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This Week's Memory Verse

The Lord humbles those who dwell on high and lays the lofty city low; He levels it to the ground and casts it down to the dust.




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Illustrations of Inferences

I hope I don't step on any toes here, but if I do, let me know if you think I'm wrong. I am open to correction.

Here is a good example of something many people would tell you is implied, that is not: it is an inference supplied by their mind. Read the story of Jesus and the rich young man (Matthew 19:16-22) or rich young ruler (Luke 18:18-23). Now ask yourself, what became of the young man? Did he ever find salvation? Did he give away all his money to the poor and follow Christ?

If you answered anything but “I don't know,” you have inferred something that the text does not tell you. Matthew says he went away looking sorrowful, and Luke that he became sorrowful. If another passage in the Bible said something like, “a person who walks away from the Lord in sorrow will be barred from salvation forever,” then and only then could one say that this passage implies that the young man was never saved.

(In fact, it is implied that the young man could still find the Kingdom of Heaven even if he did not give away all his money, etc. One can point to a specific passage in this regard. In Matthew 19:26, after stating that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, etc., Christ specifically says “with God all things are possible.”)

Here is another one, that I recently heard from a Sunday school teacher. The Gospel of John, telling the story of Gethesemane, recounts that Jesus wakes up his apostles, tells them to stay awake, and then goes off to pray. The apostles immediately go back to sleep. The third time, He tells them to wake up because the hour has come.

The teacher then taught that this meant Christ had become fully divine and knew all things at that point. He knew His hour had come because He had become fully God. I sat and listened to one of the students in the class - himself teaching a Bible study - repeat this as if it were part of the Bible.

This, he claimed, was “implied” by the events. But, of course, it is not implied. It is an explanation of the events made up by a human being. And here, we see the danger of not understanding what is an inference made by a flawed human mind and an actual implication, proven by reference to other parts of the Bible.

First, see clearly that it is not implied. There is nowhere in the Bible that says, for example, Christ would become fully divine when He realized His hour had arrived, or that He would know His hour had arrived at the time He gave up his mortal mind and was filled with the full knowledge of God.

Secondly, in this particular case, we are lucky enough to be able to see another inference just as rational. Although it is actually irrelevant to our point - one does not need a competing hypothesis to show that an inference is manmade and not Scriptural - Jesus was the only one awake in the Garden of Gethsemane. One might thus hypothesize that He knew the hour was at hand because several hundred men with torches and swords were coming into the Garden in the middle of a dark and quiet night!

Third, this example shows the danger of inferring such things to the Bible, because in this case, it undermines a fairly important doctrine, the faith of Christ. I can't remember if we have discussed the rather abstruse, but extremely important, pistis Xristou issue. In a nutshell, every time the Bible says we are saved by our faith in Christ, there is a very great chance that Paul and others meant the faith of Christ. In fact, “faith of Christ” is the plainest meaning of the Greek phrase.

At a bare minimum, part of the mechanism of our salvation is that Christ had perfect faith. He died, not with the absolute knowledge of God that He would be resurrected, but with the faith of a human being in God - only of course, His faith was perfect. Faith is trust in something one does not know as an absolute. Paul tells us in Philippians that “Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

~ Mason Barge
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