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)

Faith in the Fire

Robert Wurtz II

In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith—the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:6–9 NKJV)

If there is one thing that is certain about our Christian faith, sooner or later it is going to be tested. God has ordained for this to be and it is as sure as the Sun rising in the morning. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that God shakes everything that can be shaken so that the things that cannot be shaken will remain (Heb. 12:27). Haggai 2:6 promises that, when it is time for the final judgment and the end of this age, God will shake not only the earth but also the heavens. All that will remain is what cannot be shaken, namely the kingdom that Christ shares with those who continue to trust in Him (IVP/NBC).

Our passage in 1 Peter 1:6-9 contains a phrase that reveals two types of faith. Peter speaks of the “genuineness of your faith” and by implication, there must likewise be a counterfeit faith. The genuine type of faith is more precious than gold, leading to the salvation of the soul. Counterfeit faith is less than worthless because it masquerades as the genuine article — soliciting the trust of all who encounter it. Like counterfeit currency that is discovered at the time of payment, counterfeit faith ends in misplaced confidence.  What a let-down!

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice to the extent that you partake of Christ’s sufferings, that when His glory is revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy. (1 Peter 4:12–13 NKJV)

Peter tells us to not be surprised or astounded when the fiery trial comes as though something strange is happening. As dreadful as it is, it is perfectly normal. Some of the oldest and most provoking stories in the Bible deal with sufferings and trials. God uses fiery trials for a multitude of reasons. Yet suffering is always used by our opportunistic enemy to bring doubt. Job’s wife caved in and told him to “curse God and die” when he had lost everything and was covered in boils. She failed the test — though he passed with flying colors.

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Trials are often extreme tests of faith. In fact, Peter uses a Greek word for fiery that could be translated as a furnace. We find it in Proverbs 27:21 related to the smelting of metals. What is happening? Our faith is being tested. Keep in mind that the original readers of Peter’s words were under extreme persecution. The KJV does not give the sense of the present tense as it is in the Greek (is trying you) but implies some future event (is to try you). However, Christians were already in the furnace (as it were) as Nero is said to have killed Christians for sport. This was on top of all of the ordinary trials of life that result from the fall of man (death, disease, etc.). Christians were tied to long poles, dipped in pitch, set ablaze and raised to be street lamps during the night. That was a very literal fiery trial. There were other unconscionable tortures employed as well. Most people will never experience anything so gruesome. Yet more or less we are all going to be tested in this world.

Finally, notice again what Peter says, “In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials…” The AV (KJV) has the rendering, “Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations.” The Holy Spirit, through Peter, wants us to know that in light of eternity the “various trials” are only a “little while” or “for a season.” When the trials finally end and we pass from this life we have all of eternity to rejoice that our faith withstood the test, purified in a furnace, resulting in the salvation of our soul.