Jesus Believed in Necessary Inferences

by Terry Wane Benton

He said, “Moses wrote about Me” (John 5:46). Still, since Moses never used the name “Jesus,” it would have to be a necessary implication of Moses and a necessary inference on our end to conclude that Moses wrote about Jesus. The evidence of reason is strong; in fact, it is as strong as if Moses said, “I am writing about Jesus.” A necessary inference is as strong as a direct statement. Jesus believed that reasonable people could and would come to that necessary conclusion.

Jesus also believed in unnecessary inferences, which means that some reach conclusions not warranted by the evidence. He asked, “Who do men say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13f). Some men drew an inference that was not absolutely necessary. Some had opinions, but Jesus did not believe that every opinion had equal value. Some opinions were that He was “John the Baptist,” but that was not a valid conclusion since John had openly baptized Jesus. Who was John or Jesus then, except two separate individuals? A necessary inference from the evidence is that Jesus is not John the Baptist. People may draw inferences from limited knowledge and not knowing and considering all the available facts. So, Jesus did not believe that every opinion had equal value. Some opinions are groundless. Jesus was not Elijah because Elijah's prediction had already been fulfilled in John the Baptist. Jesus was not Jeremiah because there was no prediction of Jeremiah coming back and being the Messiah. The similarity of teaching and rejection is just similarity, not identity. So, some inferences people drew were not “necessary” (forced by all evidence), and Jesus knew this! The disciples came to the solid rock necessary inference that “you are the Christ (Messiah), the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:18f), and this was a necessary inference. All the evidence forced this conclusion. It was solid as a rock. It was the same as if Jesus said it directly. Necessary inferences result from reasoning to the logical conclusion of what all the facts in evidence present.

Jesus used necessary inference from the evidence of Genesis 2. “The two shall be one flesh” has necessary implications. It would certainly refute any idea that we can divorce for any cause we want. Here is a rule that is forced by an example. In the example of God’s bringing Adam and Eve together for a union of two in one, God inferred a law that was not directly stated, though it is expected. We are expected to draw the necessary implications from the available evidence, which is why Jesus stood on solid ground in His answer. The Pharisees were misusing Deuteronomy 24 to justify divorce for every cause, and Jesus brought in a very relevant piece of evidence that they had conveniently forgotten. Genesis 2 forms the bedrock truth of God’s plan for all marriages: “The two shall be one flesh,” which implies the deepest kind of unity that should never be easily separated. Jesus was correct in believing in the necessary inference and implications of the total evidence.

When the Pharisees asked, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” they thought that Jesus was not God, but they had drawn an unnecessary conclusion. Now, Jesus did not have to state that He was God. He asked, “Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, 'Rise up and walk?' But to show that He had the power to forgive, He told the man to 'Rise up and walk!'” (Luke 5:21-25). Jesus was counting on the necessary implication that if I could work this miracle, My claim to be a deity would be validated. It is a necessary inference that “I am God and have the power to forgive sins!” Jesus did not have to directly state “I am God”, as the evidence He would present would force the necessary inference and that is just as strong as stating it directly. Jesus rested His claim to deity on the necessary implication of His statements and the implication of His miracle. Jesus believed anyone could draw that forced conclusion if they were honest with all the available evidence.

When John the Baptist sent word to Jesus asking, “Are You the coming One, or do we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3f), Jesus didn’t answer with a direct “Yes.” He said, “Go and tell John the things which you see and hear: The blind receive their sight ...” (and other miracles), and it was clear that Jesus expected John to use those facts to form his own necessary inference. What is the forced conclusion? The necessary inference Jesus expected John to draw is, “Jesus is the Coming One, and I don’t need to look for another!” What other legitimate conclusion could he reach? In other words, Jesus did not have to spell it out. He expected John and all of us to draw the necessary conclusions.

We could go on and on with one example after another. It is a necessary inference that those who do not believe in necessary inference do not believe in Jesus and His expectations for us to use sound reasoning. When you hear someone denigrating the very idea of necessary inferences, you know this person does not know Jesus as they ought!

Jesus’ Reasoning of Law and Necessary Inference

There can be no doubt that Jesus believed that commands, statements, and examples all carry necessary implications and that He expects us to draw proper inferences from the total data on any subject. We want to expand on those examples because some deny the validity and necessity of such reasoning from the Bible. Notice the following examples:
  1. Jesus pointed to the Sabbath law, combined it with the law of mercy, and brought His listeners to the necessary conclusion that the Sabbath law of rest did not prohibit acts of mercy. (Matthew 12:11-14). This was understood when helping an oxen out of the ditch. You would not leave it in the ditch to suffer just because the Sabbath called for no work. The no-work rule was not to trump the rule of mercy. That did not have to be stated, as the total evidence demonstrated that mercy trumps sacrifice. The necessary inference is that works of mercy trump the Sabbath rule of no work when a special need arises on the Sabbath. Healing a man on the Sabbath is mercy trumping a no-work rule. That is a necessary inference from the total evidence. Jesus used necessary inference here and expected that such a law could be discerned by any honest human.
  2. In Matthew 16:1-4 Jesus pointed out that they knew how to “discern” weather patterns. You draw necessary inferences from the signs of weather patterns. If you know how to reason from those weather indicators, you should also be able to draw the proper conclusions from the prophetic indicators about the Messiah. Jesus is the Messiah is a necessary inference.
Your eternal destiny depends on weighing the evidence and drawing the correct conclusion. Life and death depend on you drawing the right conclusion. Therefore, God believes you can and believes in the truth of reasoning properly and the absolute necessity of necessary inference. Those who argue otherwise are demonstrations of how not to reason.
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