Declaring the whole counsel of God

red-lechwe-antelope-herd-chobeActs 20:27: For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.

Paul saw it as his commitment to declare to the church in Ephesus the whole counsel of God, hence the focus verse. He gave his best. He is not one to hide truth from the people for the purpose of making merchandise of them (2Peter 2:3). He wants the people to be fully equipped with truth.

When he left them, he said that he commits them to the word of God which is able to build them up and give them an inheritance among they that are sanctified (Acts 20:32). He knows that it is the word of God that can craft them to the shape of what they should be under God.

He wrote to the Ephesians that God has set some people in the church: apostles, pastors, evangelists, prophets, teachers for the equipping of the saint (Ephesians 4:10-13). This corresponds with the promise of God that he would give his people shepherds who will feed them with knowledge and understanding (Jeremiah 3:15). Through the ministry of the word we are supplied with truth. If the devil can get Eve to do the wrong thing by lying to her (Genesis 3:1-10), that means when truth comes to us we are set up to do the right thing. The psalmist says that ne has stored God’s words in his heart so that he will not sin against God (Psalm 119:11).

Ministers are supposed to be faithful to deliver the word that God has given them. Paul told Timothy to preach the word, in season and out of season (2Timothy 4:2).

Jesus said that the disciples should proclaim on the rooftop, what they are told in the secret (Matthew 10:27). They were not supposed to make things up as they stand before the people to share; they should share what they have heard in the presence of God.

Jesus Christ is the Word (John 1:1-5) (the embodiment of the whole counsel of God), and there is no counsel of God that is apart from Christ. Paul wrote that he preaches Christ, so as to present everyman perfect in Him (Colossians 1:27-29). The whole counsel/purpose of God for us that is declared in the preaching of the Word can be divided into four parts, all having to do with Christ.

Come to Christ

When Peter entered the house of Cornelius, that was the counsel of God that he declared that led to the salvation of the whole group (Acts 10); it was the counsel that salvation is available in Christ Jesus. To an unbeliever that is the only counsel that is relevant. They are going to hell and Jesus is the way. They are lost in sin and Jesus can become their righteousness (2Corinthians 5:21), he is the way back to God. The love of God is stretched to the entire world through Jesus Christ. He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). Looking for salvation? Come to Christ. There is no need escaping that. If you do not receive that counsel of God of coming to Christ, the other counsels would be irrelevant to you.

Who you are in Christ

There is another message for those who are now Christians, who have received the first counsel of “come to Christ (Hebrews 12:22-24)”; it is the presentation of the counsel of God about who we are now in Christ.

These include the fact that we are blessed with all spiritual blessing in the heavenly places (Ephesians 1:3); he is our sanctification, our wisdom, our righteousness (2Corinthians 5:21); we have been translated from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light (Colossians 1:13); we are new creatures old things have passed away and all things have come new (2Corinthians 5:17); we have authority on earth in the  name of Jesus in the place of prayer; we are now part of the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22-23); and part of his household; as children of God.

Become like Christ

Another level of the counsel of God is focused on our becoming more like Christ.  This is more than coming to Christ, and not about who you are in Christ, though it builds on them.

It is wrong to begin to focus on becoming like Christ if first we don’t know who we are in him, because there is no righteousness that we will express except the ones he has already gifted us with. Becoming like Christ is not an achievement; it is an expression of the ability of Christ for holiness that God has put in us already.

The instructions on becoming like Christ are meant to serve as conduits for the specific outflow of the life of God already in us, in behavior transformation. The bible says that we should be holy because our God is holy and that is because God is in us (1Peter 1:13-22). Holiness is no mystery; it is merely allowing the life of God to flow from us in behavioural terms.

Paul wrote that God is at work in us (because he is in us) both to will and to do of his good pleasure (Philippians 2:12-13). Before that, he wrote that we should work out our salvation with fear and trembling.

Fear is a focus on pleasing God, trembling is the humility to realise that we are incapable of doing that unless we are enabled by God. Working out our salvation, giving behavioural expression to it, is what becoming like Christ is about. But it starts with how you think about yourself, which is where knowing who you are in Christ is important.

Serve like Christ

Ultimately, we are supposed to  serve Christ, this is why the next level of teaching has to do with service, the dynamics of gifting, entering into our divine purpose, understanding our unique gifts and calling and operating in them in his timing.

However, Paul wrote that a novice/a new convert, should not be made a leader in the church, lest the person be puffed up (swell up with pride) and fall into the damnation of the devil (1Timothy 3:6-10). A novice is presumably born again but has not had the foundation of the two earlier points laid in him.

Paul also said another condition for leadership in the church is that the person should have been proved first, and should had a positive reputation among the unbelievers, so that he would not turn out to disgrace the church.

He told Timothy not to lay hands hastily on any man, to appoint into leader position of service so that he would not share in the sin of the person (1Timothy 5:22). What this means is that the fruits of the spirit has a precedent over the works of service. Christ was not always in spiritual leadership position, but he was always in holiness position. But works of service are also fruits of a life invested in dedication of holiness to God as Christ’s.

Conclusion

Each one of the above points has to do with Christ. Paul said that when he comes to the church in Corinthians, that he does not want to know anything among them except Christ and him crucified (1Corinthians 2:2).

Jesus calls himself the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6). You “come to Christ” as the Way, you understand “who you are in him” as the Truth, you “become like him” in his Life and you “serve” by His Spirit, because Jesus did not commence any service until he was specially empowered and commissioned by the Holy Spirit (Mark 1:8-15). So also, you can’t serve effectively or impactful without the Holy Spirit.

Not only that, the Holy Spirit has a role to play in the four levels of the counsel of God. He convicts of Sin to draws you to Christ (John 16:7-12), he is the Spirit of understanding that makes you realise all you are in Christ (Ephesians 1:15-21), he is the Holy Spirit who produces his fruits of holiness in you (Galatians 5:22-23), he is the empowerment for spiritual service (Acts 1:8).

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