THE PRICE OF A TESTIMONY FOR "ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD"
Armando Di Pardo
"Buy the truth, and sell it not" (Proverbs 23:23)
© Copyright 2002, Adelphia.
With these words the Scriptures introduce us to an evaluation of deep spiritual lessons- through the very familiar figure of buying and selling.
All the world buys and sells things and more things, cheap and expensive, necessary and unnecessary, and generally perishable goods; things that have subjugated the spirit of man in our so-called "society of consumption" in such a way, that things have made man a mere slave of his own possessions. What a paradox! But it is obvious that our text confronts us with other values: Truth does not perish. As a consequence it cannot be pointed out as some common merchandise, nor can its platform be confused with price-lists and counters of worldly merchandise.
Pontius Pilate asked the Lord Jesus Christ: "What is truth?" without realizing that he was precisely in His August Presence. Let us therefore saw in light of the Holy Scriptures that truth in focus includes a unified trilogy in a vital, indissoluble and sociable relationship, that is:
This is the Truth to "buy" and not "sell". Its "price" therefore has nothing to do with "money" or currency (Isa. 55:1). The Grace of God is not quoted in the exchange market. The price of Truth is of moral character, its "currency" consists of " .spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ" (1 Pet. 2:5).
In each area of Christian experience this price must govern as a fundamental principle. Let us look at this briefly:-
SALVATION, which is solely and purely by Grace: yet, each sinner must "buy it" at the price of "repentance and faith" (Acts 20:21). This price declares the bankruptcy of all human concept of natural goodness and self-righteousness.
Repentance humbles, breaks and brings even the haughty 20th century superman to the foot of the cross, who in contriteness must cry for mercy. "Faith in the Lord Jesus" obliges one to deny all ideas or concepts of oneself or of others, about the true way of salvation, and brings the repentant soul to place full confidence in the Person of the Redeemer and in His precious blood shed for our sins; in this way a soul is scaled with the Holy Spirit and is born again. All this through the acceptance of the message given us in the Holy Scriptures. So, in the area of eternal salvation, each sinner must "Buy the truth and sell it not".
SANCTIFICATION also has its price for born-again believers. In Romans 6:22 we read: "But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness". To "become servants" that is "slaves" to God, is the price the Holy Spirit demands should be paid. "Take my yoke upon you" said the Lord. The Scriptures order us to "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God". All free-will, all pride, must be surrendered if we are to enjoy "abundant life" in deep fellowship, fruitfulness and power of the Holy Spirit. Let us pay for this with the good currency of a "living sacrifice" (Rom. 12:1). "Buy the truth and sell it not".
FIDELITY, at the extreme end of the line, claims the price that truth demands, especially in these last times of apostasy and of "love grown cold". "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers" (2 Cor. 6:14). This is a command beyond discussion which must not be compromised in any sphere of Christian application, be this on an individual as on an ecclesiastical level. This implies separation from modernism and ecumenism and from the organizations that sustain them, on a regional, national or continental and world level. Friendships, positions, church buildings, etc. are all included in the price. "Let us go forth therefore unto Him (Christ) without the camp, bearing His reproach" (Heb. 13:13). Truth should not be sold to maintain ecclesiastical positions, not for miserable silver currency, nor for a pot of lentils. "Buy the truth and sell it not" is the Lord's command in His most Holy Word.
But the price of Truth includes also the cost implied in the Biblical doctrine of Christian Unity. This has been distorted by the so-called "Ecumenical Movement", it has been compromised by tolerance of "Neo-Evangelicalism" and ecumenical evangelism of so many "United Crusades", and has been partialized by Denominationalism which, in its eagerness to perpetuate the historical traditions peculiar to each confession, perpetuates in this way differences and discrepancies under the mantle of "Christian tolerance" which permits the co-existence of truth and error in the name of truth, an absolute incongruence. Councils of churches; ecumenical, anti-ecumenical and middle of the road, away from both extremes, prove this syndrome or general state of contemporaneous ecclesiasticism. Any partially informed believer knows this, and here is where the commandment of "Buying the truth and not selling it" acquires for all Christians and churches, who consider themselves fundamental, a new dimension: THE PRICE OF A TESTIMONY, FOR THE WORD AND THE NAME OF THE LORD.
