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)

Debased Gold and Diluted Wine

Robert Wurtz II

Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. (2 Corinthians 4:1–4 ESV)

 

Paul refused to interpret the scriptures like modern liberals interpret the US Constitution — as if it were a living document. The world defines living document (dynamic document) as a document that is continually edited and updated. Since the wording of the Constitution requires amendments to change the easier thing is to alter the interpretation. Liberals typically want an interpretation that shifts over time as the culture changes. On the other hand, originalism seeks to understand and interpret the Constitution based on the original intent and meaning of the Framers. This was similar to Paul’s approach to the scriptures. He refused to tamper with God’s word. 

 

Paul’s approach is effective because it agrees with man’s conscience. The Law of God has been written in the hearts of men from birth. The conscience enforces that Law. When God’s word is preached it resonates in the hearts of men like the proper sound resonates with the corresponding frequency of a tuning fork. He writes, We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” A person’s evil heart may rebel and even make snide remarks about God’s word, but their conscience agrees with it. This is why old-time preachers spoke of preaching to the conscience. It is designed to agree with God. So preach the word because you have a “friend” (the conscience) living inside everyone who hears — sort of like God’s own “amen corner.” If a minister tampers with God’s word the conscience will warn the hearers accordingly. 

 

The Living Word of God 

“For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Hebrews 4:12–13 ESV)

The way the world makes a dead document a “living” one is to constantly update it or reinterpret it so as to fit the immoral whims of the people. Contrarywise, God’s word is a living document that is forever settled in heaven. It cannot be amended. It is “living” in the sense that it carries within itself the grace (power) to accomplish what God has sent it to do. it has the power to expose utterly peoples’ motives and will be the measuring rod of all people at the Great Judgment. Jesus said, Heaven and earth will pass away, but my word will never pass away. 

 

Notice how Paul characterizes the practice of tampering with God’s word… calling it disgraceful and underhanded. In modern times we deal with professing Christians who adulterate God’s word as did the crooks of ancient times debase gold and dilute wine. Snark artists lie in wait to mock God, His word, and the messengers who would preach it undiluted. Sifting through the message for anything they can find to discredit or dismiss it all together. God is hip to their ways just as Paul was unmoved by such disgraceful antics. He would preach the word to people until nobodies blood was on his hands… no matter how many assaults or insults he endured (physical, verbal, or any other means). Both Jew and Gentile tried to kill Paul because he preached the truth undiluted. 

 

 

False Professors of Christ

But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. (2 Peter 2:1 ESV)

Peter is warning us. Understand that no-one is a Christian who does not agree with God and His word no matter what they profess. In fact, these people are dangerous! I have often said that the threat of the future for genuine Christians will be false Christians. I expect to see false Christians begin persecuting true Christians in the very near future. We would see it already if true Christians were more outspoken about God’s word. False Christians are people who actually believe they are Christians and believe they have received His Spirit — but are in fact agents of the enemy. Just as the sinful false prophets of old told the Israelites lies — there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. They agree with the world rather than God on a host of topics and berate ministers who actually preach the truth. When these false believers preach or teach — it’s debased gold and diluted wine. Always bear that in mind. 

 

How Can This Be?

When people refuse to agree with God they are playing into the hands of Satan. Paul continues his thoughts, And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled only to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” (2 Corinthians 4:1–4 ESV) The “god of the world” is clearly Satan. He is blinding multitudes of people still today. However, Paul was commissioned of Christ to open the eyes of those who were in darkness. That is to say, to undo the blinding effects of Satan and his lies. This would have been impossible to do if he had tampered with God’s word. 

 

Paul was forever having to deal with deceived people who corrupted the Gospel. This was true all the way to the end. They were deceiving and being deceived. We read in 2 Timothy about Alexander the Coppersmith. Here is a man who did Paul, “Much evil” by preaching falsehood about topics like the resurrection. For that, Paul turned him over to Satan that he would learn, “not to blaspheme.” After that and all other measures failed, Paul said that God would reward him according to his works. No matter what Paul did to bring this man to repentance — nothing worked. He was blind and he blinded others with his errors. He was a “debaser of gold” and a “diluter of wine” as it were. He tampered with God’s word and as best as we know is paying for his crime with his everlasting soul. 

