And now, behold, I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.…
I. WHAT ARE WE TO UNDERSTAND HERE BY THE COUNSEL OF GOD AND WHEN MAY IT BE SAID THAT A MINISTER OF CHRIST DECLARES ALL THAT COUNSEL.
1. Matters of doctrine, which must be known, believed, and laid to heart. These are the foundation and source of all religion and morality, and are, therefore, first necessary to be declared. They comprehend the truths which concern the existence, perfections, creation, providence, and government of God; what man was and what he has become through sin; the person and offices of the Redeemer; the nature of the Holy Spirit and His saving operations; the future judgment, the resurrection, the blessedness of heaven.
2. Matters of grace and privilege. There are divers things which it is not sufficient to know in theory, but we must know them in experience: our sinfulness, repentance, faith and its fruits; adoption (Galatians 4:4), regeneration; a lively hope of eternal life (1 Peter 1:3); direction and help in all trials (Romans 8:14; Proverbs 3:16; Isaiah 41:10); all the graces of God's Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23); communion with the Father and the Son by the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 6:16; John 14:22; 1 John 1:3; Revelation 3:20); and hereby an earnest of heaven.
3. Matters of duty and practice to be performed and done. This branch of "the counsel of God" includes the whole of piety and virtue, our duty to God, our neighbour, and ourselves. The decisions of the great day will turn on these evidences being produced or not (Romans 2:6-16). How sadly defective is their preaching who insist on doctrinal, or experimental, while they neglect practical religion!
II. HOW DOES IT APPEAR THAT IT IS OF IMPORTANCE TO DECLARE THIS COUNSEL AT ALL. The counsel of God —
1. Is the chief subject of all the revelations made to the ancient patriarchs and prophets, and communicated by them to mankind (1 Peter 1:10-12).
2. The sole subject of the ministry of the apostles and evangelists (1 Peter 1:12). And to testify these things they were to sacrifice all things (Acts 20:22-24).
3. Engrosses the thoughts and engages the ministry of angels (1 Peter 1:12; Hebrews 1:14).
4. Was the object for which the Son of God became incarnate (Philippians 2:6-9), lived, suffered, died, rose, ascended.
4. God hath borne witness to the importance of these things (Hebrews 2:4), from the beginning under every dispensation: in Egypt, Canaan, Babylon, from Sinai, and Sion.
5. For the sake of these things, the Church, nay, the world, was built, and is supported. And whatever individual, or family, or town, or country, rejects, or even neglects these things, shall be destroyed, here or hereafter (Acts 3:23; Hebrews 12:25; Hebrews 2:1-3; Hebrews 10:26-31; Isaiah 55:12).
III. WHAT IS THE DUTY OF THOSE TO WHOM THIS COUNSEL OF GOD IS DECLARED.
1. They must "take heed unto themselves" that they neither reject nor neglect what is thus delivered to them, but — that they consider, understand, and believe these matters of doctrine — that they experience and enjoy these matters of grace and privilege — that they comply with, and perform, these matters of duty and practice.
2. They must be awake to a sense of the danger, lest their minds should be diverted from this "counsel of God," by the temptations of the devil, the allurements of the world, the lusts of the flesh, the deceitfulness of sin, or by the "wolves that shall enter in among them" (ver. 29), or the "men" that shall arise "speaking perverse things" (ver. 30), and against this they must "watch."
3. They must always "remember" (ver. 31) the vast importance of these things, as manifested by what patriarchs, prophets, apostles, evangelists, pastors, teachers, saints, and martyrs, and especially what Jesus Christ Himself has done and suffered on account of them; all of whom made these things the great business of their lives.
4. They must be sensible of their own weakness, and must apply "to God," by whose guidance, protection, and blessing, they can alone be preserved, and "to the word of His grace," in the diligent and faithful use of which Divine grace is increased, and "built up" in true religion, and finally receive "an inheritance among them that are sanctified" (ver. 32).
Parallel VersesKJV: And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more.