Here is where the Church in "Philadelphia" (Rev. 3:7-13) is presented as Our "pattern in the mount", as its particular testimony is warranted by the testimony of the Lord Jesus Himself, when He said of her: "Thou hast kept My Word and hast not denied My Name". In this declaration of faithfulness, the "price" is also, pointed out: (1) "Keep the Word"; (2) "not deny the Name" of Jesus Christ. And which is the "Word" to be kept? For a believer it refers: to the Scriptures, and there is only one answer to that question: "ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD" (Acts 20:27), and it is as clear as the midday sun, that this does not mean part of the Biblical truths, not even the greater part of them, but rather ALL that the Spirit of truth has given us in the Word of Truth. There is no room here for partializations, no selection, nor minimization: "ALL" means just that, "ALL" the rich doctrinal contents of the Holy Scriptures. Whoever would dare to affirm the contrary, would be an ignoramus or a hard-hearted person, however sincere he might be in his demands.
May the reader not accuse us of exaggeration: consider first the context of Paul's protestation to the elders of the Ephesus Church, and it will be seen that we deal with extremely serious issues. Paul says to them:
"WHEREFORE, I TAKE YOU TO RECORD THIS DAY, THAT I AM PURE FROM THE BLOOD OF ALL MEN; FOR I HAVE, NOT SHUNNED TO DECLARE UNTO YOU ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD" (Acts 20:26,27).
What terrible solemnity! We shall return to this further on. Meanwhile let us say here that the elders of Ephesus, of necessity, were aware of what "ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD" meant, if Paul's words were of any worth to them. Here we should ask ourselves: How could we know what those brethren had in mind then? The answer is: Our only possibility today of knowing is to endeavor to "glean" so to say, what was the counsel of God contained in the Biblical passages which recount Paul's ministry in Ephesus. These passages are:
Acts 18:19-21; Acts chapter 19; Acts 20:1, 4, 15-38; 1 Cor. 15:32; 16:8, 9; Paul's epistle to the Ephesians; 1 Tim. 1: 3, 4; 2 Tim. 1: 16, 18; 4:12. As added reading, the Lord's letter to the Ephesus Church Rev. 2:1-7.
Now, to glean and so obtain the "Counsel of God" contained in, these passages. We must discern, extract and then codify the doctrines revealed here. The result of our patient task will give us a surprising picture of what we call today "Systematic Theology". Of course we will not find these doctrines defined by their specific or technical names, nor will they be grouped in the precise order in which we place them, nor are they developed exhaustively, but those doctrines are there, explicitly or implicitly revealed. Sometimes in several verses, other times in just one, and on occasions, only part of a verse. Gathered as evidence, they offer an impressive example of what it means to speak of "ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD". We here share with our readers the result of our doctrinal codification.
- Sealed with the Holy Spirit, "the earnest of our inheritance" at the moment of repentance and believing: Eph. 1:13, 14; 4:30b.
- Sanctification: separated from sin separated unto God, to walk in love and live victoriously: Eph. 4:17-32; 5:1-21.
- Fruit of the Spirit: Eph. 5:9, 10.
- Gifts of the Spirit: Eph. 4:7-12 cf. Acts 19:6, 7, 11-17 (these sign gifts declined later, as we see from other Scriptures: 1 Cor. 13:8; Heb. 2:3, 4; cf. 1 Tim. 5:23 and 2 Tim. 4:20b).
- The fulness of the Spirit: Eph. 3:16-19; 5:18-20.
- Prayer: "In the Spirit": Eph. 6:18 Example of Paul: prayer with deep spiritual motives and not only temporal needs: Eph. 1:16-23; 3:14-19 cf. Eph. 2:18.
- Relationship in the home, marital, paternal and filial life: Eph. 5:22-24, 28, 33 and 6:1-4.
