Bible Examples and Logic; Reasonable Thinking
In last weeks lesson, titled “When Is An Example Binding ?”, we saw that God in fact, does commands us to follow some examples. One such command is in 1 Peter 2:21, which says; “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His footsteps.” We are commanded in that verse to follow Christ’s example.
Another command is found in Philippians 3:17. This is a command to follow the example of Paul and the rest of the apostles; “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.” The apostles have set forth a “pattern” that serves as our example, and we are command to “follow” that pattern.
But although God has commanded us to follow the examples of Jesus and of His apostles, does that mean that we must follow each and every detail, of everything that they each did? I think the obvious answer is No! That wouldn’t even be logical. We noted last week that some of the things they did, are impossible for us to follow today. For instance; It’s impossible for us to become a sacrifice for sin like Jesus did. And it’s also impossible for us to duplicate the miracles that Jesus, or the apostles performed.
But aside from what’s impossible for us to do, there are also many things that Jesus and the apostles did, that would be entirely pointless for us to do today. For instance; It would be pointless for us to ride into Jerusalem on a donkey, like Jesus did. We could do it if we really wanted to, but it would be pointless.
And it would be pointless for us to go to Jerusalem, and to remain there and wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon us, like the apostles did. They were commanded by Jesus Himself, to do that! It says in Acts 1, verse 4; “And gathering them together, He commanded them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait for what the Father had promised..” But even though the apostles were commanded to do that, it would be utterly pointless for us to do it.
Simple logic plays a big part in understanding which examples are binding upon us, and which ones aren’t. Now, concerning the fact that we ARE commanded to follow some of the things that both Jesus and the apostles did, many of the things that we are to follow, are named specifically in other verses of scripture.
For instance; When we read in 1 Peter 2:21, that we are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus, the next two verses specify some of the exact things that we’re supposed to follow. It says in verses 22 & 23; “..nor was any deceit found in His mouth”, and “..while being reviled, He did not revile in return”, and “while suffering, He uttered no threats”. So you can see that God specifies plainly, some of the things that Jesus did, that we are commanded to follow. If any deceit is found in our mouths, or if we revile others, and utter threats, we would be guilty of sin! It is “binding upon us”, to NOT do those things!
What about the apostles? Does God specify anything that they did, as binding upon us? Well, consider Philippians chapter 3. Paul tells us many things about himself. He says in verse 7; “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.” And he elaborated on that in verses 8 thru 11. Then Paul said in verses 13 & 14; “Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold yet, but one thing I do, forgetting what is behind, and reaching forward to what is ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize, of the upward call of God, in Christ Jesus.” And he says in verse 15; “Let us therefore, as many as are perfect (or mature) have this attitude..” And he really sums things up in verse 17, which we read earlier; “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”
Paul lays out the pattern, now we’re commanded to follow it. In this example, the pattern is in the attitude that we should all have. Here’s a command from Philippians 2:5; “Have this attitude in yourselves, which was also in Christ Jesus..” And the attitude described in the next three verses, is that of humility.
When we talk about having the same attitude that Jesus had, and that the apostles had, we’re talking about agreeing with the very principles that they believed in. For instance; When Paul said; “Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss, for the sake of Christ”, he’s stating a “principle”. And the principle is, that nothing of this world is of any value, when compared to Christ, and to spiritual blessings in Him. That principle is stated by Jesus, in Mark 8:36; “For what does it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and forfeit his own soul?”
We are commanded to live by that principle. Even though most people don’t live by it, there’ll come a day when we’ll all give an answer for our choices.
Now, on the same subject of principles, It says in Mark 8:1 thru 3; “In those days again, when there was a great multitude, and they had nothing to eat, He called His disciples and said to them; I feel compassion for the multitude, because they have remained with Me now three days, and have nothing to eat, and if I send them away hungry, to their home, they will faint on the way. And some of them have come from a distance.”
And the account of what Jesus did next, says that He took seven loaves of bread, and a few fishes, and He fed the multitude. And in this case, a miracle was performed, because with just those seven loaves and the few fishes, the entire multitude was satisfied, AND the remains of what was left over, filled “seven large baskets” (V-8). But the point is this; Simple logic tells us that we’re not obligated to God, to attempt to feed all the hungry of the world, with bread and fish. But what we ARE obligated to God to do, is to have the same compassion that Jesus had, for ALL people, and to ACT accordingly.
To say that you have compassion, but not DO what’s needed, is exactly like claiming to have faith, but then not doing what a faithful person is required to do. God tells us in James 2:15 & 16; “If a brother or sister is without clothing, and in need of daily food, and one of you says to them; Go in peace, be warmed and be filled, and yet you do not give them what is necessary for their body, what use is that?” Verse 17 says; “Even so, faith, if it has no works, is dead, by itself.”
So there’s another principle that we need to live by; We can’t just SAY something, we’ve got to DO it! And if we don’t do it, we’ll have our “day in court” so to speak, when we can answer to God for not doing it.
