The Will of the Lord
By Laura L. Whitley
Author: A Life to Overcome
See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is. And do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord, giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another in the fear of God. (Ephesians 5:15-21)
Discerning the will of the Lord is not a matter of feeling or emotion, but of spiritual understanding, applying our minds to Scripture and then acting accordingly. This is known as the “righteous acts of the saints” in Revelation 19:8, the wedding garment (the fine linen, clean and bright) necessary to be found worthy as the bride of Christ and to participate in the banquet hall.
A parallel Scripture to Ephesians 5:15 can be seen in Colossians 3:16:
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching, and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.
In Ephesians, Christians are commanded to understand what the will of the Lord is and to be filled with the Spirit; and in the parallel section in Colossians, Christians are commanded to let the Word of Christ dwell in them richly in all wisdom.
And this would be easy to understand, for Christians cannot know the will of the Lord unless he is immersed in the word of Christ, thereby being continually “filled with the Spirit.” Thus, the importance of spiritual growth to maturity is inseparably connected to understanding the will of the Lord and being filled with the Spirit, a necessity for Christians if they would be properly prepared for meeting Christ at His judgment seat.
“If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. He who speaks from himself seeks his own glory; but He who seeks the glory of the One who sent Him is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him.” (John 7:17, 18)
For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy; giving thanks to the Father who has qualified us to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in the light.
Yet there is order in the way matters are introduced in Scripture. “Understanding the will of the Lord” begins with understanding the goal set before us, the vision out ahead (the hope of glory) whom the Forerunner, Jesus, has entered for us. (Hebrews 6:19, 20)
Once this goal, this vision (the
hope of regality with Christ during the Messianic Era) is understood
from Scripture, which is the central message throughout the entire
Word of God, then we can properly labor in the field and prepare for
meeting Christ at His return. Apart from understanding the goal, a
Christian’s labor in the field would be done without purpose, and
therefore outside the boundaries of the “will of the Lord.”
It was during this time that Ruth and Orpah were given the choice to go from the land of their birth to the land of their calling. For Christians, it is understanding the goal, acknowledging through baptism to take the journey to the heavenly Kingdom, and then committing oneself to it through faithful obedience to God’s word. Thus, it is extremely important for Christians to understand why they have been saved and then to heed God’s instructions pertaining to their spiritual journey. In this, they would be doing “the will of the Lord.”
Early in the course of their journey, after they were informed of the sufferings that would follow, Ruth and Orpah were given the choice as to whether they wanted to continue the journey. Ruth was determined to continue the journey with Naomi to the end, but Orpah turned back to her own people and land in Moab (a type of the world). For Christians alike, the journey to the heavenly kingdom will entail hardship and suffering for His name’s sake. Suffering precedes glory, which is why Paul says that we are firstborn sons “if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together.” (Romans 8:17)
Following Ruth’s understanding of the journey and her commitment to it, she then desired to work in Boaz’s field, gleaning the grain in order that she might find favor in his sight. Boaz (a type of Christ) took note of Ruth gleaning in his field and instructed her not to glean in any other field and then instructed his workers in the field to purposefully leave sheaves of grain for her to glean. In essence, Boaz provided the grain in which Ruth was to glean. All Ruth had to do was glean what Boaz had provided for her. And Ruth followed these instructions, gleaning in Boaz’s field from morning until evening, from the beginning to the end of harvest.
And so it is with Christians bringing forth fruit (good works) today. The Lord has provided for each and every Christian. Christians are to exercise patient endurance as they wait for the Lord to provide and then they are to glean that which has been provided for them to glean. The Christian, walking in newness of life and patiently enduring under trials and testing, is to watch and wait upon the Lord; and the Lord will provide the grain Himself for the Christian to glean. So what is “the grain” that the Christian is to glean in Christ’s field? Individuals.
