How much do we understand about God? How well do we know Him? For a lot of people these are big questions; too big to give an adequate answer. God is, in a sense, incomprehensible. His wisdom, His knowledge, His power is infinite in character and nature, and reaches well beyond the understandings of our finite minds. This is true and will always be true and I would think most believers know and accept this without argument. But when I ask, how much do we understand about God, I’m not referencing His incomprehensible and infinite attributes. What I point to are God’s counsels – His purposes and plans. I reference what He has already revealed concerning Himself, and these counsels. And what God has revealed is ours (the believer’s) to understand and comprehend. It certainly is – all of it. As a Christian, do you truly believe this?
“The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
Moses, by the Spirit of God, is saying that there are hidden things concerning God. However that which God reveals belongs as a possession to the nation of Israel. I realize this speaks of the law given to Israel and their performing it, but what we also see is the principle that what God reveals is to be known and understood by those He reveals it to. Now in this light and with this understanding, let us look at this next verse, which shows the same principle, but has a different object of revelation.
“…for of his fullness we all have received, and grace upon grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”
The overall principle stays the same – what God reveals is to be known and understood by those He reveals it to. The object of revelation is certainly different – the law came by Moses, but this revelation is grace and truth by Jesus Christ. It is distinct and quite different, as is the instrument God uses to bring forth this new revelation. I will not go into the details of these distinctions now, but simply make the point that they are obviously here. I will point out this one difference as a further insight in understanding. The group to whom He reveals has changed; the Law of Moses was to Israel, but grace and truth to believers in Christ. This distinction becomes an important one, and is fully explained as we go through the entire book. But first, we need to understand more about God’s ways in revealing His truth.
Believers have a More Intimate Relationship with God
“He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.”
God showed Israel His works (deeds), but to Moses His ways. This scripture alludes to an intimacy of relationship between Moses and God that Israel, as a nation did not have or benefit from. The believer has an intimate relationship with God as well, of which Moses was a prefiguring (a type). The believer/church has this intimacy through Christ – we are sons of God, we are His body, we are His bride (Eph. 5:26-32). We are bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh, and every bit united to Him.
“You are my friends if you do what I command you. I don’t call you servants any longer, because servants don’t know what their master is doing. Instead, I call you friends, because everything I heard from my Father I have made known to you.”
The believer has been invited by God into His counsels. It is God’s desire that we know His plans and purposes. In showing forth this relationship in scripture, God uses Abraham also as a type prefiguring the believer concerning this. Abraham had a more intimate relationship with God than that of his nephew Lot. God said to him, “shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?” (Gen 18:17).
God gives His Spirit, so the Believer may know and understand
God’s purpose in giving revelation is for the church to gain understanding of it by the Spirit, the revealer of truth. It is never for the purpose of confusion or to maintain a state of mystery. We also have definite statements that encourage the believer that the revelation from God can be understood in its fullest.
I Cor. 2:6-16
“We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained…for our glory,…but God has revealed them to us through His Spirit…yes, the deep things of God…no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received…the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we speak…in words…which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual…but we have the mind of Christ.”
Again I’ll say, the believer has been invited into the counsels of God. Sure, God is infinite, and His knowledge and wisdom is light-years beyond our finite minds, and there is mystery associated with God; but what God reveals is ours to understand, as sons and not servants in the house of God (John 15:14-17).And this is all the difference; we are sons and not servants. We have not been left in the dark. We have been given the mind of Christ, and the plans and ways of God are ours to know and understand, as sons in the household of our Father. It is the believer’s privilege. And it is God’s good pleasure to do so.
“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace, which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself.”
It is important for us to know and believe this. It is the reason I have for writing this book. I believe the Holy Spirit can work in the hearts and minds of believers to open up understanding of the Scriptures. In these days it is sad to see how little comprehension and clarity Christians possess of God’s Word. And it is even more so to see ministers in the church struggle to rightly divide the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15). Often confusion and frustration reign. However it should not be like this. I find that God is willing, no, more than willing – it is His good pleasure to reveal His thoughts and purposes to us.
Seek only God’s Thoughts from His Word
There is a tremendous difference between God’s thoughts, found in God’s Word, revealed by God’s Spirit, and the thoughts and teachings of man. All teachers should have the desire and goal to only share and teach His thoughts, as they are revealed in His Word, unfolded by the Spirit. We must be able to separate out, by the same Spirit, the ways of men, and the erroneous teachings of the carnal mind.
Now I realize that what I’ve just written sounds so mystical and esoteric, and may bring laughter to some, but the difference between the two ways is real. Man’s failure in his responsibility in the church to seek only God’s thoughts, has been the cause of much confusion and blindness. The house of the living God, the body of Christ, is the pillar and ground of the truth (I Tim. 3:15). The revelation of truth from God is simply not found anywhere else, not in its entirety. And we know that it is easier to wrongly divide the scriptures due to a lack of effort and diligence, than it is to rightly divide scripture (II Tim. 2:15).
