Various Names of The Counsel of God.

In our previous article we were busy with a discussion of the various names which are employed in Holy Writ to denote the concept: Counsel of God. Treating the various words which occur in the New Testament, we had concluded with the word, “prothesis”. Finally, we also read of the word, “prog- noosis”. The word is translated: foreknowledge. It occurs in Rom. 8:29 and in Rom. 11:2: “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. . . . God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying.” And in 1 Peter 1:2 we read: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied.” We will have opportunity to return to this word later in this series of articles on the Counsel of God.

As we stated in our previous article we can also speak of the counsel of the Lord in a specific sense. We refer to that aspect of God’s counsel which is commonly known as Predestination. The word, “predestination”, occurs in various passages of Holy Writ. We will quote a few. We read in Acts 4:27-28: “For of a truth against Thy holy Child Jesus, Whom Thou hast anointed, both Herod, and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles, and the people of Israel, were gathered together, For to do whatsoever Thy hand and Thy counsel determined before to be done.” In Rom. 8:29 we read: “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.” In 1 Cor. 2:7 we read: “But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory.” And to quote once more the words of the apostle in Eph. 1:5, 11: “Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will. . . . 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.” The word, “predestinate”, is a compound word of “before” and “horid-zoo”—see previous article. It means: to determine, decide, appoint beforehand. The word refers to God’s eternal appointment and determining of all things. This is particularly clear from passages such as Acts 4:28 and 1 Cor. 2:7.

The word, predestination, as such can refer, of course, to the divine appointment and determining of all things. Generally, however, it refers to God’s counsel with respect to the eternal destiny of His moral-rational creatures. This eternal counsel of the Lord consists in the first place of election. The doctrine of divine election is everywhere taught in Holy Writ. Often the word itself occurs. We read in Isaiah 45:4: “For Jacob My servant’s sake, and Israel Mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known Me.” In Is. 65:9: “And I will bring forth a seed out of Jacob, and out of Judah an inheritor of My mountains: and Mine elect shall inherit it, and My servants shall dwell there.” And in verse 22: “They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat; for as the days of a tree are the days of My people, and Mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.”—Matt. 24:22: “And except those days be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.”—verses 24, 31: “For there shall arise false Christ’s, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. . . . And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” —Luke 18:7: “And shall not God avenge His own elect, which cry day and night unto Him, though He bear long with them?”—Rom. 8:33: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.”—Col. 3:12: “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering.”—1 Tim. 5:21 and 2 Tim. 2:10: “I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality. . . . Therefore I endure all things for the elect’s sake, that they may also obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory.”—1 Pet. 1:2, 2:6, 5:13: “Elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ: Grace unto you, and peace, be multiplied. . . . Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded. . . . The church that is at Babylon, elected together with you, saluteth you; and so doth Marcus my son.”—2 John 1:13: “The elder unto the elect lady and her children, whom I love in the truth; and not I only, but also all they that have known the truth. . . . The children of thy elect sister greet thee. Amen.”

Besides these passages, which speak literally of the doctrine of Election (and these passages do not exhaust Scripture’s references to this tremendous truth), the Word of God also exhorts us to make this truth sure. The doctrine of election is not, therefore, a cold, objective truth which, in a formal sense, may be the object of our faith and belief. To the contrary, it is a truth which must live in our consciousness, must constitute the content of all our trust and confidence. Fact is, according to 2 Pet. 1:10: “Therefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if you do these things, ye shall never fall.” Instead of retiring this great truth, placing it upon the shelf of retirement, we must make it sure, make it live in our consciousness, enjoy the assurance that God has elected us from before the beginning of the world.

