What Is The Whole Counsel of God?

The Gospel reveals a God who accepts imperfect men. We are not accepted by God because “we have it all together.” The Gospel reveals that NOTHING we do can earn God’s love or salvation.

The Apostle Paul makes this clear in Ephesians 2.

Ephesians 2:1-3 (NKJV)

1 And you He made alive, who were DEAD IN TRESPASSES AND SINS, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

“Death” is used here (vs. 1) to show that there was nothing we could do to be saved. A dead man is TOTALLY helpless.

If a man is saved, it is because God has been merciful, not because of anything he has done.

Vv. 4-6 makes this crystal clear, “But God, who is RICH IN MERCY, because of His GREAT LOVE with which He loved us, even when we were DEAD IN TRESPASSES, made us alive together with Christ (BY GRACE YOU HAVE BEEN SAVED), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.

The reason why we can be saved is because of what God did, not what WE do.

Therefore vv. 8-9 say, “For BY GRACE you have been saved through faith, and that NOT OF YOURSELVES; it is the GIFT of God, NOT OF WORKS, lest ANYONE should boast.

The Gospel is therefore a revelation of God’s grace. The word “grace” translates the Greek word “charis” which means “unmerited favor.” It refers to kindness received, without doing anything to deserve it.

Thus, God saves us, IRRESPECTIVE of us. Therefore, the Gospel is a message of GRACE.

In Acts 20:24, Paul calls it “the Gospel of the Grace of God” or “the Gospel of Grace.

Acts 20:24 (NKJV)

24 But none of these things move me; nor do I count my life dear to myself, so that I may finish my race with joy, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD.

The word “gospel” means “good news” or a good message. So this Gospel is the good news of God’s unmerited favour—God is being merciful to men who, by themselves, cannot earn His mercy.

In vs. 32, Paul calls the Gospel “the word of His Grace

Acts 20:32 (NKJV)

32 “So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to THE WORD (or message) OF HIS GRACE, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Earlier, he had referred to the same as the preaching of the Kingdom of God.

Acts 20:25 (NKJV)

25 “And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the KINGDOM OF GOD, will see my face no more.

He is referring to the SAME THING. The Gospel of the Grace of God (vs. 24), the word (or message) of His Grace (vs. 32) and the preaching of the Kingdom of God (vs. 25) are parallel statements, equivalent to each other.

Then Paul uses yet another synonymous term to qualify the Gospel which he preached. He calls it “the whole counsel of God” in vv. 26-27.

Acts 20:26-27 (NKJV)

26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. 27 For I have not shunned to declare to you the WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD (or “ALL the counsel of God,” the Greek says).

Now, the “whole counsel of God” here (vs. 27) is the Gospel of His Grace, contextually. Recall that Paul is using similar statements to describe the same thing. This counsel would be the Gospel of the Grace of God (vs. 24), the word (or message) of His Grace (vs. 32) and the preaching Kingdom of God (vs. 25).

The whole counsel of God therefore refers to what God did in Christ to take care of the sin problem (His plan of salvation, as revealed in the Gospel). Once this is preached, the preacher has is now innocent of the blood of those who reject this message. This is what Paul means in vs. 26. He says, “I am innocent of the blood of all men.

Our Lord Jesus had explained this in Matthew 10, where He sent out the Twelve to preach.

Matthew 10:14-15 (NKJV)

14 And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, SHAKE OFF THE DUST from your feet. 15 Assuredly, I say to you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city!

To “shake the dust off the feet” was common practice amongst the Jews. It was an outward show of exhaustion. The one who does this indicates that he has given up, having tried his best to convince another. He is no longer responsible for him/her.

So Jesus is saying here, “If they refuse your preaching, you’ve tried your best. Let them be!

This, Paul and Barnabas did, in Acts 13.

Acts 13:49-52 (NKJV)

49 And the word of the Lord was being spread throughout all the region. 50 But the Jews stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region. 51 But they SHOOK OFF THE DUST FROM THEIR FEET against them, and came to Iconium. 52 And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.

Having been rejected by the Jews, the missionaries (Paul and Barnabas) make it clear that the blood of the Jews was now on their own heads. They had discharged their obligation to preach.

This practice is actually traceable to Ezekiel 33. This text tells the parable of the Watchman.

The watchman in ancient Israel was one appointed to stand guard at the watchtower (an elevated structure at the city gate). From his duty post at the watchtower, he inspected the land, especially during times of war, to sight approaching enemies. Upon spotting incoming foes, he was to sound an alarm in the city.

Ezekiel 33:1-4 (NKJV)

1 Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, 2 “Son of man, SPEAK to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him THEIR WATCHMAN. 3 when he SEES THE SWORD COMING upon the land, if he BLOWS the trumpet and WARNS the people, 4 then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and DOES NOT TAKE WARNING, if the sword comes and takes him away, his BLOOD SHALL BE ON HIS OWN HEAD.

Notice that the people’s survival did not rest solely on the Watchman. They too had the duty to heed his distress signals (i.e. the loud blasts from his trumpet), either in getting ready for battle, or in fleeing in escape. The one who refused to do so had “his blood on his own head.” And the reason for this is simple—he had refused the warning of the Watchman. The Watchman would not be held responsible for his death.

Vs. 5 make this clear, “HE HEARD the sound of the trumpet, but DID NOT TAKE WARNING; his BLOOD SHALL BE UPON HIMSELF. But he who TAKES WARNING will SAVE HIS LIFE.

However, in a case where the Watchman is negligent or nonchalant, and fails to warn the city, he would be held liable for any destruction therein.

This principle is found in vs. 6, “But if the Watchman sees the sword coming and DOES NOT BLOW THE TRUMPET, and the people ARE NOT WARNED, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood I WILL REQUIRE AT THE WATCHMAN’S HAND.’

