by Al Maxey

Issue #489 ------- June 15, 2011
I stand alone. All else is swamped by Pharisaism.
Boris Pasternak {1890-1960}
Doctor Zhivago

Jesus and the Silence Issue
Are John 5:19, 30; 6:38 and 7:16 a
Validation of the "Law of Silence"?

Many of my fellow disciples are utterly amazed at the tenacity and temerity of the hardened traditionalists who tendentiously seek to promote the principle that biblical silence should be perceived as prohibitive in nature. If God said nothing whatsoever about something within the pages of the inspired writings of the OT and NT, then that silence thereby forever forbids the acceptance or practice of that about which our God said nothing. Many disciples of Jesus, who're still capable of rational thought, are puzzled as to why these legalistic and patternistic individuals are so obsessed with this so-called "Law of Silence." The answer, of course, is that they absolutely MUST seek to validate this interpretive principle, for their very religious identity is founded upon it, and should this principle be shown to be invalid, then their claims to spiritual exclusivism and divine favoritism are exposed as nothing other than arrogant sectarianism. Thus, their very existence as a group of religious separatists (the "one true church") stands or falls based upon the veracity (or lack thereof) of this humanly devised principle. If it's untrue, then so are their claims of "favored child" status with the Father, and they're forced to acknowledge that the religious perceptions and practices of other disciples are very likely just as valid as their own. Legalistic patternists are simply incapable of such an admission! In their minds, they, and they alone, are the ONLY ones who are "right in the sight of God," and thus the ONLY ones who are ultimately "bound for heaven." All others are godless apostates bound straight for the fires of hell ... and they will not hesitate to inform you of this, and will do so almost gleefully. By the way, if you want to know what our Lord thinks of such people, please read Matthew 23.

"We sing a cappella because the inspired Scriptures are silent about instrumental accompaniment; thus, we're right and you're wrong!!" "We do not have Sunday School classes because the Scriptures are silent about this 'innovation;' thus, we're saved, and you're lost!!" "We don't support homes for orphans or the aged from the 'Treasury' because the Scriptures are silent about such human 'institutions;' therefore, we are the favored of God, and all the rest of you will burn in hell." And on and on it goes! WE are the "one true church" because WE honor God's "silence." WE speak where the Bible speaks, and are silent where the Bible is silent. Of course, this is a fallacy evident to everyone except those who proclaim it. The reality is: these legalists do a great many things about which the Bible is silent! Thus, they invent the "law of expediency" to permit what they desire, but employ the "law of silence" to condemn others!! In this way, they can "pick and choose" among those things about which the Scriptures are supposedly "silent." Therefore, what is deemed an "innovation" by some, becomes merely an "expedient" to others (see: Reflections #261 -- The Law of Expediency: A Reflective Examination of Legalistic Patternism's Loophole). The end result of all this lunacy is, of course, that the legalistic patternists have become the most divisive and divided group in religious history! Hundreds and hundreds of feuding factions have been formed, each of which profess to be THE "one true church." Little wonder that the world mocks us!!

I have dealt extensively and repeatedly over the years with this malicious false doctrine. I would invite the readers, who may not be familiar with that body of work, to examine many of those studies which can be found on my Topical Index page under the headings of "Law of Silence," "Patternism," and "Requesting Legalism's List." I would also urge a careful study of The Maxey-Broking Debate on Patternism. I have tried to deal with every argument, as well as every single misapplied passage of Scripture, used by the legalists in their effort to promote this pernicious principle. However, they are a creative brood, and masterfully twist even the least likely passages to suit their positions! For example, last month, just a few days before leaving on vacation, I received this email from a Reflections reader -- "Dear Brother Al, I'm mostly convinced that it is specificity in what is commanded (rather than biblical silence) that truly prohibits. That being said, what do you say to those who use John 5:19, 30; 6:38 and 7:16 as proof-texts for the law of silence?" First, let's notice the wording of these four passage (these are from the New American Standard Bible):

As always, it is important (indeed, critical) to put statements in context. Almost anything can be "proved" if we're allowed to disregard the context in which various statements are made. In so doing, we impose meanings and applications where none were ever intended. R. C. H. Lenski, in his voluminous commentary on the NT writings, makes this observation with regard to these particular pronouncements, "In spite of the perfect simplicity and lucidity of Jesus' words, their sense is oftened darkened or misunderstood" [The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel, p. 380]. Quite clearly, these statements have absolutely nothing at all to do with the silence of the Scriptures -- in fact, the sacred writings are not even in view. The passages have nothing to do with the Father's silence -- in any form. These words by Jesus are prompted by the religionists who have challenged His authority. Jesus is simply making it clear that whenever He acts and whenever He speaks He does so with the full authority and approval of the Father, for the simple reason that He and the Father ARE ONE. His words, His acts, His will are those of God! Since they are ONE, there is no area in which His life is not fully consistent with the purpose of the Father. This passage is not declaring Jesus to be God's slave, but rather God's Son. So, "the relationship is not that of master and slave, nor of employer and employee, but of a Father and a Son who are united by love" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 9, p. 65]. Jesus was the "perfect agent of the divine purpose and the complete revelation of the divine nature" [ibid, p. 64]. "Twenty-five times in this Gospel He asserts that He was sent by the Father" [ibid, p. 66].