- Testimony of the believer in the world: Eph. 6:5-9 cf. vers. 21, 22;Eph. 4:1, 17-32; 5:3-17.
- Praying one for another: Eph. 1:15, 16; 6:18-20, cf. Acts 20:36.
- Helping in time of need: Acts 20:35; Eph. 4:28.
- Forbearing and forgiving one another: Eph. 4:2, 32.
- Ministering in times of tribulation and jeopardizing one's own life for the brethren: Acts 19:29-33; 20:23, 24; cf. 1 Cor. 15:32; 2 Tim. 1:16, 18.
- Theocratic: Because Christ is its Head established by the Father (as we have seen) and the Holy Spirit Who dwells in the Church: Eph. 2:18-22, to glorify Christ: Eph. 3:20, 21; establishing in it His Lordship, the only way in which Christ can be glorified as Head of the Body. The Church must be subject to Christ: Eph. 5:24, this means to be governed by Him. The government is therefore Theocratic.
- Biblical, which is the second aspect of the government of the Church, though following the same line of Theocratic thought, because the Bible is the Word of God: Eph. 6:17; Word of Truth: Eph. 1: 13. Because of this, it is the Only Authority in doctrine and practices and should be followed in love: Eph. 4:14, 15.
- Congregational, the third and last aspect, not in a mere "democratic" sense, but in the sense of being congregated in one organism, ONE BODY Eph. 4:4, to function as ONE BODY, all its members should be assembled together, each member has the obligation to submit to the Head. Congregational, then, has a very profound spiritual meaning. The Lord, by His Spirit can thus work "in" and "through" His members in Whom He dwells: Eph. 2:18, 22; 3:20, 21; 4:6. For this reason the members of the Body are warned not to be unwise but understanding what the will of the Lord is: Eph. 5:17.
- Preach the Gospel: Acts 20:20, 21, 24; cf. Eph. 1:13; 6:19, 20.
- Defend the Gospel: Acts 20:29-31; Eph. 6:13-17; 1 Tim. 1:3, 4.
- Confirm the Gospel: Eph. 1:17-23; 3:14-21; 4:1, 15, 16; cf. Acts 20:21.
- In essence it is spiritual: Eph. 2:20-22; 4:3-6; 5:18-21.
- In relation to the Word, it is Doctrinal: Eph. 4:13-16, cf. Acts 18:24-27.
- Should be manifest not only in the local churches but also among brethren of different churches: Eph. 1:15-19 "with all the saints" not only of a determined place. Cf. Acts 20:4. The unity and interchurch relationship is also seen in Rev. 2:1, 2 in Christ's letter to those of the Ephesians church in placing its candlestick together with the others.
18. Angelology, the angels of God: Eph. 3:10.
19. Satanology or demonology, Satan and his demons: Eph. 2:2; 4:27; Acts 19:13-20; Eph. 6:11, 12, 16.
20. Idolatry: Acts 19:23-40; Eph. 5:5.
21. Eschatology, or the coming of the Lord and last things.
In Ephesians 1:18, we read: "The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, that ye may know what is the hope of His calling and what the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints."
This connects us directly with the coming of the Lord, because "hope" points to the future, and the future has to do, both with Christ and us. In that day, His vocation as Redeemer will be satisfied, because the "riches of His glory" will be made known. He is waiting to see these riches just as much as we are, because this passage does not deal with the glory of heaven, but another glory which is of a personal character. A glory which Christ possesses in Himself, but which His own do not possess. That is why we read: "His inheritance in the saints". When He comes He will produce in us a state of such glory, and the more glorious we are, the richer in glory is His inheritance. What a blessed hope! This opens our minds to understand the following facts:-
- The resurrection-transformation of our bodies, a redemption experience which we hope for, and which the Lord will fulfill at His coming. For this also we have the "earnest" of the Holy Spirit, with which we are sealed, "unto the Day of redemption". Eph. 1:13, 14; 4:30b. That "day of redemption" can only be related to the redemption of the body, as we already have at this time, the redemption of the soul.