Besides the word, “election”, other words occur in Holy Writ to denote the truth of God’s eternal and sovereign choice of His own people. So, for example, we read the word, “love”, in the Scriptures. “Jacob have I loved, and Esau have I hated.”—Rom. 9:13. And in Is. 43:4: “Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life.” Or, how often do we not read the personal pronoun, “I”, when the Lord speaks of the relationship between Himself and His people. How often the Lord speaks of the elect as “My people”. And this personal pronoun, “I”, expresses the thought of personal, sovereign choice. Another word which expresses the thought of election in Holy Writ is the word “know”. That this word occurs in Scripture not merely in an intellectual sense of the word is evident from those many passages which declare that Israel did not know the Lord. Surely they knew of Him, had been instructed in His knowledge from their infancy on. Yet the Word tells us so often that they did not know Him. The implication of the expression is that they did not know Him in love, did not recognize Him and acknowledge Him in all their works and ways. This word also appears in Scripture to denote the relation of the Lord to the children of men. Ps. 1:6 informs us that the “Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.” This, to be sure, is a divine knowledge of love and mercy. The implication of the text is surely that the Lord does not know the way of the ungodly. Yet, He certainly knows the way of the ungodly in an intellectual sense of the word —fact is, He Himself eternally and sovereignly designed, willed this way of the ungodly. That He does not know their way must be understood in an experiential sense of the word. And so we could continue. We would mention one more thought in connection with the Scriptural presentation of the doctrine of election. The fact that the Lord sovereignly softens the hearts of some and hardens the hearts of others, that He draws some through the gospel by the irresistible power of His grace and blinds, just as sovereignly, the hearts of others through the same gospel, surely indicates that some are saved and others not according to the eternal and sovereign will and counsel of Jehovah.

On the other hand, however, the divine counsel of predestination also consists of reprobation. This lies in the nature of the case. To maintain the doctrine of election one must surely also maintain the doctrine of reprobation. To say that the Lord has elected some certainly implies that He did not elect others. If He has willed to save only the elect, the sheep which the Father has given unto the Christ, then it surely must follow that He does not will to save the others, the reprobates.

However, the Scriptures not only teach the doctrine of reprobation by implication, but also in the very literal sense of the word. In Rom. 8:13 we are told that “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.” And in this same chapter, verses 21-23, we read: “Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew His wrath, and to make His power known, endured with much long-suffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that He might make known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy, which He had afore prepared unto glory.” In I Peter 2:8 we read: “And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed”. In Jude, verse 4, this word occurs: “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” And in Rev. 13:8 we read: “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” And is not Judas called the “son of perdition” concerning whom we are told, by inference, in John 13:18 that he was not chosen and therefore reprobated: “I speak not of you all: I know whom I have chosen: but that the scripture may be fulfilled, He that eateth bread with Me hath lifted up His heel against Me.”?

In addition to these Scriptural passages which literally teach us the doctrine of reprobation, this doctrine of God’s sovereign rejection of men must necessarily follow from the very character of the divine work of redemption and salvation. It is simply a fact that the Lord Jesus Christ did not die for all men, that He died only for the sheep whom the Father had given Him from before the foundation of the world, and that, therefore, the other are divinely barred from salvation because of the particular character of the atoning suffering and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Besides, the fact that the Lord softens some but also hardens others, that He enlightens some but also blinds others, is a clear and undeniable confirmation of the truth that such occurs according to the will and sovereign good pleasure of Jehovah. And in John 10:24-30 we are told by the Savior that the unbelief of the obstinate Jews is to be ascribed to the fact that they are not of His sheep, hence, to the fact of reprobation, and we quote this passage: “Then came the Jews round about Him, and said unto Him, How long dost Thou make us doubt ? If Thou be the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in My Father’s Name, they bear witness of Me. But ye believe not, because ye are not My sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand. My Father, Which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.” It is undeniably clear that the Scriptures teach the doctrine of reprobation.

The Attributes of God’s Counsel.