So then again, we have to use logic, and sensible reasoning, to properly interpret the scriptures. And again, I’ll go to Isaiah 1:18, which tells us; “Come now, let us reason together saith the Lord.” We’re commanded by God, with these words, in Romans 12, verse 1; “I urge you therefore brethren, by the mercies of God.. (it’s because of God’s compassion for us, that He gives us these instructions, and that He gives us the opportunity to be forgiven) “..by the mercies of God, present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, pleasing to God, your reasonable (or rational) service.”
The word “reasonable” in that verse, means.. what is reasonable and logical to GOD! In other words; What is reasonable in accordance to His word. That’s why some translations use the word “spiritual”, instead of reasonable. They use the phrase; “your spiritual service”. John 6:63 tells us that “the words that I have spoken to you are Spirit..” (and are life). And so it follows then, that if our service to God is based on the reasoning and logic of God’s word, then our “reasonable service” is also our “spiritual service”. But even to understand that much, we need to use logic, don’t we?
Let’s look at three verses from the bible, that illustrate the principle of using God’s reasoning, when interpreting the bible. You see, we’re not talking about human reasoning here, we’re talking about God’s reasoning. They’re not the same thing, are they? Isaiah 55, verse 9 says they’re not. That verse says; “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so also are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.”
So then, as we use reasoning, and logic, to interpret God’s word, we can’t rely on OUR reasoning and logic, we have to rely on God’s reasoning. Because what God says is reasonable, may not sound reasonable to us. But that’s when we need to change our reasoning, so that it matches God’s reasoning.
Now let’s look at the illustration. God said, in Isaiah 1:18; “Come now, let us reason together, saith the Lord.” And if we keep reading, we see God’s illustration of that; “Though your sins are as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.” Now that might not sound logical to you. If our sins are so bad, that they’re “like scarlet”, and if they’re so bad, that they’re “as red as crimson”, then why would they ever be “like wool”, and “white as snow”? Well, to a man’s way of thinking, they wouldn’t ever be “white again”, your sins wouldn’t ever go away. That’s why man has such a hard time forgiving, because man thinks, when something’s done, it’s done. There’s no going back. You can’t take way what’s been done.
But that’s man’s reasoning, it’s not God’s reasoning. The only reason that we believe that sins can be forgiven, and be treated as if they never occurred, is because we’ve adopted God’s reasoning on the subject. It’s because of what the bible has told us. God has told us that sins can be completely removed by the blood of Christ. And while that might not sound logical to a mere man or woman, it makes perfect sense when we use our knowledge of the bible to show us exactly how that works. When we “reason with God” we reason with His word. We take into consideration what God has said, and then we form our conclusions based on His word.
Listen to Isaiah 1:19 & 20; “If you consent, and obey, you will eat the best of the land. But if you refuse and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword..” Now to the Israelite, that probably meant that Israel would lose God’s protection, and that it would be overtaken by other nations. But what about for us today? If we refuse and rebel, will we be devoured by “the sword”? How about this analogy; The word of God is spoken of as being “sharper than any two-edged sword”. Hebrews 4, verse 12. And if we refuse to obey God’s word, and rebel against it, then God’s words themselves will devour us like a sword.
God’s word has told us what is logical and reasonable, and what is not reasonable. And if we consent to what He has said, and obey what He has said, then we “will eat the best of the land” so to speak. But if we insist on using our own “human reasoning” and refuse to consent to God’s reasoning, and consequently rebel, and don’t obey, then the very word that we’re rebelling against, will devour us. Actually, that’s pretty straightforward.
Therefore, reasoning with God’s word, plays a huge part in interpreting the bible, and in being saved.
Thomas B. Warren, wrote a book titled, “When is a Biblical Example Binding”. Mr. Warren was well-educated, and held several degrees. He received a Bachelors of Science degree in mathematics from Abilene Christian College. He received a Master of Arts degree in religion, from the University of Houston. He received both a Master of Arts, and a PHD in philosophy, from Vanderbilt University. And he was a professor of “Philosophy of Religion” and of “Apologetics” at Harding School of Theology.
Here’s something that he wrote in his book on biblical examples; “In this book, the aim is to stress the necessity of using, in connection with the explicit evidence in the bible, the principles and rules of valid reasoning (Logic). Logic is that discipline which attempts to determine whether conclusions are warranted, from the given evidence.”
On another page, he says; “While diligent, prayerful study of the bible is essential to one’s becoming, and remaining a good student of the bible, the mere reading of the bible is not sufficient to guarantee that one will understand what the bible teaches. It’s not even enough for one to have memorized the entire bible. To be sure, one must know what the bible says; That is, he must know what it’s explicit statements are. But after learning what the bible says, one must learn what the bible means. This can be learned only, by correctly reasoning, about what the bible says.”
And I’ll interject a verse of scripture here.. 2 Timothy 2:15; “Study (or, “be diligent”) to present yourself approved unto God, a workman who needs not to be ashamed, CORRECTLY DISCERNING the word of truth.” In other words, reasoning with God’s word, as Isaiah 1:18 puts it.
Mr. Warren continues with these words; “In short, to learn what the bible means, one must correctly apply the principles of logic, to the totality of the statements of the entire bible.”
We are instructed in 1 Thessalonians 5:21, to “Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good.” The only way to prove anything, is to examine the evidence presented, with rational thought.
Next week we’ll take a look at the difference between an “example”, and what might be called “an account of action”.