“Thus says the LORD: Stand in the court of the LORD’s house, and speak to all the cities of Judah that come to worship in the house of the LORD all the words that I command you to speak to them; do not hold back a word.” Jeremiah 26:2
Preachers may sin against the Lord by not declaring the whole counsel of God. It is not that the preacher announces heresy but that the preacher simply does not proclaim all that God has commanded him to speak. God directly revealed to Jeremiah all that he wanted him to speak to his people. God reveals today to his preachers what he wants them to proclaim by the Spirit through the written Word. Preachers are always under orders to proclaim only what God has said and all of what God has said. We do not have the freedom of holding back a word. Christians should learn from this that we must not only examine what a preacher says but also what he fails to say. Many Christians are seduced by popular preachers because they do not hear any obvious heresy in what is preached, but this is only a part of our responsibility as discerning listeners. We must also give thought to what might be missing. What is the preacher holding back? The most deceptive form of false teaching is distortion by subtraction, not addition. Rather than preaching something false, the false teacher removes something true. He holds back a word. He may hold back a word of judgment. He may speak, “Peace, Peace,” where there is no peace. He may hold back a word of repentance. He may heal the wound of God’s people lightly without calling for reformation of heart and life. He may hold back a word of salvation. He may preach the law but not the gospel. He may strip sinners of self-righteousness and not provide the robe of Christ’s righteousness. He may hold back a word of application. Some preaching is all doctrine and no application. He may speak in the lofty ideas of theoretical abstraction and yet not bring home the truth to people in front of him. And yet he may hold back a word of doctrine. In his zeal to be relevant he may not ground his exhortations in the instruction of the Word. How preachers need to be on guard against the sin of selective preaching! How Christians need to be on guard against the sin of selective listening! When you listen to the preaching of the Word, are you selective in what you receive? Do you take heed only to the doctrine and not to application? Or do your thoughts wander during the preaching of sound doctrine only to come back again when the doctrines are applied to life? Do you love to hear the booming thunderclaps of the law but not the trumpet blasts of the gospel? Or have you only ears for good news while plugging your ears to the oracles of judgment? May this never be! Let us love to listen to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth! May we not diminish the glory of Jesus or the completeness of God’s perfect revelation by holding back one word of his precious truth!