T PIERCE BROWN
There are those who take the position that when God has said something at some time and/or place, that is the way it will be and there are no exceptions to it. That is wrong. The big problem comes when puny, ignorant humans try to make their own opinions and ideas about what those exceptions can or will be. Let us give some examples from God’s word to clarify the point.
In Mark10:11Jesus said, “Whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another committeth adultery against her.” If Mark was the only part of the inspired word you had, you would be justified in concluding that “whosoever” means “whosoever” and he gives no exception. You would have no right to assume that he should give some exceptions, and guess what they might be. However, when Jesus said, in Matt 19:9, “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery, ” we understand that Jesus made an exception to his general rule.
Another problem comes when we find that God made a statement and did not at that time state an exception, but made it anyway at a later time. For example, He told Jonah to go and preach that after 40 days Ninevah would be overthrown. Jonah 3:4 says, “And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, andNinevehshall be overthrown.” He did not say, “Except ye repent, ye shall perish.” He just made the statement. However, God made the exception, and told us that he made it. If he had not told us that he made it, we would have no right to assume that he would make it.
Note some assumptions we make that we have a right to make because of some principles in the Bible, but we do not have a right to make our assumptions equivalent to the specific statements of God, nor do we have the right to make our assumptions about general truths apply to some specific situation. When Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved but he that believeth not shall be damned” (Mk.16:16), we have the right and responsibility to teach that belief and baptism are at least two prerequisites to salvation. But we find a person who may be classified as a Mongoloid or a person with Down’s Syndrome. We assume that he is mentally deficient and the Lord will make an exception in his case. We have the right to assume that, for the Bible teaches that God will judge a person in terms of his responsibility. But if your child has an IQ of 50 and you assume that God will make an exception in the case of your child, and mine has an IQ of 65 and you assume that God will not make an exception in his case, you may be equating your assumptions with God’s word, and have no right to do that.
When Nadab and Abihu heard God say to use the fire from the altar of burnt offerings and they offered strange fire which the Lord had not commanded, (Lev. 10:1) there is little doubt that they assumed that God would make an exception to the rule. They lost their lives (and perhaps their souls) as a consequence. However, this gives us no right to teach that God could not make an exception in another situation that might seem to us equally serious, or even more so. Neither does it give us a right to teach that God will make an exception in terms of what we assume.
Note some other examples. God said in Gen. 9:6, “Whoso sheddeth man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed: for in the image of God made he man.” At that time he stated no exception. However, in Numbers 35 he appointed cities of refuge for some that had shed blood, and showed that there were some exceptions to the general rule. In Numbers 15:29, 30, we have a very revealing principle. “Ye shall have one law for him that sinneth through ignorance, both for him that is born among the children ofIsrael, and for the stranger that sojourneth among them. But the soul that doeth ought presumptuously, whether he be born in the land, or a stranger, the same reproacheth the LORD; and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.” Do you think that you have the right to assume in every case how much ignorance a person may have for God to make an exception to the general law? When Jesus said in Luke 12:47-48, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more,” it is sad that there are those among us that think they have the right to tell how many stripes each person should have. Do you not see that God made a law that sin deserves punishment, but the exceptions to the general rule, or the specific kinds of punishment one deserves is always God’s prerogative, not ours?
In Hebrews9:22, we find, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission.” Is there any exception to that? If we understand the Bible correctly, Jesus had to die in order to provide remission of sins in the fullest sense according to the justice and plan of God. That is, there was no remission of sins except in a prospective way in the Old Testament dispensation, for Heb. 10:4 says, “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.” So, as Paul says in Romans3:25there was a “passing over” of sins (remission in the KJV) in the Old Testament because in the purpose of God Christ’s blood was already shed. My point at this time is that in Leviticus 5:6-13, it is clear that the general rule was to bring an animal for a sacrifice and shed its blood. However, if he was too poor to bring even a turtle dove, Lev.5:11shows there was an exception to the general rule and he could bring fine flour. Note, however, that God made the exception, and it would have been a dangerous assumption for any person to say to another, “God said that there needed to be a blood sacrifice, but if you would rather offer flour, it will be satisfactory.”
In summary, let us be aware that it is our business to do as Jonah did and do the preaching God bids us. If in the Day of Judgment, God decides to be more lenient than we think we should, we should not try to find a gourd vine somewhere along the river of life and pout about God’s mercy. However, let us not offer false hope because we make an assumption that God’s love will cancel out his justice. God still means what he says, but if he wants to make an exception about which he has not told us in some specific place, that is his business and not ours.
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.