The Bible Our Authority #2
In our first article about Bible authority we proved that there is a NEED for authority in our lives, and we proved that only the Bible is that authority. If you have not read that article, please read it, then come back and read this continuation of this very important topic.
Understanding the Bible
Since we understand that God gave us His Word for protection and for guidance in this life, we must ask, how are we to understand it? There have been some who have claimed that we cannot actually understand God’s Word. I once heard a preacher claim that God speaks in God’s language, and we are simply at a loss to try to actually understand it. He went on to say that the best we could do is just guess at what God meant.
That simply is not consistent with the nature of God. To offer peace, protection and guidance to his specially created beings (humanity), but then to not be able to speak to them so that they could understand is simply a foolish assumption about an All-Powerful, All-Loving God.
So, how do we understand God’s Word? Do you just interpret it how you like, and I will interpret it how I like, and eventually just agree that God will settle the matter in the end? No!
God expects us to use the brains he gave us, the Word he gave us, and the logic to put together what all is expected of us.
Paul by inspiration writes:
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) (Ephesians 3:1-4).
God expects us to understand His Word. But how? How do we read and understand His word? Is there a need to understand the Authority of God? The people in Christ’s day knew that there was an authority, and that it was needful for everyone to have authority for the actions that the people chose to do.
And when he was come into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came unto him as he was teaching, and said, By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority? (Matthew 21:23)
Determining What The Bible Says
For a much more thorough discussion, -much of this material and more can be found in Roy Deaver’s Video seminar on line at: http://thebible.net/video/ascertainingbibleauthority/
Since the study of “Hermeneutics” could take up 300+ pages, and years of study, we will simply list here, the basics of how to interpret/understand the Bible.
There are three main ways in which we determine what the Bible says: 1. Direct Statements 2. Approved Examples 3. Necessary conclusions/inferences. And all three are equally binding.
When God uses any of these methods, He is instructing us in what we should know about His will for us. Let us spend some time with each one of these methods.
God uses many direct statements in His Word. For the most part, these are understandable and are rarely argued against. For instance in Acts 17:30 we read:
And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent.
It is simple, it is plain, it is direct. Every person, where ever he is living, must repent.
The same writer wrote concerning the penitent Jews:
Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 2:37-38).
These are direct authoritative statements from God. Another can be found in Hebrews 10:24-25. And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.
We are taught by direct statement that it is wrong for us to lie (Colossians 3:9). We must worship in Spirit and Truth (John 4:24). We must not forsake the assembly (Hebrews 10:25). We must repent and be baptized (Acts 2:37-38). We learn all of these and much more by direct statement.
We also learn what God wants us to do by adhering to those Approved Examples.
In instructing His disciples about partaking of the Lord's Supper, the Lord said about the bread, “And when He had given thanks, He brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is My body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of Me” (I Corinthians 11:24). And about the fruit of the vine, He said, “After the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in My blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me” (I Corinthians 11:25).
Using direct statements, the Lord instructed His disciples that they should partake of the Lord's Supper in remembrance of Him; but He did not tell them when they should do so.
Even so, the “when” is determined by an approved example found in Acts 20:7. In this passage, we learn that the early church partook of the Lord's Supper upon the first day of the week, which is Sunday or the Lord's Day (Revelation 1:10).
Roy Deaver commented in his Video Lesson that: “We call it approved in that an apostle was there when it was done and did not speak against it being done upon the first day of the week.” (Deaver)
In other words, he approved it. In fact, Acts 20:6 tells us that Paul stayed in Troas for seven days. This seems to indicate that he waited in Troas so he could partake of the Lord's Supper with the Troas church. So, here we have an approved example of when the early church did what the Lord told it to do.
Another approved example is churches relieving other churches in the case of benevolence. We learn from the context that there was a famine throughout the whole world and that Judea was especially hurt by this famine. Then, the Bible says: Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul (Acts 11:29, 30).
This is something the early church participated in that was approved by the apostle Paul. Therefore, by this approved example we know that churches of Christ may send relief to other churches of Christ when those churches are in need.
