The Will of the Father

This week’s scripture reading – Matthew 7:21-23,

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Hypocrisy in Religion

What does Jesus say the will of the Father is and what is the will of God for man? Well, as mentioned during last week’s Bible study, we are nearing the end of Jesus’ notable and memorable sermon on the mount. With this study on the will of the Father, Jesus presents a most sobering and startling statement, for not everyone having the appearances of religion will enter into the kingdom of heaven. This statement tends to harmonize with the verse immediately before it with his warning against false prophets along with his previous chastisement of the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew chapter six for their hypocrisy. Both groups were condemned for their seemingly outward appearances and trappings of religion but yet inwardly they were described as ravening wolves. To better understand this passage on the will of the Father though, let us first explore it in more detail to gain context, depth and meaning. 

I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Matthew 7:23b

The plight of the scribes and Pharisees and their ensuing hypocrisy during the time of Jesus’ earthly ministry was noteworthy. One would think if anyone would be receptive to learning from the Messiah, it would be the religious leaders. This is not too dissimilar of the ancient prophet’s comments in reference to the Israelites as documented in Ezek. 33:31, And they come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as my people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them: for with their mouth they shew much love, [but] their heart goeth after their covetousness.

Here, it was already prophesied about the duplicity that was to prevail among the people and their leaders in the sense that, what was said, was not done. This was also spoken of in the New Testament, long after the ascension of Jesus to heaven as shown in Titus 1:16, They profess that they know God; but in works they deny [him,] being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate. This was indeed not the will of the Father. * (thee – you) * (thy – your) * (shew – show) * (covetousness – desiring or taking something that doesn’t belong to you)

Doing God’s Will

What is the perfect will of God? The apostle James wrote of this intently in his letter outlining the need to not only hear God’s word but to do it, or obey it, in Jam. 1:22-25, But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth [therein,] he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.

This challenge of hearing and doing the will of the Father is indeed an age old problem that had its roots early on in the Old Testament as recorded in Deut. 10:12-13, And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, To keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?

This plea on doing the will of the Father was reiterated on many occasions and in several different books throughout scripture with some highlighting the need for and importance of dwelling more intently upon the word of the Lord as noted in Josh. 1:8, This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success. 

Origin of Iniquity

The contrast in this week’s scripture reading is therefore between those who do the will of the Father and those who are workers of iniquity. Iniquity, or moral evil was first recorded in scripture in the first book of the Old Testament (Gen. 15:16). It is recorded most in Leviticus, mainly due to the need for the sacrificial atonement of the iniquity committed among the Israelites (Lev. 5:1). It is also heavily referenced in the Psalms as a plea from David to be rescued from his own iniquity (Ps. 31:10) and from workers of iniquity (Ps. 59:2).

The prophets also foretold of iniquity among both the Israelites (Is. 1:4) and the nations (Jer. 25:12); these being just a few references of close to three hundred verses on iniquity. But, what is the source of iniquity in people? As David wrote, it was summed up quite simply in Ps. 51:5, Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me. This explains why David frequently made his plea toward the Lord such as in Ps. 143:10, Teach me to do thy will; for thou [art] my God: thy spirit [is] good; lead me into the land of uprightness.

In reality, the statement from David of being shaped in iniquity and in sin is something that all of humanity must contend with as it was written by Paul in Rom. 3:23-24, For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.  Fortunately, Paul continues on with the good news of the gospel and new birth in Christ as expressed in Rom. 3:24, Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 

God’s Will in your Heart

Lasting change and a desire to do the will of the Father in life will only come through belief and faith in what Christ has already accomplished through his death, burial and resurrection as atonement for people’s sins. Once this new birth takes place in the lives of believers, there may still be times when the will of God is put to the test and where our own desires may want to prevail. This is when submitting to God’s will and reliance upon the indwelling Holy Spirit is important.

Even during a prayer of Jesus, submitting to the Father’s will and subordination of his own will was shared in Luke 22:42, Saying, Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done. As Jesus taught his disciples on how to pray, a principal component of it rested on praying to do the Father’s will as noted in Matt. 6:10, Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as [it is] in heaven.

