How it must have hurt Paul at first to realize that his own stubborn, human will didn’t prevail. It was humiliating to submit to the One he had tried to overthrow and he hated so much. He must have been miserable before for his conversion in spite of the fact that he had had his own way.
If your way is not in accord with the way of God’s divine revelation in Christ, you’re inherently miserable, whether you recognize it or not.
But what great joy must have filled Paul’s heart when upon being called, klétos, that is being converted and becoming an apostle, you recognize that these two great changes in his life have not occurred because he sought them, or wanted them. But [they] were brought about by the will of God.
“I am saved. I am an apostle. And that not by, or of my own self, it is all of God.” Such must have been his great reflection.
Mind you, by the time Paul was writing to the Corinthians, he was at peace because he had made God’s will His will. If that does not happen, you’re miserable whether you are a Christian or not. If you are a non-Christian, you’re will is certainly contradictory to the will of God. For it is His will that you be saved. If you are a Christian, it is possible that even as a child of God you’re somewhat of a rebel. At times, following your own stubborn will and considering it better than God’s will.
Now this phrase, “by the will of God,” expresses with striking brevity and force the complete subjection of Paul’s ministry to his commission. So says Kittel’s Theological Dictionary of the New Testament.
The word “will” in Greek is “theléma” here. There is another Greek word, “voulí”, which also expresses will. But more in the realm of resolution, counsel, and decision. Interestingly enough, “voulí” is the name that modern Greeks give to their parliament, and parliament decides, makes resolutions, expresses opinions, but does not execute them. Like we have Congress in the United States; they make the laws, but they do not enforce them. They do not execute them.
Both of these words “theléma” and “voulí”, those two Greek words, occur together in Ephesians 1:11.
“Being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel.”
And the word there in the Greek is “voulí”.
Of his own will, the word there is “thelématos”. By using the word “theléma”, rather than “voulí” in 1 Corinthians 1:1, by the will of God that he was called to be an apostle by the will of God, Paul indicates both the plan of salvation and the call to apostleship were not only resolved upon by God, but they were also executed and effected by God.
There is an irresistibility of the grace and call of God in my own life he says. In fact and so is there in God’s total plan for the world and its inhabitants. God decides and executes. This is the meaning in the expression, “thelēmatos theou,”the will of God.
Socrates, the great father of philosophy in the pre-Christian era, had an amazing spiritual insight. When the tyrant threatened him with death, Socrates told him that he was willing. This drove his persecutor mad. “If that is so, then you will live against your will,” he said.
“No,” said Socrates, “but whatever you do with me it shall be my will.”