The Eighteen Principles of Divine Revelation

Principle No. 2 — The Willingness Principle

By Clifton L. Fowler

Taken from Grace and Truth Magazine 1923


Here is another one of the Principles of Divine Revelation which God has stated so clearly as to make its rejection the equivalent of despising the Word of God itself. Like the Infinity Principle, the Willingness Principle is placed beyond question by declarations of the most indubitable character. Thus both the first and second principles which we study are made most clear by another principle which we will discuss in a future study, i. e., the Direct Statement Principle.

It is of utmost importance in the study of these principles that each step of the way be demonstrated from God's Holy Book, lest there be some who might cavil. The Eighteen Principles are not inventions. They are not of recent date. They are as old as the Bible itself. They are imbedded in the very warp and woof of all God's revelation. Conscientiously studied, they solve the Bible's riddles, dispel its clouds, and fully and finally rescue the wavering soul from fanaticism, superstition, or modernism. There is a rationality and balance about these principles which must appeal even to those who are skeptically inclined. Coupled with this rationality, as the principles unfold, there is revealed the glorious and delightful dependableness of the simple old Gospel of Jesus and His love. To master the principles is to believe the Bible and to return to that sweet freshness of experience of which modernism is today stripping the church of Jesus Christ. Hence, the paramount importance of mastering the Biblical proof for each principle.

Remember, we are not seeking to prove in this series of studies that the Bible is inspired. We are seeking to show that these great laws underlie the whole structure of the Bible as we now have it. If we succeed in showing this one thing to be a fact, then another fact becomes incontrovertible — he who has studied the Bible without fully recognizing these laws of interpretation has not yet given that Book a fair chance at his mind and life. To any serious and seeking soul, we would unhesitatingly say: Investigate the Eighteen Principles, if you would come to a normal and sane attitude toward the Word of God and the problems of the daily walk.

The definition of the Willingness Principle is, —


(a) Under which the knowledge of God's truth is guaranteed to willing souls.

So important is this principle that God spreads upon the page of revelation a direct statement of such clarity as to make contradiction absurd. Indeed, it is one of the happy peculiarities of the Bible that in some place in the Book, God will gather together in one clear statement all He has revealed on a given theme. There is very much in the Bible relating to the Willingness Principle, both from the standpoint of precept and illustration. There is, however, but one passage in which God summarizes and declares the foundation of the principle. The passage is in John 7:17:

"If any one wills to do His will he shall know the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself." (Worrell's Translation.)

Could more simple or more radiant declaration on any theme be adduced? He that "wills to do God's, will shall know the teaching!" It is guaranteed. The word of Him Who cannot lie is back of it. There is no; passage, from Genesis to Revelation, which places limitation upon the application of this celestial pledge — he that is willing "to do God's will shall know the teaching."

The Willingness Principle is a companion principle to the Infinity Principle. Both principles, properly understood and applied, result in an increased satisfaction and i increased blessing in the study of the Bible. But both I these laws of divine revelation are personal instead of textual. We would naturally have expected "Principles of Revelation" to specially relate to rules of handling the; actual text of God's Book. And indeed, many of these Eighteen Principles do. But these first two, the Infinity Principle and the Willingness Principle, instead of operating in the direction of the text of the Book of Books, operate in the direction of the soul of the seeking one. The Infinity Principle, rightly employed, brings skeptical man to the Bible, believing even when the truth is beyond his understanding, while the Willingness Principle brings rebellious man to the Bible with a broken and contrite spirit.

No wonder the modernist is utterly incapable of getting anywhere in his study of the Book which God has given. These two principles of Revelation are unknown to him, and if they were known they would be repudiated, for the modernist is by training and practice, opposed to faith in God and a rebel against willingness toward God. Since modernism spurns these principles which God has declared underlie the correct apprehension of His Word, we cannot expect modernism's testimony to reveal aught but ignorance of the Bible. The literature being produced by the modernist vindicates our expectation.

The definition of the Willingness Principle which we have stated, and which is demonstrated by the words of the Lord Jesus in John 7:17, carries with it a group of logical inferences. It is worthy of special note, that each conclusion at which we might arrive inferentially, from a study of this vital principle, may be independently demonstrated from the Book which is the subject of our study. Thus revealing most convincing agreement.

