Tag Archives: God’s will

The Whole Counsel of God: What is it?

 

For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.  Acts 20:27  (NKJ)

One of the things this nation is not short on is advice.  If you turn on the television, every station has its personal brand of advice—The Real, The Talk, The View.  And let’s not forget social media.

Life and spiritual coaches have been added to the deluge of resources ready to “create a better life for you”.  Online counseling by Chat, Video or Phone.  Get Help and Get Happy.  Therapy Anytime, Anywhere.   Each of these resources and programs are targeting different groups of viewers—boomers, millennials, Xers to influence their thoughts and actions.  And the real question is influence for what?

If ever there was a need for reliable counsel, it is now!

Definition of Counsel

The noun “counsel” means advice, especially that given formally.  Counsel is synonymous with guidance, direction and instruction.  The Hebrew word that best communicates the concept of counsel is ‘esah, which adds purpose or plan to the definition.   It is both used of God’s counsel and of human counsel.

Counsel Given—Counsel Received  

The Old Testament portrays counsel as that which is usually given to kings (1 Chron. 13:1).  Counsel may have come from trusted advisors but more frequently through God’s prophets (Deut. 18:14-21).

Proverbs suggests that one should seek counsel from many with the thought that human beings are limited and need contributors to be sure all alternatives are considered (Prov. 11:14;  Prov. 20:18).

In the New Testament, especially in the church, though they were a close-knit fellowship, involved in one another’s lives, there is almost nothing about counsel or acting on the advice of others.  The closest thing to “counsel” would have been that given to the early churches via apostolic letters.

Regardless of the counsel received, no advice or counsel frees the person’s responsibility for making his or her own choice. Such was the case in our text as Paul gives instructions to the Ephesian elders.

What constitutes “the whole” ?

What is the “whole counsel of God”?  If you search different Bible versions for clarity, you may still be left asking, “What is it?”  In our text, the different Bible versions read, “the whole counsel of God” (ESV) or “the whole will of God” (NIV) or “the whole purpose of God” (NASB).

The phrase the whole counsel of God was introduced by Paul in Acts 20:27 in his farewell speech to the elders of the Ephesian church.  In this context, the whole counsel of God refers to the “gospel message”.

Paul spoke the complete gospel—the whole truth about God’s salvation including the “mystery” of God extending His plan of salvation to Gentiles as well as Jews (Ep. 3:9).  Paul’s declaration of the “whole counsel of God” made him “innocent” of anyone’s decision to reject God’s truth as revealed, at that time.

The whole counsel of God, in summary, is God’s truth revealed in His purpose and His will.  God communicates His whole counsel in two key ways—the Bible and the Holy Spirit.

Paul witnessed to the fact that, “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:16, NRS).   The Bible is the “play book” which helps believers live in alignment with God’s will and in right relationship with one another.

Through the ministry of the Holy Spirit believers relate God’s truth to present situations—guiding them in actions they are to take.   Although the Spirit may use any number of avenues to help believers sense His direction, He ultimately guides us to decisions that are in harmony with what God purposes for us (Jer. 10:23).

Living in 21st century, postmodern America, it is critical that we have access to good counsel.  We need counsel that is sure and dependable; trustworthy and timeless.  We need counsel to help us live out of the heart God created for us.  We need the whole counsel of God.

We will continue next week with this series, “The Whole Counsel of God.”

Things Revealed

The secret things belong to the LORD our God,

but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever,

that we may follow all the words of this law. Deut. 29:29 (NIV)

It is the nature of man to be curious about “secret things”—things that are yet to be revealed; things that remain hidden from immediate view. This curiosity has led to man’s fascination with astrology, fortune telling and other “future gazing” activities. Secret things have contributed to the bizarre growth in social media followings, gossip tabloids and entertainment shows that uncover the latest exposés of the rich and the famous. As the children of Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, they were more than curious as to what secret things God had planned for their lives. Moses addressed their curiosity with a clever statement of fact about the revelations of God that still holds true today—“the secret things belong to the LORD but the things revealed belong to us.”

The secret things are those things known only to God. The prophet Isaiah best captures this truth in the difference between human and divine knowledge: “His (God’s) thoughts are not our thoughts, nor our ways His ways. As the heavens are higher than earth, so are His ways and thoughts higher than ours” (Isa. 55:8-9). While man may feel that he has the right to be aware of all plans pertaining to his future, it is sovereign God who ultimately determines what needs to be known and what must be accepted by faith alone. “The just shall live by faith” is an iconic expression of trust and hope that encourages believers to proceed without all the answers confident in God’s goodness and greatness (Jer. 29:11-13).

The things that belong to us are those truths which God has communicated through His Holy Spirit and through His Word. With the coming of Pentecost, believers were gifted with the Holy Spirit to live within them. Jesus provided not only a Comforter with the Holy Spirit but also His Presence to guide believers in all truth (John 16:13). God’s Word continues to reveal His nature and His never ending love for His people. From Genesis to Revelation, God discloses Himself as the Master Creator seeking to restore His relationship with His beloved Creature. The greatest evidence of God’s persistence and love is His plan of salvation resulting in man’s freedom from the penalty of death, our reconciliation with the Father, power to live victoriously, and the promise of eternal life, beginning now (1 John 3:2).

Through the things that belong to us we gain a thorough knowledge of God and what is needed to live godly lives (2 Pet. 1:3). Our challenge will come in our ability to walk in the truth that God has revealed to us and to obediently follow His directions. Shifting societal and moral norms will force believers to “stand fast” in that which has been clearly revealed by God (Eph. 6:11-13; 2 Thess. 2:15). Such shifts will lead to continual rejection of Christian beliefs and persecution by this fallen world (2 Tim. 3:12). However, Jesus has more than adequately prepared us for such a time as these: “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). As believers we need not concern ourselves with the secret things we don’t know BUT to trust and obey that which we do know.