Preaching the Gospel in Absentia

Robert Wurtz II

“I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to wise and to unwise. So, as much as is in me, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also. For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.” (Romans 1:14–16 NKJV)

Many commentators and Bible students read Romans 1:14-16 and are met with a mystery. Why would Paul preach the Gospel to people who had already heard it? In fact, he rejoices because word of their faith was said to have reached the “whole world.” Why did they need to hear the Gospel again? Some suggest that Paul was asserting his authority over the saints at Rome (particularly the Gentiles) because he was “an apostle to the Gentiles” and that task had been committed to him.

Many Greek scholars agree that the church at Rome came about through the preaching of the saints sent out from the “mother church” at Jerusalem. This means there was likely a Jewish emphasis. If this is true it would follow that Paul would address the believing Jews in the manner that he did. Yet perhaps Paul felt responsible for making sure that all the saints at Rome fully understood the Gospel. Having never met them face to face and having nothing to go on but what he had heard concerning their faith — I think he played it safe and re-preached the Gospel to them all over again. Indeed, the book of Romans is an example of Paul’s Gospel message as it would have been preached to people who he had no way of knowing where they stood with God.

When Paul met up with the first believers at Ephesus he asked them if they received the Holy Spirit when they believed. He soon found out that they had received only John’s baptism — which by that time had already expired and was no longer effectual. Their response was to be rebaptized in water. The Greek word for re-baptism is ἀναβαπτισμός (anabaptismos). This is ἀνα (ana or “Re”) and βαπτισμός (baptismos or “baptism”) We get the name Anabaptist from this word. With this event in mind, I suggest that Paul was re-preaching the Gospel to the saints at Rome — in much the same way the early Ephesians needed a re-baptism. Paul simply could not risk the possibility that there was some defect in their understanding or experience. The only way to be sure was to re-preach the Gospel to them.

There is one Greek word that translates the English words preach the Gospel, and it’sevangelisasthai. We get our word evangelize from the cognate of this Greek word εὐαγγελίζω (evangelizo). So if ἀναἀναβαπτισμός is used for anabaptism or re-baptism; perhaps we need to coin a new word Anavangelism and Anavangelist. Instead of re-baptizing folks, we re-preach the Gospel to make sure that the people heard the right message. Many false Gospel messages have gone out into the land. Would it be fair to say that if Paul was concerned enough to pen a message such as Romans that we ought likewise to be concerned about what people are hearing, believing, and responding to today?

Can you imagine being in Rome and picking up the message of Romans and reading it for the first time? Our attention would be arrested when we read, “I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome also…” Many sermons have been published over the last 500 years. Sometimes when I read one of John Wesley, George Whitefield, or some other dear saint — I’m transported to the time and place. I can almost hear them preaching to me. I get the same feeling when I read Romans. Did you know that the entire book of Romans can be read aloud in just over an hour? I have sat through sermons that were two hours long. I have a hunch that Paul could have preached the entire message of Romans in one sermon. As good of a grasp as Paul had of the Gospel, I believe he could have done it extemporaneously.

What did we think Paul meant when he said plainly, I am ready to preach the gospel to you who are in Rome, and then went on with his message? He was preaching the Gospel in Absentia. That is to say, he was not present physically but nevertheless he preached to them. Modern scholars get all tied up debating whether it’s a letter (epistle) or a didactic teaching, etc. They wear themselves out trying to find a category for the book because it is so unlike the other epistles in the Pauline corpus. They want to know why he comes off so strong thundering against sin.

Some almost complain that it’s not soft and as easily entreated like the epistles. Of course, it’s not like the epistles, those were written to the saints. Not knowing where the people at Rome stood with God, he took it for granted that he needed to preach to them the “whole lot” as if they had never heard the Gospel. And that’s why we have it in its completeness.

What did Paul preach to the Jews, Greeks, Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise…” (Romans 1:14 KJV)? Why does Romans sound resoundingly like Paul’s preaching at Mars Hill? Why does it agree with Acts chapter 26? I suggest quite simply that Romans was a sermon preached in Absentia. It contained within its body the essential message necessary to “… open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me.” (Acts 26:18 NKJV) It even contains an “invitation” towards the end, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:1–2 NKJV)

What a difference it would make if all ministers took Paul’s approach to making sure the people heard the Gospel properly.