We observe four inferences which grow out of John 7:17 and proceed to their Scripture proof. First: Since the knowledge of God's Word is promised to willing ones, the strong and logical inference is that the average man is stubborn, stiffnecked, and self-willed, and that this attitude puts the man in absolute disfavor with God. The Bible bears out this inference.

"And might not be as their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation; a generation that set not their heart aright, and whose spirit was not steadfast with God." (Ps. 78:8.)

"But my people would not hearken to my voice (unwillingness), so I gave them up to their own heart's lusts and thev walked in their own counsels." (Ps. 81:11.)

Second: Since the knowledge of God's Word is promised to willing ones and so many refuse to hearken to Him, the inference is inescapable that God is seeking for those who will take an attitude of full willingness toward Him, in their service and in their worship. We find that God's Word bears out this second inference. Jesus, in speaking to the woman at the well said,

"The hour cometh and now is when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in Spiritt and in Truth, for the Father seeketh such to worship Him." (Jno. 4:23.)

"True worship" and unwillingness are incompatible. Worshipping in "spirit and truth" is impossible where a spirit of rebellion is in the heart. What Jesus said to that poor, sinful woman at the well amounted to this, "The Father is seeking willing ones to worship Him. Are you one?" And what a wonderful example of a willing soul she proved to be.

What a revelation of the yearning, loving, heart of God. He loves His creatures. He covets that they shall abandon their stubbornness and willingly give their love and homage to Him Who created them. So He is pictured before us in the words of Jesus as "seeking," "seeking," "seeking," willing ones. And when He finds such an one. He has pledged His word that

"If any one wills to do His will, he shall know the teaching."

A third inference grows out of this passage. Since only the willing ones are the ones to whom the promise of knowing God's teaching is given, it is evident that in the very nature of things, both from the standpoint of man's perfidy and God's holiness, God must have willing ones as His followers and worshippers. Unwilling ones will not do. The Scripture proves this inference also:

"God is a spirit and they (the true worshippers) spoken of in verse 23) that worship him MUST worship in spirit and in truth." (That is, must be willing ones.) (Jno. 4:34.)

A fourth inference logically and scripturally proceeds from this passage. Since willingness is the only pathway to the blessing of a knowledge of God's will and Word, and we now know that man is naturally, stubborn and rebellious, the inference is that a God of grace will, by His sovereign power, put willingness within the reach of the self-willed creature to whom willingness is so foreign. And the Scripture confirms this conclusion.

In I Chron. 29:14, David, speaking to God in prayer, says:

"But who am I and what is my people that we should be able (obtain strength) to offer so 'willingly after this sort? For all things come of thee, and of thine own (imparted willingness) have we given thee."

David recognizes that he and his people were unable of themselves, to give willingly unto God but since they had given willingly, he cries out in joy, "All things come from Thee." He saw that their willingness was a gift of God's grace.

And Paul's words to the Philippians show God's methods to have continued the same throughout the years:

"For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Phil. 2:13.)

When teaching on this truth, Jesus said:

"I, if I be lifted up from the earth, WILL DRAW ALL MEN unto me." (Jno. 12:32.)

Jesus declares that all men are drawn. Not simply a few, but all men. What a comfort to one whom Satan has buffeted with the thought that God is unjust. Putting these passages together, we see His matchless grace in dealing with men. He first "draws" every one of us, and as He "draws," He is "seeking" for those who will respond to His drawing. This is by no means difficult for Him before Whom all hearts are "naked and open." When He finds a soul anywhere on earth who responds to His drawing He miraculously imparts that which stubborn man does not have — willingness, and that one becomes a willing soul. To such a one the promise is given:

"If any one wills to do His will, he shall know the teaching." (Jno. 7:17.)

God deliberately pledges that willing one that he shall know the truth, and praise God, we know the truth shall set him free.

The Willingness Principle Illustrated by Inspiration of Scripture.

God gave us the Bible by finding willing ones and speaking through them. This principle has always been the same. When He found a willing one, He revealed to that one the teaching. Moses is declared to be the "meekest" of men, wondrous revelation of willingness before Jehovah! Through the willing Moses, God gives us the first five books of the Old Testament. Joshua was another one of God's willing ones. Through him came the book of Joshua. When in early youth God spake to Samuel, he showed that he was one of the willing ones by his reply:

"Speak; for Thy servant heareth." (I Sam. 3:10.)