As believers, we should desire to be enlightened by the truth, to possess the true light of scripture taught by the Spirit of God. Knowledge of God’s thoughts, intentions, and plans should distinguish the church. Will we ever possess the ability to calmly and soundly judge, as believers, all that is presented to us? We have this godly ability, for God says He has given to us the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16).
The Christian World Turns to Unsound Doctrine
If a believer is too busy in his life to examine scripture for himself, then I feel sorry for him. It’s as if one becomes so busy with the world they have no time to be a disciple. In this position the Christian is totally dependent on other men for his spiritual food and growth. Inevitably, whether innocently done or not, there will be a seeking out for what is comfortable and pleasurable. There will be desires for what is appealing to the flesh.
2 Timothy 4:3-4
“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables.”
This is a definite statement of truth and reality that characterizes Christendom in the last days. This passage, this prophecy if you will, is a reality now in Christianity, and will only get worse as we close to the end. It brings out two unsettling understandings. First is that professing Christianity, as a whole, judges and analyzes based on their desires and comforts. God’s truth, and the diligent seeking of that truth, doesn’t even enter into the equation for many. And this is very dangerous, especially in these days. Second, the truth of God will not be endured. This is evident in the above scripture.
And so then, what will remain in Christianity? It will be comfort and pleasures, convenience and emotions, a tickling of the ears and a certain form of godliness, a getting along with this world. Maybe most telling, it will be the gathering of crowds around talented men in the flesh, a show in the flesh.
Have you ever asked yourself, as a biblical principle — when has the truth of God every gathered a crowd? Miracles and wonders may have attracted crowds, and then the feeding of thousands did as well (John 6:26), but when the truth was taught, men walked away and returned to the comforts of their homes (John 6:60, 66). Jesus Christ was the embodiment of God’s truth and grace. In the end He was left alone, only His Father with Him (John 16:32). The teaching of the real truth of God never, ever attracts a crowd. This is an important understanding for the believer. The church world has turned in the past, and will continue to turn away from the truth of God.
A more accurate examination of God’s Word is needed. We should always adhere to the scriptural rule in I Thess. 5:21, which is, “to prove all things, and hold fast that which is good.” This is what I would urge all believers to do, before adopting or rejecting any teaching of ministers and men. Apply yourself for your own benefit to the testimony of scripture, to draw ideas directly and simply from them – draw out God’s thoughts. But trust no man’s mind; adopt nothing unexamined, reject nothing unexamined.
“…to the end that their hearts may be encouraged, being united together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the full knowledge of the mystery of God; in which are hid all the treasures of wisdom and of knowledge.”
“…and having put on the new, renewed into full knowledge according to the image of Him that has created Him.”
Believers are the new creation of God. This creation is likened after the image of the one doing the creating. The full knowledge of the counsels of God concerning this image is this new creation’s means and common ground. The storehouses of God’s eternal wisdom and glory have been opened up to the child of God. The full purpose of God in Jesus Christ on our behalf has been revealed and declared by the Holy Spirit.
God’s Purposes, Will, and Plans
“…having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.”
This passage reveals to us the general thought of what is contained in the counsels of God. It includes all the work of God to accomplish His purpose – to fully glorify Himself. This work results in the gathering of all things in Jesus Christ, who becomes the center of all the glory of God. We will soon realize it is a distinct gathering – of things in heaven, and then things on earth. But we also must understand that the work of God had need of a foundation – a basis, on which all these thoughts and all this work are to be accomplished. This is Christ Himself. As we continue on in this study we should realize that God has finished a sovereign work through Jesus Christ, the Son of Man. By this work God has identified Himself with man, and more specifically, the believer.
What the Spirit reveals from God’s word must be the believer’s delight to know and understand. God certainly reveals His truth for this purpose – the saints’ understanding. And we should always find that what is revealed carries with it a sanctifying influence for our walk, for it more fully reveals the character of God.
So come along with me into this study of the counsels of God. We will look at some principles and truths from God’s Word that, I believe, are birthed by the Spirit of God. These principles, if understood, can give clarity and enlightenment to the whole of scripture. If you are a believer, God desires you to understand His Word. As a son in the household of the Father (Gal. 4:5-7, Rom. 8:14-17, I Cor. 2:7), He has privileged you with the Spirit of adoption. The Holy Spirit is also the Comforter, that leads us into all truth, and who reveals the hidden wisdom to us which God has ordained for our glory! I believe the eyes of our understanding will be enlightened, if we will simply seek the thoughts of God. “Now we have received…the Spirit who is from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God.” (I Cor. 2:12).