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God’s Word for You

Colossians 1:28-29 What is God’s will for mankind?

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Thursday, March 29, 2018

28 We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone in all wisdom, that we might present everyone perfect in Christ.  29 It is for this that I work, striving with all the strength which he mightily works in me.

This passage raises a question in many minds: What is God’s will for mankind? Doesn’t the Bible seem to say that God wants everyone to be saved, but then that he saves only some, and that it is his will that certain people—the wicked—be damned forever in hell with no hope or possibility of reprieve?

From the days of the early church and pastors like John Chrysostom (fourth century) and John of Damascus (seventh century), theologians have recognized that God has a will for mankind apart from man’s actions and sins (his “antecedent” or first will), and a will for mankind based on man’s obedience or disobedience (his “consequent” or second will). Perhaps a better way of thinking of these things is that God first of all proclaims the law, but that he also proclaims the gospel.

God’s church desires what God desires. So we warn and teach everyone in all wisdom, “that we might present everyone perfect in Christ.” The fact is that many people reject God and his mercy. What result does that have in us, in his church? Paul (always a lover of sports and the athletic games of his day) uses the word agonizomai (ἀγωνίζoμαι), “compete, make every effort” (see Luke 13:24). Paul says, “It is for this (that people be saved) that I agonize.” When we say “agonize,” we usually mean that we have strong feelings that are almost helpless feelings. But that’s not what Paul means. He means to do something; to do everything under our power, to bring the gospel to the world.

God’s work to this end meant that he sent all people his Son for their salvation (John 3:16). He commands his church to preach this message to all the world (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15). God also sends his Holy Spirit into the hearts of men when we are converted from unbelief to faith. “I will pour out my Spirit on all people” (Joel 2:28). This means that God’s will is not play acting; it is not a sham. He is serious about his desire to save us, and because of this desire, he sent Jesus to the cross in our place.

We keep on striving, agonizing, and working toward this goal as well. He comforts us by telling us that he works in us and with us, and that the power to convert souls is not up to the possessor of that soul, nor is it up to the speech or the rhetorical gifts of the speaker. No, the power to change hearts is in the word of God itself.

God works in you. Don’t let this frighten you. Let it fill you with confidence and with hope. Share the gospel of the forgiveness of sins, and let the word of God do its miraculous work—and that’s the will of God.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

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