For I have not shunned to declare to you all the counsel of God.
St. Paul is stating a fact which
(1) was to the honor of the Ephesian elders, for they must have been receptive and willing hearers if the apostle found that he might even teach them the mysteries of the gospel; and which
(2) was to the honor of St. Paul as a teacher, who was so skilful in dividing the Word of truth that he could make the very mysteries plain. Compare his language in Ephesians 3:4, where he speaks of their 'being' "able to understand his knowledge, in the mystery of Christ." It is right to declare the whole counsel of God; but it is wise only to declare it to those who are prepared to receive it. Compare St. Peter's counsel and reference to St. Paul in 2 Peter 3:15, 16. The "whole counsel of God" may be regarded as including -
I. THE COMPLETE CIRCLE OF REVEALED TRUTH. This embraces
(1) the Divine revelations made in different ages;
(2) in different forms;
(3) to different individuals.
While the complete circle may be regarded as contained in the Old and New Testament Scriptures, we may not absolutely limit Divine revelation to the written Word. The Spirit of God has full and free access to the minds and hearts of men, and can reveal his will directly to them if it shall please him so to do. To this circle there is a center, but the repetition of this cannot be the Divine idea of "preaching the gospel." Every truth within the circle must be held by, and filled with the spirit of, the central truth. Everything within the circle is the gospel. Ministers may not, and they need not, shun to declare to men the very "mysteries" of revelation, since by the consideration of such the higher culture of the soul is gained. Infants take the milk of first principles; strong men need to feed upon strong meat of difficult and advanced truth.
II. THE TRUTH IN ITS ANTAGONISTIC PHASES. This side of the truth may not be left untouched by any teacher, but its treatment calls for much care and wisdom. There are times when we are required to show how truth opposes error; but usually it is far better to preach the positive truth, and let it by its own force gradually root out and destroy error. Three points may here be illustrated.
1. Christ's truth seemed opposed to Judaism. It was not really opposed to the system as given by God to Moses. It was the natural and necessary outgrowth and completion of it. It was opposed to the corrupt Judaism of the rabbis - a formal and ceremonial system out of which all spiritual life had gone.
2. Christ's truth was opposed to paganism, both in its theories, principles, and practices.
3. Christ's truth is made to appear opposed to science, but only by the undue assumptions and prejudiced bias of some who really misrepresent science.
4. Christ's truth is always opposed to worldly maxims, because it demands the whole soul for God, while the world wants the whole soul for self.
III. THE TRUTH IN ITS PRACTICAL PHASES. Illustrate from the Epistles how directly it bears:
1. On individual habits; teaching us how to possess the vessels of our bodies in sanctification and honor.
2. On family relations; culturing good fatherhood and motherhood, and requiring honorable obedience from children, and service from dependents.
3. On social fellowships; binding man to man in a gracious brotherhood of common helpfulness.
IV. THE TRUTH WITH THE PERSONAL STAMP ON IT. When uttered with the force of a man's own experience, persuasion, and conviction, the truth gains a new power; but we must also recognize that it comes under limitations by getting apprehension and expression only through limited minds - limited by capacity and limited by education. Individuality is on one side power, but on the other side weakness. Conclude by fully unfolding what now may be thought of as included in the "whole counsel of God," especially pointing out that, while the field of revelation is the same that St Paul had, the field of speculation has marvelously grown and enlarged. But still, what men have to preach to their fellow-men is not their speculation, but God's revelation. - R.T.
Parallel VersesKJV: For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.