The prophets also spoke of this by drawing upon an example from pottery to better illustrate the Lord’s will in relation to ours in Is. 64:8, But now, O LORD, thou [art] our father; we [are] the clay, and thou our potter; and we all [are] the work of thy hand. It should be emphasized that God’s will in the believer’s life should dwell within their hearts as written in Ps. 40:8, I delight to do thy will, O my God: yea, thy law [is] within my heart. This is why Jesus spoke of this in context of the heart with the religious rulers of his day as shared in Matt. 15:8, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with [their] lips; but their heart is far from me.

For people seeking the will of the Father today it is important to start in faith as noted above and as referenced in John 6:29, Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on him whom he hath sent. From there, the will of God is then sought by believers in Christ seeking to do his will out of love and thanksgiving for his atoning and redemptive work as shared in 1 Thess. 5:18, In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.

Paul also stressed the distinction of doing God’s will as servants of the most high God in contrast to those who merely want to please other people in Eph. 6:6-7, Not with eyeservice, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; With good will doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men.

As the new birth takes hold in a believer’s life, there will also be a desire to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and wisdom, thus helping people gain more spiritual understanding as recorded in Col. 1:9-10, For this cause we also, since the day we heard [it,] do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God.

As an example of this new life in Christ, Paul shared this in reference to a man who is described as perfect and complete in the will of God from Col. 4:12, Epaphras, who is [one] of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.

And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve [me] unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

2 Tim. 4:18

God’s Will in Christ

To close off this Bible study on the will of the Father, it might be helpful to give some clarification on doing God’s will and his saving grace. First to note is this, people are not saved by their own effort or good works; those are rather evidence of being saved in the first place. As Paul wrote in Titus 3:5-7, Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost; Which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour; That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The apostle James however was quick to point out that good works will be a demonstration of a believer’s faith as noted in Jam. 2:20, But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? James wanted to highlight that following the will of God and doing it was evidence of the new birth in Christ.

The second point worth sharing is that believers will at times face a continual challenge and struggle with the appeal and pleasure of this world while being called to do God’s will. The apostle John wrote of this in 1 John 1:15-17, Love not the world, neither the things [that are] in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that [is] in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever. Always notice the “but” in scripture and what follows thereafter as the defining point of the message. In this case, it is doing the will of God.

God’s Faithfulness

With these things in mind, let us close with some words of reassurance for believers in their daily walk with God. Paul phrased one of them in Phil. 1:6, Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ. In the same letter to believers, Paul continued on with this affirming message in Phil. 2:13, For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of [his] good pleasure.

In yet one more letter from Paul he reassured believers of God’s faithfulness in 1 Thess. 5:24, Faithful [is] he that calleth you, who also will do [it.] Lastly with Paul’s writings he gave believer’s this most reassuring message of hope in their faith in 2 Tim. 4:18, And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve [me] unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom [be] glory for ever and ever. Amen. 

As believers who have experienced the new birth in Christ, they can be assured that God will be with them forever, even in their darkest days. It is God that is working in you and this is significantly different than reliance upon self effort and self will.

Shortly after the death of Moses, Joshua was faced with the daunting task of leading the Israelite people but the Lord gave him this reassurance as recorded in Josh. 1:9, Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the LORD thy God [is] with thee whithersoever thou goest. Wherever you are in life, if you have not taken the first step to believe and have faith in the Lord, this may be the opportunity to come to him now in prayer, for no greater peace comes from God who will be with you, wherever you go.

Bible Study Questions

  1. Why do you think hypocrisy is so prevalent among some religious people in that they do wrong things while still claiming to be religious? Hint – Origin of Iniquity section.
  2. In the section Hypocrisy in Religion, what were the names of the two religious groups of practiced hypocrisy?
  3. In the section Doing God’s will, James likens the hearing and doing of God’s will as one who looks in a mirror but then forgets what he or she looks like, true or false?
  4. In the section God’s Will in your Heart, what is the most important and first thing a person must do in order to do the will of the Father?
  5. In the section God’s Will in Christ, we are saved by our own righteousness (self works and effort), true or false? Hint, read Titus 3:5-7 for the real truth!
  6. Memorize Phil. 1:6 for your faith, Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ.
  7. Is there something in your life right now that you could start doing (or stop) as part of doing the will of the Father?

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