The Word, The Whole Word, And Nothing But The Word

In my last post, Transitioning To The One Thing That Matters Most Now, I said I believe the future of America CAN be driven by the Church (which unfortunately is nowhere near the number of people who say they “attend church,”) but the one thing that matters most now is whether or not the Church will provide that impetus. I closed it by saying I would begin explaining in my next post why I think the jury is still out on the question of whether or not the Church WILL provide the impetus needed to bring us to our senses. This is that post.

The Word, The Whole Word, And Nothing But The Word

Every time a witness is about to testify in a court of law, he/she is “sworn in” with an oath something like “Do you affirm that all the testimony you are about to give in the case now before the court will be the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; this you do affirm under the pains and penalties of perjury?” [Unfortunately, our society has replaced “so help you God?” with the part after the semicolon.] I’m writing this post to speak directly to pastors of local Christian churches and “megachurches,” Christian TV/radio evangelists, and writers of books intended for Christian readers by stating up front that they should all take a similar oath before speaking or writing to their intended audiences: “I affirm before God that what I say to you in this [sermon / article / book / broadcast] will be the Word, the whole Word, and nothing but the Word, so help me God.”

Frankly, I believe that if this oath had been taken — and lived up to — by Church [capital C, the Universal Body Of Christ] leaders over the decades we have been drifting away from God, we would not be in our current condition. In their 2020 State of the Church report, the Barna Group cited a recent survey of pastors that asked them about their current concerns for the Christian church in the United States. Almost all of them were related to adapting to a changing culture — our culture’s shift to a secular age; addressing complex social issues with Biblical integrity; political polarization in the country; negative perceptions of the church; diminished influence of churches in the community; church leader burnout/exhaustion; changing attitudes towards evangelism; hostile culture towards Christianity; increased influence of media; religious liberty/freedom; diminished influence of Pastors in the community; challenges to the traditional church model (e.g., house churches, online churches,) and keeping up with the latest digital and technological trends. These ranged in the order listed from 66% expressing that concern down to 7%. But the top concern [72% expressed it] was Watered Down Gospel Teachings []

Just What Is Meant By “Watered Down Gospel Teachings?

The word of God is full of verses and sections that speak to His love for us and His desire to support us in our daily lives. To quote a few … “[His] Word is a lamp for [our] feet, a light on [our] path[s]” [Psalms 119:105 NIV.] / “The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show Himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is loyal to Him” [II Chronicles 16:9 NKJV.] / “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in him” [Proverbs 30:5 NIV.] / “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” [Joshua 1:9 NIV.] / “His anger lasts only a moment, but His favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” [Psalms 30:5 NIV.]

But the Word of God is not just another book on a shelf among other books. It is “alive and active, sharper than any double-edged sword, penetrat[ing] even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow, judg[ing] the thoughts and attitudes of the heart” [Hebrews 4:12 NIV.] It is also full of verses and sections that reveal His understanding that we are not perfect, His intolerance for our sinful acts, His provision [Jesus] for forgiving us of them, and how we obtain that forgiveness. … “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” [Romans 3:23 NKJV.] / “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved” / [John 3:17 NKJV.] / “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” [I John 1:9 NKJV.]

The concern pastors expressed about “watered down gospel teachings” is another way of saying they are concerned that there are too many of them who are not preaching/teaching “the Word, the whole Word, and nothing but the Word.” To avoid diminishing audiences, they have to focus on preaching “feel good” parts of the Bible.

Unfortunately for those who hear and read only the “feel-good” parts of God’s Word, the Bible is not a cafeteria, where you pick the sections you like and eschew the ones you don’t like. God warned preachers and teachers about the exact situation that exists today. … “The time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths” [2 Timothy 4:3-4 NIV.] And He told them to continue preaching the Word, the whole Word, and nothing but the Word anyway … “But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” [2 Timothy 4:5 NIV.] “Every word of God is flawless; He is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar” [Proverbs 30:5-6 NIV.]

It’s Time For The Church To Wake Up!

This year, we are witnessing an astonishing acceleration of our country’s drift away from God that has been in motion for many decades. Worse yet, a considerable element within the Church is capitulating to cultural pressure for change, and the pace of that pressure is also accelerating dramatically this year. In his book We Will Not Be Silenced first published November 2020, Erwin Lutzer describes the situation this way: “Like a deer caught in headlights, we don’t quite know what to do and whether we are willing to pay the price of fidelity to Scripture. We are shamed into silence.” In his endorsement of that book, Tony Evans said “[Erwin Lutzer] has given us a challenging, inspirational, and provocative work that will call all serious Christians to clearly represent our God and his Word in the public square. He has strategically balanced biblical authority, cultural relevance, and spiritual sensitivity in this must-read book. … You will be both righteously provoked and personally convicted not to be a silent secret agent Christian after being confronted by the truth in this excellent resource” [emphasis mine.]

Obviously, no statement as broad as Dr. Lutzer’s can be said to apply to all Christians, but his point is that in his judgment it seems to be an appropriate description of the Church as a whole. We are all a part of that whole, and that makes it incumbent on all of us to at least be aware of the perspective he brings to light, and to ask God’s guidance as to what if anything we should consider changing in our daily walk with Him.

Franklin Graham described the current situation seven years ago with a similar tone of alarm. “Followers of Jesus Christ, and especially pastors and church leaders, have a responsibility to speak the truth of Scripture, calling sin what it is, and acknowledging that it has always reigned in the hearts of the human race. …  [Widely debated issues of today are] not just a debate about [those issues]; all sin is immorality — and all immorality is evil. … In America today we are experiencing an epic drought. It is not just the basic misunderstanding of the Word of God; it is the absence of God’s complete Word. … God’s servants cannot preach part of the Gospel. They must preach the entire Word, regardless of how it may impact church attendance or trigger unfavorable tweets!  …  If God’s people do not stand strong, who will? …  Let’s overcome cowardice with courage. Let’s be fearless ambassadors of Christ and stand strong for the glory of God our Savior, pulling others from the fire of eternal judgment” [Franklin Graham, July/August 2014 Issue of Decision Magazine, emphasis mine.]

I’ll close by saying this a time in which I believe we should all consider the wise counsel of these stalwarts of Christian thought. …

“If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ.”

Martin Luther

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil. God will not hold us guiltless. NOT to speak IS to speak, NOT to act, IS to act”.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer

“In any successful attack on freedom, the state can only be an accomplice. The chief culprit is the citizen who forgets his duty, wastes away his strength in the sleep of sin and sexual pleasure, and so loses the power of his own initiative.”

Abraham Kuyper

Thanks for reading this post, and if you regularly follow my Blog, for that, too. Please consider sharing this or other posts with your friends, colleagues and associates.

Charles M. Jones

Author: Charles M. Jones, PE, CPA

[retired — neither license active]

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