By Elizabeth Prata
Some things in the Bible are illuminated by the Spirit through concept. In these cases, there isn’t a specific Bible verse that says, THIS IS THE ANSWER YOU’RE LOOKING FOR! The answer is gained by being part of the great sweep and scope of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. Some doctrines are learned from a concept rather than an explicit verse spelling it out. In these cases, the Bible student needs to make a logical conclusion. Paul spoke often of reasoning together, (Acts 17:2, Acts 17:17) and using terms like “so then”, or “therefore”. This was his way of announcing a conclusion was imminent.
This is called “necessary inference” and you come to understand it by inference.
A careful student of the word looks for the plain and clear scriptures first, of course, but also carefully studies the whole counsel of God so as to make reasonable conclusions. Here is an example of how one can make a reasonable conclusion but also how one can also go astray, in the same verse, if you’re not careful-
Find me an explicit verse in the Bible that says “Trinity”. The concept of the Trinity is in the Bible from Genesis 1 all the way through. But there is not an explicit verse that says God is Three Persons in One God. In fact, there are a number of verses that say God is One! Deuteronomy 6:4, Mark 12:29, Galatians 3:20, 1 Timothy 2:5, James 2:19. But we know that adding up the clues that refer to God as “Us” etc. that our God head is a Three Persons-In-One God
In another case, there are inferential clues that lead a student to understand that the Christ must die and be resurrected, clues like,
WE know that the Christ must die and then be raised again, and we know why. Christ stated it many times. But was this spelled out explicitly in the Old Testament? No. The Pharisees should have known, though, by necessary inference, due to the clues left in the scriptures.
Understanding a doctrine by coming to a conclusion through necessary inference is perfectly legitimate.
On the other hand, if an inference is characterized as necessary, this means that the conclusion drawn from the facts is irresistible.Christian Courier
Those who wish to bring the Lord’s church into conformity with denominational practices suggest that nothing can be made a test of fellowship that is based upon inference. Inference restricts these free spirits to more rigidity than they can tolerate. But inference is a perfectly legitimate means of obtaining the truth. SOURCE Christian Courier
Nicodemus was THE Teacher of Israel, yet he had failed to grasp the necessary inference that since man is thoroughly depraved, he must be born again (John 3:9-10). Jesus chastised him for that. The clues that should have led an insightful Teacher of the Israelites and an expert in the scriptures were plainly there:
"And knowest thou not these things? — When so much is everywhere said in the Scriptures of God’s circumcising men’s hearts, creating in them clean hearts, renewing in them right spirits, and of the quickening and purifying operations of his Spirit on their souls? See Deuteronomy 30:6; Psalm 51:10; Jeremiah 4:4; and Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 36:25-27". Source Benson Commentary
Another biblical concept not spelled out in the Bible with specific verses is modesty. People who insist they can be immodest cling to the fact that there is not one single verse that spells out what’s immodest. They want heights and lengths and garment-specific verses, otherwise they will not hear you. But it’s a concept just as Trinity is a concept. Just as Christ’s resurrection is a concept. Peter advises such in verses 1 Peter 3:3-4, 1 Timothy 2:9. Also, Isaiah 3:16 makes it plain that modesty means discretion, not dressing so as to draw attention to female features. Immodesty includes not just flesh baring harlot clothing, but also a haughty attitude and a sensuous gait:
Moreover the LORD saith, Because the daughters of Zion are haughty, and walk with stretched forth necks and wanton eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a tinkling with their feet: (Isaiah 3:16)
So how do we come to understand a biblical concept that is real, properly interpreted, but not spelled out? You come to the conclusion that God is Three-In-One and the other examples by an honest reading and study of many passages.
Modern miracles is another doctrine that needs to be studied based on an necessary inferential conclusion, as well as plurality of elders, infant baptism, and many more doctrines than one would think.
It’s great when a sister you are discussing doctrine with asks for the scripture. If she says, “Show me from scripture” it’s a great start. That is a basic step 1. But when they reject the logical conclusion gained through inferences over many scriptures, insisting on THE scripture (I get this a lot when saying miracles, tongues and prophecy have ceased) they’re in fact then using scripture as a weapon in order to remain in sinful ignorance so that they can believe what they want to believe. Holy Spirit illuminates understanding through the scriptures in both ways- direct confirmation of the plain understanding of specific scriptures, AND necessary inferences with conclusions based on studying many different scriptures.
Unearthing the truth from scripture isn’t for the lazy, but the Holy Spirit is generous in aiding the serious and humble student in coming to the conclusions HE wants us to understand.
I liked this Christian Courier article, It’s clear and offers simple examples of coming to necessary conclusions. The only statement in the article with which I disagree was that “babies have no sin.” They do. See next link for the thorny discussion of babies, heaven, sin, and hell.
Christian Courier: What is a Necessary Inference?
(Grace To You: Do babies and others incapable of professing faith in Christ automatically go to heaven?)
The Master’s Seminary: Resurrection according to scriptures?
The Cripplegate: The Unteachable Key to Biblical Wisdom