Who do I marry? What work or profession must I take on? Where should I live? etc. are some of the legitimate questions Christians ask. Believers must seek to please God in all they do and hence these questions are commendable. However, these questions tend to be answered in ways that I believe are dangerous to believers. Many books, supposedly answering these questions inundate the shelves of Christian bookshops. One such title reads, “Are You Still Single? Prayers to Locate Your Divine Spouse.” These and many more are bestsellers because people are indeed looking for answers to life’s questions and somewhat these titles promise to offer them their answers. But are they the right answers?
As believers, God has given us his Word as the means by which we will please him and every other “How Tos” not faithful to Scripture are to be avoided. And many of these “How Tos” are indeed unfaithful to Scripture. The Old and New Testaments; that is the whole Bible has been given to us “to be the rule of faith and life.”1 A rule, by dictionary definition, is “a set of explicit or understood regulations or principles governing conduct over an area of people”. It is also “control of or dominion over an area or people” Following from this definition, the Word of God then becomes our explicit or understood regulations or principles governing our conduct. The word of God has control of or dominion over us. This simply a means Scripture has an overarching authority over the believer. If Scripture is the word of God (and it is), then we are to submit our whole lives to its obedience, for in the obedience of Scripture we obey God. Everything we need to live lives pleasing to God is addressed in Scripture. Is this not an over-stretch you may ask? No, it is not. The Bible indeed has all the answers for our lives.
Perhaps one of the places in Scripture where Scripture testifies of itself is Psalm 119. In this Psalm, David speaks of all what the word of God does for the believer. He places a premium on the Word and in this Psalm, David celebrates the Word of God. The Word keeps us pure, he says. There are wondrous things in the Word to behold, he beckons. The Word is to be treasured above all riches, he admonishes. How relevant all these are to someone who wants to please God by his word! The question remaining unanswered so far is how the word of God gives us guidance. To this I turn to the Westminster Confession of Faith:
The whole counsel of God, concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith, and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit, or traditions of men. Nevertheless, we acknowledge the inward illumination of the Spirit of God to be necessary for the saving understanding of such things as are revealed in the word; and that there are some circumstances concerning the worship of God, and government of the Church, common to human actions and societies, which are to be ordered by the light of nature, and Christian prudence, according to the general rules of the word, which are always to be observed.2
There are two important things to be noted in the words of the confession in terms of knowing those things which please God and serve as a guide for our lives. Firstly, there are those things expressly set down in Scripture and secondly, there are those things by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture. In other words, there are things that are so plain in Scripture we don’t need second thoughts or opinions to obey them; and there are those things we cannot clearly see stated in Scripture but can know them as we study and apply Scripture.
I will describe this as moving from the known to the unknown: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.” (Deut. 29:29)
Expressly Set Down In Scripture
Whatever is expressly set down in Scripture simply indicates things that are clear and unambiguous. They are things that are revealed and ought to be obeyed. They are so plain it will take only disobedience not to see them. One of the characteristics of the Bible taught by the sixteenth-century Reformers is what they call perspicuity of Scripture. “What they mean by that technical term was the clarity of Scripture. They maintained that the Bible is basically clear and lucid. It is simple enough for any literate person to understand its basic message.”3 Of course, this doesn’t mean everything in Scripture can be easily understood. But at least, the very important things we need are explicit.
All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all; yet those things which are necessary to be known, believed, and observed for salvation, are so clearly propounded, and opened in some place of Scripture or other, that not only the learned but the unlearned, in a due use of the ordinary means, may attain unto a sufficient understanding of them.4
One of the clear teachings of Scripture about our conduct as believers is in 1 Thess. 4:3 “For this is the will of God, your sanctification…” God demands nothing but a sanctified life; that is, a life separated from any form of ungodliness. The text actually goes on to list all that is in view here by our sanctification: “that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness.” (vv.4-7) The list here is not exhaustive, albeit it tells us clearly what God demands from us. It guides our conduct. The popular verse, Romans 12:1-2 is another place we see an explicit teaching of Scripture: “I appeal to you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect”.
There are indeed many other teachings of Scripture on money, relationships, employment, marriage and any other thing we may call practical issues of life. We are to be good stewards of our finances. We are to love one another as ourselves. As Christians, we are to marry Christians and of course we are to marry from the opposite sex and not same sex. In matters of employment, we are to firstly work and work as unto God and not as to men. These are basics indeed and if we commit to obeying these, other areas of our lives would be less blurred.
Deducing from Scripture by Good and Necessary Consequence
The Scriptures are to be studied and its lessons applied to our life. Any believer who doesn’t make the study of Scripture a part of their life will surely walk about not knowing what God requires of them in any sphere of life. All Scripture, Paul tells us, is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (1Timothy 3:16-17) If Scripture is profitable, then we are to study it and apply it to our lives. For example, studying Scripture will lead us to make a good choice of a marriage partner. God’s word has already laid down many things to look out for when one is considering marriage. As I mentioned earlier, first consideration for marriage is that a believer marries a believer of the opposite sex (this emphasis is important as marriage has taken on an unbiblical outlook). This is a non-negotiable and anything contrary to it is unbiblical. This is a general rule, but how does one narrow down to specifics? Well, if you find a Christian and you both love each other, nothing prevents you from marrying.
Many believers are postponing important life decisions because somehow they want to hear God speak to them. Well, God has spoken in Scripture (Heb. 1:-2), they are simply not listening. Stop postponing life decisions. Make decisions as long as they don’t violate what God has clearly revealed in Scripture.
Waiting for this will of direction is a mess. It is bad for your life, harmful to your sanctification, and allows too many Christians to be passive tinkers who strangely feel more spiritual the less they actually do5
I will conclude with the last part of the Confession which is very instructive: “according to the general rules of the word.” (1.6). Whatever decisions we must make should be guided by what Scripture clearly teaches and we will not go wrong. Let Scripture be your guide in your decision-making. Say with David “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).
- Westminster Confession of Faith (WCF) (1.2)
- WCF (1.6)
- R.C. Sproul, Knowing Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2009), Kindle edition
- WCF (1.7)
- Kevin DeYoung, Just Do Something: A Liberating Approach to Finding God’s Will (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2009), Kindle edition