In This Issue
JESUS CALLS MATTHEW INTO HIS SERVICE
In Mark 2:13-17, Mark records the call of Levi, better known to us as Matthew. We learn that Jesus went out "by the sea; and all the multitude came to Him, and He taught them. And as He passed by, He saw Levi, the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and said to him, 'Follow Me.' And he arose and followed Him. Now it happened, as He was dining in Levi's house, that many tax collectors and sinners also sat together with Jesus and His disciples; for there were many, and they followed Him. And when the scribes and Pharisees saw Him eating with the tax collectors and sinners, they said to His disciples, 'How is it that He eats and drinks with tax collectors and sinners?' 'Then Jesus heard it, He said to them, 'Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.'"
Let us observe a number of facts from the record of these events. First, note that before he became a disciple of Jesus, Matthew or Levi was a tax collector. The King James Version uses the term "publican." A publican was a Jew who took a job collecting taxes for the despised Roman government. In our society, he would correspond to a customs agent. In the minds of the scribes, Pharisees and most other Jews, such tax collectors were lumped together with those who were called "sinners" - prostitutes, whoremongerers, and others who had chosen to live ungodly life styles. Jesus called a customs agent to leave the tax tables and become a disciple.
Second, in response to Jesus' call, Matthew left the tax office and followed. He also invited Jesus to come into his home, made a great feast, and invited his own friends and acquaintances - other tax collectors, and others who were not in favor with the Pharisees and the religious elite.
The Pharisees complained that Jesus, a religious leader, would associate with the ungodly. Jesus responded, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." Those who are already sinless do not need preaching to. Preaching should be directed to those who need to grow and develop. (Jesus was not saying that anyone is sinlessly perfect, but the Pharisees often gave the impression that they thought they were.)
In Matthew's own account of this incident, we learn that Jesus cited a passage of Scripture found in Hosea 6:6. "But go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy and not sacrifice.' The Jews of Hosea's day were careful to offer every sacrifice according to the law, but were not careful to live in harmony with that law. The Pharisees of Jesus' day were much the same. Jesus says in Matt. 23:3, "Whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do."
--Clarence R. Johnson
CAN WE KNOW GOD'S WILL BY INFERENCE?
In the 1968 "Arlington Meeting" brother J.D. Thomas used his "wavy line" charts (from his book, We Be Brethren) to arbitrarily identify various human organizations as "optional methods" for doing God's work. Brother Roy Cogdill rightly objected, saying God's plan for organization (the local church) is not an option, but an exclusive pattern that tolerates no "coordinate." Even then it became apparent that "institutional" brethren were changing their way of interpreting the Scriptures to "justify" changes in practice. Today the so-called "New Hermeneutic" has become an issue between ultra liberals and "conservaliberals" who want to keep their institutions but recognize the threat this new (?) way of interpreting poses to Bible authority.
This article does not offer a detailed plan for interpretation; but the writer is much concerned about any move that lessens the importance of any portion of God's Word, or means of understanding the same. The new hermeneutic of our day makes light of the "command, example and necessary inference" means of Bible interpretation so familiar to an earlier generation. Proponents of the new hermeneutic are especially critical of what is generally called "inference," and would limit authoritative teaching of the Scriptures to direct commands or approved examples - with some serious limitations upon examples. But if we take legitimate contextual implication out of Scriptures we limit the sum total of what God would have us know.
Before going further we need to clarify terminology. We sometimes confuse imply with infer, and implication with inference. Writers and speakers imply, but the reader or hearer does the inferring. To illustrate: when Paul asked the Corinthians "Is Christ divided?" all knew He was not, and the thoughtful would infer "neither should we Corinthians be divided." Paul was teaching by implication and an alert reader learned by inference. I might add, we today who claim to be of Christ, and accept such principles as inspired of God, learn by inference (as well as by other means) that we should not be divided. As one writer has said, "Whatever God has definitely implied, we must necessarily infer."
True, the reader uses a "reasoning process" to reach his conclusion, and to some this puts the conclusion on a mere "human wisdom" basis. Many seem to forget that "the gospel God gave is suited to the man God made," as earlier preachers have said. All Bible teaching is applied to man through his ability to grasp its significance and make personal application. The thoughts, in the mind of God, are expressed in words. Man, using the faculties God gave him, interprets these words and draws conclusions that affect his life. "Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand..." (Eph. 3:2-6), implies man's capacity to understand. The "wisdom of this world" condemned in 1 Corinthians 1 is not the use of human reasoning, but the exaltation of man's thoughts above God's thoughts - the unwillingness to be ruled by the will of God, properly given and confirmed.