As we have already seen in I Chron. 29, David was also one of the willing ones. Straight through the Old Testament, God uses His willing ones for His psalmists, His historians. His poets, and His prophets.

The same truth is illustrated in the New Testament. One night, in the depths of suffering and sorrow, Jesus took three men with Him into the garden to pray, but they fell asleep. They were Peter, James and John. Our Lord was grieved that they could not pray with Him one hour but He saw in them willing souls, for He said to them that night:

"The spirit indeed is willing but the flesh is weak." (Matt. 26:41.)

And these three men, weak indeed, in the flesh, but willing ones before God, were all used of God in giving us our New Testament.

Paul was also one of the willing ones. His own confession shows that he, like Peter, James and John, had occasion to know that the "flesh is weak," but his willingness was unquestionable:

"For I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing, for to will is present with me, but how to perform that which is good I find not." (Rom. 7:18.)

"To will is present with me." He was one of God's willing ones, eager to do the will of Him Who loved us and gave Himself for us; willing to say with Jesus, "Not my will, but Thine be done."

Our Bible is given to us by direct inspiration of God. He sought out the willing ones and as they were "moved along" by the Holy Ghost, they gave forth God's Word. It is pure altogether. It is settled in heaven. It endureth forever. The Scriptures came not by man's will but by man being made willing to do the will of God.

The Willingness Principle Illustrated by God's Finding Willing Ones.

The fact that the willing one has God's promise that "he shall know the teaching" becomes more real to us when we see some of the striking incidents of Scripture in which the principle is manifestly active in the lives of others.

Take the case of Lydia. Paul was preaching to a motley throng of women on the river bank at Philippi. In the group was this Lydia. Every woman on that river bank that morning had been "drawn" toward Jesus for the promise is clear, "I will draw all," but only one had responded to that drawing. Upon responding to the "drawing," God had worked willingness in her, and the record stands:

"Whose heart the Lord opened." (Acts 16:14.)

She had already been worshipping God because she was a willing one. She was not saved until she came under Paul's ministry' for the Scripture doth declare:

"Faith cometh by hearing." (Rom. 10:17.)

God kept His promise to Lydia. He had promised that the willing one should receive the teaching. Lydia was a willing one. Since God cannot break His word, He sends Paul to keep the guarantee which He had given forth to all who are willing to do His will. Lydia, doubtless, did not know it, but she had the Lord's pledge that she should "know the teaching."

The case of Cornelius is another instance of this principle in action. Cornelius was a heathen Roman, but he was a willing one who had responded to the universal drawing work of God. Without knowing the intent of it all, Cornelius

"Gave much alms * * * and prayed to God always." (Acts 10:2.)

Here is another soul to whom the promise of God in John 7:17 belongs. Since those who knew the message of truth were few, God must needs perform a miracle to keep that promise to His willing one, Cornelius. So by special revelation from heaven, God prepares a hidebound Jew to carry the "teaching" to a Gentile. God's word had been given. "If any one wills to do His will, he shall know the teaching," and God cannot lie. Peter preached the Word, and Cornelius, the willing soul, believed and was saved. The Willingness Principle works.

One of the most interesting examples of the activity of the Willingness Principle to be found in the Bible is the case of the Ethiopian Eunuch. He was journeying toward the south in the desert of Gaza. He had been to Jerusalem to worship, but his soul was in the dark. He was reading as he sat in his chariot from the book of Isaiah, but he could not understand what he read. He was a willing one! Is God slack concerning His promise? Will he fail to keep His word? He has a promise out which takes in that Eunuch. What does God do? He sends by angel messengers to Philip the Evangelist, who is whisked in a trice to the side of the willing soul. Soon the Eunuch is listening to the story of Jesus as told in Isaiah fifty-three and faith came by hearing! God kept His promise. God saw to it that the teaching of truth was carried to the willing one.

God is seeking willing ones in order that He might save them. If men are finally lost it is their fault, not God's. He drew "all men" unto Himself and implanted willingness wherever a responsive heart was found. Jesus, in His lament over Jerusalem, reveals both the seeking attitude of God and the terrible responsibility of rejection which rests upon the unwilling ones. His words are

"I would * * *
Ye would not." (Matt. 33:37.)

