“I did not shrink from declaring to you
the whole counsel of God.”
What exactly is the whole counsel of God? In this passage of Acts, Chapter 20, the Apostle Paul is declaring his role as a Representative of God's Word. With a clear conscience, he can say that he has presented the unabridged version, so to speak, of God's teaching. He has not dodged the difficult questions; nor has he tried to add or subtract from God's Word to make it more acceptable to his listeners. In fact, he has presented God's Word in order that he might help believers to grasp the whole counsel (purpose and plan) of God, so that they would become better equipped to read their Bibles intelligently and comprehensively.
But how many of you believe, or have been told, that we are under God's Grace, not the Law; therefore the New Testament is our primary source of God's teaching, and that's the only "counsel of God" we need? Or, that the Old Testament is a nice bit of history, but it has no real significance to us "New Testament Believers"? As a serious student of the Bible -- the whole Bible -- I find these opinions unsound and inaccurate.
First of all, it is important that we understand the original meaning of the word, "counsel". It comes from the Greek word boulomai, and according to Strong's Concordance, it "expresses strongly the deliberate exercise of the will". In other words, Paul is saying that he did not shrink from declaring God's deliberate exercise of His will throughout history, and he revealed the whole of God's revelation about His purpose(s) in relationship with His creation, man.
Keep in mind that the New Testament had not even been written when Paul made this statement, so some may ask, "How can we make it a Law vs. Grace, Old vs. New Testament argument"? In fact, this is actually what I am saying.... I believe that Paul was given Divine revelation in relating God's plan that covers the entire spectrum of history: Law, Grace, Judgment and Redemption. The entire Bible is God's counsel! There is history of redemption throughout the Old Testament that points to The Redeemer in the New Testament. Paul related God's explanation of man's origin, fall, and rescue [in the Old Testament], which leads to a worldview [in the New Testament] and points out the need for a Savior and Deliverer. There were commandments of old to be obeyed and accepted wisdom to be pursued, and those would be expanded upon in the life of the Incarnate God. And those commandments and wise counsel were not to be discarded, but rather they spoke of the transforming power to come; of age-old promises to be trusted and hopes to be anticipated.
But here's kind of a synopsis of what I think Paul was saying ... God's counsel cannot be limited to one concept such as Grace or Law. Remember, the word "counsel" is speaking of God's deliberate exercise of His will. Can we agree that the "whole counsel of God" centers around the idea of His Sovereignty in all matters? Can we see that His counsel is bigger than Grace, for example? After all, Paul certainly experienced the Grace of God, yet he did not limit his teaching to that doctrine. He did not shy away from explaining how God exercised His deliberate will by punishing the rebelliousness of the ancient Israelites; nor did he neglect to point out God's Judgment against those who refuse to repent.
We are in need of the whole counsel of God ... the grace, the law, the discipline, the love, the forgiveness ... The fullness of His Character reveals His Sovereignty; and His whole counsel is for the purpose of establishing Christ's Kingdom on earth. It may not be a perfect picture... but we need to hear it all!
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