you than what God wills, you are in mortal danger.

    In addition to all the other blessings such as gaining approval of God, and receiving the strength and power to overcome sin, there are other big advantages that come automatically when we consciously and deliberately make our will—our determined and fixed purpose—coincide with God’s. First, we will not waste a lot of time and energy changing directions. Even when we fall, we will fall forward!

   Second, we will never be frustrated by having to make thousands of decisions that are automatically taken care of when and if we made the first decision to let our fixed purpose be determined by God’s will. For example, we have never had any trouble deciding whether to walk a mile for a Camel, or settle for a cigarette with less tar. No tar at all settled that a long time ago. I have never even had to spend an undue amount of time considering whether to beat the wife with a belt or to use a yardstick, or whether or not to leave her if she criticized my preaching! Although I did not realize it at the time, all those decisions were really made more than a half century ago, years before I even met her, when I decided to let Jehovah be my God!

    Maybe you do not yet have a will. Perhaps you have never formulated a goal or fixed purpose from which you do not intend to swerve. If you have not yet determined what your will (boulomai) is, you need to do so, and make sure it coincides with God’s will. Have you made your will—His will?

[Brother T. Pierce Brown passed from this life August 1, 2008 after a gallant battle with cancer. Gospel preacher, elder, student of God’s Word, voluminous writer of some of the best and most thought provoking articles, husband, and much more has preceded us all who are left behind to a glorious land that is fairer than the best of days our sweet, earthly home could ever offer. We will miss brother Brown, and the world as well as the church is better because he was here for a brief space of several decades. No finer specimen of his writing than the article above is needed to illustrate the worth of digesting the written fruit of his personal studies. We dedicate this issue of Gospel Gazette Online to brother T. Pierce Brown; we last highlighted his articles especially in the March 2007 issue of GGO. ~ Editor]

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