By Jady W. Copeland
I am not writing of the balanced diet of our daily food, though that would be a worthy subject. There is a renewed interest in a good diet in our time and many friends of mine take vitamins to supplement their diet because they believe the foods we now eat are not complete in the nutrients that make for a healthy body. But rather we are interested in spiritual nutrition or the spiritual diet that brethren (as well as non-Christians) are getting. The Bible speaks of “solid food” (Heb. 5:14) and “spiritual milk” (1 Pet. 2:2), the first of which is for mature people and the last for babes. Paul had to “feed” the Corinthians with “milk” and not “meat” because of their carnality (1 Cor. 3:1-3).
In feeding others, whether physically or spiritually, there are several considerations that need attention. First there is the need itself. It would seem some think you do not need to be fed with the word; they never read, nor do they listen to others. But any Bible reader with a small amount of perception knows that we must be fed.
Secondly, the food must be pure. Peter addresses this in I Peter 2:2. “Sincere” here means guileless, pure, unadulterated, according to W.E. Vine. James Macknight says, “. . . earnestly desire the unadulterated milk of the gospel doctrine. . . ” (Macknight on the Epistles, Vol. 5, p. 451). The gospel must be without additions or subtractions.
But as important as these are we must be fed a balanced diet. As necessary as carbohydrates are to the diet, we must have more. That is the reason some take vitamins. They think the soils have been depleted of the many needed nutrients, so they add these daily to supplement their normal diet. Spiritually we must feed some milk and some meat. Some would have preachers preach on love, patience, forbearance, etc. most of the time. Others want “hell fire and damnation” as a steady diet. Neither is right. Just as a person physically must have a well-rounded diet, so must the mature Christian.
In 2 Timothy 2:15 Paul writes, “Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth” (ASV). The New American Standard translation says, “handling accurately the word of truth.” The New International Version says, “correctly handles.” Lenski comments, “Cut the word of the truth . . . straight when you present it to others by preaching and teaching” (The Interpretation of Timothy, p. 799). James Macknight says, “rightly distribute the doctrine of the gospel to all, according to their needs” (Macknight on the Epistles, Vol. 4, p. 311). The word “divide” means to cut straight. Therefore “rightly dividing” the word of God deals with handling it according to truth – the truth of the gospel as the Holy Spirit revealed it. I am convinced this requires teaching it all as the needs may be. Peter’s statement in I Peter 2:2 tells us that the newborn babe must have the milk without guile – without being “baited.” The goal is to “grow thereby unto salvation.” The implication is “necessary” that some can partake of more solid food than can others. The new Christian must eat of the simpler things of the gospel before he can eat of the more difficult things. Too many want to know all about Romans and Revelation before they are able to eat of the “meat” of the word.
But in addition to the emphasis on the “pure” word of God and “handling it aright” we want to give emphasis also on the diet being balanced. While I don’t consider myself to be the best judge, and perhaps I do not hear others preach as much as some, it seems to me that our preaching in recent times (at least in some cases) may lack balance. (I surely hope I am wrong about that.) In attending meetings over the past several years I seldom (if ever) hear sermons on the death, burial, resurrection and atonement of Christ. I seldom hear how awful sin is, and how the “remedy” (blood of Christ) must be given. I haven’t heard much about the priesthood of Christ or of his church, his kingdom or his vineyard. I hear a lot about some of the practical things of life (which are good); I hear a lot about teaching the lost, sexual relationships, the home and love of those around us. Now I certainly do not fault those who preach such, unless they are leaving out the other things! Except from our “older preachers” I have heard little about the independence of the local church, but more about what we are to call the church. Now I know we don’t have to preach all these things, but I do know we must reap what we sow and if we can take lessons from the apostasies of the past, it seems certain that another will occur when this type of preaching has time *to take root.
A generation of young people has grown up that know nothing (except what they have heard from others) about the problems that divided brethren in the 50s and 60s and when “institutionalism,” or “sponsoring churches” or “church autonomy” and such subjects are mentioned they may yawn and change the subject. It is “ancient history” to them and they are sure we are “beating a dead horse.” While these problems are not important to them now, it doesn’t mean they are not problems. I doubt there are many congregations around the country but what have some among them that not only do not know what the “issues” were all about, but more they don’t care. And if someone wanted to include the human institutions in the budget, about the only argument they would give is, “Don’t the ‘liberals’ do that?” I heard of a congregation recently that surely wanted to be known as a “conservative church.” Many hardly know what is meant by the term “liberal” or “conservative” (“institutional” or “noninstitutional” if you prefer, though I’m not sure that is less offensive). I believe all this is due to the fact that we are not preaching a balanced diet. Perhaps you are saying, “You older preachers are ‘unbalanced’ in your preaching because the ‘issues’ is all you preach about.” All I can say is that we try to feed a balanced diet.
I was impressed recently by an article in Christianity by brother Paul Earnhart warning us of the possibility of apostasy as we increase our zeal for lost souls. I too thrill at the zeal of many young people who are working hard to save others. But as brother Paul says, we also must give attention to faithfulness and soundness in the faith. What good is a full house of people who are not converted in a genuine way. And may I hasten to say there is no virtue in smallness, and there is no vice in bigness. The more souls saved the more will be in heaven, but if they are not grounded in the faith they will fall away and finally be lost . . . and that’s worse.
When I started preaching 46 years ago, I thought faithful preachers and others had won the battle over institutionalism and instrumental music, and all that was left for us to do was save souls. But as history has revealed, these same questions are bothering his people again. And I suppose they will again. I guess since I am eligible for Medicare I have to be considered one of the older preachers. So may I make this appeal to the young? As Paul said, “Preach the word.” But in doing so, “handle it aright” and that includes preaching it all. Yes’ preach personal evangelism, and preach love, patience and forbearance. Yes preach the home, marriage and divorce, and preach the duties of husbands and wives. But also preach the blood of Christ, and preach his kingdom (rule), his church and his judgment. Preach there are two places to spend eternity – heaven and hell. “Be instant in season, out of season.” Preach that the local church is sufficient to do all God intended his people to do in a collective way. Show the sin of instrumental music in worship, and preach that the elders of each church have oversight only of the one church where they are overseers. Indeed, feed the flock with a balanced diet! I know you were not here when the problems divided us, but neither were we there when problems bothered the brethren in the first century. But we can “fix” things now as then with the pure gospel of Christ. But we cannot do so with only a part of the gospel. As fine as pablum is for the babe suppose the mother decided to never get him off that diet.
We have been asked, “What are the problems facing God’s people today?” This is one of them. We are not preaching a balanced diet of the word of God. If all the people get is “milk” then they will never be mature, grown-up Christians. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Think on these things.
Guardian of Truth XXXII: 3, pp. 78-49
February 4, 1988