Scripture and the Church

'Do Not Diminish A Word' - Christians' Threefold Responsibility

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
God's command to Jeremiah is also a command to every pastor, church, and individual believer in Christ. In neglecting this commandment there is great danger; in keeping it there is great blessing.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part 4 of a series. Read part 3.

God's command to Jeremiah is also a command to every pastor, church, and individual believer in Christ. In neglecting this commandment there is great danger; in keeping it there is great blessing.

We continue our focus on God's command to the prophet Jeremiah to speak "all the words that I command you to speak...Do not diminish a word" (Jeremiah 26:2). As we saw in our last article, the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox theories of authority, which date back long before the Reformation, directly violate this command, burying holy Scripture under an avalanche of worldly philosophy, legalism, and man-made doctrines.

Romanism and Eastern Orthodoxy thus leave no room for the work of the Holy Spirit in revival. On the contrary, their vast diminishment of Scripture militates against the work of the Spirit. In the Roman and Orthodox systems, the sinful flesh of its human hierarchies stands against the person and work of the Spirit, against the person and work of Jesus Christ, and against the supernatural incisiveness of the living, powerful written Word of God (Hebrews 4:12).

Authentic Christianity in Contrast

But what have we seen in Jeremiah chapter 26 and in Paul's words to the Ephesian elders in the book of Acts? What do we find, 1500 years later, in the lives, preaching, and even the martyrdom of many of the Protestant reformers? What do we see in the later Puritans? What do we see in 19th and 20th century men such as Archibald Brown, Charles Spurgeon, John Burgon, George Campbell Morgan, J. Gresham Machen, and Martyn Lloyd-Jones? We find them employing great effort, couched in deep humility, to obey God's command as He gave it to Jeremiah: "Do not diminish a word." They often did so at great personal cost.

When Martin Luther was on trial for his life before the Roman Catholic authorities in 1521, he said this:

I cannot submit my faith either to the pope or to the council, because it is as clear as noonday that they have fallen into error and even into glaring inconsistency with themselves. If, then, I am not convinced by proof from Holy Scripture... if I am not satisfied by the very text I have cited, and if my judgment is not in this way brought into subjection to God's Word, I neither can nor will retract anything; it cannot be either safe or honest... Here I stand; I cannot do otherwise; God help me!

And so it must be for each believer in Christ today: "Do not diminish a word." This is our great responsibility. We live in a time when obedience to this command has never been more vital. As we examine the Word, we find that Scripture applies this responsibility in a threefold way.

First, those whom our Lord Jesus Christ has appointed as ministers of the Word have the great and vital responsibility to "not diminish a word" in their preaching, in shepherding of the flock of God under their care, and in their personal conduct. What the preacher brings to the pulpit must be the overflow of a life spent comprehensively and continuously searching the Scriptures.  

Secondly, the church as a body of believers, in all that it says, and does, and is, bears the same responsibility to "diminish not a word." The pastor's example in this regard is indispensible. It is not only a supremely good thing for the people of God to read and study the whole counsel of God's Word systematically; it is also a supremely dangerous thing to neglect it. 

And finally, we individually, as believers walking in this world on our way to glory, also have a solemn responsibility to "not diminish a word" in our personal lives, in our homes, and as we walk before the unbelieving world. Sadly, some Christians develop a "been there, done that" attitude toward reading the Bible. Some think they have outgrown it, and so they turn to other books and other pursuits more suited, so they think, to their level of spiritual and intellectual attainment. Others think the Bible is too difficult for them. But as soon as a Christian stops reading the Word of God comprehensively, not diminishing a word, he begins to forget who God is, and who he is in God's sight. This creates a spiritual vacuum into which Satan is only too ready to introduce dangerous thoughts.

While we place ourselves in great spiritual jeopardy if we ignore God's command, there is also great blessing and safety in keeping it. In the remaining installments of this series we shall briefly examine what the Word of God says to ministers, to the church as a body, and to believers individually, about this threefold responsibility.


Next: The Responsibility of Christ's Ministers


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