27) For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.Acts 20:27 (KJV)
Pastors, Sunday school teachers, lay ministers, and all Christians for that matter are to preach and study all the counsel of God.
The entire Bible is inspired and all of it is profitable for us. (2 Tim. 3:16 KJV) We are to meditate on scripture, to observe, and to do according to all that is written therein. (Josh. 1:8 KJV)
When we look at the Bible we must not approach it as merely a collection of separate books, letters, and epistles. Instead, we must view the Bible as one gloriously and divinely inspired book.
Paul did not shun away from preaching the entire counsel of God’s word. In fact, he tells us this because it is easy for us to preach and study certain portions of the Bible while ignoring others.
Sadly, Christians often turn a blind eye to many areas of the Bible, namely areas deemed difficult or boring.“When we look at the Bible we must not approach it as merely a collection of separate books, letters, and epistles. Instead, we must view the Bible as one gloriously and divinely inspired book.”
Others wish to remain theologically neutral. They do not want to stir up any controversy. However, in their aim remain inoffensive out of fear that certain parts of scripture will offend and turn people away, they cause much more harm than good.
The enemy of this world desires nothing more than to hinder God’s work. One of the best ways he can accomplish this is by confining God’s word as much as he can.
What are the benefits then of preaching, teaching, and studying all of God’s word? Why is it so important? The reasons are many, but before we jump into them, let’s look at what defines most preaching, teaching, and studying today.
An appetite for application
The greater modern evangelical landscape of the last several decades has grown increasingly focused on the application of the Bible to everyday life.
You will undoubtedly notice this as you peruse the aisles of Christian bookstores. Even a cursory glance at online Christian retailers reveals an appetite for application.“Even a cursory glance at online Christian retailers reveals an appetite for application.”These places present volume upon volume of titles aimed at making God’s word “real” and “applicable” to your daily life. Practical, hands-on resources for readers and ministers are commonplace.
This is seen in churches, as well. Many try hard today to be “relevant” to their congregations. Their Sunday school curricula and pastoral messages routinely focus on tangible takeaways for the lives of their congregants.
Now, this trend is not, at face value, a bad thing. In fact, preaching and studying for application are essential for healthy Christian growth and maturity.
Without applying God’s word, we would never grow. All of the facts and knowledge gleaned from scripture would be useless if we did not apply them to our lives.
In fact, we are commanded to show ourselves approved unto God and the way we do that is by applying His precepts to our life. (2 Tim. 2:15 KJV) In addition, we are taught to be doers of His word, not merely hearers. (Jas. 1:22 KJV)
Christianity is an active faith, not a passive activity. Jesus told us to go out into all the world. (Mk. 16:15 KJV) There are countless verses about applying God’s word to our lives. The entire book of Proverbs is an attempt to do just that.
There are also many tangible examples of what an applied Christian faith looks like. We can see some of these examples in actions such as giving cups of water to the least among us, visiting those who are hurting, and living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. (Matt. 10:42, Jas. 1:27 and Tit. 2:12 KJV)“…a diet filled with application alone is not enough to sustain or satisfy us.”
These are all real-life ways we can live out the gospel and let our lights shine before men. However, a diet filled with application alone is not enough to sustain or satisfy us.
There is a two-fold danger in focusing too much on application and both dangers relate back to our main verse from Paul. We are to learn and preach the whole counsel of God, however, we cannot do that if all we preach and study is for application only.
So, back to our original proposition. Why are we to preach all of God’s word? In addition, what are the specific dangers in not doing so?
Too great a focus on application distracts us from worshiping and glorifying God through the study of His word.
We must remember that not all narrative is normative. Not everything in the Bible is meant for direct application to our lives.
Some passages of scripture were only meant to apply to certain periods in time for specific purposes in God’s plan. For example, certain portions of the Mosaic law and speaking in tongues. Though both of these are essential to God’s word, they are not meant to directly apply to our lives today in the same manner they once did.“We must remember that not all narrative is normative.”
So how do we approach passages like these? With a worship and glory first mentality.
Where application does not fit in with the narrative, we can still (and must) praise God for his handiwork.
For instance, in the Mosaic law we see the greatness of God through His preservation of His people. With speaking in tongues we can appreciate God’s sovereign efforts in building His church and spreading the gospel.
With these especially, and with all other passages of scripture as well, we can sit back, reflect on, and admire God’s glory in them. Think about the creation narrative and God’s sovereign work of redemption through Jesus. These are truly awesome when looked upon with a mindset of worship.
When we study and preach all of God’s word, we serve Him in a more complete and well-rounded capacity. Namely, we learn to worship Him better.
We must never forget that everything is to God’s glory. (Rev. 4:11 KJV) I fear that many times the trend towards an application only style or a limited style of preaching and studying has left us wanting to see more and more of what God can do for us.“When we study and preach all of God’s word, we serve Him in a more complete and well-rounded capacity. Namely, we learn to worship Him better.”
