God’s Moral Will and Sovereign Will

God’s Moral Will and Sovereign Will

I would like to help you distinguish between God’s moral will and his sovereign will. This will help you make sense of the apparent contradiction between these two statements:

1. God does all things according to his will (sovereign will).

“He does according to his will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay his hand” (Daniel 4:35).

“Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalms 115:3).

2. Some things happen that are not God’s will (moral will).

“Whoever does the will of God abides forever” (1 John 2:17)—implying some don’t.

“The Lord is not willing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9)—yet some do perish.

In other words, the Bible makes a distinction between God’s will, understood as his purpose that is never frustrated in any event; and God’s will, understood as his moral command to act a certain way.

One of the clearest evidences of the difference between God’s sovereign will and his moral will is the fact that God morally forbids murder:

“Do not kill the innocent” (Exodus 23:7).

And yet he willed the murder of his Son:

“Truly in this city there were gathered together against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, along with the Gentiles and the peoples of Israel, to do whatever your hand and your plan had predestined to take place” (Acts 4:27–28).

One of the high and holy truths about God that we embrace in submitting to biblical truth is that God does not sin in willing that sin be. This is crucial, because the design of God in the cross hangs on it.

God’s ways and will are pure. He has his holy purposes in ordaining all that comes to pass.

“He works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11).

“All his works are right and his ways are just” (Daniel 4:37).

Let us worship and bow down.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books.