"I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God." Acts 20:27
The stern, 18-century Puritan clergyman in Northampton, Massachusetts, Jonathan Edwards, is often criticized for saying in a sermon that God holds the sinner over “the pits of hell much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect over the fire.” Usually not quoted is what Edwards went on to say: “Yet it is nothing but His hand that holds you from falling into the fire every moment.”
A good point to make is this: When you quote someone, quote accurately, fairly, and completely. Satan can quote the Bible when he thinks it is to his advantage. But he leaves out what does not serve his purpose. During the wilderness temptations Jesus quoted Scripture to good effect. So Satan tried to do the same, citing Psalm 91. But he left out the important words: “in all your ways” (verse 11). It is also for the dishonest use of the Word of God that the devil is called the father of lies.
Let’s be careful how we quote the Bible and pay close attention to the context. The Bible can be made to say that there is no God when one leaves out what goes before, namely, that it is the fool who says this (Psalm 14:1).
It is of greatest importance to note the distinction between the Law and the Gospel. Jonathan Edwards was preaching the Law when he said that God was angry with sinners, and he was implying the Gospel when he said that God’s hand keeps us from falling. Saint Paul made a similar dual statement: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). This is Law and Gospel. To preach only the Law is legalism. To preach only the Gospel of God’s love in Christ to people who refuse to repent is declaring a half-truth.
In His Word, God declares to us His whole counsel of our salvation. To this revelation we add nothing nor take away anything.
PRAYER: O Holy Spirit, lead me into all truth concerning sin and salvation from sin through Jesus Christ. Amen.
(Devotions from "With Jesus Every Day" copyright 1997, CPH. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be printed, reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission of Concordia Publishing House. Permission is granted for one-time emailing of this link to a friend. For information on other devotional material, please contact CPH at 800-325-3040 or visit CPH at www.cph.org.)