That man who seeks to lay the blame on God for the lost condition of his soul is silenced. God's justice is completely vindicated.

The Willingness Principle Illustrated by God's Dealing with Individual Believers.

The  individual Christian finds that the willingness principle is still operative. Willingness to do the will of God is still the ground of entrance into truth. God still seeks willing ones. The one who is willing to do God's will is the one to whom God opens the treasures of His Word.

When Paul visited Thessalonica he met little willingness, but when he took God's message to Berea, he found a vastly different spirit. The Bereans are specially commended for their willingness:

"These (the Bereans) were more noble than those of Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind (Greek, willingness of mind) and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so." (Acts 17:11.).

This passage has been emphasized among Bible students quite faithfully, but the emphasis usually falls on "searched the Scriptures daily." The Bereans are lauded to the young and old because "daily" they studied the Book. And this is very good. It is worthy of most earnest commendation. But greater than a "daily" Bible student is a Bible student with a willing mind." The most wonderful thing about these Bereans is the thing we hear least spoken of — "they received the word with al! willingness of mind." The Bereans, by this attitude of willingness, put themselves in line for God's richest blessings. They had taken the only course which God says will lead to a knowledge of the teaching. They were willing ones.

Again in the second Epistle to the Corinthians Paul shows, in discussing the subject of Christian giving, the \ital importance of willingness:

"For if there be first a willing mind, it is accepted according to that a man hath, and not according to that he hath not." (II Cor. 8:12.)

How significant. God indicates that what He seeks first is a willing mind. When men are lost God seeks for willing ones. After a man accepts Jesus as his personal Saviour, God is still looking for that fine, wide open, happy spirit of willingness. At whatever stage in Christian growth a soul may be, the condition which carrier with it the promise of further growth is willingness. Let bitterness, or selfishness, or a carping spirit enter and willingness disappears and spiritual development stops. No willingness, no growth. God is still saying to men even after they are saved by His grace, "If any one wills to to do the will of God he shall know the teaching."

Believers everywhere are finding the truth of these things in their daily walk. Here is a young man who cannot see the yielded life truth as set forth in Rom. 12:1-2, but after his own life has been yielded to the Lord he finds that he can see the truth plainly, and immediately seeks to lead others into the same truth. When he became willing to do the will of God he knew the teaching. God has never made but the one gateway to knowledge of His truth — and that gateway is the will to do His will. No man can expect to have the joy of fresh and helpful light upon the problems of God's Book if his own soul is unwilling. And let it be observed that the willingness for which God is calling is a willingness to do the will of God. Whatever that will might be, however hard that will might seem, willingness to do the will of God instead of the will of self is the ground on which this mighty promise is made.

Child of God, are you willing before Him? When a needy soul crosses your pathway and you are thrust into a glorious heaven-given opportunity to tell that soul of Jesus and His love, but you have some other work which seems to require your attention, are you willing to drop that "other work," and go a fishing? Are you willing?

Are you willing to sacrifice for the blessed Lord? When you have carefully saved every penny you could "rake and scrape" for weeks and the long coveted "need" which has been your goal is just within your reach, and then a heart-breaking missionary appeal is made, are you willing to give up the long desired "need" and send that money to the mission field? Are you willing?

Young man, just facing life and its opportunities, are you willing to abandon your life plans? Are you willing to forfeit that treasured ambition that has nestled in your heart for years? Are you willing to give up a remunerative position and the conveniences of your present circumstances, and leaving the home-land, go forth to bear the glad-tidings of Jesus and His love to lands afar? Are you willing to say "yes" to Him when He says, "Present your body a living sacrifice?" Are you willing? Are you willing?

To the willing ones, God is opening up His Word in these days, and they are rejoicing in things "new and old" which far transcend their fondest dreams. If you. dear child of God, have found a cloud of awful darkness settling down over your own soul and over the "teaching" of God's Book, don't stop for self-examination, that is superfluous, but run immediately to Him and tell Him you have renounced forever your old rebellious spirit and entered the ranks of the willing ones.

"If any one wills to do His will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from Myself."

Copyright 1923, Clifton L. Fowler