Examples can be good, bad, incidental or serious, and sometimes they can even be amusing. But most importantly, sometimes they are obligating.
Knowing God’s will is not always a matter of just reading an obvious command. The binding aspect of some examples can help in understanding and obeying God’s will.
Paul could use himself as a good example of a Christian life (Philippians 4:9). Peter insisted that Jesus is the perfect example of doing good (Acts 10:38; I Peter 2:21). Jude point to Sodom and Gomorrah, the devil and his angels, Cain and Korah as the epitome of bad actors. Though deadly serious in its demonstration of God’s disapproval, the account of Balaam is comical in its ridiculous depiction of Balaam’s donkey talking back to him, as an example of someon who is stubbornly disobedient (Numbers 22.28).
An example can be incidental. It may be a fact that though related to a more important point, is not significant. For example, Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper in an “upper room” (Luke 22.12). But gathering in “upper rooms” of a house was common practice in Palestine in the first century. Christians met in many different places for worship, not just upper rooms. This shows that the location of the gathering was merely incidental.
Jesus also knelt and washed the feet of His disciples around the same time He gave the Lord’s Supper. This too was a common practice performed by humble slaves in Palestine at that time. The custom of washing feet was only incidental to the greater lesson of humble service to one another (John 13:4-5).
When we read Paul’s encouragement for the Romans to “greet one another with a holy kiss,” we don’t have to think long to realize that he was not encouraging romantic embrace but was asking Christians to greet each other like holy people (Romans 16:16). The big question: When would we be violating God’s will to neglect an example?
First, realize that the church of the Bible shared common practices in organization, worship and teaching. Paul reminded the Corinthians of what was done “in every church” (I Corinthians 4:17). He sent Timothy and Titus to all the churches he established so that they might appoint elders in “every church” (Titus 1:5-9; I Timothy 3:1-7).
Paul used the practice of the Galatian churches to take up a collection on Sunday as an example that others were commanded to follow (I Corinthians 16:1-2). “As in all the churches” the women kept silence in worship assemblies, the Corinthians were to do likewise (I Corinthians 14:33). Paul insisted that the teaching from one congregation to the next was to be consistent – duplicated by all the congregations (I Corinthians 7:17). Whenever there is evidence that the New Testament church consistently practiced something, the action serves as a binding example that we must follow. It is something required by God for the church everywhere and always to be obeyed.
Example also complete our understanding about how to obey God when a direct command does not give all the answers. When or how often we observe the Lord’s Supper would be an open question if it were not for an example in Acts 20. After arriving in Troas, Paul waited seven days, even when he was in a hurry to get the collection to Jerusalem, because the practice of the church everywhere was to “break bread” on Sunday. Because of this approved example, we too can know that the Lord’s church of today must meet on Sunday, and only Sunday, to join in the Lord’s Supper.
When examples demonstrate the fulfillment of a clear-command, they become binding on us as t ohow we fulfill God’s will today. For example, when Peter commanded the crowd at Pentecost to “repent and be baptized,” the examples of their being baptized, along with numerous other people in the Book of Acts, shows that doing so was not an optional matter. The command was given, and the examples show how the command was consistently to be obeyed.
Striving to understand God’s will is not always an easy task. Many people twist God’s word to arrive at a conclusion they desire (II Peter 3:14-18). However, you can understand and apply Bible examples properly if you use good study habits and apply basic reasoning skills. You must have a proper attitude and investigate the text (John 17:17; Ephesians 3:3-5, 5:17). Examples are great teachers that help us be confident that we are following God’s will for us.
Source of Article
Rob O’Hara*, “Direction Through Examples,” Kaio 3.3 (May-June 2010): 12-13.
*The above article is written by one of the members of the Livingston church of Christ for Kaio: The Christian Magazine for Teens (Brentwood, TN). Rob O’Hara is a graduate of the Bear Valley Bible Institute of Denver.
- Jackson, Wayne. “The Classification of Bible Commands.” ChristianCourier.com. Accessed: March 2011.
- McCord, Hugo. “How the Bible Teaches.” ChristianArticles.org. Accessed: March 2011.
- Roper, Coy. “How to Apply a Passage to Our Religious Practices (1).” BibleCourses.com. Accessed: March 2011.