The Counsel of God

“Thou shalt guide me with Thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory.” —Psalm 73:24

A LITTLE child, mystified about something, says to himself: “I’m going to ask my father about that when he comes home.” Later, he asks his question and listens, wide-eyed, to his father’s answer. This is one of the great rewards of parenthood. The little child trusts his father fully and completely. He believes that his father’s words are always true and right. His father may actually be an ignorant and unlearned man; but the innocent child values his counsel above that of anyone else on earth. He points his father out to his playmates and says proudly, “That’s my dad. He knows everything!”

On one occasion the disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him.” (Matt. 18:1,2) It seems that the little children were never very far from Jesus. With natural curiosity, and attracted by his warm and loving personality, they got as close to him as they could. So “Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, and said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”—Matt. 18:2,3

“Except ye be converted,” he said. Was that not a strange thing to say? These were his disciples he was addressing. Were they not already converted? In a very important sense they were not. Their very question disclosed their selfish and ambitious state of mind. They wanted to know which of them would be the greatest in heaven; which of them would be higher than the others in heaven. There was a shocking similarity here between their spirit and that of Satan, who had said, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.” (Isa. 14:13) Jesus quickly detected this similarity of spirit, and told them plainly that unless they became as little children they would not even enter the kingdom of heaven, much less be the greatest there. They must first be converted; be changed in disposition to that of a child.

A little child, before it is exposed to the world, is simple of heart; meek, humble and truthful, free from ambition and rivalry; faithful, trusting and loving. He is obedient, teachable, and without guile; indifferent to social distinctions and popular notions. Black, white, yellow; rich or poor; these mean nothing to him. Such are the attributes of character Jesus must have had in mind when he said also, on another occasion, “Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”—Matt. 19:14

An earthly child grows up and, in this evil world, often departs from the counsel of his parents. He seeks and finds other counsel, some good and some bad. But the child of God remains a little child, in the sense that he does not depart from the counsel of his Heavenly Father, but fully trusting, seeks more and more of that counsel. David wrote, in Psalm 27:10, “When my father and my mother forsake me, then the Lord will take me up.” Human parents eventually die, and otherwise their children are bereft of them. How blessed is the one whom the Lord takes up and makes his child and guides with his counsel!

Jesus called these childlike ones who seek and delight in the counsel of the Lord, his “little ones.” Of these it is written in Psalm 1, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in his law doth he meditate day and night. And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season. His leaf also shall not wither, and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. The ungodly are not so; but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous; but the way of the ungodly shall perish.”

“And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water.” How beautiful and refreshing that sounds! Deeply rooted, drawing abundantly from the water of truth, bearing much fruit, and prospering in the heavenly way. We read in Proverbs 20:5, “Counsel in the heart of man is like deep water; but a man of understanding will draw it out.” The counsel is there, but it is deep down, as it were, in water. It must be found and drawn out. The Scriptures contain “all the counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) But to the uninitiated, to those whose minds have not been illuminated by the Holy Spirit, these things are too deep. How then can the Christian find and avail himself of the counsel of God? He must first learn the basic principles of the truth, which Paul describes as “milk” in Hebrews 5:12. He later must be able to also assimilate the “meat” of the Scriptures. Of course when a child is weaned, and starts eating meat, he does not entirely stop drinking milk. The wise parent knows that there should always be a glass of milk on the table. So to understand the deep things we must often go back to first principles; to the milk of the Word.

But how can the counsel of God be found in the maze of Scriptures provided? We read in Isaiah 28:9 and 10, “Whom shall he teach knowledge? And whom shall he make to understand doctrine? Them that are weaned from milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little.”

God has been very gracious to his people at this end of the age. In the 24th chapter of Matthew, Jesus was talking to his disciples about the end of the age, and when he would come again. He told them, in the 42nd verse, to “watch” for his coming. Then, in the 44th verse, he said, “Be ye also ready.” It was at this point in his discourse, which fixes the relative time of the application of his words—the time of his second presence—that he promised a faithful and wise servant who would give his household meat in due season. (Matt. 24:45-47) We recognize that servant as Pastor Russell, and it is through his writings that we have been enlightened and bountifully fed “meat in due season,” present truth.

We read in Isaiah 46:9,10, “Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me. Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure.” What is God’s pleasure? Jesus himself answered this question in Luke 12:32, saying, “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.” Let us well remember this point. The selection and development of a church class to rule with Christ in his kingdom was not an alternative plan should other plans fail. It was not an afterthought. It was the original purpose and counsel of God. It was his “good pleasure” from the beginning. Paul plainly states this in Ephesians 1:3-5: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love. Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.”

