The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. – Deuteronomy 29:29
Whilst I was studying systematic theology last year I came across a concept that I still spend some time thinking about randomly even today. It is the concept of God’s hidden will.
From my, albeit limited, understanding. God presents His will to us in two different ways. 1) By revealing it. 2) By hiding it. It is a concept that provides us with a framework and understanding for why evil happens, when there exists an all-powerful, all-good, and all-loving God. For example:
Revealed Will: You shall not murder
Hidden Will: People do murder, but I intend to turn it for my glory, the good of the Church and the salvation of the lost.
In this example we can see that God’s revealed will is that man should not murder each other. This is what God wants, just as He wants no man to perish in hell (2 Peter 3:9). Since this is not the case, men do murder each other and men do frequently reject the offer of eternal life, we must conclude that God has a Hidden will. Especially when we consider that all God’s plans do succeed (Isaiah 14:24), and that from a logical point of view, a god who could not accomplish his intentions would be no god.
Hence the concept of God’s hidden will.
Another way to understand it is:
Revealed will: how we should behave (e.g. make disciples, love our neighbours, turn the other cheek)
Hidden will: God’s ability to distribute grace when we fail.
We are not called to know or even act upon His hidden will. Rather we are called to have faith that His hidden will is also Good, Sovereign, Loving, and Powerful. We must believe without seeing. This requires faith.
- We know (Revealed will) that God desires no one to perish, and all to come to Him for salvation…and yet (Hidden will) God has predestined some chosen few to come to faith in Him. Since we do not know who, and it is not for us to know, we ought to be relentless in our obedience to Matthew 28’s great commission (to make disciples of all nations)
- To violate His revealed will in our actions is sin, and is therefore punishable. Even though His is powerful enough and intends to work it for His good.
- We should pray with sensitivity to His willingness, not His goodness, love or power, which He has revealed to us.
Therefore, God’s hidden will does not make Him duplicitous but rather:
- Demonstrates His graciousness towards us, who frequently disobey and fall short of even His revealed will.
- Demonstrates His sovereignty and power in the midst of legitimate free will and rebellion.
- Demonstrates His justice in His judgements, since He has told us exactly what He requires from us.