It lies in the nature of the case that all the attributes of the living God also characterize His counsel. Hence, the counsel of the Lord is, first of all, sovereign. When we say that the counsel of the Lord is sovereign we mean that this counsel is strictly and absolutely independent, that it rules over all things, and that it is in no sense of the word dependent upon anything outside the living God. This is the teaching of Holy Writ throughout. The prophet, Isaiah, declares in that memorable passage of Is. 46:10: “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.” We should note the emphasis in this passage: My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure. The same truth is held before us in Romans 9, from which we have already abundantly quoted in this series of articles. But notice, among other things in this tremendous chapter, what we read in verses 14-16, 19-20: “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid. For He saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy. . . . Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will? Nay, but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to Him that formed it, Why hast Thou made me thus?” Why does the apostle intercept in this passage the objection by man that there is unrighteousness with God, and also that the Lord still finds fault? This objection would not be raised, would it, if God simply hates those who hate Him and rejects those who reject Him. It is surely righteous, is it not, for the Lord to hate those who hate Him and to reject those who reject Him. But, this objection, which originates in the heart of the sinful and obstinate ungodly and is intercepted by the apostle, can only be explained in the light of the truth that God’s hatred and rejection of the sinner is wholly sovereign and that it originated exclusively in the eternal and sovereign good pleasure of the living God. Also in Romans 11:33-36 this sovereign character of Jehovah’s counsel is emphatically set forth: “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! For who hath known the mind of the Lord? or who hath been His counsellor? Or who hath first given to Him, and it shall be recompensed unto him again? For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen.” It is exactly this sovereign character of the will of the Lord which is repeatedly emphasized in Holy Writ by the use of the expression, “good pleasure of the Lord”, as in Matt. 11:25-26 and Eph. 1:9: “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. . . . Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself.”

Secondly, the counsel of the Lord is efficacious, all- potent, irresistible. First, I would again refer the reader to Is. 46:10, which we quoted in the previous paragraph. This we read, for example, in Is. 14:27: “For the Lord of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and His hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?:” In Is. 115:3 we read: “But our God is in the heavens: He hath done whatsoever He hath pleased.” Approximately the same thought is expressed by the psalmist in Ps. 135:6: “Whatsoever the Lord pleased, that did He in heaven, and in earth, in the seas, and all deep places.” And the efficacious, irresistible character of the counsel and will of the Lord is also expressed by the apostle in Rom. 9:19 in the text we have already quoted: “Thou wilt say then unto Me, Why doth He yet find fault? For who hath resisted His will?” And in Luke 18:31-33, in connection with the suffering and death of our Lord, we are told that all things shall happen and be accomplished that are written by the prophets, and this certainly emphasizes the efficacious character of God’s decrees: “Then He took unto Him the twelve, and said unto them, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. For He shall be delivered unto the Gentiles, and shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: And they shall scourge Him, and put Him to death: and the third day He shall rise again.”

Thirdly, the counsel of the Lord is immutable, unchangeable. That the Lord is unchangeable is literally taught us in James 1:17: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with Whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” God is unchangeable; hence, His counsel is also immutable. This the psalmist declares in Ps. 33:11: “The counsel of the Lord standeth for ever, the thoughts of His heart to all generations.” And in Hebrews 6:17-18, a passage in which the Lord would comfort His people in the midst of affliction by calling their attention to the certainty of the promise so that they may be able to lay hold of the hope of eternal life and glory which is set before us, we read: “Wherein God, willing more abundantly to shew unto the heirs of the promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an oath: That by two immutable things, in which it was impossible for God to lie, we might have a strong consolation, who have fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us.” And again, also in connection with the immutability of God’s counsel, we may call attention to Is. 49:9-10: “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.” That the counsel of the Lord is unchangeable lies in the very nature of the case. For, in the first place, the Lord is God alone and there is none like Him. Who can resist His will? Is He not the living God, the Almighty One, Jehovah, out of Whom and through Whom and unto Whom all things are? Surely, His is all the power and the kingdom and the glory even forever. Besides, the counsel of the Lord is immutable because that counsel of God includes all things. There is no power that stands over against God. All that moves, lives and has being owes its life and continuous existence alone to Him. Nothing, therefore, can appear upon the scene to contend with the Almighty, to offer Him existence, to dispute with Him the realization of His counsel, inasmuch as the counsel includes all things and every living creature, including the devil and all his host. Surely, the counsel of the Lord is immutable, unchangeable.