Speculating about God’s Commands

To speculate is to engage in conjecture. One may speculate in contingencies by asking questions, “What if this?” and “What if that?”. More specifically, many professing Christians speculate about the extent of God’s commands and conjecture about words rather than study things through. Such speculating to oneself can change one’s obedience to God’s instructions by subtracting from God has specifically instructed and adding to what He has generally commanded. The motive for such is clear. Most people engage in speculating to agree with themselves or to bind others in their application of principles. Speculating about God’s instructions becomes very dangerous when someone conjectures about the meaning of words to liberate or define themselves, which ends with judging and restricting others. When one studies the examples of such conjecturing, those who lessen God’s instructions also tend to bind their traditions on others, so such people are neither completely liberating or wholly restricting but rather take positions to extremes. Just look a the Pharisees.

It was the Pharisees as Jesus referred to as, “Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!This means that these Jews to keep from eating anything unclean would strain a gnat from their drink to obey God and yet in essence swallow a much larger unclean animal like the camel by what they liberated for themselves. Some might call Pharisees “conservatives”, “legalists”, and “traditionalists”. They were all these, but only the biased would not see them as “liberal” and “progressive” too. They would invent how to keep God’s instructions and yet manipulate God’s instruction for loopholes before men. They would rather not support their parents because they claimed that what they would give their parents was already given to God (Mark 7). The Pharisees looked for easy ways out of vows especially annulling their marriage vows for any reason (Matt. 19). The Pharisees were “progressive” in progressing past God’s Word. This is as Jesus said that these men were filled with “lawlessness” (Matt. 23:28). On the other side, Jesus said, “For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers” (Matthew 23:4). The Pharisees were unbalanced. See how Jesus stated about them, “These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone” (Matt. 23:23). Most look down on the actions of the Pharisees, and yet remain guilty themselves or don’t realize that their spiritual teachers are doing the same. May we all examine ourselves and our teachers in the light of the Word rather than conjecture.

How did the Pharisees start inventing their traditions to lay aside the commands of God? Speculating had to have been involved. Someone would have had to conjecture about the specifics of how to observe the commands of God. The Pharisees speculated about God’s instruction to observe the Sabbath. Since traveling can be work, how far could someone travel and observe the Sabbath? Since carrying a burden can be work, how much can someone carry? Since preparing meals and cooking can be work, how much food can your prepare on the Sabbath? What does it mean to observe the Sabbath? Therefore, the Pharisees conjectured and answered their speculation with how far someone can walk without working and this became a binding man-made tradition to determine who was observing the Sabbath. In John 5, the Pharisees rebuked a man that Jesus healed of infirmities for carrying his bed, because Jesus told him, “Rise, take up your bed and walk.” In Matthew 12, Jesus’ disciples were rebuked on the Sabbath for “His disciples were hungry, and began to pluck heads of grain and to eat.” Yet, the Pharisees had no problem with leading their animals to water (Luke 13:15) and pulling them from a pit (Luke 14:5). This is the error of speculating about God’s commands. It is simply inconsistent hypocrisy.

How far will professing Christians speculate and conjecture about how to observe God’s instructions? If there is a teaching or a word in the Bible that needs to be clarified, what should we do? Speculate and spread our conjectures, or study the subject. Maybe some are just too intimidated or untrained in being able to do deep studies like word-studies. [A word-study can be so simple as using an analytical concordance and word-study dictionary to understand the significance of Greek words in its most generic usage.]

One specific subject seems to always be speculated about, which are the qualifications of church elders. Their questions resemble,

“What does it mean that an elder have faithful children? Does that mean that he must have more than one child? Does ‘children’ mean children outside the household? Does ‘faithful children’ mean that one’s children cannot ever openly sin whether they repent or not? How much time should be given for the child to repent?”

This is such disruptive conjecture over what “children” means rather than to actually study the subject. The Spirit of Christ says in 2 Timothy 2:14, “Remind them of these things, charging them before the Lord not to dispute words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers.” This does not mean that we shouldn’t be concerned about the precise of meaning of words in the Scriptures, but rather than dispute over words, we should resolve to study and until then make no judgment. Why speculate and dispute over what words could possibly mean?

Don’t invent ways in which things could mean something more or less than what the Scriptures plainly teach. Don’t speculate about what you can get away with in marriage or bind on a spouse. “King David had many wives, so why can’t I?” Don’t conjecture about the limitations of the Assembly like time limits and kind of songs.  Yet, don’t speculate away God’s positive instructions about the Assembly because the Bible is centered on the edification of words. “King David worshiped with musical instruments, so why can’t I?” Some are just looking for places to divide and dispute over. “How much of the collection should be used for benevolence and how much is for evangelism?” Let’s thank God for church elders who make these decisions.

See how conjecturing about this stuff is only self-serving. This is the same things that skeptics do. “How can I know if God exists, if I don’t see Him?” The skeptics and Pharisees have the same irrational excuses! Let’s not draw lines where God has not drawn them, and skip over lines that we don’t think applies to our situation.

About Scott J Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
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