“With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ” (Eph. 1:8b-9).
“He has made known to us the mystery of his will?” How has God done that? Is Paul talking about God’s will relative to whether or not I should wear pink socks as opposed to brown socks to work today, or whether I should live in Schenectady rather than Amarillo, or whether I should be a mechanic or a dentist? If those are the things to which Paul refers, we can make conclusions from a limited list of options: a) Paul doesn’t know what he’s talking about because the answers to those questions are not clear to me with reference to God’s will; b) God, at one time, made clear God’s will concerning even the most mundane of decisions, and has subsequently remained silent, so that I no longer have any self-evident way of knowing God’s mind on those questions; or c) I’m too stupid, too faithless, or too disinterested to discern God’s will about the color of my socks. I’m not comfortable with any of those conclusions.
Indeed, none of the explanations about God’s will for socks strikes me as particularly convincing or practical. How do I know, for example, that the strong feelings I have about wearing pink socks that I construe to be a message from God, are not just my own personal feelings projected onto the lips of God? Or how do I know that the window I think God has opened (I find my pink socks on top of the laundry hamper, while my brown ones are buried at the bottom) isn’t just a coincidence, with God’s hand nowhere self-evidently in sight? All this talk about God’s universal (general) will, God’s particular will, and God’s moral will, are elaborate ways of saying that we don’t really know how God feels about my pink socks.
It would appear that the Bible refers to God’s will (especially in the New Testament) specifically in relationship to Christ. That is to say, all of God’s desires about how life is supposed to take place on earth—how humanity will be treated by God, and how humanity is now called to respond to that treatment—have Christ as the starting point. “Christ is God’s will” is the place to begin. And when I learn to live in relationship to that Christ as the source of my life, the color of my socks ceases to be an issue.