Commands also call for a reasoning process. "Repent and be baptized" of Acts 2:38 was said to Jews in the first century. We see it as part of the "all truth" that would be revealed with the coming of power, the commission that sent the apostles into all the world, etc. Luke, writing an inspired record of Acts of the Apostles for posterity, not only tells us how those first century Jews could be forgiven, but implies we too should "repent and be baptized" for the "remission of sins." We learn this by a reasoning process, wholly in keeping with God's plan for teaching each future generation.
Limitations on the reasoning process may also account for a growing dependence upon so-called "spiritual discernment." We are told, "natural man cannot comprehend such things, God gave us the Spirit to enable us to discern them (1 Cor. 2:11)." Or again, "He must study (2 Tim. 2:15), but God must give him discerning power (1 Cor. 2:14)." This is not an article on Calvinism or the "indwelling Spirit," but such claims usually boil down to "feelings" (or subjective interpretations), and are far more productive of false conclusions than legitimate contextual implications could ever be.
Yes, I am stressing "legitimate" and "contextual" implications, for those who criticize "necessary inference" have a field day with hasty conclusions that ignore legitimate reasoning processes. A "necessary" inference can only be drawn from an unimpeachable implication. It is the result of careful consideration of what God's word says: consistent with the immediate context, and with the teaching of God's truth as a whole. The fact that some draw unwarranted inferences does not negate their proper use. Some also misuse the commands and examples of the Scriptures, but this does not argue against the authority of commands and approved examples.
Jesus showed us that implication is a valid means of teaching. To the Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, he said: "Now that the dead are raised, even Moses showed at the bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. For he is not a God of the dead, but of the living: for all live unto him" (Lk. 20:37-38). The continued spirit existence of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is affirmed by implication drawn from Moses' recording of God's statement, Exodus 3:6. Jesus further implies that this existence evidences a coming resurrection. Again, (Matt. 22:42-46), Jesus was a physical descendent of David, yet, David called him Lord (Psa. 110:1). Jesus used this to imply His divinity, and the superior, spiritual nature of His kingdom; thus putting the unbelieving Pharisees to silence.
The Hebrew writer begins with Christ, a High Priest after the order of Melchisedec, and implies a "change also of the law" (Heb. 7:12). Scriptures that show teaching (Matt. 28:19) and believing (Mk. 16:16) precede valid baptism, also imply that infants are not fit subjects for baptism. Peter desired that after his death certain truths could be had in remembrance (2 Pet. 1:13-15). To this end, he wrote two epistles (3:1-2), clearly implying that readers would be able to understand his message. Catholicism tells us "the church" must interpret what "the first Pope" (?) wrote - which sounds like they can do a better job today than the inspired Peter. But that does not set well with all who place their confidence in God's word.
Brethren, that the Scriptures teach by implication, and expect readers to properly infer, is clearly set forth in the above and many other examples. If proponents of this "new hermemeutic" can help me to better understand God's word their assistance is welcomed. But if their denial of implication and inference is a sample of the "new," we had better stick to the old.
--Robert F. Turner, Preceptor, July 1993
60 SECOND SERMON ON HYPOCRITES
The word "Hypocrisy" is from the Greek word "Hupokrisis" meaning literally, "To answer- play-acting, hence, pretence." (Vine, page 241).
Quite often when visiting an unfaithful member of the church, his or her favorite excuse is "There are too many hypocrites in the church." And I suppose they are right. For even one true hypocrite in the church would be one too many. But I believe there are a whole lot more hypocrites in man-made churches, and in the world in general; and brother, there will be a whole lot of them in hell, and I do not want to go there to be with them.
But it seems to me, in about every case where this excuse is brought up, the one using it as an excuse for unfaithfulness has never gone to any of these "hypocrites" in the church to try to get them to do right. This is "Phariseeism" of the worst sort, as Jesus said "they say and do not." So it is with unfaithful members. They will accuse others of being hypocrites, but they will do absolutely nothing to talk to them and teach them to do right. This they do not want to do, because if others did right, then their excuse would be gone! This makes such unfaithful members the biggest hypocrites of all. Paul said, "Let love be without dissimulation." (Rom. 12:9) Dissimulation is another word for hypocrisy. The unfaithful member does not really love his brethren or else he would urge them to do better and repent. He is the biggest hypocrite of all, and he will end up in hell with that hypocrite in the church he refused to have anything to do with in this life. What a waste and useless tragedy. Think, Brethren, Think!
--Larry R. DeVore, Truth Magazine, Nov. 8, 1973
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Clarence R. Johnson
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