- The rapture of the Church. There is no specific mention of this in our verses. But we might see a suggestion of this in Eph. 1:9, 10: "That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ". In Eph. 5:27, in speaking of the church, it also says, that Christ "might present it to himself a glorious church". As an example we see what happened to the Lord Himself, after the resurrection, He was taken up into heaven and set at the right hand of the Father, Eph. 1:20; Cf. Eph. 2:6.
- The judgement seat for rewards: "Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord": Eph. 6:8; Cf. Acts 20:32.
- Marriage of Christ and the Church: Eph. 5:22-33; Cf. 3:6, this is when the church appears all glorious, "not having spot" (exterior) "or wrinkle" (result of deterioration that comes from within) "That He might present it to Himself a glorious church". Blessed church of the Lord!
The "children of disobedience" Eph. 2:2, are the "children of wrath"; Eph. 2:3; 5:5, this last verse shows us their end, they do not have an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, they are ruled with a rod of iron and do not enter into the kingdom of God, but are excluded and with that they are eternally separated from God.
22. Pastoral Theology, or of ministers and their work: Eph. 4:11, 12.
- Elders, bishops, shepherds, overseers. Not hierarchies, but rather facets of one and the same office. Acts 20:17, 28.
- Work of evangelization: Acts 18:19-21; 19:8-10; 20:18-21 Cf. 1 Cor. 16:8, 9.
- Ministry of defense and confirmation of the gospel: Acts 20:29-31; 1 Tim. 1:3, 4; 2 Tim. 4:12.
- Consecration to spiritual labours; not covering material goods: Acts 20:20, 21; and 33-35.
- Faithfulness in the Christian race, even unto sacrifice: Acts 20: 22-24; Cf. Eph. 6:19-20.
Such is the doctrinal richness of the verses that deal with the ministry of Paul in Ephesus, and add to it all the personal teaching given by the Apostle during his three years of labour there, which surely supplied whatever detail was necessary for sound doctrine. Moreover, remember Paul gave instructions to the churches to interchange his apostolic letters among them (Col. 4:16); which also completed his teaching. Such an ample spectrum, makes us conclude that the expression "ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD" means, "ALL THE DOCTRINES OF THE WORD OF GOD, WITHOUT OMITTING OR MINIMIZING ANY".
We are very emphatic in this affirmation, because if the Lord Jesus, speaking of the law, said "one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled" (Mt. 5:18), it is logical to affirm that the jots and tittles of the doctrines of Grace which we find in the New Testament cannot be overlooked. This just means that even details which could be considered very small, are important in the eyes of God and must be respected by man.
In the light of all that has been said, brethren who have inadvertently minimized doctrines because they have pigeonholed them into "categories" such as "fundamental" and "secondary" or "vital" and "non-essential". We do not find any rule in Scripture to permit such comparative "classifications". According to the Word of God, all doctrine and every detail of it, is fundamental and is vital, FOR THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH GOD HAS GIVEN IT TO US. The same laws rule as do in our bodies: "And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee; nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you". (1 Cor. 12:21). "Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine", Paul orders Timothy (1 Tim. 4:16).
Nonetheless, these "categories" are commonly allowed in the general opinion and have produced a "status quo" (the existing state or condition) of inter-church relations which is governed by this rule: In things essential, unity; in things indifferent liberty, but in all things charity". It sounds agreeable, but it is not Biblical, as we shall see. Among doctrines considered "secondary" or "Don-essential" there are such serious issues as Baptism, form of government in the church, and events relating to the coming of Christ, to quote the most well known. We ask, are these matters non-essential? We answer: They are essential and very much so, because in baptism the Word of the Lord is invoked, therefore, if the act of baptism is not correct, the Name.
