The Farmer's WILL is to have a barn full of corn next fall. His COUNSEL tells him that in order to have his will fulfilled, he must prepare the ground, plant the seed and cultivate the plants through months of heat. This is not his will, but makes it his INTENTION, in order to realize the fulfillment of his will.
By this illustration we may understand the difference between God's will, His counsel and His intention. He is operating the universe in accord with the counsel of His will. See Eph. 1:11. He does not operate it in accord with His will; He operates it in accord with the counsel of His will. In the Greek, BOULE means "counsel," while BOULEMA means "intention." MA means "effect." So INTENTION is COUNSEL-EFFECT, or the effect of counsel. COUNSEL, of course, means "advice."
The specimen referred to in the March issue must be noticed again. It is in Rom. 9. God's will was to set Israel free from Egyptian bondage, to show His power, and to glorify His name. He was advised by His own mind, that there must be opposition on the part of Pharaoh, or His power would not be manifested, neither would His name be glorified. The liberation of Israel without opposition would be a flat, uninteresting affair that would not be worth recording. The advice of God's mind was His counsel. On this advice He formed an intention to harden Pharaoh's heart. This He did, and then led Israel out in spite of the opposition. Thus His power was shown and His name glorified.
As we read the account in Exodus, we are apt to wish the King's heart had been soft. That was the trouble-it WAS soft. It was too soft to suit God's purpose. So God hardened it.
God has had a goal in view from the beginning. If He should reach it without opposition there would be no glory for Him. On the other hand, He must have complete control, not only to provide the opposition, but to succeed in spite of it, otherwise there would still be no glory for Him.
A weak parallel is seen in a game of football. There must be stiff resistance, or there is no glory for the winning team. No team, worthy of the name, wants to reach the goal without opposition.
God is LOVE, and He was love in creation. He placed the creation in the Son of His love. This was His WILL. But He was advised that His creatures would never love Him, unless they were first lost in sin, and then saved. This was His COUNSEL. Based on this counsel, was His INTENTION that His creatures should be lost first, in order that they might taste the awfulness of sin, and thus be prepared to fully respond to His love, when they should be saved from sin.
I cannot read the account of the fall of man without being fully assured that it all happened according to God's intention. Please do not get His will mixed with His intention. Sin is against His will. He hates it. But it is according to His intention. He set the stage, and let sin come in, when He could have kept it out. If sin is not part of His plan, He could have prevented it.
The immediate effect of sin was not wholly bad, for man received a knowledge of good as well as evil. Prior to the fall he was as ignorant concerning good, as he was concerning evil.
Before the times of the ages God had placed grace in Christ to save His creation from sin. All this shows that it was God's intention that sin should come. Without sin, there would never have been anything for Christ to do.
On the other hand, Adam brought himself and all his posterity under condemnation. This was true for two reasons. In the first place, he sinned without being consciously coerced to so. In the second place, sin MUST bring condemnation, or it would never serve His purpose, as a background for the grace of God which saves sinners. If sin brought no condemnation, we would never appreciate the blessings of salvation.
The scriptures abound in specimens of the difference between God's will, His counsel and His intention.
We may read the account of the giving of the law to Israel, and be profoundly impressed that it was God's intention that they should keep it. Not so, as we find in Romans 5:20. "Yet law crept in that the offense should be increasing". The King James Version has it, "Moreover, the law entered that the offense might abound". It was God's will that grace might have an opportunity to super exceed. His counsel advised Him that grace would not have this opportunity unless sin increased. On this counsel He formed an intention that sin should increase. So, really, He did not give the law to be kept; He gave it to be broken. Breaking the law was not in accord with His will, but it was in accord with His intention, in order that His will might be realized in the super exceeding of grace. Yet this did not leave Israel guiltless. They were guilty, and here grace finds its opportunity.
The crucifixion of Christ was in accord with God's will. His counsel told Him that this could not be accomplished without opposition on the part of the priesthood, and betrayal by a friend. So His intention included all the opposition by the priests, and the betrayal by Judas.
It was God's will to bring in the present secret administration of grace. His counsel advised Him that before it could be done, Israel must reject the gospel, and be set aside. So it was His intention that Israel should not believe. This throws light on John 12:39, "Therefore they COULD NOT BELIEVE." It was His intention-not His will,-that they should not believe. And see what a glorious administration that is in which we live, based not on Israel's belief, but on their unbelief!
This applies in untold thousands of other instances. God is operating the universe in accord WITH the counsel of His will. We like the Israelites, would have peoples' hearts soft. If we could understand that God's intention is to be reckoned with, perhaps we would be more patient. He has plans that require hard hearts. If the hearts of all people were soft, His purpose would be defeated. No doubt Israel cried to Him to soften Pharaoh's heart. His answer was to harden his heart. All the prayer-meetings that might be held now would not induce God to soften the hearts of all people.
"Has anyone withstood His intention?" the Apostle asks in Rom. 9:19. Many object to His will, but none withstand His intention. This affords me much comfort. I can laugh at persecutors, for they are carrying out God's intention concerning me, without knowing it. It is His will that His truth shall travel the pathway of opposition and persecution, because this will magnify His grace, as a smooth pathway could not do. Therefore He will see to it that there are plenty of persecutors. This is His intention.
God will justify Himself in letting sin come into the universe, when He puts it away and shows Himself and His creation to be infinitely richer because of its temporary presence. We will be richer, in that we will be all that God wants us to be. God will be richer, in that He will rest in the full love and adoration of His creatures.
When we look back on it from eternity, we shall be entirely without regrets. We need regrets now, for they make us long for His presence. But we shall have none then, for we will see that sin furnished the occasion for the display of His grace, and the background for our full response to His love.
This doctrine is needed. It serves to give us stability and confidence in the face of conditions that surround and engulf us. What a comfort it is to believe that He is operating the universe in accord with the counsel of His will. This is much better than believing that the universe has gotten away from God, and that He is frantically striving to manage it.
This doctrine also gives confidence and stability in the face of our own failures. God is at the helm, and manages when we fail. Perhaps our failures are in accord with His intention. Certainly sin is left in the bodies of saints for a definite purpose. Without it, we might forget God. Knowing it to be present, we remember Him.
This doctrine furnishes the background for justification. There could never be justification for sinners, if sin were not, in some sense justifiable. It is justifiable in that it gives Christ something to do, furnishes an occasion for the display of grace, and will bring infinite riches to God, in the love and adoration of His creatures; Hence: "As by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one, the free gifts came upon all men unto justification of life"-Rom.5:18, King James Version.