Specifics—Aren’t They Wonderful?

Isn’t it wonderful that the Bible doesn’t just leave us with generalities to figure out their applications to specific situations? Sure, there are plenty of those issues where that is exactly what we must do; but God has also laid out plenty of specific directions as well.

“Give me a for instance, please.”

Delighted to do so. Take the issue of church discipline found in Matthew 18:15ff. There, we are told precisely how to handle the situation. If a person goes to another who has wronged him, and the other repents, he is to be forgiven and there is to be reconciliation.   If he refuses, step two is provided—take others with you. If there is still refusal, then there is a third step clearly set forth—tell it to the church. If that fails, then he is to be put out of the church. Specifics! Precisely what many in the church today decry. The Bible, they say, is a story into which you are to enter, allowing events to change you as you focus on redemption.

But, thankfully—there are even specifics about how the recalcitrant, disciplined, brother is to be received if he repents: you receive him in the status of a full brother: check out korizo, you must help, assist, comfort him (parakaleo), and you are to forgive him ( 2 Corinthians 2:8-11).  Now, that’s laying out a program—what many would decry as “cookbook theology.” Call it what you will, Scripture often gives us general principles from which we must reason to specific conclusions and map our courses of action, on the basis of those and other biblical principles that are brought together in a fruitful way.  But not always so—as some would have you think. There are concrete directions a-plenty as well.

“Can you give me another for instance?”

Consider matters concerning divorce, for instance, that are laid out in the Gospels for God’s covenant people, and in I Corinthians 7 for those believers who are married to those who are not (presumably when one has become a Christian after marriage, and the other has not).

“Thanks. I guess you’re right.”

So, don’t get caught up in those schemes of biblical interpretation that limit your options where the Bible doesn’t. God’s Word is a big book—it has much to say, and many ways to say it. Don’t shrink it to some insular volume that to which the  method of interpretation that a narrow school of thought does. God addresses us just as we address one another—in lots of different ways. Paul could have commanded Philemon to release Onesimus . . . right?”

“He says he has the right to do so.”

“Sure; but, in wisdom that would lead to the former’s spiritual growth, he allows him to make the decision. (Not without a lot of hints along the way!)”

There are confining systems imposed upon Bible interpretation today that hinder true understanding, that send one searching for what was never supposed to be found, that find what never was lost, and that frustrate the simple believer to whom most of the Scriptures were written. Be careful not to be caught up in any of them.


2 thoughts on “Specifics—Aren’t They Wonderful?

  1. Nevertheless, per the usual, Jay is dead-on (concerning the Gospel Contemplationism)and one of the few speaking up about it. I have been using his materials in our family’s Sunday morning devotions before services because the fam complains that SS is “boring.” They know that God and the gospel are awesome, but the practical specifics are what is really getting their attention. A friend who comes with us has been struggling with some forgiveness issues for several years (operating on the ambiguous, “forgive like you have been forgiven”) and is finding some serious hope in the information. They have demanded that we stay on the same routine: our own SS before church.

  2. But that’s their first use of the law: Gospel Contemplationism. Their secondary use of the law is to construct practical church polity. Their third use of the law is to control the totally depraved zombie sheep who are misbehaving because they supposedly want to live under the law. Hence, their pontification has the appearance of orthodoxy unless you know what they really believe and watch their behavior. Here is an example of how their three uses of the law plays out: They will bring you up on church discipline for questioning doctrine, but not for sin of the baser sort. I often get emails from people who are perplexed by this. It’s not hard to figure if you know their doctrine.