“If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God” (John 7:17).
“If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land” (Isa. 1:19).
It is not, If any man do, he shall know; but if any man is willing to do, he shall know. He does not need to do His will in order to know, he only need be willing to do it. For “will” is not at all the sign of the future tense as it looks. It is not connected with the word do at all, but a separate verb altogether, meaning, “is willing,” or “wills.” If any man wills, or if any man is willing to do, he shall know.
Now, notice the difference this makes in the problem. Before, it looked as if the doing were to come first and then knowing His will; but now another element is thrown in at the very beginning. The being willing comes first, and then the knowing; and thereafter the doing may follow—the doing, that is to say, if the will has been sufficiently clear to proceed.
The whole stress of the passage therefore turns on this word “will.” And Christ’s answer to the question, How to know the will of God? may be simply stated thus: “If any man is willing to do God’s will he shall know,” or, in plainer language still, “If any man is sincerely trying to do God’s will he shall know.”
A heart not quite subdued to God is an imperfect element in which His will can never live; and the intellect which belongs to such a heart is an imperfect instrument and cannot find God’s will unerringly—for God’s will is found in regions which obedience only can explore.
The connection of all this with obedience is just that being willing is the highest form of obedience. It is the spirit and essence of obedience. There is an obedience in the world which is no obedience, because the act of obedience is there, but the spirit of submission is not.—Henry Drummond.