Test and Approve God’s Will- Romans 12:2

In the first part of this verse, Paul commands believers to be transformed by the renewing of their minds, to have their thinking conformed to the Word of God rather than the hollow and deceptive philosophies of the world. In the second part of this verse, he gives us the purpose for this transformation, that we may “test and approve what God’s will is- His good, pleasing and perfect will”. We are to be transformed in order that we may know God’s will. Two questions arise here, first, what is meant here by “God’s will” and, second, how do we know what God’s will is? We begin, then, with an examination of what is meant here by “God’s will”. This is a subject which has been debated extensively, and space prohibits any kind of “thorough” examination of the subject, we will simply try to determine what is meant by “God’s will” in this particular verse. The Greek word translated will here is thelema, one of three Greek words translated as will in the New Testament. The first of these is prothesis, which means “to plan in advance”, and refers generally to God’s will which is determined beforehand and cannot be changed. The second of these is boule, which is defined as “a fixed intention which cannot be changed by others”, and refers generally to what God intends to happen and which will happen because God intends it to. The third of these is thelema, which means “desire”, and generally refers to a “desire which God wants humans to comply with, but which is not forced and may or may not occur”. This is the “normal” understanding of thelema, and it is how Paul uses the term here, to refer to what God “desires” us to do in the situations we encounter in life, which we may or may not comply with. This is confirmed by the use of it here with dokimazo, the Greek word translated “test and approve” in the NIV. The Greek word dokimazo describes something or someone whose authenticity has been “tested” and has been shown to be genuine. God’s will here is “tested”, but what does Paul mean by this? He doesn’t mean here those aspects of God’s will which are “set in stone” and clearly defined in Scripture. We don’t need to test and approve whether or not God desires us to steal or lie, and that is not what Paul is referring to here, for those are clearly articulated in Scripture. What Paul refers to here is those things not specified by any “laws”, things like: where does God want me to work, what does He want me to do in the church, what does he want me to do with my free time? These aspects of God’s will, according to Paul, must be tested and approved, we determine what He desires in these types of things by “trial and error”. God desires for us to do His will in every aspect of our lives, He wants to be intimately involved in every aspect of our lives and every decision we make, for He desires above all an intimate relationship with every one of His children. This is the purpose of the transformation referred to in the first part of this verse, that our minds would be renewed and we would grow to know Him more and more intimately, grow to know His heart and His mind, what He desires and how He thinks, so we would grow to know His “will” for us as individuals. According to Paul, this happens by trial and error, we do what we feel He is leading us to do, and find out if this was His leading or not by the results. Most believers, however, do not live this way. They handle the everyday matters themselves and only seek “God’s will” on major, life altering decisions (like should I move to another city, should I leave my job, etc.), they only employ the trial and error process on things of major importance and their inevitable mistakes cost them dearly. Paul here encourages us to employ the trial and error process in the mundane, day by day issues of life (should I go to the grocery store or the drug store, etc.). Most believers do not do this, thinking God doesn’t have a “will” in things like that, but Paul shows us here that He does, and it is much better (and less costly) to learn God’s will by trial and error in small, everyday matters like this. In this way. we grow to know His heart and mind, we learn to “recognize His voice” (John 10:27) in smaller matters, so we may “know His voice” and be much less likely to make mistakes in the major decisions we face. All of this ends then, in us doing “His good, pleasing and perfect will”, in our doing what is good for us, what is pleasing to God, and what allows Him to accomplish all of His purposes in every area of our lives.

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