So the Watchman would be held accountable for the destruction of those he did not warn. The task of the Watchman is used here as a parable and every parable has an interpretation (“anima”). Its interpretation is found in the succedent verses (vv. 7-9).

Ezekiel is Yahweh’s Watchman, His preacher, “So you, son of man: I HAVE MADE YOU A WATCHMAN FOR THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL; therefore you shall HEAR A WORD from My mouth and WARN THEM FOR ME” (vs. 7).

Ezekiel is shouldered with the task of relaying God’s warnings to the people. He would be guilty of their blood if he did not warn them, “When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and YOU DO NOT SPEAK TO WARN THE WICKED from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; BUT HIS BLOOD I WILL REQUIRE AT YOUR HAND” (vs. 8).

Ezekiel would however not be held responsible for the destruction of those who deliberately, by exercise of their own volition, reject his warnings, “Nevertheless IF YOU WARN the wicked to turn from his way, and HE DOES NOT TURN from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but YOU HAVE DELIVERED YOUR SOUL” (vs. 9).

The principle here is this: the one who has preached has absolved himself of responsibility over the one who refuses his message. This is exactly what Paul says in Acts 20:25-27.

Paul says in vs. 25, “And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I HAVE GONE PREACHING the kingdom of God, will see my face no more.

He proclaimed the Gospel as God’s Watchman at Ephesus (see Acts 18:19, 19:8-10, 11-20). The “you all” (in vs. 25) are the Ephesians, contextually (see Acts 20:17). Now, because he had carried out his duty by preaching, he says in vs. 26, “Therefore I testify to you this day that I am INNOCENT OF THE BLOOD of all men.” This is identical to what is obtainable in Ezekiel 33:4. He (Paul) would not be held liable for withholding saving information from the perishing—he had preached the Gospel to them!

He says in vs. 27, “For I have NOT SHUNNED to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” So Paul had preached the Gospel to those at Ephesus. That preaching of the Gospel is what he refers to here as “the whole counsel of God“!

The “whole counsel of God” here (Vs. 27) is not EVERY SUBJECT in the Bible (like some people teach). It is simply the message of the Gospel; the Grace of God towards sinful men. This is the whole counsel of God in the Scriptures, right from Genesis.

This is what Paul did not keep back from the Ephesians, “How I kept back NOTHING THAT WAS HELPFUL, but PROCLAIMED IT TO YOU, and TAUGHT YOU PUBLICLY and from house to house” (vs. 20).

Now, what did he proclaim and teach? Vs. 21 tells us, “testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, REPENTANCE TOWARD GOD and FAITH TOWARD OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.” This is what is “helpful” to the sinner.

Paul proclaimed and taught the Gospel—believing in Christ, the Grace of God, for salvation! So Paul is simply saying, “I didn’t hold back from teaching you THE GOSPEL.” He terms the same “REPENTANCE TOWARD GOD and FAITH TOWARD OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST.” This is the message of the Gospel, not EVERY SUBJECT from the Bible.

So we can teach different subjects from the Bible, but what Paul calls “THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD” is the Gospel of Grace, the plan of God in Salvation.

That same word “counsel” (“boulé” in the Greek) is used in Acts 2, referring to God’s plan in salvation.

Acts 2:22-24 (NKJV)

22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know 23 Him, being delivered by the determined PURPOSE (“boulé”—counsel) and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, HAVE CRUCIFIED, and put to DEATH; 24 WHOM GOD RAISED UP, having LOOSED THE PAINS OF DEATH, because it was not possible that HE SHOULD BE HELD BY IT.

The “counsel of God” (in vs. 23) is summarized as the death and resurrection of Christ for sins. This is the Gospel of God’s Grace.

This word “counsel” appears again in Acts 4, where the disciples of Christ pray for boldness.

Acts 4:27-28 (NKJV)

27 “For truly against Your HOLY SERVANT JESUS, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together 28 to do whatever Your hand and Your PURPOSE (“boulé”—counsel) determined before to be done.

The disciples are referring to how Pilate and the Jews took Jesus, God’s Holy Servant, and killed Him. Again, this is called “His purpose” (vs. 28) or “counsel” (boulé), the SAME WORD used in Acts 20:27. God’s plan all along was that Jesus would die and be raised for the sins of man. This is His whole counsel. This counsel or His will is in salvation, saving the lost by His Grace.

The Apostle Paul uses this same word “counsel” again in Ephesians 1, referring to salvation.

Ephesians 1:11-12 (NKJV)

11 In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the COUNSEL (boulé) of His will, 12 that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory.

Here, everything we received in salvation is called “the counsel of His will.

It is therefore clear that the New Testament writers (as well as the Early Christians) understood God’s counsel to be primarily the salvation of sinful men. This is what the Gospel of Grace reveals.

The message of the Scriptures is salvation, “And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, WHICH ARE ABLE TO MAKE YOU WISE FOR SALVATION through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15). That is THE message of the Scriptures.

Thus, we may teach on honour from the Bible, but honour is not THE message of the Bible. It is not the whole counsel of God!

We can teach against materialism from the Bible, but materialism is not THE message of the Bible. Contentment is not the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27), although we SHOULD be content!

We can learn from the stories in the Bible on how to live. Romans 15:4 says that, “For whatever things were WRITTEN BEFORE were WRITTEN FOR OUR LEARNING, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures MIGHT HAVE HOPE.

However, these stories and the virtues they encourage are not THE MESSAGE of the Scriptures. THE message of the Scriptures is what God did in Christ to remedy the sin problem (which is our salvation). This is the Gospel of Grace which Paul preached. This is the WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.


No comments yet. Why don’t you start the discussion?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *