Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Why do anti-household baptists reject the Saviour's method of interpreting Scripture?

The Lord Jesus Christ's method of interpreting Scripture is evident from his frequent references to Scripture in the Gospels, particularly in responding to the Scribes and Pharisees. An example from Scripture is the way in which Christ charges the Sadducees with unbelief in relation to Scripture. He cites Exodus 3:6 concerning the resurrection of the dead. This does not speak about the resurrection, however, it only implies this doctrine because Christ asserts that since this was said to Moses long after the patriarchs were dead that they were still living and that God is the God of the living. This is based upon the tense used (present tense), Christ's charge against the Sadducees is based not on the express statement of Scripture but for not drawing the good and necessary inference or consequence from Exodus 3:6 (cf. 3:1-10,12).

As Thomas Boston observes, Christ 'does not seek after a text that said in express words, that the dead shall rise again, but proves it by good consequence, yet no less firmly than if he had produced an express text for it, Matt. xxii. 32'.

Christ responded to a charge of blasphemy made by the Pharisees (John 10:36; see v. 33) with a quotation in John 10:34 from Psalm 82:6, which refers to human magistrates as 'gods'. He is noting that Scripture contains the principle that individuals can be given a general divine title by virtue of their divine commission (vv. 34, 35a). This cannot be blasphemous. He adds, "the Scripture cannot be broken" (v. 35b), what Scripture has said cannot be blasphemous. If it is not blasphemous, therefore for individuals to be given this title, how much less blasphemous is it for Christ who is divinely commissioned to use his divinely given specific and unique divine title, the Son of God. In effect Christ asked, "How can you accuse Me of blasphemy when I, too, claim the divine title rightfully?" It is evident that Christ is making inference from a passage that does not expressly state his point.

Another example is in Matthew 19:4,5 where Christ, quoting from Genesis 2:24, is being questioned on the matter of divorce. "And he answered and said unto them, 'Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." The text says nothing about divorce but Christ is drawing out a necessary inference concerning divorce.

In Matthew 12 Christ defends the disciples eating ears of corn on the sabbath by referring to the example of David in 1Sam 21:1-6. 'But he said unto them, Have ye not read what David did, when he was an hungred, and they that were with him; How he entered into the house of God, and did eat the shewbread, which was not lawful for him to eat, neither for them which were with him, but only for the priests?' (vv3-4). It is likely on a comparison with the ceremonial law that this took place on the sabbath, but the point that Christ is addressing is the principle that it was more important to preserve life and indeed the life of the Lord's Anointed by giving the shewbread which was not lawful for any but the priest and his household to eat. How much more should Christ's life be preserved by means of such food as the disciples partook of? In other words God's commands are never meant to be at the expense of or in conflict with works of mercy. Hence Christ refers to Hosea, 'I will have mercy and not sacrifice' as a verse that brings out the same principle. John Gill comments 'Now our Lord's argument stands thus, that if David, a holy, good man, and, the men that were with him, who were men of religion and conscience, when in great distress, through hunger, ate of the showbread, which was unlawful for any to eat of but priests, the high priest himself assenting to it; then it could not be criminal in his disciples, when an hungred, to pluck, rub, and eat a few ears of corn, which were lawful for any man to eat, even though it was on the sabbath day'.

He also refers to the fact that the ceremonial law required work of the priest that would be a breach of the sabbath by anyone else. It was, however, a work of mercy and an act of worship to provide sacrifices and offerings for those who needed their sin to be ceremonially cleansed. 'Or have ye not read in the law, how that on the sabbath days the priests in the temple profane the sabbath, and are blameless? But I say unto you, That in this place is one greater than the temple' (vv.5-6). Christ is greater than the temple and he is Lord of the sabbath. If the priests could work on the sabbath and be blameless in their works of mercy, how much more could Christ in his healing? The disciples also had a ministerial work to do and were justified in sustaining themselves for it. 'Wherefore it is lawful to do well on the sabbath' (v12). It will be evident that Christ is drawing out principles and inferences in all of this in relation to practice as well as doctrine.

In John 7:23 Christ defends his act of healing on the sabbath by the fact that they practiced circumcision on the sabbath if it coincided with the eighth day in obedience to the law of Moses. If this physical 'wounding' was permitted because of its spiritual significance, why not Christ's physical healing with its spiritual significance.

It is evident that Christ used good and necessary consequence in order to interpret Scripture. Anti-household baptists have rejected this and while adopting most of the Westminster Confession of Faith, the 2nd London Baptist Confession deliberately omitted the reference to 'good and necessary consequence'. This is because good and necessary consequence is used to make the case for household baptism.