Another thing relative to the harvest stands out in the text — something of utmost importance and significance. Ruth, after she had gleaned in the field throughout the day, “beat out what she had gleaned,” leaving “about an ephah of barley” (Ruth 2:17). That is, she didn’t confine her work to just one part of the task — gathering the grain that had been left for her. Rather, after gathering the grain, she worked with that which she had gleaned, removing the grain from the stalk, until the valuable part alone remained.
And so it is with Christians (workers and followers of Christ) today. They are not to confine themselves to just one part of the task. They, for example, are not to cease their work following the proclamation of the message of salvation by grace through faith. Rather, once a person has been saved, they are then to continue their work with that which has been taken from the field. They are then to provide instruction concerning why the person has been saved.
They are then to proclaim all the various facets of the message surrounding the coming glory of Christ. And they are to provide this instruction until a certain revealed time --- until the end of the harvest, which is the end of the age.
Servants of Christ (Christians) are to continue this work until individuals have been brought from immaturity to maturity (from a gnosis to an epignosis understanding of the Word), until they have been grounded in “the faith” (Ephesians 4:11-15).
Note Paul’s command in 2 Timothy 4:5, along these same lines:
But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
The word “evangelist” (Greek: euaggelistes) means, a proclaimer of good news. The word is not used in Scripture in the narrow sense in which it is often used in Christendom today — one proclaiming only the good news of the grace of God. Scripture uses this word in a much broader sense.
Timothy, being told to “do the work of an evangelist,” was simply being told to proclaim the good news. What good news was he to proclaim? The context itself has to do with the good news of the coming glory of Christ (2 Timothy 3:15;
4:1, 7, 8). Thus, contextually, this facet of the good news would be foremost in view.
But there is a preceding facet to the good news, which is the good news of the grace of God. And the command to Timothy could not preclude this facet of the good news, though the context deals with the other. In other words, if Timothy was dealing with the unsaved, he was to proclaim the good news of the grace of God. He couldn’t proclaim anything else to them, for they were still “dead in trespasses and sins” and were incapable of spiritual discernment (1 Corinthians 2:14).
But, once they had “passed from death to life,” he was no longer to proclaim the good news of the grace of God to them. Such would be meaningless, for they had already heard and responded to this message. He was then to proclaim the good news of the coming glory of Christ, for now they could understand spiritual truth (1 Corinthians 2:9-13). Either way, he would be doing the work of an evangelist. That is, he would be proclaiming good news, whether relative to the grace of God or the coming glory of Christ.
And placing this within the framework of the type in Ruth chapter two, the same person proclaiming the good news of the grace of God to the unsaved is then to proclaim the good news of the coming glory of Christ to those responding. And he is to continue the latter until the wheat has been separated from the chaff, else the Lord of the harvest Himself will have to make this separation at the judgment seat.
(In the preceding respect, there is often a non-biblical distinction made between an “evangelist” and a “pastor-teacher,” as seen in Ephesians 4:11. In actuality, their message is the same. It involves both the gospel of the grace of God and the gospel of the glory of Christ.
The difference in their ministries would lie more in the fact that a pastor-teacher has a flock entrusted to him, which means that the emphasis in his ministry would undoubtedly fall more into the latter category than the former. But the fact remains. Both the evangelist and the pastor-teacher are to proclaim the whole of the good news, with circumstances determining where the emphasis is to be placed.)
Christians are called to be “king-priests” meaning a “kingdom of priests,” referred to in 1 Peter2:9:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light…
In 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul commands Timothy to “Preach the word!” This commandment applies to us as much as it did to Timothy.
I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom, Preach the Word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.
Then again we see in 2 Timothy 2:15:
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
2 Timothy 1:8:
Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God…
For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority.
We see that the fruit we are to produce for the kingdom, as servants of Christ and ambassadors of God, is to proclaim “the faith” (the Word of the kingdom; the gospel of glory) to other Christians. And if one is unsaved, we are first to present the gospel of grace and then we are to present the gospel of glory to him.
We are God’s workers and we are to be ready at all times, investing this time for the glory of God by building His kingdom. The time will come when God will require an account of our service, our works, with the talents that He has given us. We see this presented in the Parable of the Faithful and the Evil Servant (Matthew 24:45), and then again in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14), a picture of Christians at the judgment seat of Christ being judged for their service to God with the talents they were given.
Christians have been called by their King to serve as ambassadors (meaning “house managers”) in a world that is in rebellion against Him. The Christian’s mission is to implore believers to be reconciled to God, in spirit and in truth. In 2 Corinthians 6:4, Paul and his coworkers conducted themselves as righteous ministers of God in many different types of situations, describing the suffering they endured. We, also, are to be “ministers of God,” suffering for His Name’s sake and enduring until the end, yet waiting and allowing the Lord of the harvest to supply the grain for us to work. This is “the will of the Lord.”
I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine making request for you all with joy, for your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:3-6)
Ruth chapter two and the first part of chapter three present a wealth of information surrounding the manner in which Christians are to properly govern their lives during the present dispensation. The facet of the Christian life seen in chapter two and the first part of chapter three has to do with the harvest during the present dispensation (chapter 2) and with preparation for meeting Christ on His threshing floor, at His judgment seat, following the harvest (chapter 3a). Then the goal, having previously been brought to the forefront in chapter one, has to do with an inheritance in another land, referred to in connection with a time of rest in chapter three, and seen realized in a regal setting in chapter four.
Preparation for meeting Christ at His judgment seat is set forth in Ruth 3:3 in a threefold manner: “wash yourself . . . anoint yourself . . . put on your best garment.” Ruth 3:3 is addressed to saved individuals, relating exactly what must be done if these individuals (Christians) would one day come into a realization of the salvation of their souls, ultimately entering into the rest set forth in verse one. And, though different parts of this threefold preparation are dealt with numerous places throughout Scripture, this is the only place in all of Scripture where everything is brought together and the matter is stated in so many words, in a complete manner, such as can be seen here: wash (confession of sin)…anoint (be filled with the Spirit)…put on your best garment (righteous acts of the saints).
Ruth was going forth to meet the bridegroom in the type, and so are Christians in the antitype. And an individual going forth to meet the Bridegroom must not only be properly prepared through that shown by washing and anointing but also through that shown by being properly clothed. And in view of that which lay ahead and that which Scripture elsewhere has to say about this matter, only one thing can possibly be in view in this part of Naomi’s command to Ruth, as it relates to Christians. Only the wedding garment can be in view.
This apparel, according to Revelation 19:7, 8 is made up of “the righteous acts of the saints.” This is something that Christians progressively weave for themselves, over time, as they glean in the field and beat out the grain. And to do this work in a proper manner, with the wedding garment being progressively woven, an extra supply of oil is necessary. That is, being filled with the Spirit for the task at hand is an absolute necessity, for only through being filled with the Spirit can a work in the spiritual realm be effectively accomplished.
Then a voice came from the throne, saying, “Praise our God, all you His servants and those who fear Him, both small and great!” And I heard, as it were, the voice of a great multitude, as the sound of many waters and as the sound of mighty thunderings, saying, “Alleluia! For the Lord God Omnipotent reigns! Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready.” And to her it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are called to the marriage supper of the Lamb!’” And he said to me, “These are the true sayings of God.” (Revelation 19:5-9)
Appearing in Christ’s presence in that future day without a wedding garment is the central issue in the Parable of the Wedding Feast (Matthew 22:1-14) and is a central issue in the letter to the Church in Laodicea, depicting Christendom at the end of the present dispensation (Revelation 3:14-21).
Relative to the man appearing without a wedding garment and the subject at hand in Matthew 22:1-14, which pertains to the wedding festivities, the man was cast into the darkness outside the banqueting hall (v. 13). And relative to an entire church appearing naked in Christ’s presence and the subject at hand in Revelation 3:14-21, which pertains to ruling from His throne (v. 21), Christ said, “I will vomit you out of My mouth” (v. 16).
Clear instructions concerning the necessary preparation have been given in the Word of God, and clear warnings have been sounded in this same Word concerning that which will occur if these instructions are ignored. And Christians in possession of this Word — in possession of these instructions and warnings — who ignore this revelation and one day find themselves in Christ’s presence, in an unprepared manner, will be without excuse.
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name? And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you, depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew 7:21-23)
In the book of Ezekiel, God appointed Ezekiel as a watchman to the nation of Israel. The watchman stood on the city wall guarding against any external or internal threat. He would sound an alarm upon sighting impending danger. Yet God made Ezekiel a “spiritual” watchman over His people.
Now it came to pass at the end of seven days that the word of the Lord came to me, saying, “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore hear a word from My mouth, and give them warning from Me: When I say to the wicked, ‘You shall surely die,’ and you give him no warning, nor speak to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life[soul], that same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Yet, if you warn the wicked, and he does not turn from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul [life].”
“Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die; because you did not give him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he has done shall not be remembered; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the righteous man that the righteous should not sin, and he does not sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning; also you will have delivered your soul.” (Ezekiel 3:18-21)
Then God said to Ezekiel:
Thus says the Lord God, “He who hears, let him hear; and he who refuses, let him refuse; for they are a rebellious house.” (Ezekiel 3:27b)
This severe warning given to Ezekiel was similar to that given to a military watchman in ancient times. If the watchman failed to give the alarm to the city in a time of peril, the blood of the city would be required of him. But if the watchman sounded the alarm and the city did not respond, the watchman could hardly be blamed – his life [soul] would be spared. This phrasing emphasizes individual responsibility and readiness to not only accept the divine message but also to proclaim it.
Jesus used this warning often in His teachings:
Also He said to them, “Is a lamp brought to be put under a basket or under a bed? Is it not to be seen on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mark 4:22, 23)
Christ emphasizes the necessity to hear the Word of the kingdom, accept it, and bear fruit --- to tell others the whole counsel of God. Paul, in like manner to Ezekiel the watchman, said this:
And indeed, now I know that you all, among
whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no
more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the
blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the
whole counsel of God.
We see that the context to which Christ was speaking of with “taking up the Cross and following Him” is exactly the same warning:
When He had called the people to Himself, with His disciples also, He said to them, “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life[soul]will lose it, but whoever loses his life [soul] for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul [life- in the age to come]? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words in this comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.” (Mark 8:34-38)
“When He comes in His glory” is the key to heeding his commandment and warning. Those who will reign with Christ will invest their lives in putting down the soul and walking in the Spirit. Those who are willing to confess Him and His word of the kingdom today will be rewarded before the Father in heaven. However, those who are ashamed of Him and His words, who are not willing to confess to others, will not be rewarded, but will be put to shame before Christ and the Father. They will be found naked, without the wedding garment and cast out.
The responsibility that God gave to Ezekiel is no different than the responsibility Christ gave to Christians.
Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back, let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from death and cover a multitude of sins. (James 5:19, 20)
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and he who wins souls is wise. (Proverbs 11:30)
So just like Ezekiel, the watchman, we are also called to be “watchmen.” Now is the season, Now is the acceptable time to wait upon the Lord to provide the grain and for us to gather the grain, to not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord and to share in the sufferings for the gospel (of glory) according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began (2 Timothy 1:8-9) --- .to rule and reign for a thousand years with Him as “king-priests!” Praise the Lord! THIS IS THE WILL OF THE LORD! (John 6:39, 40)
But He answered and said to the one who told Him, “Who is My mother and who are My brothers?” And He stretched out His hand toward His disciples and said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:48-50)
And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. (1 John 2:17)
Therefore, since Christ suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh for the lusts of men, but for the will of God.
For we have spent enough of our past lifetime in doing the will of the Gentiles---when we walked in lewdness, lusts, drunkenness, revelries, drinking parties, and abominable idolatries. In regard to these, they think it strange that you do not run with them in the same flood of dissipation, speaking evil of you. They will give an account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead. (1 Peter 4:1-5)
For the time has come for judgment to begin at the house of God; and if it begins with us first, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? Now
“If the righteous one is scarcely
Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good, as to a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:17-19)