"E" as in EXAMPLE

INTRODUCTION

The “e” in our vowel mnemonic stands for “example.” For certain, it is a very important aspect in learning, teaching and interpretation. In this monograph, we will look at the part it plays in all three.

 

The learning and the teaching are reciprocals, closely related. One is passive (learning) and the other is active (teaching). They are also both vital elements in successful evangelism. But so is interpretation, and we will also look closely at this. Incorporated into this monograph is a word study on “example” (all the uses in the “authorized versions”) and to some extent associated words. It's interesting and instructive to see the interplay in the words—“example,” “lesson,” “model,” “pattern,” “copy,” “shadow” and also “exhibit” and “show.” When we want to teach someone how to do something, we often show them and tell them at the same time (don't we, school children?).

 

Our study is not secular, but right out of the Bible. It represents the wisdom of God rather than that of men. We must apply it to our lives to gain the most from it. Let's start at the top.

 

JESUS

 

Who could deny that the greatest example on any level is Jesus? Anything He said or did is worthy of imitation. He is the pinnacle of godliness and righteousness. Peter says of Him: “For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps.” (I Pet 2:21 ff). Explicit commands are not everything. Be like Jesus, become like Jesus, and walk in His walk (“steps”). Bear His cross. When Jesus wanted to teach humility, He didn't say “I command you to be humble.” He washed the feet of the disciples (John 3:5-15). In the dialogue that ensued with Peter, the Lord said (verse 15): “For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”

 

Everything about Jesus is an “approved” example indeed. His Father exclaimed at the baptism of Jesus: “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased” (Matt 3:17). If we imitate His example, the prospect and promise is that the Father will also be well-pleased with us.

 

THE HOLY SPIRIT

 

The Holy Spirit knows the mind of God perfectly. He is one with the Father, as Jesus is one with the Father (John 17:21). He has revealed the mind and the will of the Father through the written word. The Holy Bible contains the complete message to us from God from Gen 1:1 to Rev 22:21, and it claims complete inspiration for itself in II Tim 3:16,17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, reproof, correction, for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be adequately (‘complete’ KJV) equipped for every good work.”

 

The words “teaching” and “training” in that Scripture are particularly noteworthy. Sometimes these are direct and explicit and plainly stated. At other times, the Holy Spirit leaves it up to us to infer certain facts, principles and lessons. But very frequently, the Spirit teaches us in what we call “historical narratives,” relating the events in man's history and certifying that they are to serve as models and examples for our learning.

 

Sodom and Gomorrah are used a number of times in this light. Jude mentioned the story's “warning,” which teaches about the wages of ungodliness in verse 7: “just as Sodom and Gomorrah and the cities around them, since they in the same way as these indulged in gross immorality and went after strange flesh, are exhibited as an example in undergoing the punishment of eternal fire.”

 

Peter adds a similar warning in 2 Pet 2:6: “and if He condemned the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to destruction by reducing them to ashes, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly lives thereafter” (which includes all of us). Jesus used the cities as an example in Matt 10:15. So did Paul in Rom 9:29 as he quoted from Isa 1:9. Then in Rom 15:4, he gives us a great Bible truth: “For whatsoever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.”
The Holy Spirit through Paul might just as well have used the word “example” in lieu of “instruction.”

 

The author of Hebrews, who writes concerning the promised rest for believers in chapters 3 and 4, cites the wandering of the Hebrews in the wilderness and God's anger and concludes: “Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest, so that no one will fall, through following the same example of disobedience.” (4:11).

 

One might say, and accurately, that all those stories in the Old Testament were written for our learning and example. God does not waste his “breath” (Holy Spirit) for His entertainment.

 

More on the Holy Spirit's role will follow as we look at narrative history in the New Testament, and under “Apostles.”

 

PROPHETS

 

“As an example, brethren...take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.” (Jas 5:10). And through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of course.