These examples serve to teach us that God's word instructs us as to what is acceptable by means of approved examples. But in addition to teaching by direct statements and approved examples, the Bible instructs us by a third method. (Deaver)
Necessary Conclusion / Inference
Christians are to partake of the Lord's Supper is taught to us by direct statement (1 Corinthians 11:24, 25; Matthew 26:26-27). That we are to do so upon the first day of the week is taught by an approved example (Acts 20:7).
But we learn that it is to be taken every first day of the week – as it is taught by a necessary inference (Acts 20:7).
We will have more to say about every first day of the week, but before we do so, we must be sure that we understand what is meant by a necessary conclusion.
Almost all conclusions are conclusions reached by inference.
For example, a teacher, upon being told that many of his students are sick, might conclude that one particular student who is absent is absent because he is sick. This, of course, may or may not be true. In other words, the teacher has come to a conclusion but the conclusion is not a necessary one. In fact, the particular student who is absent might be absent for any number of reasons. (Deaver)
In our daily lives, we make conclusions practically every day. Some are correct and some are not! The difference between a conclusion and a necessary conclusion is that a necessary conclusion is the only conclusion one can come to, based upon the information provided.
For example, the same teacher as mentioned above is informed that all his students are sick. He knows that a particular individual is his student; therefore, he necessarily concludes, based upon what he has been told, that this particular individual is sick. (Deaver)
As people generally seem to have a problem with this concept, let us look at another example.
Suppose you are told that all cats are white in color. You are then told that Tom is a cat. If I were to ask you then what color Tom is, what would you say? The only conclusion you could make is that Tom is white in color. (Deaver)
In other words, based upon the information you have been given, the only conclusion you can come to on the color of Tom is that he is white.
The Bible also teaches by way of Necessary Conclusions.
In Matthew 3:16, the Bible says:
“And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him.”
As we consider the words “out of the water”, we already understand something about this situation. If Jesus came up out of the water, then He must have been in the water! It is common sense and a common fact that a person cannot come up out of something he was never in to begin with.
Therefore, although the Bible does not specifically say by direct statement that Jesus was in the water, it does teach by means of a necessary conclusion/inference that Jesus was in the water.
The Bible records:
“The same day came to Him the Sadducees, which say that there is no resurrection, and asked Him, Saying, Master, Moses said, If a man die, having no children, his brother shall marry his wife, and raise up seed unto his brother. Now there were with us seven brethren: and the first, when he had married a wife, deceased, and, having no issue, left his wife unto his brother: Likewise the second also, and the third, unto the seventh. And last of all the woman died also. Therefore in the resurrection whose wife shall she be of the seven? for they all had her. Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry, nor are given in marriage, but are as the angels of God in heaven. But as touching the resurrection of the dead, have ye not read that which was spoken unto you by God, saying, I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob? God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. And when the multitude heard this, they were astonished at His doctrine” (Matthew 22:23-33).
We know according to Acts 23:8 that the Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, angels, or spirits, and so we realize that these Sadducees were not honest in their question. Nevertheless, Jesus informed these Sadducees that they made an error in not knowing the scriptures (verse 29).
What had they missed? They had failed to understand a necessary conclusion. What was the necessary conclusion? Simply this: When speaking to Moses, God had said: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”
Now, if God would have said “I was” (past tense) then the necessary conclusion would have been that there was no life after death. But by saying “I am” (present tense), the only conclusion one could make was that there was life after death—that is, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were still alive in the spirit.
What does all this mean? Simply this: The Bible does not just teach us truth by direct statements and approved examples, but it also teaches us through necessary conclusions.
When I was younger, I helped my father put my little brother’s bicycle together. It is interesting to think about, as we compare our learning, with what we are discussing here today. In those simple bicycle instructions, we learned by direct statement, example, and necessary conclusion. I have placed similar instructions here:
COMMAND: Insert handlebar post into hole A
EXAMPLE: Down on the bottom left is a picture an example of a man putting the handlebar into the appropriate hole.