God is invoked in vain. As to the form of government, if it is not right, the Authority of the Lord is compromised, as the Only Head of the Church, an with regard to matters concerning Eschatology, the coming of the Lord and the Hope of the Church is compromised. Such matters cannot be left arbitrarily to the phrase "in things indifferent, liberty", as this would be the same a saying that each one believe and practice as be thinks most convenient, eve though there may be contradictions. No, brethren, that is not Biblical, because a "status quo" of that kind allows for co-existence of truth with error, with no risk at all for error, which without a doubt underlies protected. Paradoxically, within the discrepancies that exist among those same brethren, who confess that the Bible is their only authority in doctrine and practices. In the face of such an undeniable fact, the phrase "in things indifferent liberty" falls condemned by the Apostolic sentence: "As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness..." (1 Pet. 2:16), such as the "status quo" would permit. With regard to the last part of the phrase:- "in all things charity' as good as it sounds, it is not Biblical charity that is silenced or takes pleasure in mixing truth and error, as it is written: "(charity)... rejoiceth in the truth" (1 Cor. 13:6).
But today, brethren who serve on Fundamental Councils, tell us they are "FOR ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD", unaware perhaps that these councils are governed by the "status quo". Their Constitutions say nothing' about seeking to solve doctrinal discrepancies within their member-denominations. Even in their Doctrinal Declarations, in mentioning Biblical doctrines, classified a Fundamental, certain doctrines are not mentioned, but are qualified as "equally Biblical", but are not included because certain member-denominations disagree on them. Moreover, in the wording of their articles of faith on Eschatology, there is a strong sense of a "dialectic" method (Barthian or Neo-orthodox type) which permits the expression of an idea or a doctrine by means of "synthesis" terminology, which suites everyone... understood one way or another. We read: "The Coming of the Lord in power and glory" a phrase all could approve of, but not all believe the same with regard to the purposes of that coming, such a matter is not mentioned, because some believe that the Lord will come to rapture His Church, and others do not believe this, some believe He will come to establish His millennial kingdom on earth and others do not..., so this is left free to the interpretation of each confession. Is that to be for "ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD"?.
Paul's words to the Ephesians Elders: "Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD" (Acts 20:26-27), can not be associated with doctrinal omissions, nor accommodations, nor a lack of interest in correcting these deficiencies and discrepancies, because all these things affect the integrity of the doctrines which make up "ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD". All these matters are permitted and even sheltered by the "status quo" and so much as to speak of seeking the elimination of these discrepancies is taboo (exclusion from use or practice), "speaking the truth in love", with an open Bible and bowed heads and knees before the Lord.
Let us look at this from another point of view: the Name of the Lord, (THOU) "hast kept my word and hast not denied my Name", Christ said to the Church in Philadelphia (Rev. 3:8). What shall we say of "Denominations" who persist in their "names" because, behind them, not only are their "historical glories", but their "doctrinal distinctives" which differentiate them from others, with whom they disagree on many of these doctrines? Ah! But above all we are Christians, they say. That would seem to honour the Name "which is above every name" (Eph. 1:19-23) even above the "denominational" names. This in reality is one more accusation because it attempts to shelter under the name "Christian" and maintain other names that speak of discrepancies. The Name of Christ cannot serve as a covering, for doctrinal divisions which are protected by other names. Christ is not divided nor can He be a minister of discrepancies. (1 Cor. 1:10-13). We all sing: "Glory to His Name"! Well then let us yield our "names" and submit the doctrinal discrepancies represented by these names, to the judgment of the Truth of the Word of Truth, that would be, we think, the best way to show "WE DO NOT" "DENY HIS NAME". THE NAME OF CHRIST JESUS. He is the Truth, as He said before Pilate: "... To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth My voice." (John 18:37). We should also witness to the truth. Let us then be "fellowhelpers to the truth" (3 Jn. vers. 8b).
But leading brethren of Councils have told us these Councils do not have the men, the means and the time to take on these matters, and to form some kind of committees to study these differences, as the movement "Faith and Order", of course without the presence of modernists. These leaders add that if we feel this way, they do not, to leave the Fundamental Councils alone, and to each his own.
