By John W. Hedge
Unbalanced preaching and teaching of God’s holy word, the gospel of Christ, is, in the ears of those full informed therein, comparable to the unbalanced tires on one’s automobile. Such preaching and teaching consists of “wresting the scriptures” (2 Pet. 3:15-16), of “perverting the gospel of Christ” (Gal. 1:6-8), and of failing to “handle aright the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). Unbalanced preaching reduces the Bible to a book of glaring contradictions and unworthy of acceptation by anyone.
In the beginning of the Lord’s church on earth there was no unbalanced preaching. Those who engaged in the noble work of preaching the only gospel designed to save the lost were inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:26; Matt. 10:19-20; Gal. 3:1-2). It was through the agency of those inspired preachers and writers of the gospel of Christ that the New Testament in its entirety has been given to all 4. mankind and for all time (Jude 3-4). Taking this as our sole “rule book” we find the following obligations made binding on all who would preach or teach God’s word in a way which would please Him.
First, they must “speak as the (written) oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). Second, they must “speak the things which become sound doctrine” (Mt. 2:1). Third, they must “rightly divide (or handle aright) the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15). By following these simple rules, there can be no unbalanced preaching and teaching of the gospel of Christ. All the unbalanced preaching, all the different “winds of doctrine,” as heard today have resulted from the different preachers who have ignored God’s simple rules governing them in their work. The unity, peace, and great progress attained by the early Christians is to be attributed to the fact that they “continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine” which was well balanced (Acts 2:42). Although there were twelve different apostles, each one being guided by the same Holy Spirit taught or preached the same things. This spells out clearly the unity of their preaching and resulted in the unity of all who believed it, and a continuation of such unity on the part of all who continued in it. Repeated warnings were given that some would “depart from the faith” by “giving heed to the doctrines of demons” and by following their own “pernicious ways” (1 Tim. 4:1-3). These predictions began to be fulfilled even in the days of the apostle Paul and have been on the increase through the centuries, and with more yet to come (2 Tim. 3:13).
Since the days of Martin Luther and John Calvin, the doctrine that “salvation is solely by faith” and “wholly by the grace of God” has been taught. Great emphasis has been placed upon the idea that man cannot save himself, which is true in the sense that he cannot devise and use a plan of his own making but untrue when it is applied to man in accepting God’s plan and abiding in it. Even some preachers who claim to “speak as the (written) oracles of God” have been heard to catch up the old refrain, “Man cannot save himself,” one “cannot be saved by good works” without any qualifications whatsoever. It is leaving such remarks in mid-air that constitutes unsound preaching. Perhaps when these remarks are made without due qualification by some of our careless preachers, it would be good for one to be present who believes that man can do nothing by which to save himself to shout aloud a hearty “amen.” Maybe this would cause the careless preachers not to leave such remarks in mid-air.
One of “our preachers” informs by letter that he now is emphasizing God’s grace more than emphasizing man’s works. This spells out clearly unsound preaching. I wonder if he would take time off to preach a series of sermons based on James 2, along with Philippians 2:11-12 and Revelation 22:12. Well balanced preaching requires that one not only preach “salvation by grace” but by doing “the works of God,” that is, the “works” which He has authorized us to do in His will. In all of our teaching and preaching we need to use “sound speech that cannot be condemned.” “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver” (Prov. 25:11).
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 10, p. 303
May 17, 1984