The Whole Counsel of God

The Whole Counsel of God

Robert Wurtz II

Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word (Acts 4:29 NKJV). 

Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. (Acts 20:26–27 KJV)

There is hardly a day that goes by without news of Christians being backed into a corner someplace. The forces of hell work feverously to put a stop to the message of the Gospel and few seem to know what the solution is. Something is missing. We are inundated with technology and talent. We are moved by the pithy sayings of smooth talking hipsters and stupefied by endless – meaningless drivel that masquerades as “preaching.” While the world is growing darker by the day and becoming increasingly intolerant of what the NT calls “sound doctrine” — we are being pushed to a precipice in which our only option is going to be to surrender or charge!         

The church of the book of Acts had no trouble knowing what to do or what to preach in these situations. In fact, some of the most straight-forward preaching known to man comes right from the pages of the book of Acts. They met the people where they were in their heart and understanding. Not a single soul heard a seeker-friendly, preacher-safety, message like we hear today, “Jesus loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” That message may be safe to preach, but it rarely saves anybody. If it does “save” someone they typically end up being the type of believer that thinks that real preaching is harsh and that calling sin -SIN is judging people. Can you see the kind of mess that’s been made?

When Peter stood up and preached in the book of Acts he told the people like it is. He knew what to say and he had the boldness to say it. It was not his words and it was not his boldness. When he received the Holy Spirit, he went from a man who cowered down to a woman who asked about his relationship to Christ — to a man who could face a firing squad for Jesus. He was a preacher of the Gospel and that Gospel contained the whole counsel of God. This means that he left nothing out. He called sin -SIN and he called the people to repentance and faith.

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. (Acts 2:38–42 NKJV)

Micah the Moreshite prophet preaching to the Israelites

Peter first called the people to change their mind and come into agreement with God about everything He has revealed. This is the part where the crowd gets angry. This is the part where the preacher takes his life into his own hands. Anybody can preach gentle Jesus meek and mild, but people have got to repent. They have got to come into agreement with God or there is no way forward. We may as well pack up and go home if we won’t preach repentance. Some will gladly receive the word and some will angrily reject it. Whether its the proclamation, the teaching, or the good news… (kerygma, didache, or evangelica), the fundamental revelation is to repent, believe the Gospel, and receive the Holy Spirit.

When Paul was leaving Ephesus he reminded the leaders concerning the content of his ministry. He told them plainly, “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26–27 KJV). This is a flashback to Ezekiel when God told the prophet to warn the people or that their blood would be on his hands (Ezekiel 33:8). Paul had been warned repeatedly that when he arrived at Jerusalem that chains and afflictions awaited him. Yet he still pressed forward and continued to preach to everyone until he was free from their blood upon his hands. He died in Rome under Nero — who obviously was not trying to hear his message.

In the face of demons and danger, Peter and the disciples knew that they needed supernatural power to proclaim the truth in a world that will not put up with it. We can echo with him the words, Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word (Acts 4:29 NKJV). This is what we need today. First, we need to know and preach the full counsel of God. Secondly, we need the BOLDNESS to preach it without fear or favor.  They didn’t pray to preach in love or peace because they already had those fruit of the Spirit in their lives. What happened?     

And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. (Acts 4:31 NKJV)

Two Answers to Prayer

Robert Wurtz II

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Corinthians 12:7–9 NKJV)

Our passage reveals to us that in the final analysis there are two answers to prayer. Paul pleaded with the Lord in prayer three times for his thorn in the flesh to be removed. He was hoping at some point for relief. In other words, he wanted the Lord to grant his petition with a “yes.” God had other plans and a greater purpose.

It would be superfluous for me to say that God doesn’t always give us what we desire. In times of trouble, we typically want relief. We want God to intervene. When He doesn’t we sometimes question, why not? Paul approached his problem differently. He never complained or charged God foolishly. He had confidence that He was fulfilling God’s purposes for his life and understood that nothing befalls us as Christians without our Heavenly Father’s knowledge and tender care.

Paul came to realize that the reason why God allowed the thorn in the flesh (whatsoever it was we cannot say) was so that he would rely on the power of Christ and not his own strength. Paul found himself in a place of weakness. In fact, the late great Greek scholar A.T. Robertson commented on this passage saying that the thorn in the flesh was as a messenger from Satan personified. He further remarked, “The messenger of Satan kept slapping Paul in the face and Paul now sees that it was God’s will for it to be so.”

