The Whole Counsel of God

(Acts 20:13-38)

In these verses we see Paul hurrying to get to Jerusalem to try and be there by Pentecost Day. As he journeyed he came to a place near Ephesus named Miletus. While there he called for the elders of the Ephesian church to join him so he could speak with them.

The whole counsel of God
The whole counsel of God

The things he said teach us also for we see here what the work was Paul did amongst them and what he expected of them as they went forward. There were warnings and exhortations in Paul's message and we too need to heed those same words for they are wisdom.

One of the key messages was in regard to giving them the whole counsel of God. That is the message to all who are in positions of ministry in the church so we should heed those words even more closely.

The Whole Counsel of God

Paul shows the elders of Ephesus that while he had been among them, he did not hold back anything of the word of God. Everything that God had given to Paul he passed on to the Ephesian church.

This is quite a different attitude to the ways of the world. In the world they say, “Knowledge is power.” By that they mean that if you know something it puts you in a powerful position for you can lord it over other, be held in other men's esteem, use the knowledge to build yourself up and profit personally from this knowledge.

But this is not the way of God or Jesus Christ. Nor was it the way of Paul or any of the other apostles. They knew their place was to take the knowledge and counsel of The Lord and use it for the benefit of others. Knowledge was not kept hidden to make them indispensable. Instead it was passed on to teach and help other to grow. And by doing this they were operating in the love of God.

Paul understood the way the world uses knowledge for he wrote in 1 Corinthians 8:1-3,

… we know that “all of us possess knowledge.” This “knowledge” puffs up, but love builds up. 2 If anyone imagines that he knows something, he does not yet know as he ought to know. 3 But if anyone loves God, he is known by God.

Knowledge is fine if it is used to help others. But when it is used to make yourself or consider yourself better than someone else, that is pride and that is how knowledge can puff a person up into thinking they are something when they are nothing.

But although Paul had a lot of knowledge, he used that knowledge and passed it all on so that others could grow. His aim was to make Christians that could stand alone, fully knowing and understanding the truth and capable of helping others to find the way.

Handing Over Authority

We see the result of giving the elders and people in Ephesus the whole counsel of God in Paul's words where he states clearly that they will not see him again. But twice he says to them (in verses 20 and 27), that he did not shrink from giving them the whole counsel of God and teaching them anything and everything they needed to know to walk in the fulness of Jesus Christ.

The people he was speaking to were the elders and leaders of the church in Ephesus and in telling them he would no longer see them again he was handing over authority and responsibility for the church to these men to carry the teaching forward and to build the church. Their responsibility was now to work with the flock in their charge and to help them grow and mature, just as Paul had helped these early disciples to come to fulness in Christ.

In this last meeting he shows he is confident they can do the ministry to which they were appointed as elders, but Paul also warns them of things to come. He knew about hardships, afflictions, abuse, antagonism and the hatred of those who stood against Jesus Christ. The Ephesian would be well aware of the struggle they would have for it was there that Demetrius the silversmith roused the craftsmen of the city to stand against Paul.

Wolves Among You

Paul gave the elders a number of warnings. He knew what would come upon them when he was gone for it is the same attack that satan uses in every church. Satan attempts to destroy churches because he is the destroyer. And note how he does this in the warnings of Paul to the Ephesians.

28 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. 29 I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears. 32 And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.

Paul talks of “fierce wolves” coming on the church to destroy them. He is not talking about wild animals, but people who behave like those wild animals. Think about wolves for a moment. They hunt in packs, they are fierce, they are cunning and they come upon their prey swiftly to kill and devour. They single out the weaker animals in a herd and attack those.

The human wolves Paul is speaking of will behave in the same way. They too will single out those weak in mind and spirit and attempt to sway them to side with the wolves. They do this by cunning and craftiness and they appeal to the emotions to try to make people do what they want rather than what God wants.

Even worse there will be some wolves that are not from outside, but who have come from within the church itself. They appear to be good members of the body but it is their own flesh and their own passions they follow rather than the ways of The Lord.

These warnings are as valid today as they were back then to the Ephesian church. Wolves are still with us for satan still rules this world and will continue to do so until the appointed time when God throws him out and replaces this evil rule with the rule of God. When Christ returns to the earth and His kingdom is established, then peace will reign.

Until then though we need the whole counsel of God so that we can grow and learn just as the early church did. We need the power of The Lord working in us and in the church through the actions of the Holy Spirit. We need the understanding of the foundational teaching of the covenant in which we stand for a strong foundation is what enables us to stand in the face of the satanic onslaught of this world.

And in the whole counsel of God we need to understand His love, His grace and His mercy so that in Jesus Christ we too can be victorious over the evil passions of this life and learn to live in Christ.

(Photo sourced from stock.xchng taken by Billy Alexander)

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