Living for the Glory of God ~ Vivir para la Gloria de Dios

God’s Sovereign Will vs God’s Commanded Will (James 4:13-17) ~ A Daily Devotion for March 5, 2014

“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. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that. As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” ~ James 4:13-17


In the last few days, we have been going through James 4:13-17 verse by verse. We have now made it through that particular section of James, and thus, it would be appropriate to have some concluding remarks over James 4:13-17.

One of the keys to understanding this passage and finding the comfort in God’s will, is to understand what God’s will is. There is often much confusion about God’s will. God’s will is often thought of something that is hidden and has to be sought out. Paul Tripp rightly says that many people are living in fear, anxiety and confusion because people do not know what God’s will is for their life.[1] He goes on to say that, “I think many Christians make the mistake of acting on what they can never be sure of rather than relying on what they can know for sure. In other words, Christians confuse God’s secret will with his revealed will.”[2] This is quite the truthful statement.

Often people make God’s will about their own feelings and emotions. Yet, feelings and emotions can be deceiving if they are not kept in check. Therefore, this is never a reliable source to determine God’s will. One can never be completely sure of their feelings and emotions and thus, that person can never be sure of God’s will.

However, God’s will can be more easily understood than that. There are essentially two parts of God’s will. The first is God’s sovereign will. God is sovereign, meaning He has complete control over all things, this includes everything that has happened in the past, everything happening now, and everything that will happen in the future. Therefore, anything that happens is part of God’s sovereign will. However, humans will never completely know all of God’s sovereign will. The only things that can be known about God’s sovereign will are those things that He chooses to reveal, which would be the things have already happened (history) or things that he has revealed through revelation. An example that has been given is this:

Before marriage, a person cannot say that it is the sovereign will of God for him to marry a particular girl. But, after they are married, he can say this with certainty, because it came to pass. Everything that happens is part of God’s sovereign will. Before something takes place, however, it is impossible to discern what the sovereign will of the Lord is.[3]

The second part of God’s will is His commanded will. The commanded will of God are those things that He has commanded to the people. This will can be known because it is revealed throughout Scripture. His commanded will is that which God has commanded to every human that should be part of right and holy living. However, it is something that people can choose to disobey.

Perhaps one of the easier ways to understand God’s sovereign will and His commanded will is through a comparison of the characteristics of each:


Sovereign Will Commanded Will
Secret; known only to God except as revealed through history or revelation. Revealed in the Bible
Cannot be resisted or thwarted. Can be resisted or disobeyed.
Encompasses both good and evil (sin). Involves only that which is good and holy.
Comprehensive; controls all aspects of life, time, and history. Specific; provides principles for living.
The believer is not commanded to know or discover what God has not revealed. Believers are exhorted to know, understand, and obey all that God has revealed.[4]


As mere humans, each person is responsible to respond to God’s sovereign and commanded will. While one may not fully understand all of Gods sovereign will, the response is still to be trust Him and move forward in obedience (see Proverbs 3:5-6). Regardless of a person’s limited understanding, one should always trust in the Lord. It is for this reason that James can write to believers to respond to trials in joy in chapter 1. It is because God is sovereign and has a plan that is being worked out. Therefore, one can be joyful. For God’s commanded will, the response is simply. Obey what He has commanded (Deuteronomy 11:1, 29:29).

Planning apart from the Lord is foolish, because God already has a plan. Therefore, one should always say, ‘If the Lord wills.’ A person’s response is always the same. Move forward in obedience to accomplish the will of the Lord. His will always prevails, and He has already laid out the steps. For that reason, planning must always take into consideration that God has a plan, even if one does not always know it, and therefore, a person maybe expected to adjust accordingly.

[1] Paul Tripp, The Secret Will of God, February 24, 2014, (accessed February 24, 2014).

[2] Paul Tripp, The Secret Will of God, February 24, 2014, (accessed February 24, 2014).

[3] Fundamentals of the Faith (Chicago: Moody Press, 2009), 178.

[4] Fundamentals of the Faith (Chicago: Moody Press, 2009), 172.

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