MDB 13: Acts 20

Nathan Shurden

"I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God"--Acts 20:27

When Paul charges young Timothy to "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort" (II Tim. 4:2), he knew the challenges Timothy would face. In fact, the Apostle Paul knew them as well as anyone. Wherever Paul went imprisonment, afflictions, and persecutions awaited him, and these attacks were always brought on by his faithfulness to preach the whole counsel of God.

Preaching the word is not for the fainthearted. Any preacher worth his salt has (or will) experience attack for whole-counsel-of-God preaching, even in settings most receptive to God's Word. It is this reason alone why so many preachers determine early on to declare only part of the counsel of God--the nice, kind, gentle, sweet, comforting part.

Of course most preachers do not remove sections or whole books from the Bible like Marcion of Sinope did in the second century, carving up the canon till only 11 books remained! No, it's usually more insidious, more dangerous than that. Most partial-counsel-of-God preachers simply ignore, play down, or obscure the hard words of God. They first pretend the words are not there, and when that plan falls through, they stoop to interpret the Word in ways that softens God's intent. This approach will often help pad the pastoral stat sheet and increase congregational approval ratings, but such preaching is little more than sweet nothings, fit only to soothe the itching ears of those who can no longer endure sound teaching (II Tim.4:3). 

Preaching the whole counsel of God--the kind of preaching God requires--demands confidence in the gospel, which will always be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to those who hear it (I Peter 2:8). Remember this: Confidence in Christ and his saving work begets confidence in preaching. There are no psychological tricks or artificial supplements that can produce the kind of boldness that comes from a Spirit wrought confidence in the gospel. Therein is the impetus for speaking the truth even, and maybe especially, when it offends.

"But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God." (Acts 20:24)