Principles of Interpretation: The Whole Counsel of God
Yesterday, we finished considering the importance of meditation on the word of God. If we are going to understand the inspired text, we must meditate or reflect upon it continually.

Today, we will center our attention upon this principle of interpretation: It is necessary to get the whole counsel of God on any subject in order to have God's complete and whole will. Part of the truth is not enough.

The Scriptural basis for this principle is clearly seen in Acts 20:26,27, where Paul spoke these words - "Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God."

Paul was not satisfied merely preaching part of the truth. He desired to preach all of it, and he did just that. That's what it means to share "the whole counsel of God." Paul, because of his willingness to declare all of God's truth, could not be held responsible in any way for their disobedience to the divine will. If he had held back part of the truth, and they sinned ignorantly, then Paul would have been at least partially to blame. However, this was not the case. He shared all of God's truth and pleaded with people to obey. He was innocent in this regard and could not be held accountable for any failure on their part.

Although this phrase--"the whole counsel of God"--is not used in the Old Testament, there is one passage in particular that reminds me of it. Consider what God declared in Ezekiel 33:8,9 - "When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die!' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul."

Even under the Mosaic age, God expected the revealed truth to be declared in its entirety. Part of the truth was not enough. However, some were tempted then (as they are today) to hold back the difficult parts of the divine message (e.g., the rebukes from God) in an effort to please people. Those who kept back part of the inspired truth were not doing anyone a service. The listeners would be ignorant of God's will and would continue in sin. This would consequently bring guilt and God's wrath upon the speaker's head for failing in his duty to share the whole truth--including the unpleasant parts.

Those who preach and teach God's words today (whether publicly or privately) must labor to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! It is just not good enough to simply preach the truth; we must preach all of it! Of course, if we preach all of the truth and also add some error, we have still failed the Lord.

When studying the Bible, we need to adopt the attitude of pursuing the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. It is important to remember that every verse must be understood in the light of all the others. It is rare to find all of God's truth on any topic in one verse. We must not interpret one passage in a way that contradicts another. If we do, our interpretation is obviously flawed. If we believe we understand the truth of what a particular verse teaches, that view ought to be consistent with what all other verses teach on that subject. If it is inconsistent, then our understanding is wrong somewhere.

Friends, it is easy to preach and believe some of the truth, but that should not be our goal. We must endeavor to understand and proclaim "the whole counsel of God." If we are going to learn God's complete will on a particular subject, we must objectively consider all the teachings of the Bible on that subject and not just some of them. This is a critical component in striving to really understand the sacred text, and not just twisting it to prove what we want it to (cf. II Pet. 3:16).