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Can you see the distinction? In the first type of message, we learn what God did for us, what He’s given to us, and what He’s done in us. In the second type of message, we learn how we are to respond to what God did, what our corresponding actions are to be, and how we are to allow His love to process through us, resulting in actions that will glorify God.

If a minister exclusively teaches the first type of message—only telling people that God loves them, etc.—the people can falsely believe that God has no interest in their resultant lifestyle, fruitfulness, or conduct. On the other hand, if a minister only teaches the responsibility side, listeners can falsely assume that Scripture is primarily about human effort, and that what we do is more important than what God has done, or than what God is able to do through us.

If I, as a believer, only hear messages about how much God loves me and how many blessings He wants me to have, I can become a very self-indulgent, self-focused person. However, if I only hear messages about what God wants me to do for Him and others, I can become very works-oriented without having a knowledge of or assurance concerning His love for me. We want to avoid both ditches, therefore, we need both emphases.

We need well-rounded, comprehensive teaching of Scripture to understand the harmony of God’s heart and intentions toward us. For example, the book of Ephesians heavily emphasizes, especially in the first two chapters, what God has done for us and freely given us in Christ. However, beginning in Ephesians 4:1, Paul changes the emphasis and writes, “I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called…”

Paul transitions from talking about their wealth in Christ to focusing on their walk in the world. Even though I have referred to this as two types of messages, I don’t think Paul would have seen these as separate and distinct classifications. I think he would have seen the discharging of our responsibilities (our walk) as the overflow and natural result of what we have received from God through Christ (our wealth). When it comes to the Christian life, what we receive from Him and what we express in terms of obeying Him and serving Him are really just two complementary sides of the same issue.

In Acts 20:20, 27, Paul says, “I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you,” and “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” Referring to these passages, William Barclay says that Paul “had spoken fearlessly. He had told them all God’s will and pandered neither to the fear nor the favor of men.” As hearers, may we treasure all that God has to say to us. As ministers, may we hold back nothing that is profitable from God’s people, and may we be faithful heralds of all that He says.

Copyright © Tony Cooke Ministries
All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Author Biography

Tony Cooke
Web site: Tony Cooke Ministries
Since 2002, Tony and Lisa have traveled full-time with an assignment of “Strengthening Churches and Leaders.” Tony’s passion for teaching the Bible has taken him to forty-six states and twenty-six nations. Tony, and Lisa reside in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma and are the parents of two adult children, Laura and Andrew.

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