Brethren, we ask: Does that mean to be "For all the counsel of God?" Does this mean that a Testimony for the Word and the Name of the Lord must be measured by pragmatic values, the way we weigh money and time and possibilities of individuals, or more or less previous guarantees of success. The cross with its message of sacrifice, the Bible which is exposed to scandal because of our discrepancies on its doctrines, also demand a place on the scales, which surely will tip the faithful in its favour. While "ecumenism" usurps and misrepresents Christian Unity, expending masses of money for this erroneous intent together with men who produce tons of literature full of subtle deceit. Are we Fundamentalists not capable of humbling ourselves, and crying to the Living and True God, to provide, enable and use us in all that the Biblical Doctrine of Christian Unity really means? Are we not denying this while we cry out with all our might, 'We are for all the counsel of God"? It seems to us, and it hurts deep down inside to say so, but, to our lack of wisdom we add the burden of the lack of consciousness of our Christian responsibility. May the Lord apply the benefits of His precious blood in this too, and may He enable us by His Spirit to serve Him also in this front of Testimony, without counting the cost or looking for other results, than those that proceed from the Word which says: "Whether they will hear or whether they will forbear" (Ezek. 2:7).
We believe all Fundamentalists, especially all who one day - without counting the cost -"(Went) forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach" separating from apostate churches and denominations, (in our personal case, on the 15th November, 1935, more than, 43 years ago), have a duty and a privilege to witness to this testimony: CHRISTIAN UNITY ON BIBLICAL LEVELS. We believe that the Philadelphia Church (Rev. 3:7-13) has something to teach us today, that is, to witness in such a way that the Lord may say of us "(thou) hast kept My Word, and hast not denied My Name".
With this purpose and a diligent desire to serve the Lord, a group of Evangelical Christian Churches in Argentina and Uruguay felt a spiritual burden, and believed the Lord had given them "A banner... that it may be displayed because of the truth" (Psalms 60:4). That is how the Philadelphia Testimony emerged, on August 17, 1966. These churches felt the need for Christian Unity, to define doctrines and practices, Biblically, Spiritually and doctrinally, in what is related to inter-church cooperation and fellowship of all Fundamentalists in the faith on all the earth, in days nearing the precious return of our Lord for His Church, the One and Only, "which He hath purchased with His own blood" as we read in Acts 20:28.
We believe that born-again believers should live in the holy expectation of the coming of the Lord, a feeling that is general among Bible believers through the world, and that we should watch and prepare for that rapture. We believe our churches should witness a complete Testimony, as is shown by our Lord in His Word, especially in His letter to His Church in Philadelphia (Rev. 3:7-13) and the need to keep faithful to their trust so as not to lose a full reward, which the Lord desires to give each one.
We believe that Church Councils of believers in the Bible should form groups to deal with the restoration of doctrinal unity by applying Biblical methods, and so eliminate discrepancies in doctrine and practices among God's Children.
The "Philadelphia" Testimony (Brotherly love) is not an "organization". It is simply a Testimony. It is not governed by a board. Whoever understands this, will give this testimony in his place of residence. Prophetic Conferences, Spiritual Retreats, Congresses, workers encounters, all are held in different countries on an absolutely free and voluntary basis, according to the leading and moving of the Lord, among many saintly and humble brethren.
We believe that to go deeply into the teaching of the Word of God, on the doctrine of separation and the doctrine of unity, is an imperative from the Lord and not an, option.
A Testimony of this nature, has its price, which we think is well expressed in these holy demands... "TO THE LORD IN COMPLETE SUBMISSION; TO THE BIBLE IN COMPLETE OBEDIENCE!" "GATHER MY SAINTS TOGETHER UNTO ME; THOSE THAT HAVE MADE A COVENANT WITH ME BY SACRIFICE", we read in Psalms 50:5.
"BUY THE TRUTH AND SELL IT NOT" (Prov. 23:23), this does not permit alternatives and obliges faithfulness. Are we willing to pay the price?
THIS IS THE PRICE, BRETHREN, THE PRICE OF A TESTIMONY "FOR ALL THE COUNSEL OF GOD".