ARRIVING AT NECESSARY CONCLUSIONS
By David McKee
Among those who hold to the old paths, it would be agreed that we establish Biblical authority by direct statement, approved example, and necessary conclusion. In addressing the subject of marriage, divorce and remarriage, this article will attempt to show the value and credibility of using necessary conclusion in establishing authority for what is to be taught. As with any subject, the conclusion reached may not be one desired by all, but it is still the one we must arrive at, and having done so, teach it with authority.
Articles have been written addressing the attempts of those who would do away with "necessary conclusion" and even "approved example" as a means of establishing Bible authority. These articles generally address the simple fact that God gave man the ability to reason, to come to logical conclusions based on what has been set before him. All is not given to man in the form of "do this" and "don't do that." It is not all spelled out in such detail as to do away with any reasoning on man's part. Much of it is to be reasoned, logically put together, arriving at the conclusions that are implied by God in His word. And when we admit that God will hold us accountable for reaching the proper conclusion, we understand how serious it is that we do so (Isa 1:18; II Jn 9).
When our Lord was approached by the Pharisees, as recorded in Matthew 19:3, they questioned Him concerning the action one takes that dissolves a marriage relationship, and if one could take that action for any reason. With what our Lord stated in verse nine of this passage, we have God's final regulations concerning marriage divorce and remarriage. Everything else that will be said in the epistles lines us consistently with this teaching as they are from the same source.
As we take the gospel into all the world, we apply our Lord's teaching to that very action as we find it in all the world. Our Lord did not dispense different versions of the gospel that would allow adjustments to be made to accommodate the various cultures. The various cultures would adjust their actions to the consistent teaching of the gospel if they were to have the hope of heaven. Where the action would be found inconsistent with the teaching of our Lord, it would be condemned as sin. Where it was found consistent, it would receive our Lord's approval.
Whether in China, Russia, Africa, or the Middle East, you will find man and woman coming together in a unique relationship, and they will have a word or words to refer to the action involved. Sadly, you will find these relationships being severed, but you will also find a word or words used in that culture to refer to the action involved in the severing of that relationship. Involved in the coming together and severing of the relation will be a procedure understood by all in that culture. Taking the gospel into that culture would involve applying it to that action, using the terminology that is recognized and understood by all in that culture, and either approving it or condemning it.
In Matthew 19:9, and similar passages, Jesus speaks of the action one takes in marrying and divorcing. Our Lord speaks of what is approved and what is condemned. In no way did He attempt to detail the procedure involved, as the various cultures of the world already had understood procedures in place. This was not some action that was unique to the Jews. The Egyptians were already marrying and divorcing. The Syrians were already marrying and divorcing. The Romans were already marrying and divorcing. And future generations would establish an understood procedure unique to one's own culture.
Whether it is in China or, in 1000 years, the planet of Saturn, one will find individuals engaging in the action of marrying and divorcing. It will then be to that action, even using their words and terms, that one will apply the teaching of our Lord in either acknowledging the action as sinful or acceptable. This is not allowing culture to determine what is taught. This is applying the teaching of our Lord to the action as it is defined in that culture. This is the necessary conclusion one must come to if the gospel is to be taken into all the world until the end of the age.
Yet, we are hearing arguments that would differ with this simple reasoning, and the conclusions reached are not even implied, much less, necessarily implied. These brethren would do away with the understood procedure in one's culture and substitute their own procedure, one that is based on arbitrary conditions and one that no one understands but those whom they have taught. Their conclusions allow one to ignore the understood procedure in one's culture when that action has already taken place. Is this something God inferred or implied? Is this the conclusion that we must come to, that we can ignore what is understood by all but a few who have been taught otherwise?
The only ones who would differ with the necessary conclusion presented in this article are among our own brethren. These would teach a procedure that is understood only by themselves and fellow-members of the church whom they have persuaded to reach such a conclusion. And while these have difficulty articulating the procedure and action involved when asked, they are obviously unaware that they are advocating a teaching that will only address those in the kingdom. For no one outside the kingdom will have even begun to envision such a conclusion as these are teaching. And many of these men were the ones who denounced brother Hailey for advocating a kingdom-only doctrine.
Those who would differ with the necessary conclusion presented in this article clamor about binding human judgments in a realm where our Lord did not use express words to identify the procedure. They clamor further still that one would dare bind on others the necessary conclusion that the action of putting away involves the understood procedure in one's culture. But is this not what is done with necessary conclusions? Where do we find the express statement, or even example, that we are to partake of the Lord's Supper every first day of the week? But having come to the necessary conclusion that we are to do so, we teach it as the doctrine of Christ, and condemn those who would fail to do so. Does such make one guilty of binding human judgments where it has not been expressly stated?
Is our attitude not the same with any number of areas, such as the 'sponsoring church' arrangement and the missionary society? Where are the express statements that would grant or forbid these? How do we know that elders are not to shepherd over flocks other than the one that is among them? Are they expressly told not to, or is that not the necessary conclusion we come to in light of what is elsewhere inferred by God? Brethren, we reason with the ability God blessed us with, come to a necessary conclusion, and teach it as binding, realizing that to do otherwise results in our no longer abiding in the doctrine of Christ (II Jn 9).
One of the articles alluded to earlier that addressed those who would do away with "necessary inference" as a means of establishing authority referred to a gospel sermon heard nearly forty years ago. In this sermon the preacher spoke of how apostasy develops over three generations and takes four stages. The first stage involves the attempts of brethren to change the meaning of words. It is amazing how little changes as we see the same thing happening today. Brethren are presently attempting to change the meaning of adultery, marriage, divorce, fellowship, and any other words that will make their false doctrine sound more reasonable and their conclusions more acceptable.
But when one's conclusion opposes reason, when it argues against the very ability that God blessed us with, such a conclusion will never be reasonable. When those who would differ with the necessary conclusion presented in this article have yet to present a reasonable alternative as to the action one would take in dissolving a marriage, it only offers further evidence that their authority is from men (Matt 21:24-25). Theirs is not the gospel of our Lord that can be taken into all the world, but rather a modified version that forces conclusions found only in the devising of the heart (Matt 15:9).
Some will ask, "By what authority do you teach that the action Jesus refers to is the understood procedure in one's culture?" The answer is that it is the same authority that allows one to teach that we are to partake of the Lord's Supper every first day of the week, that the "sponsoring church" arrangement is contrary to the pattern, as would be a missionary society. These and many other such conclusions we hold as binding. Whether we call it "necessary inference" or "necessary implication" or "necessary conclusion" it is the point at which one must arrive when using the reasoning ability that God blessed one with. What God implies or infers to our rational mind is the conclusion we are to reach and teach with the full authority of a direct statement or approved example.