Our Knowledge of God’s Counsel Important Also From the Viewpoint of Our Knowledge of God.
A correct conception of the counsel of God is also important from the viewpoint of our knowledge of the living God. It aids us in our conception of the Lord. God is an eternally active God. This is applicable, first of all, to the living God Himself, His own inner divine life. Thus the Scriptures reveal Him, do they not? We read in Deut. 32:4: “He is the Rock, His work is perfect: for all His ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is He.” And in John 5:17 we read: “But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.”
God is not an idle being, Who began to work six thousand years ago but was idle before that time. The Lord is in Himself purest action. His work and Being are eternally one, as God is one, and characterized by oneness and simplicity. Only, God works, does not labor. The Lord never struggles to attain unto anything. Fact is, His work or works is or are eternally perfect. We read of the Lord that He is the rock and that His work is perfect. It is for this reason that the Lord is also characterized by a state of perfect rest. Rest is the enjoyment of a perfect work. The Lord is perfect in all His work; hence, eternally He enjoys this perfect work and is therefore the God of eternal and perfect rest.
That the Lord is perfect in all His work does not merely apply to the work of His own life and being, but is also applicable to all the works as they appear and occur in time. To be sure, in time this counsel unfolds itself and gradually attains unto realization; but in the eternal thoughts of the Lord all these works appear eternally complete and perfect. Fact is, according to Acts 15:18: “Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world.” It is well that we distinguish between God’s work and our work. Our works have a beginning. We begin with a certain task and this task is brought to a conclusion. We ourselves are characterized by a beginning and an end; this also applies to all the things we do. But this does not apply to Jehovah. His works are without beginning and without end. Secondly, the work of man is characterized by division. We are not active with all our being simultaneously. Sometimes our work is mainly physical; at other times the mental aspect of our activity appears upon the foreground. Now we work with our hand, then with our mind. Hence, our work is characterized by division. God, however, is one in all His work. He performs all his work with all His being eternally. Thirdly, our work is limited by laws of time and space and change and development. We ourselves are creatures of time, subject to change and development. The things round about us limit and influence us. Our activity is determined and influenced by external conditions and circumstances, and over these conditions and circumstances we have no control. The question whether we shall be able to begin and finish a certain task is, for example, determined by a matter such as our health. This, we understand, does not apply to the living God. The Lord is never determined by anything outside Himself. He is the sovereign God and all His activity is sovereign and unconditional. There is nothing outside Himself. It is therefore impossible for the Lord to be determined by anything outside Himself. Strictly speaking, this conception is dualistic, renders the Lord dependent upon external matters and conditions and circumstances. Time, space, etc., are all creatures of the living God; they do not influence Him but He is completely and sovereignly in control of them. Fourthly, our works are, of course, incomplete. They are characterized by a process. They are performed piecemeal, are finished gradually. We begin a certain task today, continue with it tomorrow, and finally finish it sometime in the future. The work of the Lord, however, is complete. God works all His works eternally. This is an amazing truth. All the history of this world, from the beginning even unto the end, in all its details and phases, is known unto the Lord, lies eternally before Him as a “blueprint”, the reality of all things as existing in the Lord’s eternal thoughts. This, I say, is an amazing thing, far transcending all human understanding. This implies that God, for example, sees all things as they are occurring today. His eye is upon every activity throughout the universe; He sees not only the so-called great events but also the small, such as the worm which crawls in the dust of the earth. Every movement throughout the world, in the heavens above and upon the earth beneath and in the waters under the earth, in every living creature, in the heart and mind and soul of angel and demon, godly and ungodly is constantly known unto and by the Lord. But this is not all. To this blueprint must be added that in the same sense the Lord has an all-comprehensive “bird’s-eye view” of all the history of the world, not only therefore at a certain given point in history, but as covering all the history from the beginning unto the end of time. And even this is not all. The picture becomes complete when we bear in mind that this divine “blueprint” also includes the humanly incomprehensible fact that the Lord thus beholds all things also as they are related unto each other, as they serve each other and are used by the Lord unto the realization of the purpose which He has purposed within Himself from before the foundation of the world. Eternally the Lord sees all things in their proper place. Surely, the work of the Lord is eternally perfect; known unto Him are all His works from the beginning of the world.