 

APOSTLES

 

Jesus chose His apostles (12) very early in His ministry (see Gospel accounts) and taught them for about three years. We can agree that He taught them well—at least everything they needed to know, while He was with them. As human beings, they wouldn't be able to remember everything they were taught, so He promised He would send them a Comforter (the Holy Spirit) to help them to remember (John 14:26). Just before He ascended back to His Father in heaven, He told them to wait in Jerusalem to “receive power” (Acts 1). In chapter 2, the promise was fulfilled when they were baptized in the Holy Spirit, who would lead them through their ministries until death.

 

No men (except equally Paul, who later become the apostle to the Gentiles) ever knew Jesus and God as well as these apostles. Their example to us is virtually incomparable except that of the Lord Himself. What they said, did and wrote should be regarded with the highest respect, confidence and authority. Paul thus wrote to the Philippians (3:17): “Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us.”

 

In I Cor 4:16, his message to the church there was “therefore I exhort you, be imitators of me.” He followed this up in I Cor 11:1 with a second “Be imitators of Me.” Imitating what he did; following his example was his plea.

 

To the Philippians again, he urged: “The things you have learned and received and seen in me, practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4:9).

 

And to the Thessalonians: “You also became imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much tribulation with the joy of the Holy Spirit.” And more: “For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example, because we did not act in an undisciplined manner among you” (II Thess 3:7). Continuing in verse 9, he explains further: “in order to offer ourselves as a model for you so that you would follow our example.”

 

Let's not overlook Paul's use of the word “pattern” in Phil 3:17. There are some in the church today who reject the idea and concept of a pattern in the Scriptures, obviously looking for support for divisive doctrine. Patterns are very important to God, as Moses knew, for God had warned him “when he was about to erect the tabernacle, 'See,' He says, 'that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.'” (Heb 8:5).

 

We acknowledge the apostles were not perfect. Should we follow Peter's example and deny Christ? “God forbid,” as Paul was wont to say. But in the main and when their words and deeds were in harmony with the Spirit's teaching elsewhere (not at odds), their examples are worthy of imitation.

 

ELDERS

 

Peter identifies elders in the church as models, exhorting them: “not lording it over, but proving to be an example to the flock.” (I Pet 5:13).

 

 

CHRISTIANS

 

Paul praised the Thessalonian “brethren” for being imitators of the apostles (I Thess 1:4-7).

 

In a similar fashion, Paul urged the young preacher Timothy: “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe.” (I Tim 4:12). And to Titus: “in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds with purity in doctrine, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us” (Titus 2:7,8).

 

It should also be acknowledged that there are good and bad examples. Paul, needless to say, was promoting good examples. Some call these “approved examples,” a term sometimes used as a hermeneutic rule.

 

SUMMARY

 

This concludes the presentation of Scriptures translated or rendered “example” in the New American Standard Bible. They are derived from several Greek works meaning variously “sample or exhibition,” “type,” “model,” “copy” or “underwriting.”

 

While there is some inference to be drawn from some of the Scriptures, they are mostly explicit in nature and the message is clear. The Holy Spirit uses “example” as an important teaching and training tool in perfect keeping with II TIM 3:16, 17.

 

God in the form of Jesus and the Holy Spirit puts “example” before us to be imitated and makes it incumbent on all levels of Christian authority and service down through the prophets, apostles and elders to all Christians.

 

The realization is that God’s will is often discovered through a combination of explicit teaching, inference and example. Leaving any part out can result in incomplete or faulty interpretation.

 

HISTORICAL NARRATIVE

 

This brings us to a less explicit form of revelation by “example” which is every bit as important – historical narrative. Let’s first understand what this is. It is a prose type of literature in which the Biblical events are narrated in factual terms – a telling of the story as it developed. A large part of the Old Testament is historical narrative. In the New Testament, we see less – a lot in the Gospels and more in Acts, which is after all the history of what the Apostles did.

 

Using historical example as Biblical authority is controversial because many Bible scholars and interpreters deny that historical narrative is valid for revealing God’s will in doctrinal matters. They find any “patterns” which appear in the narratives to be historically interesting or enlightening, but NOT binding. This results in massive doctrinal division because it frees church leaders to conduct church affairs and worship in any fashion they want. On the other hand, we believe that if everyone accepted inspired examples and patterns as totally reflective of God’s will, we could all be united as one.

