By Max Strange
“…for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.”
Immediately, when we hear someone repeat Paul’s phrase, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God,” our evangelical mindset tells us that the “whole counsel” of God is the entire Bible from cover to cover. Yet, when Paul made that statement, it was given as a charge to the leaders of the Ephesian church to declare and testify to the whole gospel for the expansion of the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:8; 20:17-35). It was Paul’s aim to ensure that the full Gospel was unloaded by teaching, testifying, proclaiming, and declaring (Acts 20:19, 21, 24-27). Paul passed the gospel baton to the next set of Gospel runners who would face false teachers and great demonic opposition to the gospel and to the expansion of the Kingdom.
Yet again, when we hear a similar phrase, “the whole plan of God,” many Christians are in agreement. In a basic sense, we believe God is directing history and is moving all things toward an end when Jesus returns at His Second Coming. However, we do not treat our Bibles with such uniformity of thought. Often, we see two Testaments, separated and divided with a Christless interpretation. We say the Bible is one story with numerous events, even about Jesus. Rather, we bring a whole sack of cultural and personal baggage to the text in order to, consciously or unconsciously, preserve as fine specimens, our cherished views of Israel and our parenthetical view of the Church. So, lets set the record straight once a for all.
The whole plan of God, if this means the entire Bible, presupposes a unity. We clearly see direct references and allusions of the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament. We see the pattern of promise and fulfillment. We see that Jesus and the Apostles used the Old Testament time and time again to declare that it all, in some way or another, testified to Jesus Christ (John 5; Luke 24).
Nevertheless, there is a great allurement to shrug off any unity throughout history, but rather to see it all as chance-luck, or some quasi power struggle between unseen polar forces in the universe. The post-modern culture urges us to create our own reality and our own personal story. They want nothing to do with a purposefully progressing overarching storyline. They do not want their history to have a transcendent authority or some overriding objective truth that runs like a steel rod through the cement of history, under girding and upholding it. They fear such accountability that a looming meta-narrative would suggests. It would sicken the postmodern person to think that they are, in some fashion, actors and actresses who make entrances on the stage of the great drama of redemption. That on this stage, they are held accountable for every speck of fault and every gross act of corruption, and that in the end, the offended Play-write has every cause to send all into the next act of dark doom. This they fear and so many fear it and speak no more of a whole plan of God.
Others would have us elevate one Testament over the other and see greatness more so in the New than in the Old or have another Testament supercede the other because one has developed beyond the last. This either-or approach still attacks the unity of the Bible and the unity of God’s unfolding storyline concerning Jesus Christ.
The Bible tells us that God has a progressing and unified storyline concerned with salvation and the glory of God. Genesis 3:15 tells us of a whole cosmic salvation that will arrive from the Seed of the Woman. From that launching point, redemption shot out the gun of His promise. That bullet flew throughout the whole Old Testament and hit its final target thousands of years away in a futuristic garden. This means that history is proceeding and flying towards this bull’s eye. The Old Testament types prepared the Seed, made us anticipate the Seed, gave the pattern of the Seed, and foreshadowed the Seed. Seed was scattered everywhere in the Old Story.
Some have seen the whole plan of God in the Testaments connected by covenants, or made sense of it by the law and grace dichotomy, and many have interpreted the whole plan under as a Jewish anthology with a church-pause squished in the middle. But this whole plan, its connections, and its momentum are in a Person, not in systems. Jesus is the Covenant promise. He is the crimson thread. He is the goal of History. He is the Seed. Every piece of datum and every solitary speech and act gathered together leads and finds its ultimate meaning in Jesus Christ. The whole plan of God is held together by a Person is concerned with that Person.
Therefore, no matter how elementary it may seem to say it, we must begin any assessment about God’s plan with Jesus Christ. Every Old Testament promise, all passages about covenants and the Kingdom, every detail about the new creation, the new temple, redemption, God’s wisdom, are all found and fulfilled in Jesus. All knowledge and wisdom and final rule of God dead-end at Jesus Christ. Jesus is the redemption, He is the new creation wherein divinity and humanity merge, and He is the Seed of Genesis 3:15. He is the Resurrection, the new Israel, the new Adam, the fulfiller of the Law, the new Temple where man and God meet, the new Nation where Jew and Gentile are found in Him, the new King, the ultimate Prophet, and the true Priest. He is the embodiment of the Word, the only faithful One, the true witness, the true covenant partner of God, the faithful Son, the exiled One, and He is the final consummation of all things.
Whether we speak about the whole counsel of God or the whole plan of God, we must start with Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ makes sense of the world. He tells us that all things are about Him and that we, embedded into His story, can participate with Him in the divine life.