In Acts20:26-27, Paul says, as recorded in the King James Version, “I am pure from the blood of all men, for I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” In the Bible belt I have heard it read like this, “I have not shunned to declare unto y’all the counsel of God.” He is not saying, “I have not shunned to declare to all of you the counsel of God,” but “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.”

Note carefully that the reason Paul gives for being pure from the blood of all men was that he had purposed to declare the whole counsel of God. He did not look at his audience, and finding some elders’ wives who were gossips, decided that it would not be politically wise to talk about gossiping and talebearing. He did not find some influential members who were covetous and stingy and tone down his language on the necessity of being willing to sacrifice for Christ. He did not discover that one of his best friends among the deacons was getting a divorce to marry his secretary, and decide to give a “Pauline exception” to the words of Christ in Matthew 19:9, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put a way committeth adultery.”

The awareness of the advisability of preaching the whole counsel of God made me determine at the start of my preaching career to preach primarily expository sermons and cover the whole New Testament in a systematic fashion. In every place where I have been located as a preacher, I have made an effort to preach topical sermons on whatever subject needed attention at that time, but at least one time each week to teach an expository lesson, starting with Matthew and going through Revelation, emphasizing whatever lessons I found in the chapter. Of course this does not guarantee that I preached the whole counsel of God, but it at least made the doing of it more probable. I know this: I would be ashamed to be afraid, and afraid to be ashamed to teach what God teaches on any subject, regardless of who was in the audience.

When I was just a young man, my father who smoked, was in the audience. My custom was in meetings to have a question box so the audience could ask whatever Bible questions they had, which I would try to answer during the sermon. One asked, “Do you think a person will go to hell for smoking?” My answer then was about the same as it is now, “I hope not, although I think smoking tobacco is contrary to the will of God, and would be sinful for me. Since God does not specifically mention it, it is possible that one who did not understand its harmful nature could do it and God would forgive a sin done in ignorance, which the person would not do if he understood it to be against God’s will.  However, I see no hope offered in the Bible for a person who says, `I know it is bad for me, and God does not want me to do it, but I am going to do it anyway.'” My point here is that I had no right to soften God’s word just because my father was in the audience. It may be worth mentioning, however, that those of us who preach hard and sometimes vicious sermons should consider how we would teach the same truths if our mother, father, son or daughter were in the audience, guilty of the things we condemn.

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