A gracEmail subscriber asks whether we are capable of correctly concluding from the Bible what God intended to convey. “I believe we can,” he says, “and that’s why I think obvious conclusions from the Bible are so clear that all other people should also see them.”
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Yes, it is possible to draw correct conclusions from the Bible using our God-blessed thinking. However, Thomas Campbell, a founder of my own modern-day Churches of Christ, had some wise advice on that point. We must be careful, he warned, not to attempt to bind such deductions on the consciences of others, “farther than they see the connection and evidently perceive that they are so,” otherwise their faith will rest in the wisdom of men and not in the wisdom of God.
What is “obvious” to you or to me is not necessarily “obvious” to everyone else. God does not hold others accountable to what you or I understand, but to what each of them understands. A person cannot “see” further than his or her own mind understands. A person cannot obey God further than she or he “sees.” God looks at the heart, and he regards what he sees there as if it were the deed itself — both for good (2 Chron. 30:18-20) and for ill (Matt. 5:22, 28).
Jesus does not call us to be debaters but disciples. He seeks learners, not logicians. We should love the Lord with all our minds, but that is not the same as trusting in our intellectual prowess to get us to glory. We are no more saved by our right thinking than we are saved by our right conduct or behavior. Justification is by grace through faith, not by logic through syllogisms. The gospel is not a puzzle to be deciphered but an announcement to be believed. Studiousness is one proper response to God’s gift of salvation. It is not a route to eternal life apart from trusting in Jesus Christ.