Beautiful Balance by Tony Cooke

Beautiful Balance
Tony Cooke

Beautiful BalanceDo you remember trying to learn to ride your bicycle without training wheels? In a word, you were trying to achieve balance. You wanted to stay upright and make forward progress, and you didn’t want to fall to one side or the other.

Balance is a beautiful thing. It’s troubling if someone we love begins having problems with their equilibrium. We never want to hear that a loved one has lost their balance and been injured in a fall. We often hear of the importance of a balanced diet, as well as living a balanced life. We know that a good life involves a proper ratio of work, rest, worship, recreation, time with family, etc.

Spiritually speaking, balance is also a good thing. In Deuteronomy 28:14, Moses said to the people, “…you shall not turn aside from any of the words which I command you this day, to the right or the left, to go after other gods to serve them.” In a word, he wanted them to avoid erroneous tangents.

Doctrinally speaking, It’s good to avoid extremes and ditches. Richard Cecil remarked, “All extremes are error. The reverse of error is not truth, but error still. Truth lies between extremes.” A.W. Pink once said, “The truth of God may well be likened to a narrow path skirted on either side by a dangerous and destructive precipice: in other words, it lies between two gulfs of error.” Similarly, A.A. Hodge stated, “No …single truth is adequately comprehended till it is viewed in harmonious relations to all the other truths of the system of which Christ is the centre.”

We must be diligent in our study of God’s Word to make sure that we are allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us into a full, comprehensive picture of truth, and not become fixated on a singular idea that runs contrary to and is not supported by the whole counsel of God’s Word (see Acts 20:27). Richard Sibbes said, “God’s truth always agrees with itself.” As a teacher, I need to make sure the ideas I present are not just supported by an isolated (and perhaps out-of-context) “proof text,” but that they are supported by a consensus of New Testament teaching and thought.

A rose is beautiful in its own right, but a bouquet, properly arranged, is even more beautiful. A violin solo may be very inspiring, but a symphony can render a piece of music even more majestic and dynamic. So it is with truth; an individual truth is wonderful, and we should be most thankful for every truth that God reveals, but a single truth harmonized with the comprehensive teaching of Scripture leads to greater stability, depth, and wholeness in our lives.

Let’s say we are studying justification—how God worked through Christ to bring us into right relationship with Himself. We can read a single verse about this and be blessed. For example, we can read in Romans 3:24, “…being justified freely by His grace…” and have much to thank God for. We can be glad knowing that God’s gracious nature and His gracious action of having Jesus to die for us is the basis for our justification.

A person who desires balance doesn’t want to take anything away from the grace of God. However, a serious student of the Bible wants to know as much as he or she can about justification. Thank God for His grace, but is our justification the result of a single factor, God’s grace, or is more involved? A study of Romans reveals there is more. Consider:

Romans 4:25 (ESV) teaches us that Jesus was, “…raised for our justification.”

Romans 5:1 says, “…having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ…”

Romans 5:9 tells us, “…having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.”

We can look at any of these verses individually and be blessed. But when we see how these elements—grace, the resurrection, faith, the blood of Christ—were all part of our justification, we now have more of a bouquet, more of a symphony. This is what balance is all about! These four elements do not contradict each other; they complement each other. Each individual aspect of our justification is enhanced and reinforced by the others.

Jesus said that we shall live, “…by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” He didn’t say we would live by isolated words, disjointed words, selected words, or random words. Whatever we study, let’s pursue the whole counsel of God’s Word and allow the Holy Spirit to speak to us from all of His Word, not just from our favorite passages.

Some people have a misconception about balance, perceiving it as something negative. They think that balance is about watering down or compromising a message. For example, they think that balance is presenting 50% faith along with 50% unbelief. Or they think that it is presenting 50% grace and 50% legalism. Nothing could be further from the truth.

We don’t balance our faith with unbelief. Rather, faith is balanced by all of the other cooperating powers of God. To have a balanced message about faith, we incorporate the role of love, wisdom, joy, patience, etc. We study and celebrate the great Scriptures about faith, but in doing so, we don’t isolate faith as a stand-alone doctrine. Instead, we examine how faith works together with love, how faith works together with wisdom, etc.

We don’t balance out grace with legalism. Rather, we study and rejoice in all the wonderful Scriptures about grace, AND we consider how grace works with holiness, with obedience, with repentance, etc. We find that grace doesn’t operate as a stand-alone doctrine, and that grace doesn’t take the place of these other great truths. Rather, grace energizes us to participate in the entire “symphony” of Scripture. By this, we mean that grace doesn’t negate the significance of obedience or holiness, but rather, grace empowers us and enables us to obey God and to live holy lives. Grace doesn’t take the place of repentance, but rather, God’s grace is the very basis and catalyst for us turning from sin and turning to God.