INFERENCE: We infer – the only logical conclusion we can come to about the handle bar- for it to be effective as a bicycle, is that it must be inserted and tightened down, and it needs to be put in frontwards.
SILENCE: what it did not say- it didn’t say you couldn’t put the handle bars into “hole c,” or “d.” It did not say you cannot put them where the peddles go. But we all understand that in order for it to be a true bicycle, the manual must be followed (more will be discussed in a later blog article concerning silence).
If someone contends that we are not bound by necessary conclusion then I will invite you to consider the alternative. The fact would be that I would not be bound by any general statement in the Bible. For example: in Acts 17:30 we read: And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent (Act 17:30).
I must apply some sort of logic to this statement. Since all men everywhere must repent, and since I am a man somewhere, then I must repent. This is so simple that it seems that we do not realize that we have done it, but we have reached a conclusion and inferred the necessity of repentance from these facts.
If Implication/necessary conclusion is not binding, then it is logically true that I must find a command or direct statement which lists my name along with it. It would do me no good to find a command given to a person in the same circumstances as myself. It might have been a command for him but it is not for me. In fact, I would have to INFER that since he had to do it and since I live under the same law (the law of Christ) that he did, then I too must do it.
If implication is not binding, then I cannot simply find a command given to men in general such as Acts 17:30 and say this is a direct command to me. For I must reason from the general (all men) to the particular (myself); this is called a Necessary Inference.
If one still does not feel that God binds by implication, then perhaps he could explain why he was baptized, (or repented for that matter.) Because until he finds the direct command that lists his name alongside it,then the only reason he was baptized was that he came to a necessary conclusion that was both expressed and implied and he concluded properly and then obeyed.
The reason I am bound by God’s Word is not that I read it but that God wrote it! The reason I am bound by those things implied in His word is not because I inferred it but rather because God implied it.
Many times, after blogs about these types of things, there are always some who write in and wish to disagree. They are upset because something that they have read does not set well with their belief system. For that reason, I am writing this last note. BEFORE you write in, to strongly disagree, please take the time to accept this challenge.
If any person rejects these: (Direct Statement, Approved Example, Necessary Inference/Implication, as ways of learning/understanding) then here is the challenge:
Prove to us, that these three learning methods are not reliable ways to interpret, but you must do so without using direct statements, examples, or implication (since you do not believe we are to use these methods to learn).
That is, you are not allowed to make any direct statement to prove your point. You are not allowed to use any examples to show why you believe what you believe, and you must not use any type of implication, whereby we are to infer from you, how you have come to your beliefs/conclusions.
If you use any of these, you are automatically admitting, that this is a reliable way in which we learn/interpret any type of document, including your own.
Conclusion to the challenge:
Generally here is how it goes. Some guy will deny these methods, (Statements/Examples/Inferences) – then he will spend page after page, making direct statements, then he will try to use examples to prove his point, he then will ask questions to try to get the person to Infer what he had been Implying.
He uses the exact method which he deems unreliable, in order to show that this 'unreliable' method is not a good method to use.
The facts are these:
If a person uses any statements, examples or implications, in order to teach, he therefore admits that we learn and teach by using these same techniques.
However, if he then says that we are not bound to use these methods to interpret. He must give us a different method, a method whereby he does not use any of these to prove his point.
Once he has failed to provide support for his theory without using any of these three methods he will simply state that we are not bound to use these methods. (Notice: He will state it but not prove it)
So, he asks us to:
- Believe his statements, his examples and his implications that we are not bound by statements, examples and implications.
- Disregard any statement, examples or implications that God tells us in His Word.
- Therefore, he wants me to believe that his statements, examples and implications are more important and more authoritative than God’s statements, examples and implications.
I simply will not allow some man, any man… to use the same logical tools, which he denies are binding, to then turn around and try to ‘bind’ his belief system upon me, using those very same tools. To allow such would be the height of stupidity on my part.
I hope we can see that these methods are so simple and reliable that we have no other way to teach, than in using these tools, in one fashion or another.
Please continue to come back as we look at one more lesson in this series on Bible Authority.