Must It Be Spelled Out?
Text: Isaiah 8:16-20
I. We know people want to live life as they please; yet, there’s this Bible that says the things they want to do are wrong. What’s a person to do to avoid guilt?
A. For some it is finding shelter behind saying that their particular sin isn’t specifically mentioned in the Bible.
B. If that doesn’t work, then they place artificial restrictions:
1. “The King James Bible doesn’t mention homosexuality.”
2. “The book of John doesn’t say baptism is required.”
II. God expects men to reason
A. He invites people to reason with Him - Isaiah 1:18-20
B. Teaching involved reasoning from the Scriptures - Acts 17:2; 18:4; 24:25
III. A list of examples:
A. In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul said “things like these.” What things? Where is the specific list?
B. In Hebrews 5:12-14, why is discernment needed?
1. Discernment means to make a judgment, which one would hope is preceded by reasoning.
2. God commands the mature to reason out what is good and what is evil
C. In Matthew 22:31-32, Jesus expecting the Sadducees to conclude that there is a resurrection from a passage that said nothing about resurrections.
D. There was no statement against descendants from Judah serving as priests - Hebrews 7:14
1. How were people supposed to conclude that it was forbidden if it wasn’t stated?
E. In Exodus 20:8, how often were the people to do this?
1. Once, once a year, once a month, once a week? It doesn’t say!
2. So is it proper to conclude that any number is acceptable?
3. If your boss said “Payday is on Friday,” what would you conclude?
IV. So where is the authority?
A. Where do we find authority for a meeting place, song books, a song leader, or whether multiple cups can be used in the Lord’s Supper?
B. The usual argument is that if you do things without specific authority
1. Then you are being hypocritical.
2. Your method of establishing authority is flawed
C. But in everyday communication, we don’t expect everything to be spelled out
1. It isn’t a rule that we are applying only to Bible study, it is how communication always works.
a. If I told one of my sons to take out the garbage, notice that I leave out a lot
(1) I’m implying he has a choice in how to get the garbage out. He could hop on one foot all the way to the trash can.
(2) I didn’t specify all the details: open the wastebasket, pull out the trash bag, close the trash bag, walk to the door with the trash bag, etc.
(3) The command itself states the goal and the boundaries within which there is freedom to choose how to accomplish the goal.
(4) Those choices were all authorized in the command.
b. When my wife asks me to pick up some bread on the way home
(1) How I get there isn’t specified, though when is given
(2) How I pay for it isn’t specified.
(3) What kind of bread isn’t specified, and likely I’ll pick up something she didn’t have in mind. My defense? It’s bread! Unless of course she told me that it is for hamburgers tonight. But even then I can choose between white, wheat, onion, etc.
2. When we communicate things that are common knowledge to both the talker and listener are not spelled out.
a. In fact we get annoyed if things we clearly know are spelled out.
b. In my house, getting a gallon of milk implies that it is non-fat milk – it is all we drink. The type is only mentioned if we have the grandchildren over.
c. Thus the context clarifies what isn’t mentioned.
D. When we read something in the Bible, we consider who is talking, who is being addressed, the circumstances around the statement, and the other similar statements in the Bible.
E. The way this basic of communication has been explained is to discuss general and specific authority
1. Unfortunately over the years, things have gotten confused and people explain it as if there two types of authority, and if you have one, then you do not have the other.
2. Perhaps some diagrams will help
a. When God told Noah to build an ark, he gave some specific instruction: dimensions, number of floors, type of wood, and type of sealant - Genesis 6:14-16
(1) On a diagram, those specifics are being represented by a circle
(2) Outside the circle are all the things excluded by the command.
(3) Inside the circle are possible options allowed by the command
b. Christians are told to sing - Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16
(1) Specifics: Psalms, hymns and spiritual songs
(2) Excluded: Not singing, not directed to God, playing instruments
(3) Included: Specific songs, sing from memory, sing from a book, sing from a slide, how the starting note is found, style of music, harmony or monochromatic
V. It is just common sense
A. Every command contains specific authority to do or not do something; yet, at the same time the boundary of specified command allows flexibility for things that can be generally concluded.
a. But also notice that when there is flexibility, two people might choose different options and both be right
b. The question is not whether the other person agrees with you, but whether the person is doing what the Lord says is acceptable, even if it is not what you might choose to do - Romans 14:10-12
B. The more general a statement, example, or implication, the more freedom we have.
C. The more specific a statement, example, or implication, the less freedom we have
D. Example: Matthew 28:18-20
1. To go is not an option, but how we go is
2. To teach the gospel is not an option, but the order we present it is
3. To make disciples by baptizing people is not an option, but where the baptism takes place is
E. Let’s start using our common sense
Based on “Must Everything Be Specified to Be Authorized?” by Doy Moyer.