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 Vol. 6, No. 6 

June 2004

~ Page 9 ~

How the Bible Teaches

By Hugo McCord

Image "Man is the measure of all things" (Protagorus, Greek philosopher, 480-410 B.C.). Therefore, "we must save ourselves" (Humanist Manifesto II, p. 16). But "a man's way is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps" (Jeremiah 10:23). Of "making many books" of directions "there is no end, and much study is a weariness of the flesh" (Ecclesiastes 12:12). Only one of those books is "God-breathed" (2 Timothy 3:16), that is, the holy Bible. Weariness is eliminated and certainty guaranteed by recourse to the one book that gives "to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3):

Your word is a lamp for my feet, and a light for my path. . . . The opening of your words sheds light, giving understanding to simple people" (pethayim, "ignorant, inexperienced," Davidson, Psalm 119:105, 130).

Though "the mystery of religion" (1 Timothy 3:16), involving some things "unsearchable" and "untraceable" (Romans 11:33), such as the Trinity or graphic pictures in the book of Revelation, yet the plan of salvation is so simple that an honest sinner, after one lesson, instantly asks, "What hinders my being baptized?" (Acts 8:36).

As regards "the way of holiness" Isaiah wrote that "wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err" (35:8). As regards "the Holy Way," the NRSV in Isaiah 35:8, says: "no traveler, not even fools, shall go astray." As regards "God's Sacred Highway," the CEV, in a footnote to Isaiah 35:8, says: "And not even a fool can miss that highway." As regards Isaiah 35:8, Franz Delitzsch in his commentary wrote: "Whoever walks the road, even simple ones, do not go astray" and "Even an idiot could not miss it." Thank God, as "you read" you "will understand what is the will of the Lord" (Ephesians 3:4; 5:17).

The will of the Lord comes to us in three ways:

Direct Commands

In ages past the Lord gave commandments to Adam, to Noah, to Abram, to Moses, and to the prophets (Genesis 2:16-17; 6:14; 12:1-3; Deuteronomy 6:4-9; Acts 3:21), "but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son" (Hebrews 1:1-2). "All authority in heaven and on the earth" was given to Jesus "in these last days," from the day of Pentecost, May 28, A.D. 30, when he was "set" (Acts 2:30) on David's spiritual throne in heaven, until "the end of the world" (Matthew 28:18-20).

During all of the time that "the Son of man sits on the throne of his glory" (Matthew 19:28), he has transferred his authority to his twelve apostles as his "ambassadors" (2 Corinthians 5:20), empowering them by a baptism in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:5, 8). Their authority is so great under the "King of kings" (Revelation 17:14) that Jesus looks upon them as kings sitting "on twelve [spiritual] thrones judging the twelve tribes of [spiritual] Israel" (Matthew 19:28). Those "twelve tribes of [spiritual] Israel" are "the Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16), the "church" which Jesus built (Matthew 16:18; Galatians 1:2).

What the apostles said or wrote was really not theirs, for the "words" they used were "by the Spirit" (1 Corinthians 2:13), words originating in heaven before they were on the lips or the pens of the apostles, as Jesus had said:

Indeed I assure you that whatever you bind on the earth will have been bound [dedemena, perfect passive] in heaven, and whatever you release [lelumena, perfect passive] on the earth will have been released in heaven (Matthew 18:18).

Accordingly, what the apostles spoke or wrote were "the commandments of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 14:37) to "every creature" (Mark 16:16). Jesus promised to be with the apostles, not merely until they died, but "to the end of the world" (Matthew 28:20), which means that whatever they spoke or wrote during their lifetimes is today just as up to date and binding on us as when they were alive. Concerning "the faith," that is, New Testament Christianity, Jude wrote that it exists hapaz, "once for all time." Therefore one is not surprised to read that the first Christians "continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine" (Acts 2:42).

Approved Examples

Despite the fact that examples approved by the apostles had already been approved in heaven, a Gospel preacher asks, "When is an example binding?", and he answers, "Never!" However, an apostle wrote, "Imitate me, brothers, and observe those who walk in this manner, even as you have us for an example" (Philippians 3:17).

The apostle Paul instigated the appointment of elders in Lystra, Iconium, Derbe and Antioch (Acts 14:20-23). But a Gospel preacher ridicules people today for patterning themselves after the first century congregations: "You mean we should have open fornication and abuses of the Lord's Supper like Corinth?" However, it is easy to ascertain what practices at Corinth that the apostle approved and what he condemned (1 Corinthians 5:13; 11:20-21; 2 Corinthians 7:11-16).

The apostle Paul was present when the Christians at Troas "on the first day of the week" assembled "to break the loaf" (Acts 20:7). Though he was in a hurry to get to "Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, if at all possible" (Acts 20:16), he had stayed "seven days" in Troas (Acts 20:6), apparently waiting for the first day of the week assembly of the congregation.