God doesn’t take pleasure in his children being abused of Satan. Nevertheless, He will allow Satan to bring trouble into our life for God’s purposes. Satan knows our weaknesses and he will exploit them to the fullest extent that God will allow him to. This is why we often deal with the same old problems. Satan will hit the same sore places in our hearts and lives over and over again. Sometimes it’s like the same old song… just a different verse.

God answers our prayers with yes and no. I think it is that simple. Sometimes the yes is delayed. In other words, “yes… but not right now.” When God answers our prayer with “no” we can rest assured that we will receive the same enabling that Paul received. It is not just no, it is no, but my grace is sufficient. No, but I will enable you to endure what you are going through. Although we prefer our lives to be painless and problem-free… Paul put the best construction on his troubles. He refused to be pain and problem free and powerless. This is why he writes, Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.    

Leaders or Laborers?

Robert Wurtz II

“But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the laborers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:36–38 KJV)

“And he said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them, and those in authority over them are called benefactors. But not so with you. Rather, let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. For who is the greater, one who reclines at table or one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at table? But I am among you as the one who serves.” (Luke 22:25–27 ESV)

There is a deadly disease that I have observed among the sons of men. Its symptoms manifest in a variety of ways — not the least of which is a desire to be a leader without being a laborer. Search the internet for materials on Christian leadership and you will find a lifetime worth of study. Search for materials on being a laborer in the Kingdom and… not-so-much. Many of these studies are taken up with who will be in charge of what or who will be under whose “covering.” There is a disturbing preoccupation with men desiring to rule over other men (and women). Many go so far as to refer to themselves as servants, but in reality, live to be served. 

Jesus Christ was the greatest leader of all ages, but He was also a servant of all. When He saw the crowds of people coming He didn’t tell the disciples to pray for more leaders; He told them to pray for laborers. Perhaps that’s because He intended to be the Leader? Perhaps the verses that He would later inspire concerning Himself being the Head of the Body were to be taken seriously? I can’t help but say that while men are looking for good leaders; God is looking for good laborers.

Perhaps what we need is a new definition of a leader? A leader is a person who takes the lead in the labors. They head out into the “field” inspiring others to follow them. The harvest is plentiful. Laborers are needed. We are instructed to pray for people to come and assist us in the work. The people who move to the front in the work — moved with compassion for the multitudes — responding to the needs at hand — are the leaders. Some may want the title of leader — but few want the work of being a laborer. You will recognize them by their willingness to refer to people who do not submit to their authority as rebels. Why should we submit to them? We’re leading a work in the fields. Selah. 

The first church I recall attending as a child was a Baptist Church on Blue Ridge Blvd. in Kansas City. I was about four years old at the time. Laborers had taken it upon themselves to procure, maintain, and man about ten retired school buses to bring children to their meetings. They were all painted sky blue and white. They were quite a site sitting parked in perfect order along the back of the church. You could see them from the Interstate — a testament to the laborers who traveled to the fields. I drove by there last week and all the old buses are gone. Lots of messages on leadership. Where are the laborers?

I suggest that what we need today is a revival of laboring in the Gospel. We need people with a burden for souls. Not just a burden for people who can pay and support the church, but for the children, the elderly, and the down and out. We need laborers who value all souls the same regardless of age, race, color, or social class. We need people who can look at a four-year-old and see a soul who will spend eternity some place. We need laborers who can look at an elderly person in a wheelchair and beg God to give them one last chance to get saved. 

Away with popularity! Away with personality! Away with distinction and ambition! We need a generation to rise up with a willingness to work in the fields where no praise is given — no accolades are presented. We need God to send us people who will be moved by His Spirit to do the work of the ministry without having to be told to do it. That’s a leader. It’s not a person who wants to be “submitted to.” A leader is a person who labors in God’s fields faithfully and cheerfully. It’s their desire. It’s their meat. It’s their life. God give us people like Stephen who will wait on tables. 

God give us people who will spend and be spent in whatever way they are physically able. Give us people who will present their bodies for your service as living sacrifices. To go and pick up children and bring them to church. To train them and instruct them in the ways of God. To visit the sinners in bondage with the Gospel. To encourage the elderly in their pain and sorrows to finish the race strong. Give us people who could care less about being known as leaders. Give us people who are tired of talking about it and are ready to get out there and do it. Amen.