There has always been a problem of mixing two things together that ought to be separated. When the Bible commands something, there is no question but that a preacher (or anyone else) may say, “Thus saith the Lord” and you must obey it.
However, there are all sorts of questions that arise concerning biblical commands that must be worked out practically, to which the Scriptures simply don’t give us precise directions. God expects us to wisely suggest ways of implementing these commands according to the general principles of Scripture which cover all we do.
Let’s take an example. The Bible says “you must not commit adultery.” That is clear, unambiguous, and straightforward. It is a divine command. Because of that, a counselor may consider it his right and obligation to say to a counselee, “You’ve got to break up that sinful relationship.” He need not hesitate about the matter because he is simply repeating what God has said.
However, supposing the counselee decides to repent and do what God commands. He then asks, “How shall I go about doing so? Shall I call her, go see her, write her a letter or email—how do I go about breaking the relationship?”
There is no biblical command about the way to do this. How should a counselor respond?
Having gathered adequate data concerning the persons and concerning the situation involved, the counselor will then advise his counselee in an entirely different manner than he did concerning the command. He will say something like, “In these circumstances (as I best understand them), I would suggest that you . . . ” Then, he adds what seems to be the wisest course of action to take within general biblical principles.
Note, in this little episode two things:
- The counselor commands what God has commanded.
- The counselor suggests its implementation.
ALWAYS DISTINGUISH, AND NEVER CONFUSE A COMMAND WITH A SUGGESTION!