We go to church and read Christian literature wanting to get something out of it instead of wanting to worship and honor God and give Him something from us (our time, talent or treasure).
God has already given us infinitely more than we could ever imagine, let alone deserve. We owe it to Him to praise Him and love Him with everything we have. (Matt. 22:37 KJV) We do that by honoring and learning from his entire and complete word.
Worship is important because it fixes our eyes on where our true hope comes from, Jesus Christ alone. God deserves our worship far more than we deserve Him.
So, preaching all of scripture is the perfect antidote to a self-centered, what has God done for me lately, mentality. Not only that, but it keeps us balanced in the faith by steering us away from taking everything in the Bible as applicable to daily modern life.
Preaching and studying the entire word of God also helps us out in other ways.
The Bible is an immense treasure; it is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. (Ps. 119:105 KJV) It is everything to us, even when we do not understand it all or find some of it hard to swallow.
In fact, I’d posit that the Bible is especially relevant to our lives when the learning gets tough. Some of the greatest seasons of growth in my life have been when I’ve had to grapple with hard passages and doctrines.“Some of the greatest seasons of growth in my life have been when I’ve had to grapple with hard passages and doctrines.”
This is why the Bible places such an emphasis on the meat of the word. As new Christians, we are to start out with a desire for the milk or easier portions of scripture, however; we do not grow strong in the faith without absorbing the meat of more challenging passages of God’s word. (Heb. 5:13-14)
It’s akin to exercising. When you first start working on getting into shape, you typically start slow. However, if you go to the gym and never increase weight or if you run and over time, you never increase your distance, you will plateau. When this happens, your body becomes complacent and ineffective. It’s the same in the Christian life.
You will not grow strong. You cannot disciple and teach others challenging parts of God’s word or develop a greater understanding and appreciation for God if you limit yourself only to what is easy in scripture.“We err when we use the Bible to complement secular thought in an effort to make it more palatable to the greater culture.’A focus toward application alone and an avoidance of God’s entire word hinders our growth as children of God. Much preaching and literature today, that restricts our growth to the milk of the word, gives us only a pale shadow of the Bible.
I’ve often encountered application-focused sermons and books that are nothing more than lessons in popular psychology tinged with Bible verses.
We err when we use the Bible to complement secular thought in an effort to make it more palatable to the greater culture. Rather, the Bible is the supreme standard by which all other forms of thought must agree with. Everything is subservient to scripture, it’s not the other way around. (Eph. 1:21-22 KJV).
Sometimes we focus on application because it’s more concrete or black and white. However, we must not shun areas of scripture that appear boring, insignificant or difficult.“Reading, preaching, and studying all of God’s word cultivates in Christians a healthy, well-balanced spiritual life. We can lay hold to application, worship, and growth when we include all portions of scripture in our daily lives.”
The Bible is sharper than a two-edged sword and it can sting at times, but that’s part of how we grow. (Heb. 4:12 KJV) Remember whom God loves, He chastens. (Heb. 12:6 KJV)
In fact, the gospel message is only effective through the Holy Spirit’s conviction. (Acts 2:37-38 KJV) Looking in the mirror and seeing oneself as a sinner in need of God’s grace hurts at first, because we see ourselves for who we really are.
Nevertheless, we cannot leave out God’s illumination of the hearts of men through His word, even if it is unpopular or, at times, hard to swallow.
Ultimately, I fear that sometimes the more difficult passages of scripture are left to the dust to appease congregants so that churches and ministries can remain unspoiled from any potential controversy.
However, the aim for all teachers is to present believers as mature in Christ. (Col. 1:28 KJV) In so doing no parts of scripture are to be held back, for you never know what will be profitable to someone. (Acts 20:20 KJV)
There are parts of scripture, important ones, that will grate against people and that run counter to the world’s way of living. These are givens that we cannot run away from for we answer to a higher authority. Remember, even the very gospel message itself, the greatest news of all time, is foolishness to the world. (I Cor. 1:18 KJV)
Conclusion – Balance matters
God’s entire word reveals a supremely rich tapestry of theology that is at once profoundly applicable and simultaneously inspiring of our worship. It’s entire message from start to finish, is for our growth.
Reading, preaching, and studying all of God’s word cultivates in Christians a healthy, well-balanced spiritual life. We can lay hold to application, worship, and growth when we include all portions of scripture in our daily lives.
Conversely, focusing too greatly on either application or worship will cause us to lose our balance. A shift toward application can leave us with a watered down and incomplete view of God, limiting our growth.
If we look too much toward worshiping God through our learning, then we can develop only a knowledge of facts. In short, we will not effectively live out and apply God’s word to our lives. We will not grow. The key then is balance.
Our Lord has done great things for us, more than can be contained in all the books in the world. (Ps. 126:3 KJV)
Therefore, may we preach, teach, and study all of God’s word. In so doing may we apply, worship, and grow in our journey to be more like Him. Amen!