But there were times when apostles themselves sinned, disregarding their empowerment by "the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1:8; 2:4). The apostle Peter, who had received a private vision showing him that Gentiles were subjects of the Gospel (Acts 10:9-16), and accordingly had ordered that they be baptized in "water" (Acts 10:47-48), afterward refused to eat a meal with Gentile Christians (Galatians 2:11-12). The apostle Paul rebuked Peter publicly for his sin (Galatians 2:14).

However, Paul himself sinned in offering animal blood in a temple sacrifice in 58 A.D., 28 years after animal sacrifices were out of date (Acts 21:26). J. W. McGarvey has written:

If disciples, whether Jewish or Gentile, should now assemble in Jerusalem, construct an altar, appoint a priesthood, and offer sin-offerings, they could but be regarded as apostates from Christ. But why should it be regarded as a crime now if it was innocent then? (Commentary of Acts of the Apostles, p. 260).

No, animal sacrifices were not "innocent" in 58 A.D., as Paul himself wrote four years later that Jesus had taken the Law of Moses "out of the way, nailing it to the cross" (Colossians 2:14). [This Editor and others respectfully disagree with this assessment of Paul's conduct on this occasion. See http://www.gospelgazette/gazette/2002/may/Page10.htm.]

Yes, it was possible, even for an apostle, to "suppress (sbennumi, extinguish, quench, stifle) the Spirit" (1 Thessalonians 5:19). On another occasion Paul extinguished the Spirit when he called the high priest Ananias "you white-washed wall!" (Acts 23:3). When bystanders told Paul that he had sinned, Paul apologized, saying,

Brothers, I was not aware that he is the high priest, for it is written [Exodus 22:28], "You shall not speak evil against the ruler of your people" (Acts 23:5).

Paul had lost his temper, but we rejoice that he gracefully accepted correction. [This Editor is not certain of this evaluation of that situation. God no longer sanctioned Judaism with its high priest, and the man serving as high priest was not conforming to Judaism respecting that post. Paul may have distinguished between the man and his office.]

Thus it must be said that not even the apostles are exempt from the statement that "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). Only of one person can it be said that he was "tempted in everything, though without sin" (Hebrews 4:15). And Christians today sin if they spurn heavenly approved examples of the apostles. To the apostles Jesus said:

He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me (Matthew 10:40). The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects the one who sent me (Luke 10:16).

Necessary Inferences

Another Gospel preacher scorns the "doctrine of necessary inferences," asserting that it is "tragic," resulting in "splits and factions," and that it is "clumsy" and "dangerous." Unfortunately, he and others with faulty advanced scholastic degrees,

have strayed after empty talk, wanting to be teachers of the law, but understanding neither what they are saying, nor the things about which they are so sure (1 Timothy 1:6-7).

But God, "the only wise" (Romans 16:27), says, "Come now, let us reason together" (Isaiah 1:18). When people reason together, inescapable truths, not expressly stated in a text, show themselves.

  1. The Existence and Eternity of God. Paul taught pagan idolaters that they should necessarily infer from "rain and fruitful seasons" that there is "a living God who made heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them" (Acts 14:15-17). To Paul, God's "eternal power and divine nature" are necessarily inferred ("clearly seen," kathoratai), "being understood" (nooumena, a mental act, an inference) "by the things that are made" (Romans 1:20).

    Not only is the existence of God a necessary inference from observing the things that are made, but also the necessary inference follows that he has always existed, for "out of nothing, nothing comes" (ex nihil, nihil fit, a proverb coming down from ancient times).

  2. The Deity of Jesus. Augustine (author of Confessions, and City of God, 354-430 A.D.) inferred, si Christus non deus, non bonus, "If Christ is not God, he is not good." Long before Augustine some Jews in Jerusalem inferred that a good man could not deceive: "Some were saying, 'He is good'; but others said, 'No! He deceives the people'" (John 7:12). Since all people acquainted with the life of Jesus through two thousand years have agreed that Jesus was a good man, the necessary inference is that his claim is true: "I said, 'I am the Son of God'" (John 10:36).

    Also, the Gospel of Matthew alone records 42 quotations from the Old Testament cited by Jesus as he taught among the people. "The Jews were astonished, saying 'How does one who has never learned know letters?'" (John 7:15), and "Is not this the carpenter's son?" (Matthew 13:55). The knowledge of the unschooled "carpenter" (Mark 6:3) leads to the necessary inference that Jesus was divine.

  3. The God-breathed Scriptures. The Bible affirms that the Scriptures were divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21), but how do we know that it is telling the truth? We know it by a necessary inference because only the possessor of divine knowledge can predict the future. The Bible, alone among all books, unerringly foretold hundreds of years in advance the coming of the Messiah. Three hundred and thirty-two Old Testament predictions of Christ have been counted (Floyd E. Hamilton, The Basis of the Christian Faith: New York: Harper & Brothers, 1946). That chance would settle all these on one man is one over 84 plus 97 ciphers. That astonishing mathematical fraction leads to the necessary inference that the Bible is God-breathed.

