Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Meaning in God's Word

"Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:26b).

John 20:26 is often regarded as proof that Jesus’ resurrection body could pass through walls. After all, the door was locked, and yet Jesus came into the midst of the disciples. This is an inference drawn from the text, however, because the verse does not state explicitly that Jesus passed through the solid door. All the text actually says is that the doors were locked, and then that Jesus was in their midst.

Perhaps the reason the disciples had locked the door was that they were afraid, and perhaps Jesus came up to the door, knocked, and called to them; they recognized His voice and let Him in. Or maybe Jesus took hold of the doorknob, miraculously unlocked the door, and walked in. You see, these scenarios are equally possible.

This illustrates the danger of building too much on what is implicit in Scripture. Explicit statements are made directly and clearly, while what is implicit in the text requires the use of our powers of inductive reasoning to draw inferences.

There is nothing wrong with drawing inferences from what is implicit in the Bible. It may be that the most likely interpretation is that Jesus did simply appear in the locked room with the disciples, but we have to grant the possibility that this inference is not correct. A more serious problem comes when we draw inferences that violate explicit teachings elsewhere in Scripture.

For instance, John 3:16 says that whoever believes in Jesus will not perish but have eternal life. Often this verse is cited as proof of free will against predestination. But does this verse say anything about man’s free will? Does it imply that people have the moral ability to choose Jesus Christ for themselves? No, it only says those who believe will not perish. In contrast John 6:44 explicitly states no man is able to choose Christ unless God acts first.

As we saw in our June 11 study, it is profitable for us to read Scripture existentially. This method is governed, however, by today’s principle: “The implicit must always be interpreted in light of the explicit.” Scripture is its own best interpreter and in most cases resolves potential conflicts. Use these principles to safeguard yourself against jumping to unwarranted conclusions.