Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Faithful to only Half the Truth isn't full faithfulness

What’s the name of the error when the pastor opens the Bible and preaches through it, but strains everything through a grid and won’t let anything outside his focus get through? What’s it called when that grid is something as wholesome as evangelism? What’s wrong with the preacher taking John 3 and making it into practical tips about how we can reach people like Nicodemus, and closes with an alter call, urging people to cast themselves wholly on the mercies of Christ? On the one hand points must be awarded to such a man for having enough faithfulness to actually open up the Book and use it. On the other, points must be deducted because reducing the Scriptures to such simplistic terms is positively criminal. The closest term I could think of was “half-truth” but that doesn’t have the right fit to it.

Now don’t misunderstand, I don’t mean to say in this case that the gospel is distorted beyond recognition, I mean it’s shrunk to such an extent that it no longer nourishes anyone but babies. The preacher prayerfully considers that his audience is full of non-believers, and carefully distills the essence of the message, throwing out the non-essential elements until it’s a tasty milkshake ready to go. This is praiseworthy insofar as he’s cutting right to the chase and showing the non-believer their need of Christ, yet at the same time it’s destructive in that it brings the people right into the condemnation of Scripture: “You should be teachers by now! You have need of milk and not of strong meat!”
Imagine my surprise as I was considering this very question when I heard what Spurgeon said in his sermon “Preach the Gospel.” 

To preach the gospel is to state every doctrine contained in God's Word, and to give every truth its proper prominence. Men may preach a part of the gospel; they may only preach one single doctrine of it; and I would not say that a man did not preach the gospel at all if he did but maintain the doctrine of justification by faith—"By grace are ye saved through faith." I should put him down for a gospel minister, but not for one who preached the whole gospel. No man can be said to preach the whole gospel of God if he leaves it out, knowingly and intentionally, one single truth of the blessed God.

 Why, that’s it! That’s it exactly. And lo, Spurgeon goes on to hit the nail right on the head again:

In conversation, a week or two ago, with an eminent professor, he said to me, "Sir, we know that we ought not to preach the doctrine of election, because it is not calculated to convert sinners." "But," said I to him, "who is the man that dares to find fault with the truth of God? You admit with me that it is a truth, and yet you say it must not be preached. I dare not have said that thing. I should reckon it supreme arrogance to have ventured to say that a doctrine ought not to be preached when the all-wise God has seen fit to reveal it. Besides, is the whole gospel intended to convert sinners? There are some truths which God blesses to the conversion of sinners; but are there not other portions which were intended for the comfort of the saint? And ought not these to be a subject of gospel ministry as well as the others? And shall I look at one and disregard the other?

Marvelous. And to which I add the Scriptures themselves, (from Hosea 13:13)

 “He is an unwise son, for he should not stay long where children are born.”

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