We hear the words all the time, God’s perfect will, free will, God’s permissive will, but do we understand what they mean?

I can remember sitting in church, as a new Christian, and becoming frustrated by the word “holy”. Many times we were told that we were to “become holy as God is holy,” but no one ever told us how. Of course, once someone finally told me that holy means separate and above, it became clear.

So what do the phrases God’s perfect will, God’s permissive will, and free will mean?

1. God’s Perfect Will

Genesis 1:27-28,31 “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good…“

Genesis 2:15-18,21-22,25 “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die. And the LORD God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him. And the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Adam, and he slept: and he took one of his ribs, and closed up the flesh instead thereof; And the rib, which the LORD God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man. And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.”

In the beginning God’s perfect will for man was to live in the Garden of Eden as the keepers of the good things God had created. In the garden there was no illness, no death, the animals had no reason to fear man, and man was innocent, with no knowledge of evil. They were to have children, and live in perfect fellowship and obedience to God.

Even now God has a perfect will for mankind.

1 Timothy 2:3-6 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”

God’s will for us now is to accept His Son, Jesus Christ, as our Lord and Savior, and to walk in perfect fellowship and obedience to Him.

Of course, Adam and Eve messed it up in Eden, and we mess it up daily in our own lives, because God also gave us something called…

2. Free Will

Deuteronomy 30:19 “I call heaven and earth to record this day against you, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life, that both thou and thy seed may live:”

Joshua 24:15 “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the LORD, choose you this day whom ye will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”

God gave us the privilege of choice. We get to choose what kind of life we lead, who we spend our time with, how we make our living, and who or what we worship (We all worship something.) It’s really quite a generous gift. When we create a thing we certainly don’t give it the choice of becoming something totally different than what we intended. He wants us to choose Him, but He will not force us.

This ground between God’s perfect will and our free will is where we find…

3. God’s Permissive Will

Genesis 50:20 “But as for you, ye thought evil against me; but God meant it unto good, to bring to pass, as it is this day, to save much people alive.”

God allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery by his jealous brothers, and used that situation to save their entire family from famine.

Luke 13:34-35 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

Though it broke his heart, God allowed the people of Jerusalem to turn their backs on Jesus.

Matthew 18:14 “Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish.”

2 Peter 3:8-10 “But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

God has provided a way for all to come to Him, and waits patently for all who are willing to do so.

Psalm 139:13-15 “For thou hast possessed my reins: thou hast covered me in my mother’s womb. I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.”

Romans 8:28 “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.”

We are incapable and most of the time unwilling to serve the perfect will of our God , Who knows all things and sees all things. Since He knows our every move, before we are even born into this world, He is able to make all things work for His glory and purpose.

Make no mistake, perfect will, free will, or permissive will, God is in control. Nothing happens without His knowledge and unless He allows it.

That is a great comfort to some of us.