Peter’s Vision and the Great Necessary Inferences

by Terry Wayne Benton

Acts 10-11

Some brethren have erroneously concluded that direct command is the only way we can know the will of God for us. They attack or dismiss the idea of reasoning from statements, commands, examples, and drawing necessary inferences. But, I find it to be very obvious that God wants us to draw from all information, no matter if the form is a statement, command, or an example that was obviously approved of God to reason to the necessary implication, thus drawing the necessary inferences from the total information available. As an example of God expecting us to reason to the proper conclusion, I could appeal to many different samplings of this throughout the Bible. But, here I will demonstrate from Acts 10-11 that God expects reasoning to the proper conclusion.

God could have directly commanded Peter: "Go teach and baptize Cornelius and all believing Gentiles" (Acts 11:12). He could have said straight out: "I have changed the covenant, and unclean people and animals are no longer an issue." If God communicated His will only by direct command, He would have done so here.

Instead, God chose a vision for Peter of an example of unclean animals coming down in a sheet for him to kill and eat, but without a direct statement or command God wanted Peter to draw a necessary inference. Peter did not understand the implication at first. Later, he put together the information of the vision with the appeal of Cornelius and the Holy Spirit falling miraculously upon Cornelius and his household. He spoke of what "God has shown me" (Acts 10:28). In other words, he saw it as a necessary inference. God "showed" him by way of the implication of the vision and the implication of what else was shown him. Necessary implication or inference is what you must do with evidence. If you throw it out, you have thrown out the very essential basics of reasoning.

Also, Peter wanted the Jews who came with him to answer, "Can any man forbid water….?" by their use of necessary inference (Acts 10:47). Other Jews drew the same necessary inference in Acts 11:18. Thus, major issues are determined by the use of evidence which always sets up a necessary inference. For brethren who would argue that God always uses direct command only to express His will, these do greatly err, not knowing the scriptures.

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