Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 12, 1961

Understanding The Bible

Robert H. Parish, Lufkin, Texas

God has spoken his will unto man. (Heb. 1:1-2; 1 Cor. 2:13) The fact that God has expressed (spoken) his will to man sets man apart from the lower creation. God guides the brute creation by what we call instinct; on the lower creation God impresses his law. But man has guidance over and above the creature needs for it is God's design that "man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." (Matt. 4:4) Man could exist physically without ever knowing the Bible; he could experience an animal existence, but such is not to realize his high place in God's design and creation. It is by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God that the WHOLE of man is realized. The wise man wrote, "fear God and keep his commandments; for this is the whole duty of man." (Eccl. 12:13) The word of God deals exclusively with the needs of man; no part of it is addressed to the animal world nor even to angels. Animals can realize their complete purpose without the Bible. They can live by "bread alone," but not man.

Furthermore, the fact that God has spoken his will to man implies that man has the ability to understand God's will with reference to hint. God has spoken unto man. Hence, it follows that man can understand or else God has made inadequate provisions. God has made suitable provisions. God's provisions suit man's need. The revelation of his will in his word is understandable.

Man is required to do the will of God as the condition of entering the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 7:21-27) But no man can do the will of God unless he understands it. (Matt. 13:14-15) The order as given in this last reference is: (1) hear with the ears and see with the eyes, (2) understand with the heart; (3) turn again (be converted) (4) healed by Christ.

Understanding the will of the Lord is also required by express command. "Wherefore be ye not foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is." (Eph. 5:17)

Many fail to understand what the will of God is, in spite of God's adequate provisions. Such failure can be attributed to several causes. The Lord explained that the gross condition of the heart of some of his day causes them to close their eyes, stop their ears, lest they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears and understand with their hearts. Here is a vicious cycle which is extremely hard to break. A gross condition of heart is a personal responsibility of the one afflicted. The only way for such a one to purify his heart is to open his eyes and his ears to the Word of the Lord, by which faith that purifies the heart comes. Worldly pride or conceit, fleshly ambitions or desires and an improper attitude toward the will of God, all contribute to the grossness of heart which shut off the avenues by which the word may reach the heart.

But there is a specific condition which contributes to the failure of many church members to understand the will of God. This condition is unfamiliarly with the meaning of the words used to convey the will of God to man. God has spoken, but if man doesn't know the meaning of the words spoken, he doesn't understand the will of God which those words are designed to convey. In some cases we have seen the words so often that we have been just going under an assumption of familiarity when actually if called upon to define them, we would be at a complete loss. Too many of us read too many of the words of the Bible like Hamlet read; they are just, "words, words, words."

This study will be devoted to the word "counsel" as used in the expression, "counsel of God." Paul testified that he was "pure from the blood of all men." (Acts 20: 26) This he based upon his action of "declaring unto you the whole counsel of God." The Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God (Luke 9:30-31) by failing to be baptized of John the Baptist. From these two passages it is seen that the "counsel of God" is something that can be declared and also rejected.

Webster defines "counsel" as, "deliberate purpose, design, intent, scheme, plan." This is borne out as being the scriptural sense of the word by the use in Psalms 33:10-11. "Jehovah bringeth the counsel of the nations to naught; He maketh the thoughts of the people to be of no effect. The counsel of Jehovah standeth fast forever. The thoughts of his heart to all generations." Here "the thoughts" of God are put for the "counsel of Jehovah." Thus the counsel of God is as Webster says, deliberate purpose, design, intent, scheme, or plan. As all of God's thoughts are deliberate, as "after-thoughts" or impulsive utterances, such as characterize men, are not characteristic of God, counsel is the proper word to describe the will of God. The will of God was declared by the apostles — it was the whole deliberate purpose, scheme or plan which Paul claimed to have declared.

The use of the term "counsel of God" in connection with baptism is significant. Luke records that, "all the people when they heard, and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected for themselves the counsel of God, being not baptized of him." (Luke 7:29-30) The refusal and failure of the Pharisees and lawyers to be baptized of John is here represented as "rejecting for themselves the counsel of God." Those people rejected the counsel (the plan) of God when they refused to be baptized of John the Baptist. Even so today when people refuse to be baptized by the authority of Christ they are thereby rejecting God's plan of salvation for themselves.