This also enables us somewhat to understand that the Lord did not enrich Himself when He created the heavens and the earth. That the Lord did not enrich Himself lies in the nature of the case. He is in Himself the all-blessed one, the all-sufficient one, the in Himself eternally and perfectly active God and therefore the eternally resting God. That the Lord did not enrich Himself when He created the heavens and the earth follows, first of all, from the fact that God is the absolute reality and that the creature is the reflection of His own life and glory. The original creation, as brought forth by the living God at the dawn of history and existing in the state of rectitude, reflected in a creaturely way the goodness and perfection of the Lord. And the new heavens and new earth will likewise reveal, in a creaturely sense, that goodness and perfection of the Lord. Of course, the new heavens and the new earth will be the eternal and heavenly reflection of the glory of God, the highest possible manifestation of the alone blessed God. But then we also understand that the Lord did not enrich Himself when He created this reflection of Himself. Do we enrich ourselves when we obtain a mirror in which we behold our own reflection and image? Besides, that the Lord did not enrich Himself when He created the heavens and the earth is also obvious from the fact that the history of the world is nothing but the unfolding of the eternal counsel of the Lord, the divine, eternal ‘‘blueprint,” reality of all things as they exist eternally in the thoughts of the living God.
It is because of this truth, that the Lord Himself is the God of purest action and activity, that the Fathers have always distinguished the works of God as “opera Dei immanentia” and “opera Dei exeunta”, the immanent and outgoing works of God. To be sure, there are the “opera Dei exeunta,” the outgoing works of God, the works of the Lord as we see them and as they unfold before our eyes. But the Lord Himself is the God of purest action; hence, we also speak of the “opera Dei immanentia,” the immanent works of the Lord. And these immanent works of God we again distinguish as the personal and the essential works of God. The personal works of God, occurring, we understand, within the living God Himself, are the works which characterize the three divine Persons, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We need not enter into a detailed discussion of these works at this time, inasmuch as we discussed them when we treated the Scriptural truth of the Trinity. These are the works of God whereby the Father generates the Son, the Son is generated by the Father, and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, And also these personal works of the Lord, of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are characterized by eternal completeness and perfection.
But we also speak of the essential works of God. These works, too, we understand, occur within the living God Himself. When we speak of the essential works of the Lord we refer, on the one hand, to those works which characterize the Being of the Lord, His essence, all that activity which causes the three Persons to be one, the divine life of the knowledge and love of Himself, the Lord’s self-enjoyment of His own eternal virtues and perfections. These essential works of God belong also the counsel of the Lord. To be sure, the counsel of God is realized in time. However, as counsel, it constitutes a work of God within the everlasting God Himself. God is no architect who drew up a dead blueprint and enriches himself with the actual erection of the building. God’s plan or counsel, as we have seen, is the eternal wisdom of the Lord, is God as He eternally willed all things and eternally rejoices in the reality of all things which He has constantly before Him.
Various Names of the Counsel of God.
Let us, first of all, call attention to various names of the counsel of the Lord in the general sense. We also speak of God’s counsel in a specific sense, as referring to divine predestination, election and reprobation. In the Old Testament we have various names used to denote this concept. The first word is “counsel”, also translated “purpose” in Holy Writ. The Hebrew word in this instance is “etsah”. This word emphasizes the idea of counsel or a plan. It occurs, e.g. in Job 38:2: “Who is this that darkeneth counsel by words without knowledge?”, also in Isaiah 46:10-11: “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: Calling a ravenous bird from the east, the man that executeth My counsel from a far country: yea, I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it”, and in Isaiah 14:26: “This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.” Hence, this word, “etsah”, although it also occurs in Scripture in the sense of counsel, advice (see II Samuel 16:20), refers to the counsel or purpose of Jehovah, that which He has purposed within Himself, and according to which He acts and does all things.
Another word which occurs in the Old Testament is “decree”. The Hebrew word is “Chok”. This word appears, e.g., in Psalm 2:9: “I will declare the decree: the Lord hath said unto me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten thee.” This word, “chok”, means properly that which is established or definite. It also appears in the sense of: a defined limit, a bound, an appointed time or law, statute. The word, “decree”, refers to the counsel of the Lord as having established that which shall be.
