Bible Authority--

How God Communicates His Will

By David Phillips

God has richly blessed man in that He has given us His word to guide us “as a lamp tour feet”. We can know His will through His word, but that leaves us matter of how to understand the Bible.  On the subject of Bible Authority, those who recognize and respect God’s authority, and who willingly submit to Him, are eager to know what His will is. Nevertheless, through the years men have devised several methods of interpreting the Bible that favor their specific desires rather than seeking out God’s will. Yet, if we truly respect God’s authority, we will strive to receive and understand His word the way He wants us to.  

Within the Scriptures themselves, God teaches us how to understand His word. It doesn’t take much to realize that the Bible is written in the form of a historical account or conversation—a narrative. In literature this type of writing is known as “propositional.” A proposition is a statement that affirms or denies a specific point. Therefore, the New Testament record, rather than being a list of do’s and don’ts, is given in the form of a discussion which affirms or denies spiritual truths. For example, in John 4:23-24 Jesus is recorded as saying, “But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” Within these verses Jesus affirms certain truths. Upon reading the passage, we are expected to understand and believe those truths. The truths we learn throughout the Bible shape and mold our understanding of reality and God’s will for us.

This is how Jesus and the apostles interpreted Scriptures, and they have become our examples (See Acts 15:6-21). In a sermon on Bible authority, Steve Dewhirst makes the point, “As a result of the scriptures being written in this way God is able to teach us not only what we are supposed to DO, but more importantly what we are supposed to BE.” God does not merely give us a checklist; He gives us examples to show us what we must become (James 1:22-25). Because of this, man cannot just open his head, poor in the words and say they know the will of God. God expects us to search the scriptures for specific principles by which we must live our lives.

John 4:23-24 reveals the following principles, among others, that we need to understand. 1) True worshipers are those who worship God in spirit (from the inner man), and in truth (outwardly expressed according to God’s word). 2) At the time of Jesus’ conversation, the time was at hand when God’s worshipers would do this. 3) God expects to be worshipped. 4) God is seeking true worshipers.

We are expected to look at all scripture in this way and strive to determine God’s will for us. We know this is possible because we are commanded in Eph. 5:17: “Therefore do not be unwise, but understand what the will of the Lord is.”

Within the narrative of the Bible God expresses via three basic rules of communication: 1) Direct statements, 2) necessary inferences, 3) approved examples. Though there are some men who reject these three rules, it should be understood that these are basic to all communication, i.e. this is how all men communicate with one another. It should be no surprise that God chose to communicate with us in a way that is familiar to us and that we can easily understand.

Direct Commands

Direct statements and commands are perhaps the easiest for us to understand. Deuteronomy 6:5 is an example of a direct command: “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind” (c.f. Matthew 22:37). Direct statements clearly and concisely reveal spiritual truths. In Malachi 3:6, for instance, God gave a direct statement saying, “For I am the LORD, I do not change.” This was a statement that we do not need to make any inferences to understand, and which we are expected to believe. Likewise, in the New Testament direct statements are made which clearly define the doctrine of Christ. In John 1:1, the Word (Jesus) is God. In John 4:24, God is spirit. In Titus 1:2, God cannot lie. 

Necessary Inferences

Propositional statements reveal principles through necessary inferences. “Necessary inference” is simply a fancy way of saying necessary (or inescapable) conclusion. In Matthew 22:30 Jesus used a necessary inference to prove the doctrine of the resurrection. He quoted God saying, “I AM the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” Jesus then observed, “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” What is the inference (inescapable conclusion)? Because God is the God of the living and not of the dead, and God said, “I am (present tense) the God of Abraham” we must conclude that Abraham is still alive. Not physically, but spiritually.

We are expected to use this same principle of interpretation throughout the scriptures. We must note here that both examples and necessary inferences are binding only if they do not contradict a direct command. If we draw a conclusion but later find it to contradict God’s clear statements, our conclusion must be false. We must back up and try again.

Only when direct statements agree with the conclusion being made are the principles therein binding. If we hold fast conclusions that contradict direct statements then we are twisting the scripture to our own destruction (2 Pet. 3:16). Therefore since God tells us to repent of our sins, and then says that if we continue in sin then we will face eternal condemnation, the necessary inference would be that in order for me to be saved I must flee my sinfulness and live a life pleasing to God.

Approved Examples

Jesus made it clear that in order for us to be His disciples we must follow His commands and examples as well as those of His apostles. What was revealed to the apostles and later taught and practiced by them is recorded as a pattern which we must follow as Jesus’ disciples (Rom. 6:17; Phil. 3:17; 1 Thess. 1:7; 2 Thess. 3:9; 1 Tim. 4:12).

In the gospels record the life of Christ and the Acts of the apostles record the works of the apostles as they fulfilled the Lord’s commands. These accounts provide examples that we must follow today. In John 14:27 and 16:13-15 we find that the apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit unto all truth and the things that they did were recorded for us that we may know what God expects us to do and how God expects us to live. Therefore, the apostle Paul stated in 1 Corinthians 11:1-3, “Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you. But I want you to know that the head of every man is Christ, the head of woman is man, and the head of Christ is God.” So the examples that are left by the apostles are traditions that were first handed down to them by Christ via the Holy Spirit and are now given to us as a pattern for our lives.

These approved apostolic examples illustrate how we are to fulfill God’s commands in His church today. By example we know which day we are to observe the Lord’s supper (Acts 20:7). By the example of Philip and the Ethiopian eunuch baptism unto salvation is show to be immersion in water (Acts 8:38).

We must also remember that there are some examples recorded in the Bible that are condemned by God. These examples are given to show us what we must not do (See 1 Corinthians 10:1-10).

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