 

The reason this is so important is that there are numerous core doctrines that are not “spelled out” in exact, explicit language in a way that could not be misunderstood.

 

We refer to important issues such as: What day of the week should be the day of assembly? What items of worship should be included? How often should the Lord’s Supper be observed? What about church government? Is immersion necessary for baptism? When was the church founded? … and numerous similar issues that often can be only settled by a close study of Scripture, including explicit, inferential and example (historical narrative) references. Probably, the best way to see this is by an illustration relative to some of these issues – an example, if you please.

 

ILLUSTRATION

 

In the books of Acts in chapter 20, verse 6 ff, we have this brief historical reference: (6) “We sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread and came to them at Troas within five days, and there we stayed seven days. (7) On the first day of the week when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day, and he prolonged his message until midnight.”

 

Let's extract the information in the verse and related Scripture, that is, do the hermeneutics. Our code is “E” for explicit, “I” for inference and “Ex” for example.

 

It is an account of the early Christian church in action (E) (Ex).

 

Paul was there (E). He excelled in knowledge and understanding of Christ and God and their will (see under Apostles). 

 

His presence and participation there indicated his approval of the service (I).

 

It was not his first visit to Troas (E) Acts 16:8. Perhaps he even helped to establish the church at Troas (speculation). 

 

The disciples, including Luke (“us” in the text) and Paul, gathered together there on the first day of the week (E) (Ex).

 

This had become the Lord's Day (Rev 1:10) for the early church (E). It was the day Christ was resurrected (E), the day the kingdom came (same as the church) Acts 2 (E), and was the day the Corinthian church assembled (E). I Cor 16:2.

 

No other specific day of assembly is mentioned anywhere else in the Scriptures, but the disciples practiced it “by direction” of Paul (E) I Cor 16:1, where he wrote “as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also” (E). 

 

The early church assembled every Lord's Day (E). Paul's direction was “On the first day of every week” (E) (Ex). I Cor 16:2

 

He would not have directed the church at Troas to do differently (I). 

 

The disciples assembled for the purpose of breaking bread (E). Acts 20:7. The KJV reads “came together to break bread.” 

Other items of worship would also be practiced on that day—preaching by Paul (E) Acts 20:7, offering (E) I Cor 16:2, singing (I) from other Scriptures. 

 

If the Lord’s Supper was not the primary purpose (although the Scripture seems to indicate it was), it was a required and usual practice (E) (I). Acts 20:7, I Cor 16:1,2

 

The disciples are reported to have broken bread “continually” and “steadfastly”—therefore often and regularly (E). Acts 2:42. Jesus had said, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes,” indicating “frequently” (E). I Cor 11:26.

 

Every week has a first day; therefore the disciples came together to break bread on the first day of every week (I).

 

We are to imitate Paul and the apostles and follow their example (E) (EX) (see under APOSTLES).

 

SUMMARY

 

Thus through a combination of EXPLICIT teaching, NECESSARY INFERENCE and INSPIRED EXAMPLE, we understand several very important matters of doctrine from these few related verses. It settles for us the day of worship, frequency and activities (Lord's Supper, preaching and giving).

 

But hermeneutics scholars and all, or almost all, of the Protestant world do not interpret the Scriptures here as binding or a pattern, and follow their own authorities, resulting in “other gospels” and “division.”

 

As Joshua said (for our learning) JOSH 24:15: “Choose you this day whom you will serve.”

 

A definite pattern emerges. The early church under the direction of the inspired apostles met every Lord’s Day or Sunday, the first day of the week with strong emphasis on breaking bread (communion), and the worship service included preaching, singing and an offering.

 

In the Scriptures presented under “APOSTLES,” it is plain the early Christians were commanded to follow the example set for them and as they were directed. We have the historical narrative of this for our learning and example.

 

 

20 AUG 2011

 

Annapolis, MD