How To Establish Scriptural Authority (3)

Implication. In our early days in the Bible college, we used to call this “Necessary Inferences.” The use of the qualifying adjective “necessary,” as in “necessary implication” or “necessary inference,” is of course redundant, but on the other hand I guess that is needed in order to guard us from making “unnecessary implications” of anything! By nature, all inferences are necessary, and what is not necessary to conclude from a group of facts is not an implication of it.

To say that an act, fact or principle is inferred from a group of facts, data or statements is to say that that act, fact, or principle is demanded or required by the available evidence resulting from our analysis of those evidences. Implication or inference is the result of our sifting and analyzing the evidences by the use of human logic. Implication or inference is not necessarily the Bible’s conclusion, and we have to guard ourselves from being too dogmatic in our conclusions.

For example, based on his conclusions on the teachings of 1 Corinthians 1:17, a minister taught that gospel preaching alone is necessary but baptism is not. But that is not necessarily the implication of Paul’s statement: “For Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel.” To say that baptism is no longer necessary contradicts Christ’s statement in Mark 16:16 and Matthew 28:18-20. To say so also contradicts Paul’s history because he himself was baptized (Acts 9:18; 22:16), and did baptize some (1 Corinthians 1:14-16).

Let me cite some example how inference or implication works. Matthew 3:16 says that after he was baptized by John, Jesus “went up straightway out of the water.” It never mentions that He went down into the water, but this is basically what we must infer although the text does not say so. To be baptized He had to get into the water. One can’t go up straightway out of the water unless he has got down into it, or has been it.

Furthermore, To baptize, in the Greek, means to immerse, to plunge, to dip. It does not mean to sprinkle or to pour. It does not mean anything else. Romans 6:3-4 in the New Catholic Edition of the Bible reads, “Do you not know that all we who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? For we were buried with Him by means of baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ has arisen from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life.” Baptism here is pictured as a burial; it is a truth that cannot be denied. So the New Catholic Edition reads in its footnote: “Verse 3. St. Paul alludes to the manner in which baptism was ordinarily conferred in the primitive church, by immersion. The descent into water is suggestive of the descent of the body into the grave, and the ascent is suggestive of the resurrection to a new life…”

To suggest that infants too must have been baptized because households have been baptized is a belabored argument and does not prove anything. It is not even implied. Advocates of infant baptism must perhaps start overhauling this argument because of its flaws; they should overhaul their theology too.

What can you imply from such passages as Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, and Ephesians 2:8? They give me the assurance that the good Lord by His abundant grace and mercy will save me from my sins. It is implied that he does the saving after I have done what He requires me to do. I don’t understand how he does it, but I have great trust that He does it. My faith tells me that I can rejoice in that hope and in that assurance, that even though there are so many things about the salvific system I don’t understand much about, His promise overcomes whatever doubts and confusion I may have. He is powerful enough and gracious enough to do it. If I go to heaven at all, it is not because I have had perfect scores; it is because I am assured that His grace could fill up what is lacking in me. Shouldn’t you rejoice in this also?

Another thing. What kind bodies shall we have in the day of resurrection? It will be an incorruptible, glorious, immortal and powerful body, for sure (1 Corinthians 15:42, 43, 44, 50, 53, 54). 1 John 3:2 also says that we shall be like Jesus. How shall we look like? Will our bodies also penetrate closed doors? (John 20:19).

What can you imply from the following facts? (1) In the passage of Genesis 1:1, “God” is plural in form but “created” is singular. (2) In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness…” (3) Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in HIS own image, in the image HE created him; male and female HE created them.” (4) Psalm 8:4, “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor.” (5) John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (6) John 17:5, “And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory that I had with thee before the world was.” (7) Genesis 1:2, “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (8) Matthew 3:16-17, “And, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. and, lo, a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”

Let me repeat: An implication or an inference is simply our conclusion based on our logical sifting, analyzing, evaluating, and weighing of the facts, data, or statements at hand. The value of this lies in the fact that we can have peace and assurance that the Lord approves our conclusions, actions, beliefs, or practices. He has given us the brain to do just this thing. Since we have tried in every way not to disobey Him and violate the principles He has laid out in His Word, we have faith that we have done the right thing He wants us to do. We live by faith and not by sight.