"The Lord asserts that separate action is impossible on account of the unity of the Father and the Son; and that the action of Father and Son is coextensive in virtue of the sameness of nature" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 17, p. 227]. This whole gospel record begins with the glorious truth that the Word was in the beginning with God, "and the Word was God" (John 1:1), and "the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory" (vs. 14). So, when we hear Jesus the Word speak, we hear the Father; when we see Christ act, we see the actions of the Father. Jesus told Thomas, "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also" (John 14:7), and He told Philip, who had asked, "Show us the Father," "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (John 14:9)!! Father, Son and Spirit are ONE, thus their words and deeds are always in perfect harmony. Jesus the Son did not perform the will of the Father because He observed the "law of silence," He performed the will of the Father perfectly because He and the Father were/are ONE!! So, by what authority did Christ do and say what He did? It was by the authority of His relationship with God -- for Father and Son were ONE. In essence, Jesus was declaring His deity. "His is not an independent essence; their work and will is one" [Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 1, p. 436]. "The entire work of the Father is, at the very same time, and in the very same way, the work of the Son" [ibid, p. 435].

Needless to say, "the Jews caught the import of Christ's statement at once" [ibid]. "For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God" (John 5:18). Yes, Jesus knew their thoughts and intent, thus He proclaimed the first of the above mentioned passages in which He made it even more abundant that Father and Son were of the same essence, and thus any action the latter performed was as though it were performed by the former. In the eyes of the Jews, this was blasphemy. Later, Jesus went even further. He told the Jews that Abraham rejoiced to see His day, which perplexed them because Abraham had been dead for centuries. But, Jesus replied, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM" (John 8:58). The Jews picked up stones to kill Him, for Jesus had declared Himself the I AM. In other words, He declared His deity. Father and Son were ONE, thus the Son's perfect performance of the Father's will wasn't compliance with various restrictive ordinances such as the "law of silence," but was rather simply a visible reflection, in human form, of the very nature and essence of the Father. Thus, by seeing Him, one saw the Father. To try and reduce these marvelous passages to mere proof-texts for some humanly devised "law of silence" is about as misguided as one can get, and, frankly, borders on blasphemy. Even if we allowed that these passage are applicable to how one establishes authority, they still wouldn't prove what the legalistic patternists assert, but rather would attest to specificity rather than to silence, for it was what the Son saw and heard the Father saying and doing (specificity) that would be the basis for authority, we would have to assert, NOT what God never said or never did (silence). So, again, there is nothing here that even remotely validates the fallacious "law of silence."

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Readers' Reflections

From Daniel Denham in Virginia:
Preacher in Newport News, VA and a member
of the radical Contending for the Faith faction

Dream about hell tonight, Al, because they're stoking the fires for you even now!! It won't be very long before the sounds of wailing and the gnashing of teeth will be emanating from your pie hole, and I hope you also get to hear the wails of all the souls you led astray as well. It would be most fitting. By the way, Al, I think I'll dub you "P. T. Barnum, 2nd," because you are just as big a con artist as he was. You don't believe your tripe any more than he did his! So, laugh all the way to hell. Of course, you claim there is no such place of everlasting fire where your miserable soul will be in perpetual torment. Oh, do you have a rude awakening coming!

From a Deacon in Virginia:

Dear Brother Al, I cannot thank you enough for writing your latest Reflections -- "The Apostles' Creed." Your teachings have been such a blessing to me. I praise God -- and Google -- for leading me to your web site. What an awesome God we have!

From a Minister in Missouri:

Dear Brother Al, I really enjoyed your article "The Apostles' Creed." Personally, I would change the phrase to "He descended into Hades." Other than that, I think the creed is a great summary of the weightier matters of Christianity. After all, it's pretty much straight from the Bible.

From a Reader in Georgia:

Brother Al, What I like almost as much as your personal insight is the ability you have to pull together resources and comments from respected theologians spanning many generations. You support your reasoning, which is very uncommon in the blogosphere today. Keep up the tremendous work.

From a Reader in Florida:

Brother Al, I was just thinking about you today, wondering when you'd be back from vacation and when we could all benefit from your Reflections again. Boy, did I miss them!! Glad you're back!!

From a Leader with Eastern European Mission:

Dear Brother Al, Your ministry is a very powerful one. Your work is filtering into many hearts in the Family of God. Meaningful spiritual growth is truly taking place in hearts once closed. You are indeed a precious missionary to the faithful, and we love and applaud you!!

From a Missionary in Peru:

Bro. Al, I have almost finished reading your new book One Bread, One Body. You exhaust the word exhaustive in covering every legalistic invention surrounding the Communion table. Thank you. I am really enjoying it! While reading it, my mind turned to Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, when he gave his son-in-law some advice concerning his heavy workload (Exodus 18:13-27). The Lord never said anything to Moses in that regard (silence), which has caused some to suggest that Moses should have waited on the Lord for such direction (honoring His "silence"). This incident seems to suggest that God sometimes works outside the parameters of direct revelation, and gives His people room for ingenuity, freedom and creativeness in the Body of Christ. Moses didn't demand "book, chapter and verse" from Jethro, but listened to his advice with humility and then put it into practice. There is nothing to indicate God was displeased with Moses doing this, even though God was "silent" about it. No doubt this advice came through the Holy Spirit working through Jethro. The legalists, of course, can't understand this, and therefore seek to hinder the work of the Holy Spirit in His guiding of the Body of Christ (believing He only leads through the Scriptures). The legalists' "law of silence" only leads to stagnation and death; it is killing and strangling the life from the Body of Christ -- a slow suffocation. Had Moses followed the "law of silence," it would have proved costly. There is a wonderful lesson here about God's grace and our freedom and the leading of the Spirit!!

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