Yesterday my family and I began reading Chapter 13, “The Character of God: ‘Communicable’ Attributes (Part 2),” of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology (Zondervan, 1994), which we’re reading in our after breakfast Bible reading time.
Before sharing here from what we read and observed yesterday, I’ll again distinguish between God’s incommunicable and communicable attributes and note how Grudem divides the latter. The incommunicable attributes of God are those attributes that He does not share or communicate with others, and the communicable attributes of God are those attributes that He shares or communicates with others. Grudem divides the latter into these main divisions: attributes describing God’s being, mental attributes, moral Attributes, attributes of purpose, and “summary” attributes. He considers the incommunicable attributes in Chapter 11, the first three divisions of the communicable attributes in Chapter 12, and the other two divisions of them in Chapter 13.
I noted when introducing the attributes of God that, although Grudem’s explanations of the attributes varied in length from about half a page to almost six pages, my family and I were planning to spend one day for each in our family Bible reading (and thus I was planning to devote one post to each here). We’ve followed our plan so far. However for at least the first of the attributes of purpose, God’s will, we’ll be spending more than one day. Yesterday we considered God’s will in general, today we’ll be considering God’s necessary will and His free will, and tomorrow (and likely the next day) we’ll consider God’s revealed will and His secret will.
According to Grudem, God’s will is the attribute by which He approves and determines to do everything necessary for the existence and activity of Himself and His creation. Here are some of the Bible passages that he cites to support this definition and what he says they show:
– “Who [God] works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Ephesians 1:11b, ESV; all Bible quotations are from the ESV). God’s will is the ultimate cause of everything that happens.
– “You [God] created all things, and by your will they existed and were created” (Revelation 4:11b). God created everything by His will.
– “There is no authority [governing authority] except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God” (Roamns 13:1b). All human governments come about according to God’s will.
– “Truly in this city [Jerusalem] 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). God’s hand and will predestined all the detailed events connected with Jesus’ death.
– “For it is better to suffer doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil” and “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good” (1 Peter 3:17; 4:19). Sometimes it is God’s will that Christians suffer.
– “Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’–yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring….Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that'” (James 4:13-15). All the events of our lives are subject to God’s will.
In our family discussion of the reading, although we recognized the sovereignty of God, we didn’t agree with all of Grudem’s conclusions. In particular, we didn’t think that God’s will was the ultimate cause of the Holocaust or of natural disasters, as “God’s will is the ultimate cause of everything that happens” would imply, and we expressed reservations about “All human governments come about according to God’s will,” “God’s hand and will predestined all the detailed events connected with Jesus’ death,” and “All the events of our lives are subject to God’s will.”