How the Bible Teaches: Necessary Inference

A gospel preacher scorns the doctrine of necessary inferences, asserting that it is tragic, resulting in splits and factions, and that it is clumsy and dangerous. Unfortunately, he and others with faulty advanced scholastic degrees, have strayed after empty talk, wanting to be teachers of the law, but understanding neither what they are saying, nor the things about which they are so sure (1 Timothy 1:6-7).

But God, the only wise (Romans 16:27), says, Come now, let us reason together (Isaiah 1:18). When people reason together, inescapable truths, not expressly stated in a text, show themselves.

1. The Existence and Eternity of God. Paul taught pagan idolaters that they should necessarily infer from rain and fruitful seasons that there is a living God who made heaven and the earth and the sea and everything in them (Acts 14:15-17). To Paul, God’s eternal power and divine nature are necessarily inferred (clearly seen, kathoratai), being understood (nooumena, a mental act, an inference) by the things that are made (Romans 1:20).

Not only is the existence of God a necessary inference from observing the things that are made, but also the necessary inference follows that he has always existed, for out of nothing, nothing comes (ex nihil, nihil fit, a proverb coming down from ancient times).

2. The Deity of Jesus. Augustine (author of Confessions, and City of God, 354-430 A. D) inferred If Christ is not God, He is not good. Long before Augustine some Jews in Jerusalem inferred that a good man could not deceive: Some were saying, He is good ; but others said, No! He deceives the people (John 7:12). Since all people acquainted with the life of Jesus through two thousand years have agreed that Jesus was a good man, the necessary inference is that His claim is true: I said, I am the Son of God (John 10:36).

Also, the gospel of Matthew alone records 42 quotations from the Old Testament cited by Jesus as he taught among the people. The Jews were astonished, saying How does one who has never learned know letters? (John 7:15), and Is not this the carpenter’s son? (Matthew 13:55). The knowledge of the unschooled carpenter (Mark 6:3) leads to the necessary inference that Jesus was divine

3. The God-breathed Scriptures. The Bible affirms that the Scriptures were divinely inspired (2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21), but how do we know that it is telling the truth? We know it by a necessary inference because only the possessor of divine knowledge can predict the future. The Bible, alone among all books, unerringly foretold hundreds of years in advance the coming of the Messiah. Three hundred and thirty-two Old Testament predictions of Christ have been counted (Floyd E. Hamilton, The Basis of the Christian Faith: New York: Harper & Brothers, 1946). That chance would settle all these on one man is one over 84 plus 97 ciphers. That astonishing mathematical fraction leads to the necessary inference that the Bible is God-breathed.

4. An Animal Sacrifice. To say that Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because it was not costly is an inference (Genesis 4:1-7), but not a necessary one. To say that God gave a command both to Cain and to Abel to bring an animal sacrifice, though not specifically mentioned in the Scripture, is a necessary inference, for Abel’s sacrifice was by faith (Hebrews 11:4) and faith comes by hear- ing, and hearing by he word of God (Romans 10:17).

5. Inherited sin. Nowhere does the Bible say that children are born pure and sinless, but such is a necessary inference from Jesus words: Permit the little children to come to me, and do not forbid them, for of such is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 19:14).

6. Believer’s baptism. Nowhere does the Bible say that one must be old enough to believe before being baptized. But teaching must precede baptism: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them (Matthew 28:19). If teaching must precede baptism, it is a necessary inference that infants are not scriptural subjects for baptism.

7. Immersion. Since baptism requires a burial (Romans 6:4; Colossians 2:12), an unavoidable implication is that immersion is necessary.

8. Preaching Jesus includes preaching baptism. The Bible does not say that preaching Jesus includes preaching baptism, but since a man who had never heard of baptism asked for it after he had heard a sermon on Jesus, one infers necessarily that Jesus cannot be fully preached without baptism being preached (Acts 8:35-36).

9. In and out of grace. The Bible does not say that one fallen from grace (Galatians 5:4) had been in grace, but since one cannot fall out of something unless he has been in that something, it follows that the Galatian Christians who fell out of grace had been in grace.

10. No women preachers. Not because men are more important than women, but because the God of all wisdom planned for men to be leaders and women to be helpers of the men (Genesis 2:18), the necessary inference is that women preachers are not in God’s plan.

11. No women elders. Since every elder must be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:2), the necessary inference is that a woman cannot qualify.

12. No women deacons. Since every deacon must be the husband of one wife (1 Timothy 3:12), the necessary inference is that a woman cannot qualify.

13. No nicotine or other non-prescription drugs. God has not given a direct command forbidding tobacco and other non-prescription drugs, but since a Christian’s body is the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), the necessary inference follows that body abuse is sinful.

14. Gambling. The Bible does not forbid Christians buying lottery tickets and putting money in slot machines, but since it commands them to maintain good works (Titus 3:14; Ephesians 4:28), the necessary inference is that Christians will abstain.

15. Dancing. The Bible does not specifically forbid Christian boys and girls intertwining themselves in dancing, but since such behavior, among red-blooded young people, easily leads to mental and physical fornication, the necessary inference is that Christians will abstain.

16. Goodness and salvation. The Bible does not say that a good man unbaptized will be lost. However, since Cornelius was a good man (Acts 10:2) but unsaved (Acts 11:14) until his baptism in water (Acts 10:47-48), one has to infer that goodness alone will not save a person.

17. Conscience and salvation. The Bible does not say that a good conscience is insufficient to save a sincere person. However, since Paul with a good conscience (Acts 23:1) was the chief of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), one has to infer that something besides a good conscience is required for salvation.

18. Marriage and divorce. When a divorce occurs because of fornication, the necessary inference from Jesus words (Matthew 19:9) is that only the innocent spouse may remarry.

19. The finality of the New Testament. Since the faith was committed once for all time (Jude 3) to the saints in the first century, and since the saints at that time received all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3), the necessary inference is that nothing new by way of a revelation or communication has come from God since the last word of the New Testament (Revelation 22:18-19) was written.

20. The resurrection. Jesus himself, in a debate with the Sadducees, who say there is no resurrection (Matthew 22:33), drew an inference from the tense of the verb in Exodus 3:6, I am, not I was, to prove that the dead will be raised (Matthew 22:32).

If God had said to Moses at the thorn-bush (Mark 12:26-27) in 1446 B.C. I was the God of Abraham 330 years ago (1776-1446 B.C.), and I was the God of Isaac 225 years ago (1671-1446 B.C.), and I was the God of Jacob 198 years ago (1644- 1446 B.C.) before they died, using the past tense was, then there is no resurrection.

But God said to Moses, I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob (Exodus 3:6), using the present tense I am, thus saying that after all these years I still am their God. Jesus said that he was speak- ing of the resurrection of the dead (Matthew 22:31). Therefore, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Matthew 22:32), and all people are alive to him (Luke 20:38).

Thus Jesus believed that one of the ways that the Bible teaches is by a necessary inference.