Over the last two months we’ve looked at the ways God uses to give us guidance. We reflected on Commanding Scripture and then the Compelling Spirit. This month we’re looking at the Counsel of the Saints.
Proverbs 11:14 says, ‘For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory sure’ and Proverbs 15:22 adds ‘Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed’. Together, along with many other Scriptures, the Bible reminds us of the importance of taking counsel from other people, but especially from God’s people who are called ‘saints’ not because of our moral superiority (far from it), but because the word describes ‘being set apart for God’ and that is what we are, through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 1:7, 2 Cor 1:1 etc). Ps 25:14 tells us ‘The Lord confides in those who fear him’ and that is why taking counsel from other believers is as important a form of guidance as the others are. The word ‘counsel’ doesn’t carry the professional air about it that we think of when we hear the word; but rather it basically means ‘instruction’.
So God uses the instruction/counsel of his own people as a means of guiding and directing our lives. There are 4 things we need to know in this respect.
We are a Community of Counsellors
The church is a community of those whom God saves through Christ and then calls to offer grace and guidance to one another. The New Testament is replete with the ‘one another’ statements which describe the duty and responsibility which God places on us to love another (1 Peter 1:22), forgive one another (Col 3:13), serve one another (Gal 5:13), submit to one another (Eph 5:21), teach and admonish one another (Col 3:16) and so on. By so doing, we are acting as a community who by our actions are expressing the will of God and therefore providing guidance from God as we seek to live for Jesus Christ. It is important for us, as a community of counsellors, to be corporately involved in one another’s lives. How else can we counsel?
We are Competent to do Counselling
We may not feel up to offering instruction and guidance but Paul, in Romans 15:14, asserts ‘I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another’. The reason every believer is competent for this task is because we have the Holy Spirit who is the Great Counsellor (John 14:16) and He guides and directs our lives as we seek the same for others. Imagine a set on stage and you have actors who are directed according to a script. You hear the cry, ‘lights, camera, action!’ and the scene unfolds. We are like actors, though not in a hypocritical way; we are tasked with living to a script (the Bible) and we have the Holy Spirit to direct us in offering counsel and guidance to one another. We cannot go off-script or ignore the Director or the whole story loses its direction and the plot and story line become distorted. So, we are competent to counsel and need to take that on board.
We must be Caring in Counselling
The ‘one another’s’ of the New Testament are couched in the language of love and care, summarized by Gal 5:13, ‘serve one another in love’. As we offer guidance and advice and help it must be done with a caring and loving attitude and goal, asking ourselves, ‘what is for this person’s good? What will help them bring glory to God in their lives?’, even if we offer a rebuke or warning. Ps 25:10 says ‘all God’s ways are loving and faithful towards those who obey his commands’ and so we ought to emulate our God in counselling.
We should be Committed to Counselling
As we are called to serve, forgive, love, submit, support one another, these commands often come to us in the sense of ‘keep doing this’. An important doctrine we believe in is ‘Perseverance of the Saints’ which assures us that those who follow Jesus will keep doing so till they go to Glory! An important aspect of this is persevering in counselling and supporting one another. Gal 6:9 says, ‘let us not grow weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest’. Guiding, supporting, instructing, counselling- all seeds sown which after rain and sunshine fall will result in growth and Glory to God!
Friends, keep counselling and instructing because by so doing we are playing a role in the guidance of God
Your friend and Pastor
Rev Colin MacLeod