  4. An Animal Sacrifice. To say that Cain's sacrifice was rejected because it was not costly is an inference (Genesis 4:1-7), but not a necessary one. To say that God gave a command both to Cain and to Abel to bring an animal sacrifice, though not specifically mentioned in the Scripture, is a necessary inference, for Abel's sacrifice was by "faith" (Hebrews 11:4) and "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by he word of God" (Romans 10:17).

  5. Inherited sin. Nowhere does the Bible say that children are born pure and sinless, but such is a necessary inference from Jesus' words: "Permit the little children to come to me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 19:14).

  6. Believer's baptism. Nowhere does the Bible say that one must be old enough to believe before being baptized. But teaching must precede baptism: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them" (Matthew 28:19). If teaching must precede baptism, it is a necessary inference that infants are not scriptural subjects for baptism.

  7. Immersion. Since baptism requires a burial (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12), an unavoidable implication is that immersion is necessary.

  8. Preaching Jesus includes preaching baptism. The Bible does not say that preaching Jesus includes preaching baptism, but since a man who had never heard of baptism asked for it after he had heard a sermon on "Jesus," one infers necessarily that Jesus cannot be fully preached without baptism being preached (Acts 8:35-36).

  9. In and out of grace. The Bible does not say that one "fallen from grace" (Galatians 5:4) has been in grace, but since one cannot fall out of something unless he has been in that something, it follows that the Galatian Christians who fell out (ek) of grace had been in grace.

  10. No women preachers. Not because men are more important than women, but because the God of all wisdom planned for men to be leaders and women to be helpers of the men (Genesis 2:18), the necessary inference is that women preachers are not in God's plan.

  11. No women elders. Since every elder must be "the husband of one wife" (1 Timothy 3:2), the necessary inference is that a woman cannot qualify.

  12. No women deacons. Since every deacon must be "the husband of one wife" (1 Timothy 3:12), the necessary inference is that a woman cannot qualify.

  13. No nicotine or other non-prescription drugs. God has not given a direct command forbidding tobacco and other non-prescription drugs, but since a Christian's body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), the necessary inference follows that body abuse is sinful.

  14. Gambling. The Bible does not forbid Christians buying lottery tickets and putting money in slot machines, but since it commands them to "maintain good works" (Titus 3:14; Ephesians 4:28), the necessary inference is that Christians will abstain.

  15. Dancing. The Bible does not forbid Christian boys and girls intertwining themselves in dancing, but since such behavior, among red-blooded young people, easily leads to mental and physical fornication, the necessary inference is that Christians will abstain.

  16. Goodness and salvation. The Bible does not say that a good man unbaptized will be lost. However, since Cornelius was a good man (Acts 10:2) but unsaved (Acts 11:14) until his baptism in "water" (Acts 10:47-48), one has to infer that goodness alone will not save a person.

  17. Conscience and salvation. The Bible does not say that a good conscience is insufficient to save a sincere person. However, since Paul with a "good conscience" (Acts 23:1) was the "chief of sinners" (1 Timothy 1:15), one has to infer that something besides a good conscience is required for salvation.

  18. Marriage and divorce. When a divorce occurs because of fornication, the necessary inference from Jesus' words (Matthew 19:9) is that only the innocent spouse may remarry.

  19. The finality of the New Testament. Since "the faith" was committed "once for all time" (hapax, Jude 3) to the saints in the first century, and since the saints at that time received "all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Peter 1:3), the necessary inference is that nothing new by way of a revelation or communication has come from God since the last word of the New Testament (Revelation 22:18-19) was written.

  20. The resurrection. Jesus himself, in a debate with "the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection" (Matthew 22:33), drew an inference from the tense of the verb in Exodus 3:6, "I am," not "I was," to prove that the dead will be raised (Matthew 22:32).

    If God had said to Moses "at the thorn-bush" (Mark 12:26-27) in 1446 B.C. "I was the God of Abraham 330 years ago (1776-1446 B.C.), and I was the God of Isaac 225 years ago (1671-1446 B.C.), and I was the God of Jacob 198 years ago (1644-1446 B.C.) before they died," using the past tense "was," then there is no resurrection.

    But God said to Moses, "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob" (Exodus 3:6), using the present tense "I am," thus saying that "after all these years I still am their God." Jesus said that he was speaking of "the resurrection of the dead" (Matthew 22:31). Therefore, God "is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Matthew 22:32), and "all people are alive to him" (Luke 20:38). Thus Jesus believed that one of the ways that the Bible teaches is by a necessary inference.Image

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