Jesus ministered balance when He ministered to the woman at the well. He made the simple statement (John 8:11), “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.” In pronouncing “no condemnation,” he was freeing her from her past. In admonishing her to “go and sin no more,” he was providing a wholesome directive for her future. Balance means incorporating the whole counsel of God. Jesus did not just free her from condemnation or give her a directive for future living; He did both.

Paul demonstrated great balance in his epistles. For example, the first three chapters of Ephesians are predominantly positional truth, what God has done. Consider:

  • We are blessed with every spiritual blessing in heavenly places (1:3).
  • He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world (1:4).
  • He made us accepted in the Beloved (1:6).
  • In Him, we have redemption through His blood (1:7).
  • In Him, we have obtained an inheritance (1:11).
  • We were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise (1:13).
  • We have been made to sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus (2:6).

In the next three chapters (Ephesians 4-6) we read about our response, how we are to live in the light of our position, or practice or what we are to do:

  • Walk worthy of our calling (4:1).
  • Maintain unity amongst ourselves (4:3).
  • Quit lying and speak truth (4:25).
  • Quit stealing but labor (4:28).
  • Be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another (4:32).
  • Walk in love (5:2).
  • Let no fornication, uncleanness, or covetous be named among us (5:3).
  • Be properly related to one another in our families and our work (5:21 – 6:9).

Notice the balance here. Paul not only teaches believers about their position in Christ, but he also instructs them regarding their practice—their lifestyle in the world. Believers must need all of this, because it’s what the Bible teaches, it’s what the Spirit inspired.

The need for balance has long been noted by insightful ministers. In 1975, Bob Buess wrote about the need for balance in his book, “The Pendulum Swings:”

“A few years ago I was interested in a certain teaching, so I began to pursue the Word of God to find more on this subject. I believe the Bible from cover to cover, but I allowed myself to disregard certain Scriptures. I blanked out certain truths. My mind became completely indifferent to certain verses in the Word. …I began to defend my new doctrine. It was, in a subtle way, becoming a god which I had to defend and protect. I was not an unusual case. It’s easy for Christians to pursue a thought which the Holy Spirit aroused in them as they studied the Scriptures. In their excitement, they set out to explore the Word of God to see what could be found. When they find a few Scriptures to support this new-found idea, they soon can be running madly through the Bible trying to prove their theory. Dogmatism begins to set in. Without fully realizing what they are doing, these people jump verses, throw out some, and ignore others to prove their point. People driven by this cause rush madly on in a pursuit of new arguments to promote their theory. As time passes they become harsh.”

Earlier yet, the great Pentecostal pioneer, Donald Gee wrote in “The Voice of Healing” in 1953:

“So many of us are [firmly established] extremists. If we see any ray of truth we push it to such an extreme that our constant pressing of it becomes offensive, vain, and at last erroneous. If we discover any successful line of ministry we run after it to such an extent that it becomes nauseating and exhausted. We are forever missing genuine usefulness by our constant failure to keep well-balanced. In the end men lose confidence in us, our intemperance grieves the Holy Spirit, and we are cast upon the scrap-heap of rejected and unprofitable servants.”

In the same article, Donald Gee spoke of a “legitimate extremism.” He said, “There HAS to be an extremism to move things… Miracles of healing occur when faith refuses to be logical, and blinds itself to arguments, based on plenty of contrary experience and more ‘balanced’ teaching. Indeed we may well inquire whether there is not something extreme in any genuine miracle.”

Gee continued, “…we need the extremist to start things moving, but we need the balanced teacher to keep them moving in the right direction. We need extremism for a miracle of healing, but we need balanced sanity for health. We need extreme fervor to launch a movement, but we need the repudiation of extremes to save it from self-destruction. Only a wisdom from above can reveal the perfect synthesis. It takes Pentecostal genius to know when and where an extreme doctrine or practice must be modified to a more balanced view; and where, on the other hand, the broad lines of truth must be temporarily narrowed into an extreme emphasis upon one point to ensure a dynamic powerful enough to move things for God.”

It is understood that some ministers in the Body of Christ are specialists. God has given them a special assignment to emphasize a certain truth or truths. There’s nothing wrong with this whatsoever, but care must be exercised by the teacher and the listeners alike not to put a single truth on a pedestal and leave the impression that all other truths are unnecessary or subservient to their special emphasis. Ultimately, we are to live by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

When we walk in balance, we’ll enjoy a rich diet of all that God has for us, we’ll be open to have Him influence all aspects of our lives, and we’ll experience growth across the full spectrum of who God has called us to become.