Know Your Bible

VOL. 7                           August 3, 2008                           NO. 28

When Is Example Binding?

    The issue of examples and authority is always complicated. There are three possibilities about the authority of examples:

1) All examples are binding

2) No examples are binding

3) Some are binding and others are incidental.

    It is this third view that is most consistent with Biblical teaching.

The Apostles' Example

    It is clearly taught in the scriptures that we are to follow the apostle's example. Notice these passages:

"Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ" (1 Corinthians 11:1).

"Brethren, join in following my example, and note those who so walk, as you have us for a pattern" (Philippians 3:17).

"The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you" (Philippians 4:9).

"...not that we do not have authority, but to make ourselves an example of how you should follow us" (2 Thessalonians 3:9).

Commands AND Examples

    The fact that we follow some examples, but not others, bothers some people and leads them to conclude that we do so as a matter of human opinion. Some have decided that we should therefore, not follow examples at all, only commands. However, the above passages show clearly that we are required to follow approved examples.

    To be honest, we have the same trouble with commands that we do with examples. We must determine which direct commands are binding on us and which ones are not. As an example, we believe that the Great Commission to "go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15) applies to us, but not the part about "beginning at Jerusalem "(Luke 24:47).

    We must interpret both commands and examples in light of their immediate context and what is taught elsewhere in Scriptures. Here is an example of that principle: In 1 Corinthians 7:7-8, the apostle Paul (writing by inspiration) tells unmarried people and widows to "remain even as I am" - that is, unmarried. But he clearly points out that he was dealing with a particular crisis situation ("the present distress," verse 26). That is the context of his remarks. Elsewhere, he teaches that it is a sin to forbid people to marry (1 Timothy 4:1-3) and actually encourages some to marry (1 Timothy 5:13).

    So, the point is that we must always, on any subject - command or example - consider the immediate context of a verse and what is taught on the subject in other verses.


- Examples that are Condemned -

    There are examples of sin in the lives of Bible characters and it should go without saying that we are not to follow those examples:

*Peter's hypocrisy - Galatians 2:11-14

*Judas' betrayal - Matthew 27:3-5

*lsrael's disobedience -1 Corinthians 10:6,11

- Incidental Examples -

    These examples are shown in the Bible itself to be incidental because we find the same activity done in another way in a different passage. Here are some examples:

* Meeting place

Acts 20:8 - they met in an upper room; Acts 16:13 - they met on the river bank; Acts 2:46 - they met in the temple; John 4:21-24 - Jesus taught that there is no specific location required

* "Go and teach"

Acts 8:30 - Philip ran; Acts 8:38 - Philip traveled in a chariot; Acts 27:6 - Paul traveled by ship

* Where we can teach

Acts 17:1 ff - in a Jewish synagogue; Acts 19:8-10 - in a school; Acts 8:26-40 - Philip taught in a chariot

- Binding Examples -

    These are binding because this is the only way we find them being done. They are therefore "exclusive" examples and must be followed precisely.

* Lord's Supper

Acts 20:7 - communion on the first day of the week. Paul stayed at Troas for seven days in order to meet with the saints and break bread with them.

* Elders

Acts 14:23 - a plurality of elders in every local church, as soon as men are qualified (consistent with the example in Titus 1:5)


    We conclude that some examples are binding and others are not. It is a matter of studying context, other related verses and drawing a conclusion that is consistent with Biblical teaching.

---Roger Hillis

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Spanking Children:
Mans's Wisdom vs. God's Wisdom


"Spanking does nothing to further the long-term goal of successful parenting . . . Parents spank young children because they don't know what else to do." (Alvin Rosenfeld, child psychiatrist, author of The Art of the Obvious)

"Spanking teaches kids that when someone is doing something you don't like and they won't stop doing it, you hit them." (Murray Straus, professor of sociology, author of Beating the Devil Out of Them: Corporal Punishment in American Families)

"If you spank your child, apologize. Own up to your mistake . . . The fact that you lost it once and smacked your child doesn't mean you've ruined him for life. It does indicate a need to slow down and stop before you act." (Linda S. Budd, psychologist, author of Living With the Active Alert Child)


Proverbs 19:18 "Chasten thy son while there is hope, and let not thy soul spare for his crying."

Proverbs 22:15 "Foolishness is bound in the heart of a child; but the rod of correction shall drive it far from him."

Proverbs 23:13 "Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him with the rod, he shall not die."

Proverbs 23:14 "Thou shalt beat him with the rod, and shalt deliver his soul from hell"

Proverbs 29:15 "The rod and reproof give wisdom: but a child left to himself bnngeth his mother to shame."

---Greg Gwin

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