Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. –Ephesians 5:17
The usual contrast to foolishness is wisdom, but here Paul contrasts foolishness with knowing God’s will. This contrast then suggests that wisdom is equated with knowing God’s will. In addition, the secret of answered prayer is knowing God’s will because God will accomplish His own will. Conforming our lives and prayers to God’s will puts people into conformity with it. When we know God’s will, we also know the future because God intends to accomplish what He wills, and He has all power to do so. We may not know the timing (Mark 13:32), but we can know the outcome.
The art of knowing God’s will is a life-long pursuit that is not found through seeking, but through trusting. People seek what they do not have, and once they have it they stop seeking it. Thus, we cannot find God by a process that involves seeking Him because to seek Him is not to have found Him. The harder one seeks, the less one actually has. Rather, God is found and/or engaged by trusting Him, trusting His Word to be reliable. To know God we must trust Him, not seek Him. The simple act of seeking requires the admission of non-possession. We seek what we do not have.
What unbelievers—and too many self-proclaimed Christians—accept as wisdom about God is mostly wrong, which means that their analysis and understanding of God is erroneous. For instance, thinking of God’s Word as being inerrant turns it into an abstraction that can then be analyzed. In fact, an inerrant thing cannot be known to be inerrant without standing in judgment of it—and that then sets the evaluator above the evaluated, in this case, above God’s Word. One must be inerrant one’s self in order to to judge a thing inerrant. It is more productive to think of God’s Word as being reliable than inerrant. This way, even what we call textual errors can provide helpful information about God’s character and increase the value of trust and fidelity as tools to help us understand God. The truth is that we have no original manuscripts of the Bible. All we have are ancient Hebrew and Greek fragments of copies of the various books of the Bible. And Christians trust these translated and assembled fragments to be the best possible expression of God’s Word in all of history.
It is helpful to trust that God intends for us to have to translate His Word from ancient languages because the process of translation and text assemblage is itself part of God’s will for us. The process engages people in activities and procedures that God intends for our benefit. It forces us out of our individual self-reliance because we have to rely on so many other people in the process. We must trust the integrity, competence, and fidelity of others who have worked to translate and assemble the Bible. While the truth of God’s Word involves abstract reason and propositional truths, these things are secondary to our fidelity and loyalty to God-in-Christ because they determine how we value God in our thought process. If we value God highly, even poor reasoning skills will serve us well. But if we value God poorly, the best reason we can muster will lead us astray.
(from Ephesians—Recovering the Vision of a Sustainable Church In Christ, forthcoming, 2014)