THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD
20 You know that I did not hold back from proclaiming to youanything that would be helpful, and from teaching you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith in our Lord Jesus. …..
24 But I do not consider my life worth anything to myself, so that I may finish my task and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace.
25 “And now I know that none of you among whom I went around proclaiming the kingdom will see me again. 26 Therefore I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of you all. 27 For I did not hold back from announcing to you the whole purpose of God. ………..
31 Therefore be alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears. 32 And now I entrust you to God and to the message of his grace. This message is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
We were considering the meaning of “the whole counsel of God” (v27 KJV). This question was raised about pastors and teachers who might be championing certain truths exclusively (e.g. the Gospel of Grace), to the exclusion of other essential teachings, as some commented and critiqued, not criticize (e.g why scant teaching on the letters of Jesus, not just the letters of Paul, our common life – community, bible-study, evidence of the fruit of the Spirit, etc).
All ministers would endeavor and ensure that the ministry, message and teachings must be complete, consisting of all ‘the whole purpose of God’ (NET). Admittedly, this indeed is a daunting task, with the fifty Sundays each year, with a few additional week-night teaching sessions thrown in.
So can we be defensive, justifying and rationalizing that intentionally and practically, we have been complete and balance, majoring on the majors, and not majoring on the minors.
[With regards to feedback or critique or comments, Frank Viola wrote a penetrating blog – “Scratch a Christian and You’ll Find Out What They’re Made Of” (http://frankviola.org/2013/11/20/scratchachristian/)].
One pastor whom I acknowledge and hold up as the best teacher of the Gospel today had this to say. When Paul mentioned about not holding back the whole counsel of God, he was referring to the Gospel of Grace. The interpretation of the “whole counsel of God” can be found in the preceding passage of v24, and the following passage in v32, and v27 sandwiched in between. For in v24, Paul testified to “the good news of God’s grace” and in v32, ”the message of his grace”. Hence the ‘whole counsel of God’ obviously refer to the Gospel of Grace. And one who majors on the good news of grace would be following Paul’s example who 27 …. did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.
Understandably, this makes sense to one who is called to proclaim and advocate the primacy of the Gospel of Grace.
Why is this understandable. A lesson I learnt recently – “to a man with a hammer in his hand, the world is a nail” (a proverb, not a promise, not a proclamation… an anecdote, a preference, a personal answer to prayer, illuminates doctrine, does not formulate doctrine)
I know of someone who has the gift of teaching, making concepts clear. But unconsciously, somehow people often end up being his “students”! In spending casual time with others, the session, whether over lunch or coffee would inevitably turn into a Sunday school or teaching session.
Christ endowed the saints with a diversity of gifts. Each believer is given gifts to make him important, and each believer is given gifts to make him dependent, as each do not have all the gifts. Do we have to be defensive, justifying and rationalizing that intentionally and practically, we have been complete and balance, majoring on the majors, and not really just indulging in our pet topics and themes, and ‘proof-texting’ and cherry picking verses that support my conviction and calling?
Coming back to the meaning of the “whole counsel of God”. So can we conclude that it is the Gospel of Grace because it is sandwiched in context between the two references to grace? Undoubtedly, the whole counsel includes the central message of grace. And I would add that it is more than that. It can also be argued that a better and more direct association can be inferred and implied from v20, as the passage describe the same intensity and ministry of Paul in v27
20 ….. did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable,’
So if one contend earnestly that the whole counsel of God is the gospel of grace, he is correct.
Another is also correct who consider that the whole counsel of God is anything that would be helpful (v20) and it is the whole purpose of God from the dawn of redemption through eternity, to making known the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and things on earth. (Eph 1:9,10)