Silence of the Scriptures
by Dave Brown
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If the bible does not speak specifically on a subject, does that give us the liberty to make our own rules?
Most all bible students at some time or another make the statement: “I wish God had just come right out and told us... X, Y, or Z.” Possibly we wish more guidance in implementing a clear command, or it could be that, out of love we wish to avert a controversy.
While these are noble feelings, it is important that we recognize that the silence of God is not arbitrary--it was designed. The bible is quite clear on this.
Every word of God is of extreme value: we cannot ignore one of them and expect to live spiritually.
But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
But there are secret things that have not been revealed and we are not to try to probe into them.
29 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
The things that God revealed are in the scriptures.
2 Timothy 3: 16-17:
Every scripture inspired of God (is) also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction which is in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work.
Paul here was writing to Timothy, and the scriptures refer to those which Timothy had, which were of the Old Testament. But if the Old Testament had this capability, how much more the New Testament that contains the words of Jesus that will never pass away: Matthew 24:35: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” The principle is that God has always provided, and He will continue to provide what we need through His written word.
Thus, our spiritual life requires that we do not go beyond the truth of God that He has given us, and we have definitive instructions in this regard, as indicated by the passages that follow:
1 Corinthians 4:6
Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not (to go) beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other.
And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, (do) all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
2 John 9
Whosoever goes onward and abides not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abides in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son.
1 Peter 4:11
If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.
If we cannot speak with the full authority of the scriptures, then we must not speak at all. And several passages indicate that what was revealed in the first century was the completed revelation that God wants us to have:
Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints.
But though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach unto you any gospel other than that which we preached unto you, let him be anathema .
1 John 2:24
24 As for you, let that abide in you which ye heard from the beginning. If that which ye heard from the beginning abide in you, ye also shall abide in the Son, and in the Father.
18 I testify unto every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book:
19 and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.
Knowing that what we have is totally sufficient is good, but often we long for one more answer to our questions. Is such longing sinful? Could it show a lack of faith? It helps if we recognize that the omniscient Father forged the way of salvation before the worlds were even created (Ephesians 1: 3-14); it was not an afterthought. Nothing was left to chance. If something is not in the bible, it is because God does not want it there!
Now I do not claim to know why we were not given such things as the specifics on Paul’s thorn in the flesh, the procedures for securing a local preacher, processes for selecting and appointing elders and deacons, methods for organizing our local benevolent work and teaching program, and many other details. I do know that many of these things are important for each local church to work out for itself, and that the principles involved in doing so are quite clear, as evidenced by the smooth operations in most local churches dedicated to the truth. One possibility is that God wants us to “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” (Philippians 2: 12) for ourselves and not to be mindless automatons who follow a strict set of rules that dictate everything. Also, the best procedures in one local church might not work as well in another.
Additional insight is attained by considering a system devised by God that did provide the details that we often seem to expect: the Old Testament. Did this endless detail help? Did it make them any more spiritual? Did it make them murmur less? have fewer divisions? have less controversy? Was it able to save?
No. If we have a mind to argue, we will argue regardless of the detail given us; and if we have a mind to serve the Lord, we will have no problem working within the spiritual guidance of His word (1 Corinthians 2: 14-16) guided by our love that we have for one another (Philippians 2:1-8). Let us rest in the assurance that God has provided everything that we need. Our problem is not that we need more; it is that we are not taking full advantage of what we have.
Finally, let us recognize in what has been given above (specifically 1 Cor. 4:6 and 2 John 9 and Pet. 4:11) , that when we make an edict in the church that goes beyond what the bible teaches, we are putting ourselves in the place of God. To see the doom of someone who usurped God’s glory, see Herod’s fate in Acts 12:21-24. History tells us that he suffered being “eaten of worms” for several days. It is a fearful thing to put ourselves in the place of God. But when we bind on our fellow Christians that which God has not bound, that is exactly what we are doing. Let us respect the silence of the scriptures. If we cannot find a doctrine there, let us not preach it as God’s word. There is absolutely no reason to. Thousands of local churches are organized and working within the boundaries of God’s word.
Bible Specifics vs. Bible Principles
It is unfortunate that many who teach error on certain subjects hide behind the claim of scriptural silence (“the bible does not say it is wrong”), either being ignorant of, or intentionally ignoring, the general principles that cover these subjects. Abortion and homosexuality are two examples where claims are made that the bible does not speak when, in fact, it does. And there are many other examples where such false claims are made. So be careful when someone says: “the bible says nothing about X.” To those who are honestly misled by such statements, all we can say is look a little deeper, and be respectful of those we have spent long years studying both the details and the principles taught in the bible.
We are convinced that if you are sincerely interested in determining the truth, you will find the truth (John 7:17). The bible deals with all moral issues either by direct command, example or necessary implication, or by providing overarching principles that enable those who are seeking the truth to find it (Hebrews 11:6).
Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock , and it shall be opened unto you: for every one that asks receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.
Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.
Remember: that there is nothing more important than the conditions of salvation given by Jesus
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