Vol.XIV No.VI Pg.5
August 1977

Examples, Inference, And Patterns

Robert F. Turner

(continued from previous page)

Our first observation about an approved example is that it does show the thing done is acceptable. We can do it this way without fear of violating God's will. This is no small matter, and for those who sincerely try to serve God, it is most satisfying. We may ride a mule to town, and meet in an upper room. But must we? In order to exclude anything else, even a command must have "only" or some other indication of completeness in its wording or context. When some say an example "excludes" all else, they use accommodative language on the basis that there is no other information on this matter. Even then, significance must be considered — as we do later. We may do better to say, "This is acceptable, and if you would do otherwise you must produce divine sanction or authority for it." The lack of uniformity in modes of travel (Acts 20: 13), and Jesus' teaching about the "place" of worship (Jn. 4:21-f), forbids our thinking the mule or the upper room are bound upon us.

In our commendable zeal to "DO Bible Things in Bible Ways" we may attach _significance where God placed none. What is the contextual point of a statement or example? Was Jesus teaching the act, per se, of washing feet; or humble service, exemplified by that act? (Note Jn. 13:7, 11-f.) If someone should prove that Jesus used only one container in instituting the Lord's Supper — so what? The container is given no religious significance; hence we are not at liberty to so regard it. On the other hand, significance is given the action of baptism (Rom. 6:3-5, 17), hence immersion can not be ignored with impunity. Sometimes the difference in divine principle and its application under 1st. century circumstances is indicated by the type of argument made. A universal truth re. the relation of man over woman is stated in 1 Cor. 11: 3; but the manifestation of this subjection in Paul's time (the covered head) was argued on the basis of their sense of shame, v.6; their judgment as to what was fitting or comely, v.13; what nature (the course or common practice of their world — Eph. 2: 3) taught them, v. 14; and uniformity of practice among the churches, v.16. We might use the same criteria today to establish "modesty" or "propriety," but neither we, nor Paul, would use such to prove divine injunction.

We could list various "ales" for Bible interpretation: as Rule of Harmony — rejecting an interpretation that violates other plain teaching; Uniformity-- in differing situations, seeking those elements common to all; Limited Extension — that done under special circumstances, would not apply where these circumstances did not prevail. These and other like rules have their place in Bible study. But we must not expect precision instruments for dissecting scriptures, and cataloging "bound" and "not bound." A far better definition for Pattern is: the whole of God's teaching upon any given subject.

All of the Bible is important to those who recognize its divine source and purpose. Rejection of its patterns and approved examples is an initial step in the rejection of any specific will of God, and of inspiration in the Bible sense.