The Bible teaches that we are governed by direct commands (along with approved example and necessary inference), but, in addition, there are other kinds of statements which do not actually occur in the command form, but they still serve as our guide. These statements actually have the same force of authority as a direct command. Consider the various types of statements which serve as our authority today.
To begin with, there is the declarative statement. A declarative statement is one “which states that something is or is not the case, that a particular object has a certain property or that it does not have that property, or that a certain state of affairs exists or does not exist.”
For example, a restaurant owner who is trying to sell a large number of rib eye steaks might say to his servers, “whoever can get at least 100 people to order the rib eye steak during the next week will receive a bonus of $50.00.” The owner does not give a command, but he makes it clear that a certain achievement (selling one hundred steaks) is essential to gaining a particular blessing (the fifty dollars).
A college administrator might say to the incoming freshmen, “In order for you to receive the Bachelor of Arts degree from this college, you must complete at least one hundred and thirty semester hours of class work with a grade point average of 2.5.” In the strictest sense, the administrator has not given a command. Yet clearly he makes two achievements essential to getting the B.A. degree from the college. Thus, his statement would have the force of a command — at least for the student interested in graduating.
Consider a few Biblical examples of declarative statements:
• Mark 16:16 says, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” This is a declarative statement and does not contain a direct command. (A direct command is found in verse 15.) Although verse 16 is not a command, it has the same force as a command; it implies an obligation for those who wish to be saved — belief and baptism.
• Matthew 7:21 says, “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Again, this verse is not a direct command, but it has the same force as a direct command. It tells us what must be done to “enter into the kingdom of heaven,” revealing an obligation for all men.
• I John 1:7 points out, “But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin.” Although not in the form of a direct command, this verse demands that we walk in the light just as much as if it had said, “Walk in the light.”
• Matthew 5:1-12 – The beatitudes are also simple declarations, but the obligation is certainly clear for us to be poor in spirit and to be meek, to hunger and thirst after righteousness, etc. If we want to receive the blessings associated with each, we must be as Jesus said.
Another type of direct statement is the interrogative. An interrogative statement is one which asks a question. Some questions are asked to gain information, and some questions are asked to give information. Saul said, on the road to Damascus, “Who art thou Lord?” Saul asked this question to gain information. Consider now some examples of interrogatives which were designed to give information
• I Kings 8:21– Here Elijah said to the people, . . . How long halt ye between two opinions?” Elijah was not asking this question to gain information; he was asking it to give information. He, by this question, was demanding that the straddlers take a position.
• Acts 22:16 – Ananias asked Saul, after his experience on the road to Damascus, “And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” Ananias was not asking for information, but he was demanding that Saul not wait any longer in obeying the gospel.
• I Corinthians 1:13 – Paul asked, “Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?” By asking this series of rhetorical questions, Paul is actually giving the information that Christ is not divided; Paul was not crucified for them, and they had not been baptized in the name of Paul. This section of Scripture is teaching that followers of Christ should strive for unity, and no one has the right to call himself after anyone who has not been crucified for him or into whose name he has not been baptized (v. 12).
• Acts 10:47 – In connection with the conversion of Cornelius, Peter asked, “Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?” Peter was not asking for information, but he was giving the information that Cornelius and his family (Gentiles) were proper subjects to be baptized just as penitent believers among the Jews. Peter did not command, “You Gentiles must be baptized in water just as the Jews must.” Instead, he asked the above question which would have the same effect as if he had commanded it.
There are some actions which are authorized by more than one kind of statement. Consider that baptism is shown to be essential by a direct command, or imperative (Acts 2:38), a declarative statement (Mk. 16:16), and by an interrogative or question (Rom. 6:3). Love for the brethren is shown to be essential by a command (Heb. 13:1), a declarative statement (I Jn. 3:14), and by an interrogative or question (I Jn. 3:17).
The Hortatory Statement
Another type of statement is the hortatory statement. This is a type of statement which expresses a strong wish or desire, and puts forth binding obligations on people living today. Consider Romans 5:20-6:2. Apparently, a false position in Paul’s day was that grace is good; where sin abounds, grace abounds; thus, one may continue in sin. Verse one says, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?” He answered this with the hortatory statement, “God Forbid.” He is saying, “Oh, that such would never come to pass!” Paul sets forth a prohibition, through a hortatory statement, condemning the position of continuing in sin that grace may abound. Other examples of this type of statement are found in Romans 6:15 and Romans 7:13.
The Conditional Statement
The final type of declarative statement for consideration is the conditional statement. This is sometimes called an “if/then” statement. There is the condition and the consequence. The conditional statement expresses the object, or state of affairs, which will be gained provided that the requirements of the conditions are complied with.
In I Corinthians 15:12-20, there are a number of these “conditional” statements. The main point is “if there is no resurrection of the dead (the condition), then Christ was not raised from the dead” (the consequence). Paul also states in these verses a number of consequences which would be the case if Christ was not raised from the dead.
The next example is Romans 7:2-3: “For the woman which hath an husband is bound by the law to her husband so long as he liveth; but if the husband be dead, she is loosed from the law of her husband. So then if, while her husband liveth, she be married to another man, she shall be called an adulteress: but if her husband be dead, she is free from that law; so that she is no adulteress, though she be married to another man.” If a wife is married to another man while her husband is alive, (then) she would be an adulteress (the exception of Matt. 5:32, 19:9 is not under consideration here). But if her husband dies and she married another man, then she would not be an adulteress. Other examples of conditional statements are found in Romans 8:12-13, 17.
We are clearly governed by direct statements from God’s Word today. The direct statement is one of the forms of Bible authority. Do you give heed to the statements of God’s Word? Do you use them for your authority?