The Bible very rarely uses the term God's Plan, for instance:

Ps 107:11 (NIV):

because they rebelled against God’s commands and despised the plans of the Most High.

Micah 2:3 (NIV):

Therefore, the Lord says: “I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves.

Acts 2:23 (NIV)

This man was handed over to you by God’s deliberate plan and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross.

In common parlance, a plan is something we make for the immediate, near or distant future, subject to certain clauses and conditions. One wonders whether God for whom the past, present and future of human beings are part of His Will, would ever consider something as part of His Plan. That could be the reason why Jesus always used the term God's Will.

My question therefore is: according to Catholic scholars, are the terms God's Plan and God's Will one and the same ?

  • It may not be as rare as you think if you include Bible verses implying God's purpose for a believer's life. In Evangelical circles "God's plan" has a larger scope and connotates purpose / providence more strongly than the aspect of "decree" implicit in "God's will", sometimes spanning a believer's whole life. Some frequently cited verses for "God's plan": Jer 29:11, Jer 1:5, Ps 33:11, Esther 4:14. But yes, the meaning of both terms have overlap. Good question. Commented May 13, 2022 at 12:34
  • You tagged your question "catholicism," so why are you using a Protestant Bible translation? (See: Which Bible Should You Read? A Short Comparison and Commentary on Modern Bible Translations.)
    – Geremia
    Commented May 13, 2022 at 17:58

1 Answer 1


Catholic Douay-Rheims:

Ps. 106:11:

Because they had exasperated the words of God: and provoked the counsel (consilium) of the most High:

Micheas 2:3:

Therefore thus saith the Lord: Behold, I devise (cogito) an evil against this family: from which you shall not withdraw your necks, and you shall not walk haughtily, for this is a very evil time.

Acts 2:23:

This same being delivered up, by the determinate counsel (consilio) and foreknowledge of God, you by the hands of wicked men have crucified and slain.

St. Jerome uses the term voluntas ("will"), not "counsel" as in the quotes above, in his translation of, for example, I Thessalonians 4:3:

For this is the will (voluntas) of God, your sanctification

Richard Butler, O.P., Religious Vocation ch. 4:

Theologians distinguish the divine will itself between the will of good pleasure (voluntas beneplaciti), which is identified with God and which we cannot see, and the divine will of sign or expression (voluntas signi), which represents the recognizable effects of God's will in time. […]

God's will diagram

The divine will of good pleasure is most properly the divine will, and this we do not see directly or in itself [because in this life we cannot see God's essence]. The subdivision we make into antecedent and consequent simply indicates the difference between abstract and concrete considerations. Antecedently and abstractly God wills all men to be saved, just as a human judge wants all men to live. But consequently and concretely, considering the free human choices which are made, God saves only some of His people, just as the judge on the bench, in critical cases, allows only some of the criminals brought before him to live. In other words, we can look at the divine will prior to and consequent to what we do.

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