A third word in the Old Testament is “sod”. This Hebrew word is derived from “yatsad”, which means: to deliberate and consult together, hence, to take counsel together. This word is translated “counsel” in Jer. 23:18, 22: “For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard His word? who hath marked His word, and heard it? … . But if they had stood in My counsel, and had caused My people to hear My words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings.” It is translated “assembly” in Jer. 6:11 and Jer. 15:17: “Therefore I am full of the fury of the Lord; I am weary with holding in: I will pour it out upon the children abroad, and upon the assembly of young men together: for even the husband with the wife shall be taken, the aged with him that is full of days. . . .I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.” This word, “sod”, when used of men, refers to an assembly of young men or judges, etc. as they sit together and take counsel. Hence, the word means: deliberation, counsel. With respect to the Lord, the word implies that the Lord eternally deliberated, took counsel within Himself.
Another word which is used to denote the eternal thoughts of Jehovah is: purpose. As such it occurs in Jer. 4:28: “For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black: because I have spoken it, I have purposed it, and will not repent, neither will I turn back from it.” The Hebrew word is: “mezimmah.” This word is derived from a word which means: to meditate, have in mind* to purpose. As a word which is used to denote the counsel of the Lord, it refers to the eternal thoughts of the Lord upon which He has meditated and proposed to Himself.
Finally, we have the Hebrew words, “Chaphets” and “Ratsoon”. The former word, which means: delight, desire, will, occurs in Is. 53:10: “Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise Him: He hath put Him to grief: when Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in His hand.” The latter word, “ratsoon”, occurs in Psalm 51:18, Is. 49:8: “Do good in Thy good pleasure unto Zion: build Thou the walls of Jerusalem. . . . Thus saith the Lord, In an acceptable time have I heard thee, and in a day of salvation have I helped thee: and I will preserve thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, to establish the earth, to cause to inherit the desolate heritages.” These words emphasize that the Lord does as He pleases, and He does as He pleases. He determines all things and He executeth all His delight.
In the New Testament, too, we have several words to denote the concept, “counsel of God.” The first words to which we would call attention are the Greek words: Boulee and Theleema. These words occur together in Eph. 1:11: “In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel (Boulee) of His own will (Theleema).” The former word seems to emphasize the counsel, the will of God as resting upon divine deliberation and as calling attention to the content, that which was willed. The word, “theleema”, on the other hand, in distinction from “Boulee,” emphasize the will of God as such, the fact that God willed it. We hasten to add, however, that these words appear often in Holy Writ, and that they also appear to be used indiscriminately.
Another prominent word which appears in the New Testament is the Greek word: Eudokia. This word is translated: pleasure, good pleasure. We read, e.g., in Matt. 11:26: “At that time Jesus answered and said, I thank Thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in Thy sight.” This text is repeated in Luke 10:21. In Luke 2:14 occur the well-known words: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” And in Eph. 1:5, 9 (this entire portion of Holy Writ is a grand eulogy on the eternal good pleasure of the Lord) we read: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. . . . Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.” In Phil. 2:12-13 we read: “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God Which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure.” And in II Thess. 1:11 we read: “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power.” The word “eudokia”, is derived from a word which means: to think well, to think good. It refers to the Lord’s eternal counsel from the viewpoint that God has eternally decided that which seemed good to Him, emphasizes the divine sovereignty and good pleasure of His decrees. This is abundantly clear from a passage such as Matt. 11:25-26, where Christ thanks the Father that He has hid the things of His eternal Kingdom from the wise and the prudent and has revealed them unto babes, and that this occurred according to the Father’s eternal good pleasure.
A third word to which we would call attention is the Greek word: Horidzoo. This word occurs in Acts 17:26: “And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth, and hath determined (horidzoo) the times before appointed, and the bounds (fundamentally the same word as “horidzoo”) of their habitation.” This word reminds us of the Hebrew “chok”—Ps. 2:7. The word means literally: to mark out a boundary or limit. Thus it means: to determine, appoint, It emphasizes the truth that the Lord has sovereignly determined, appointed all things, Divinely set a bound for all things, and thereby sovereignly determined their existence.
A fourth word which appears in the New Testament is “Prothesis.” The word is often translated: purpose. It occurs, e.g., in Rom. 8:28, 9:11: “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose. . . . For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of Him that calleth.” In Eph. 1:11, 3:11 we read: “In Whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him Who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will. . . According to the eternal purpose which He purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.” And in II Tim. 1:9 we read: “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” The word, “prothesis,” means literally: to set before. The word can merely mean: the setting forth of a thing, place it before something. However, the word can also signify that which God before decided to do, which He placed before Himself. In the latter sense the word is used in the passages we have quoted.