To become a member of this predestinated group of 144,000 kings and priests is a great prize, an exceeding high calling. In Philippians 3:14 Paul calls it “the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” In Romans 2:7 he describes it as “glory, and honor and immortality.” In II Peter 1:4 it is termed “the divine nature.” And in James 1:12 it is called “the crown of life.” As the crown of the head is the highest part of the person, the promised “crown of life” is the highest form of life.

Our poor human minds cannot really grasp the magnitude of the thing promised. How can we, by using imperfect earthly language, adequately describe so lofty and glorious a condition? How can we truly measure the difference between the human and divine? It is impossible. But we do have a hint in Isaiah 55:9, where Jehovah God says of himself, “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” This suggests a measure by which we might contrast the human and divine. As the heavens are tremendously high above the earth, many stars being millions of light years away, so vastly is the divine nature of God higher than the human nature.

Bearing this in mind, let us now consider Hebrews 1:3, which shows the similarity of our glorified Lord Jesus to the Heavenly Father: “Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person. … sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.” This places the glorified Christ on that same lofty plane of being which is described by the phrase, “As the heavens are higher than the earth.” This is confirmed by Ephesians 1:20,21, which tells us that Jehovah God “raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named.”

And now we quote I John 3:2, which is almost incredible in its implication. It is addressed to the “beloved” of God, to the members of his church, to you and to me: “Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.” This is something which staggers the imagination. First, Jehovah God, so very high above us, “as the heavens are higher than the earth.” Then, Jesus Christ, the express image of his person, on the same lofty plane. Then, WE shall be like him!

It sounds utterly impossible! If it were not so plainly stated in the Scriptures, it would be beyond belief that God would take from among fallen, sinful humans, who are at best of the lowest order of intelligent creation, some individuals whom he will exalt to the very highest order of life in the universe—the glorious, immortal, divine nature! It sounds so impossible that some of the Lord’s people have said, “I don’t aspire to such glory.” Such an attitude does show commendable humility.

Our Lord Jesus showed a similar humility. When the bitter cup of an agonizing death was imminent, he prayed to his Heavenly Father, “I have finished the work which thou gayest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” (John 17:4,5) God had promised him much greater glory than that, but Jesus would have been content with his previous condition. So, just as the Heavenly Father gave his Son Jesus abundantly more than he asked, he will do the same for each of his beloved and faithful children, even though with our finite minds we cannot grasp how such a glorious thing is possible; even though it is “exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think.”—Eph. 3:20

It must be done, and will be done, whether we understand it or not, because God has promised it. As the apostle says in I Corinthians 15:51,53, “We shall all be changed. … For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” Glory, honor, and immortality! So let us accept the promise with joy. Let us not be overwhelmed by it, but as the apostle counsels us in Hebrews 10:23, “Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for he is faithful that promised.”

So we see that although the reward promised is exceedingly high and great, it is obtainable. Not only is it obtainable, but God wants us to have it. It is his good pleasure to give it to us. So we should expect it, claim it, and look forward to it, because “there hath not failed one word of all his good promise.” (I Kings 8:56) Let us, like trustful children, take our Heavenly Father at his word.

Every necessary facility and counsel is furnished us in God’s Word, so that we may qualify for the prize. Paul said to the elders of Ephesus, in Acts 20:20,27,28, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly and [Diaglott] at your houses. … For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God. Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God which he hath purchased with his own blood.”

Paul faithfully counseled the Early Church from the Scriptures. He quoted liberally from the Law and the prophets. He explained the meanings of types and shadows. He freely gave the church the benefit of his naturally keen and logical mind which had been further inspired and sharpened by the Holy Spirit. He also gave them the special revelations and insights he had, as an apostle, received from the Lord.

If it could be said of the elders of Ephesus that Paul had “kept back nothing” from them, and that they had been given “all the counsel of God,” it is also true of us. We have everything Paul wrote. In addition, instead of fragmentary scriptures such as the Early Church had, we have the entire Bible, in many fine translations. We have analytical concordances, Hebrew and Greek lexicons, and Bible dictionaries. And we have excellent Bible helps and commentaries. We have the “Studies in the Scriptures,” which the Lord has given to us by the hands of a special servant. As described in the advertisement on the last page of this magazine, “They continue to be the outstanding text books on the Bible for our day.” This is true, because it was through the writings of “that servant” that the grand structure of the divine plan was seen; a framework within which scriptures fell into place.

And the Lord gave us harvest work to do, to prove our loyalty and devotion to him. And he has given us much work to do within ourselves, developing the fruits and graces of the Spirit. All these things were given “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.”—Eph. 4:12-14

Let us diligently avail ourselves of every help provided, as we are counseled in II Peter 1:10,11: “Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” If we are guided by this counsel, we shall indeed be received to glory.—Contributed

Dawn Bible Students Association
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