Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 10, 1964
NUMBER 18, PAGE 4,11c-12a

Command And Inference


Robert C. Welch

In response to a previous article several questions were submitted to me in a letter. These are being used as topics for the present series of articles; not to specifically reply to the querist, but because the same questions may be in the minds of others and they may serve as specific topics for study. The questions now under study sprang from my suggestion that though Galatians 6:10 is a command yet there are some things inferred about it; specifically, that the whole church as a unit is subject to the command. Hence the two questions: (1) "What is the difference between a command and an inference?" and (2) "Is Galatians 6:10 a statement of command? If so, how can you say it is one of inference?"

There is a sad lack of conception of the difference between an inference of possibility and a necessary inference. If man and woman are seen together it may be inferred that they are husband and wife, but it is not a necessary inference. They can be together and not be husband and wife. On the other hand, if a properly signed and sealed certificate of marriage of this man and woman is seen in the court clerk's office it is necessarily inferred that they are or have been married. They did not have to tell you that they were married nor did you have to witness the ceremony. You knew it by necessary inference. This failure to recognize the difference in spiritual matters has been the downfall of people in denominations, of many Christians generally, and of people who are upholding modern forms of institutionalism in particular.

Authoritative expression of God's will is by three methods; command or direct statement, approved example) and necessary inference. E. R. Harper tried to manufacture a fourth, entitled "eternal principle," in his swan song debates with Yater Tant; but it was only his devising in his frail and failing effort to justify the unscriptural organization known as Herald of Truth. All necessary inferences are derived from direct statements or commands and examples. If a man is unable to distinguish between the command and the inferences drawn from it, one could hardly expect him to know the difference between a necessary inference and mere possibility of inference. For a more complete, clearer, basic study of these three methods of expression of the authoritative will of God the reader is referred to a tract by the writer, "You Can Understand the Bible," in the Tract-A-Month series for sale by the Gospel Guardian.

Instances Of Necessary Inference

There is no direct statement in the Bible that the church was begun on Pentecost. Neither can we learn that fact from a specific example. It is from that which is contained in the direct statements and examples that we learn that its beginning must have been at that occasion and could have been at no other. These things show that it is not a mere possibility or probability, but that of necessity this was the occasion of the beginning of the church. A basic part of the evidence is that the church is the kingdom, the kingdom was to come with power, the power was to come with the coming of the Holy Spirit, the example on the day of Pentecost is that of the Spirit's coming and the power demonstrated. This evidence, together with much other, provides the necessary inference that the church began on that day.

That Christians are to eat the Lord's supper on the first day of the week is learned by necessary inference. No statement or example states it in those precise words. The necessary inference, however, is drawn from the direct statements and examples. The disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread (Acts 20:7). Disciples are commanded to eat the Lord's supper, and this when the church is assembled (I Cor. 11:20; 23-25). The necessary inference is that this breaking of bread by the disciples on the first day of the week was the eating of the Lord's supper as the Lord commanded in their assembly. Therefore, by necessary inference we know that the Lord's supper is to be eaten on the first day of the week.

Necessary inference determines the scriptural right and duty of churches to use a part of their collected funds in support of preachers. There is no specific statement, command or example just so worded in the Scriptures that a church took money from its collection and paid a preacher. But that it was done and that it is so authorized is the only conclusion that can be reached from what is said. Paul declared that he preached to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:4). He said he robbed other churches taking wages of them that he might not be a burden on any man or on the Corinthians (2 Cor. 11:8,9). But at one time, while on his way from Philippi to Corinth, he says that no church but the Philippians had fellowship in sending to his needs (Phil. 3:14-15). The church at Philippi, then, sent to his needs. Churches had collections from the beginning (Acts 2:44; 4:34, 35; 1 Cor. 16:1,2). To the church of God at Corinth Paul wrote that he had the right to reap their carnal things (1 Cor. 1:2; 9:11). When all of this, and more, is observed in a combined form there is a necessary conclusion and the only conclusion that can be reached. It is necessary inference that Paul, the preacher, received support from churches out of that which they had collected and that it is right for this to be done.

Cases Of Mere Possibilities

Some will infer that certain things are present or true because they see how it might be possible or probable. But their inference is only a guess. It does not have to be as the guessed. Those who adhere to the theory of infant membership in the church frequently fall into this channel of thinking. They assert that it is common for households to have babies in them. Hence they argue that it is possible, even probable, for babies to have been in the households of Lydia and the Philippian jailor. And, if you do not watch, they will assert that of necessity there were babies in those households. Hence they argue that babies were baptized. Of course this flatly contradicts the direct teaching of the Bible on the proper subjects of baptism. But that is what happens nearly every time someone begins to enforce a mere inference or possibility:, that is, he will contradict plain teaching of the Scriptures. These men ignore the fact that there are many households which have no babies. Their contention is only a guess and not a necessary inference at all.

Neither by command, nor statement, nor example is the church specified in James 1:27. Neither the word nor a synonym is to be found in the passage. Yet brethren who want the church to support their benevolent institutions want us to believe that this passage authorizes the church to do so. Since the church is not specified at all in the passage the only other way it could authorize church function is by necessary inference. But most of these brethren with their institution icons in every nook will admit that the passage includes individual action. Thus they have two possibilities by their own admission; individual and church action. And with the singular personal pronouns used in the passage not one of them can ever prove that it must include church action. They cannot get the church in James 1:27; not by command, not by example, not by necessary inference. They only place the church in the passage by their own presumptuous assumption.

Their case is little or no better with Galatians 6:10. They say that the letter was addressed to churches, therefore this passage must involve church action. They ought to know better. They should know that a collective noun, such as the word church, often is used in the distributive rather than the collective sense. The Galatian letter used it that way frequently. They were baptized into Christ (Gal. 3:27). The whole group was not tied in a bundle and immersed as a unit. The baptizing was done person by person. Most of these who want to get the church in Galatians 6:10 will admit it includes individual action. That it involves individual action can be readily seen. But that it must involve church action has not been proved by any one of even the giants in their sophistic movement; neither by command, nor example, nor by necessary inference. It is merely their ipse dixit, "I said it therefore it must be so," their assumption. Galatians 6:10 is a command. That it involves action of Christians cannot be denied. But that it necessitates action of the whole, the church as a unit of action, is merely an inference, an assumption, 1816 Yale Drive, Louisville, Ky.