Necessary Inference (7)
Editor's Note: This article is the seventh in a series of articles dealing with the subject of Bible authority. The articles are short, as they first were printed in the local bulletin I edit. Feel free to reprint them if you find them helpful. However, credit must be given to Billy W. Moore's class book A Study of Authority, as the articles follow closely the material found in that good book.)
We have asserted that Bible Authority can be established from the written scriptures in three ways: Expressed Statement, Approved Example, and Necessary Inference. In this article we deal with the third means, Necessary Inference.
The concept is ridiculed by many as being a legalistic, and humanly devised means of establishing authority. We will show from scripture that this is not so. However, to begin, let's note that we often learn things by inference.
In communication, people often imply things, without explicitly stating them. Body language, gestures, and inflection often reveal implications not revealed in the words themselves.
The same thing is true with the written word, and can be demonstrated time and again from the scriptures.
In Matthew 22, Jesus silenced the Sadducees by appealing to implication in scripture. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection, and formulated a scenario which they believed showed the concept of the resurrection to be flawed.
Jesus answered them by making two points. First, they did not understand the nature of the resurrection. "You are mistaken, not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God. For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven" (vs. 29-30). Thus their scenario concerning the woman and her seven husbands was not a valid one.
Second, Jesus affirmed the fact of the resurrection being taught by scripture. The scripture he quoted was the following: "'I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob'" (vs. 32a). Though the resurrection is not explicitly stated here, it is nevertheless implied. And Jesus used the implication to confound the Sadducees, "God is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (vs. 32b) From the passage, Jesus was able to infer (necessarily) that the present tense, "I Am" indicated the resurrection. It is the only possible explanation. Though not explictly stated, the truth is nevertheless clear and unassailable.
The writer of Hebrews uses the implication of scripture to prove the primacy of Christ as high priest. It is an argument from reason, drawing implication from an event which happened to Abraham.
As stated in the text, Abraham paid tithes to Melchizedek, King of Salem and a priest of God. Taking that event the writer reasons, "Now beyond all contradiction the lesser is blessed by the better. Here mortal men receive tithes, but there he receives them, of whom it is witnessed that he lives. Even Levi, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, so to speak, for he was still in the loins of his father when Melchizedek met him" (vss. 7-10).
Hence, the priesthood of Levi is inferior to the priesthood of Melchizedek. Hence Christ, who has his priesthood after the order of Melchizedek, is superior to the Levitical priests under the old law. "And inasmuch as He was not made priest without an oath (for they have become priests without an oath, but He with an oath by Him who said to Him: 'The LORD has sworn And will not relent, "You are a priest forever According to the order of Melchizedek"'), by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant" (7:20-22).
Though nowhere explicitly revealed in the account of Abraham's meeting with Melchizedek, the ranking of priesthoods is nevertheless necessarily implied.
God expects us to use reason as we study and interpret his word. However, it must be noted that the inferences we make from scripture must be necessary! The implication has to actually be there. We are not free to "freelance" and take wild leaps of intuition and speculation in the name of inference. Remember, you can only infer something if it is implied. Otherwise it is presumptuous. And, we must never be presumptuous with the Almighty God of Heaven.