Patterns, Principles, and Bible Truth

Some time back, I engaged in a short, but friendly debate, about a particular passage of scripture.  In Acts 2:41-42, we are given the very simple, yet profound example of the “order of events” from being a “lost worldling” to a “faithful church member.”  Furthermore it is yet another example of why Baptists believe in closed communion.  The first example of the first church is very easy to follow;  1.) They gladly received His Word – that’s salvation; 2.) They were baptized; 3.) They were added to the church; 4.) They participated in doctrine and fellowship; and 5.) They participated in the Lord’s Supper.  Now this article is not about Acts chapter 2, but a friendly response that I received in loving debate.  The response was given to me that, “that passage is ‘descriptive’ not ‘prescriptive.”  – Asserting to me that such an order is not intended for us to be a guide.

With that event in mind, recently a video has emerged from a prominent and known Baptist preacher, saying essentially the same thing.  Matt Chandler, (I do not know him, nor do I have any intention of disparaging him.) while doing a promotional video for the The Gospel Project gave an illustration of David and Goliath asserting that nothing in that event was intended to serve as a “roadmap for life.”  Rather that the only message in the passage is that David is a type of Christ, slaying Goliath the giant of sin, thus freeing and redeeming God’s people.

Whether intentional or not, both the previous charge toward me about Acts 2, and Chandler’s approach to David and Goliath ultimately undermine the authority, guidance, and boundaries of Biblical examples.

First, let me say that Chandler’s analogy of David and Goliath being a picture of Christ delivering Israel from sin, and a foreshadow of things to come is wonderful.  David was the king of Israel, yet Jesus would be their true Messiah.  Goliath was a giant of  a threat, but no real match for God’s anointed one.  There is no argument here.  However, to say that such an event provides no other principles, or examples, of living is falling way short of all that is in the scripture.

One of Chandler’s arguments against seeing the principles and examples in the text is to say, “What happens when your stones miss?”  “What happens when it doesn’t work.”  The primary problem with that line of thinking, is that what “works” and what “doesn’t work” is not a measuring stick for spiritual success.  He argues that when you try to slay the Giant in your circumstances and it doesn’t work, then you’re left disappointed, feeling guilty, and wondering why God let you down.  Any premise that gauges “truth” by what works and what doesn’t work is a flawed premise.  The fact is that sometimes following the premises and principles of God will increase circumstantial misery.  Sometimes applying the truth of God’s Word to your life will hurt.

When we turn to the Bible for guidance, ultimately we are not turning to it to find “what works” in changing our circumstances.  Ultimately we are turning to the Bible for guidance about “what is right” in our circumstances, not necessarily what works.

Back to David and Goliath, while I have no problem seeing God foreshadowing the Messiah in David, the event is packed full of principled truth, for everyone who is “not David” to see and to learn in order to become more and more a man after God’s own heart.  For example, (not to give an exegesis of the text) but one principle that David exhibited for all men to see, learn, and apply, is the fact that when he had The Word of God on one hand, and the voice of Cowards on the other, he took courage in the Word of God and ignored the voices of futility. 

The truth is that the Bible is full of “life-living” truth.  Examples, patterns, and principles, and precepts, saturate the scriptures.  They do not exclude the primary meaning of any passage, but neither are they necessarily hidden by it. 

Now back to Acts 2.  The fact is that Acts 2 is a passage in scripture that gives us light on practicalities and protocol pertaining to the conveyance of people from the outside of the church, to the inside of the church.  There are no other instructions so plain, or contradictory.  It is a proactive example informing us of how the first century church did things. When a “descriptive” passage like this, is not viewed “prescriptively” then we are left to our own imagination as though such an issue is really unimportant to the Lord.  When you ignore the authority of an example, and there is no other directive in scripture, then you are left to do “that which is right in your own eyes.”  No doubt, some think that such an issue is left up to us to do as we see fit.  However, where there is a proactive example, or intentional illustration in the text, there is information that we have no Biblical reason not to apply.  The first century church is the only pattern we have for doctrinal positions.  Where we have instruction, we have instruction, and where we have illustration, we have instruction.  If there is no Biblical reason to disregard the example given, it seems there is no legitimate reason not to see it as prescriptive.

The Bible leaves no stones unturned, and no gaps in things we need to know.  Paul made it plain in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 – “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”  I thank God for the guidance, principles, promises, and precepts that He packed into events of Biblical history.  Ignoring such power is not a change worth making.

One comment on “Patterns, Principles, and Bible Truth

  1. Danny Fudge says:

    I enjoyed your article. I hope to stand with David with stones in my hand. danny


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