Expedient Matters. The word “expedient” is found seven times in the King James Version, and three times in the Revised Standard. In the first instance of its use, Caiaphas prophesied that it would be expedient for one man to die that the whole nation may not perish (John 11:50-51). Jesus also says it would be “expedient” for Him to go to heaven, because if He would not, the Holy Spirit would not come (John 16:7). An “expedient” is something that is appropriate for the purpose, or one that serves the purpose. What expedites, what works, what is advantageous, is the idea behind the word “expedient.”

Therefore, by expedient actions we mean that these are actions that expedite the fulfillment or carrying out of any divinely authorized obligation or option. Expedient actions are those that are deemed advantageous in the fulfillment of God’s will in the world.

Paul’s statement, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedie
nt; all things are lawful for me, but all things do not edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23), gives us the value of expediencies: “Not all things are expedient.” When one is to make the choice between what is lawful and what is expedient, he should choose the first. I am of the opinion also that what is expedient does not always edify or build up.

Instrumental music is not lawful in the worship of New Testament Christians. But the church in Midway, Kentucky, led by their liberal minister, thought it was expedient to use it. Their singing drove away the rats (in a manner of speaking), and they thought a melodeon could help improve it. It was an innocent act, probably, done in the guise of what could help them sing better. Then it became the wedge that divided the churches of Christ in the beginning of their history in America. An expedient caused a division.

I know of a minister who, in order to increase and stabilize their Sunday collection, proposed that each member make a pledge. No one was dictated by anyone on how much to give. However, there was one guy who opposed the pledging system, and did everything he could to expose the “error of the system.” I even pleaded with him to go slow (he was my school mate in the Bible college). Well, to make the long story short, he left that congregation and transferred membership elsewhere. He still maintains that hobby of opposing anything that “smells” of “error” up to this day.

Some things we must remember about implications though: In some cases God has not specified how an action is to be carried out. In such cases, we may (please take note of the verb I am using) proceed to perform the action in accordance with our best judgment, in such a way that it does not violate the general instructions of the Scriptures. When we say “best judgment” we are referring to our “best opinion” on the matter, what we think works best.

Another: Jesus’ injunction to take the gospel to the whole world, a general one, leaves out the specifics for us in these modern times. The early disciples, we know, had preached to large groups (Acts 2), to places where there was a religious gathering (Acts 3:1, 12; 6:9; 13:14; 14:1; 16:13; 17:1; 17:17; 18:8), to soldiers (Acts 10:22-24), to a political official (Acts 18:7), to Jews only (Acts 11;19), to the Gentiles (Acts 13:48), to idol-worshippers (Acts 14:7-18; 17:16), to devout persons (Acts 17:17; 19:1), in cities (Acts 8:5; 8:40), in prison and in a residence (Acts 16:27-34; 28:30-31), in the market place (Acts 17:17), everywhere (Acts 8:4), in season or out of season (2 Timothy 4:2).

To us today, various opportunities, places and mediums have been afforded to proclaim the glorious story of that One Life who offered Himself, that we may inherit that better life in heaven that God has prepared since the foundation of the world. We once had mission societies as a tool to evangelize the world but objections had been leveled against it: It dictated to the churches, and robbed the church of its glory. The TV and radio programs too have been criticized for the reason that one church, the sponsoring church, violates the local autonomy of other churches.

Some churches too object to the use of literature because they want “the Bible only” as the source of their teaching. Others are against the Sunday school because it “divides” the church into many classes when they ought to be one and “undivided.” I am beginning to think that for every expediency we invent, there is always a hobbyist waiting to oppose it.

Scriptural authority for a particular action, as we have studied, could be established through direct statements, through accounts of approved precedents, and through implication. With regards to commands or direct statements as our binding authority, there seems to be no disagreements among Christians. He who worships God with musical instruments and he who worships Him without it, are both in agreement that we are to worship Him from whom all blessings flow. We disagree on the how. To say it clearly we disagree on the examples and on the implications. We disagree on what examples are binding, and what implications are expedient.

Next: Application

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