The Difficulties of Consistent & Inconsistent Preaching

Acts 20:27

I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.

JONATHAN EDWARDS (1703-1758): Is the doctrine I preach truly evangelical? Let me not take this matter for granted; but examine whether it quadrates with the Scriptures.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): There is nothing so dangerous as to exaggerate a part of truth into the whole of truth.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Take any doctrine, and preach upon it exclusively, and you distort it.

A. W. PINK (1886-1952): There is a balance of truth to be observed―why? Because it is required of the Christian minister that he should declare “all the counsel of God,” and not only favourite portions thereof…When the Son of God became incarnate He came here in “the form of a servant,” Philippians 2:6; nevertheless, in the manger He was “Christ the Lord,” Luke 2:11! “All things are possible with God,” Matthew 19:26, yet God “cannot lie,” Titus 1:2. Scripture says, “Bear ye one another’s burdens,” Galatians 6:2, yet the same chapter insists “every man shall bear his own burden,” verse 5. We are enjoined to take “no thought for the morrow,” Matthew 6:34, yet “if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel,” 1 Timothy 5:8. No sheep of Christ’s can perish, John 10:28,29, yet the Christian is bidden to make his “calling and election sure,” 2 Peter 1:10. And so we might go on multiplying illustrations. These things are not contradictions, but complementaries: the one balances the other.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: Balance is all-important.

JOHN CLAYTON (1754-1843): The faithful preacher may bear harder on one string than another: but he has respect unto all.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): We should endeavour to maintain a consistency in our preaching; but unless we keep the plan and manner of the Scripture constantly in view, and attend to every part of it, a design of consistency may fetter our sentiments, and greatly preclude our usefulness.

JONATHAN EDWARDS: If half my time be taken up in beating off the rough edges of certain passages, to make them square with my principles, I am not in the gospel scheme. If one part of scripture requires to be passed over, lest I should appear inconsistent, I am not sound in the faith, in God’s account, but have imbibed some false system instead of the gospel.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): Have you ever seen the hard work that some brethren have to shape a Scripture to their mind? One text is not Calvinistic, it looks rather Arminian—of course it cannot be so and, therefore, they twist and tug to get it right. As for our Arminian brethren, it is wonderful to see how they hammer away at the ninth Chapter of Romans—steam-hammers and screwjacks are nothing to their appliances for getting rid of election from that chapter! We have all been guilty of racking Scripture, more or less, and it will be well to have done with the evil, forever!

JOHN NEWTON: We need not wish to be more consistent than the inspired writers, nor be afraid of speaking as they have spoken before us. We may easily perplex ourselves and our hearers, by nice reasonings on the nature of human liberty, and the Divine agency on the hearts of men; but such disquisitions are better avoided. We shall, perhaps, never have full satisfaction on these subjects, till we arrive in the world of light.

A. W. PINK: That there are difficulties in an attempt to set forth the truth of God’s sovereignty is readily acknowledged. The hardest thing of all, perhaps, is to maintain the balance of truth. It is largely a matter of perspective. That God is sovereign is explicitly declared in Scripture: that man is a responsible creature is also expressly affirmed in Holy Writ. To define the relationship of these two truths, to fix the dividing line betwixt them, to show exactly where they meet, to exhibit the perfect consistency of the one with the other, is the weightiest task of all. Many have openly declared that is impossible for the finite mind to harmonize them.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: But of course there is no contradiction here―there is no contradiction in Biblical teaching.

C. H. SPURGEON: If, then, I find taught in one part of the Bible that everything is fore-ordained, that is true; and I find that in another Scripture, that man is responsible for all his actions, that is true; and it is only my folly that leads me to imagine that these two truths can ever contradict each other.

CHARLES BRIDGES (1794-1869): Christian simplicity will teach us to receive every Divine Truth upon this formal ground―that it is the Word of God.

CHARLES SIMEON (1759-1836): Let every thing be received from Him with the simplicity of little children. And if there be in His word things which you cannot understand, sit not in judgment upon them with unhallowed confidence; but spread them before the Lord, saying, “What I know not, teach thou me,” Job 34:32.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Pray, observe―Paul doth not say he “hath de­clared all the counsel of God.” No; who can, but God Himself? The same apostle saith, “We prophesy but in part,” 1 Corinthians 13:9. There is a terra incognita—an unknown land, in the Scriptures, mysteries that yet were never fully discovered. We cannot declare all that know not all. But Paul saith, he “shunned not to declare all.” When he met a truth, he did not step back to shun it; as when we see a man in the street with whom we have no mind to speak, we step into some house or shop till he be past. The holy apostle was not afraid to speak what he knew to be the mind of God; as he had it from God, so should they from him. He did not balk in his preaching what was profitable for them to know.

C. H. SPURGEON: We cannot know everything and we cannot understand even half what we know! I have given up wanting to understand. As far as I can, I am content with believing all that I see in God’s Word. People say, “But you contradict yourself.” I dare say I do, but I never contradict God to my knowledge, nor the Bible. If I do, may my Lord forgive me…The sin of being inconsistent with my poor fallible self does not trouble me a tenth as much as the dread of being inconsistent with what I find in God’s Word!

CHARLES SIMEON: Those who are disposed to follow the counsel of their God—Remember to follow “the whole of it,” “without partiality and without hypocrisy,” 1 Timothy 5:21, James 3:17.

LORD SHAFTESBURY (1801-1885): Consistency is a noble thing in a right cause, but sinfulness in error.

C. H. SPURGEON: Mind that you are always consistent with yourselves. Yet not like the woman who, when in court, was asked by the judge, “How old are you?”

“Thirty,” she replied.

“Why, I heard you give the same age three years ago.”

“Yes, yer honour, but I am not one of those people who say one thing today, and another tomorrow.”


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