Prove What The Will Of God Is
There are two very basic, but quite different approaches to applying the Scripture's teaching to our lives. They are mutually exclusive, and both ways cannot be correct, but one of them is. There is the approach which says, "Prove that I am wrong." This approach suggests that if a religious belief or practice cannot be proven wrong, then it must be right. For example, we can easily prove that stealing or lying or murder is sinful. A person taking this approach to interpreting the Lord's meaning on these topics would have no problem at arriving at the truth on these and like matters.
But, I am sure that you have noticed, not everything is so cut and dried as these. And it is the more difficult questions upon which many differences between Christians arise.
The other approach to understanding the Scriptures is much more cautious than the first. Instead of asking for proof that an activity is wrong, it says, "Prove that it is right." See the difference? One approach says, "Prove that I am wrong" while the other says "I must prove that I am right."
These two approaches will likely arrive at similar conclusions regarding the obvious things taught in Scripture, but are going to be butting heads in the more complex areas.
Which approach does the Lord want us to take? He has told us through the apostle Paul: "I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, and acceptable, and perfect." (Romans 12:1,2).
Being Acceptable to God
"I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. (Romans 12:1).
The most important aspect of our service to God is the answer to the question, "Does God find what I do acceptable?" If not, then my worship is vain. Many seem to think that He is pleased with just about anything as long as its pretty. It is not so that "If I like it, then so must God." (Proverbs 16:2,3; Isaiah 55:8,9).
True service and devotion to God involves replacing our wills with His. This is the "living sacrifice" of this verse.
When Understanding Becomes Difficult
"...acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship." (Romans 12:1b).
But not everything is as readily understood as the basics. The Bible affirms that this is so. Reaching the point where our discernment is mature takes time; its not something we are "born with" - or even "born again with." (Hebrews 5:11-14; ; 1 Peter 2:2; 2 Peter 1:5-11).
Also, it is the more complex issues where the false teacher will often base his false doctrines. Peter, in writing about some of the deeper issues that Paul had written about, said, "...in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction." (2 Peter 3:16).
Those who take the "Prove I'm wrong" approach are much more susceptible to being mislead than those who take the "Prove it is right" approach as taught in our text. If we add to this the additional caution of "when in doubt, don't" (Romans 14:20-23) then we will be on safe ground.
"And do not be conformed to this world..." (Romans 12:2a).
It is definitely not a good approach to discovering the truth of how God wants us to be by looking at the world. When the world demands that we conform to its always changing standards, we choose instead to live by a higher standard. "We must obey God rather than men." (Acts 5:29). The standards of the world include religious teachings. Just because something goes under the name of "religion" does not mean that it is of God. Cults, human religious creeds and practices, and carnal social/political agendas are a part of the world. The Word of Christ tells us not to submit to such... that these are merely the commandments of men, "self-made religion" is the term the Bible uses (Colossians 2:20-23). The teaching of these precepts renders our service of God vain (Matthew 15:9). The popularity (or lack thereof) of a belief or practice says not one thing about whether it is acceptable unto God.
"...but be transformed by the renewing of your mind..." (Romans 12:2b).
When a person becomes a Christian, it is time for a change. The Bible has many ways to express this change. It is referred to as "being born again" and "becoming a new creature" and "walking in newness of life" and "putting on the new self" and "being raised up" (John 3:2-5; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 6:4; Ephesians 4:24; Ephesians 2:6).
This change involves things which we say and do and are observable, but the source of the change comes from within. It takes place within the heart, or mind. When the mind is "renewed" then the outward changes occur.
What is it that "renews" the mind? It is the "will of the Lord." It is in the effect the revealed will of the Lord has upon the yielding heart. It is in the answer "Here I am" to God's call issued through the gospel. It is through the written revelation that we can know God's will, for it is the words of the Scriptures through which God has expressed His mind to us. The "natural man" may not accept them, but the one who is spiritual will (1 Corinthians 2:10-16. cf 2 Thessalonians 2:14,15).
Proving What The Will of The Lord Is
"...that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good, and acceptable, and perfect." (Romans 12:2c).
It is up to us to "prove what is right." The Scriptures also put it this way: "But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil." (1 Thessalonians 5:21,23).
In using this approach, as opposed to the "Prove its wrong" approach, we will go a long way toward a clearer understanding of what God expects of us. We will not be as likely to be confused by "controversial questions and disputes about words" because we have opted instead to make sure that our practice and teaching "agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 6:3,4).
When we take this approach, we can easily see what, for example, the practice of the New Testament church of partaking of the Lord's Supper on the first day of the week tells us (Acts 20:7). By this Scriptural example, it can be proven the right thing to do. But one cannot prove that it is right for the church to observe this memorial on, say, Friday. If someone challenges, "Prove it is wrong to do so." I would simply issue the Lord's challenge; "Prove it is right."
I can Scripturally "Prove it is right" on the first day of the week to gather into a common treasury funds to finance the work God gave the church to do. These funds are to come from the members of the congregation and are to be given freely and cheerfully according to each ones own determination and ability (1 Corinthians 16:1,2; 2 Corinthians 9:7). If someone says, "Well, prove it is wrong to have a church raffle on Tuesday." or "Bingo on Sunday" or "A church garage sale" and so forth, I would simply urge them to take their Bible and do what our text says, "Prove that it is right to do so." Since God's ways are not our ways, this is certainly the best course to follow!
By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 4.5; May 1997