Clinton church of Christ

Understanding Silence

April 16, 2010

John Allan

The topic of Biblical silence has been an area of intense debate for generations. Some believe that if the Bible does not specifically say you can do something then you cannot do it. Others suggest that unless the Bible specifically says “Do not do that” then you can go right ahead.

It is of interest and importance to know which view is correct. Is silence prohibitive or is silence permissive? The answer to this question is yes.

Determining whether silence is permissive or prohibitive is greatly aided by understanding the difference between generic and specific. In Mark 16:15 Jesus told the apostles where to go (into all the world) and what to preach (the gospel). However, he was silent on the method of going. Does that mean Jesus authorized them to go but did not authorize them to use any means of transportation? Certainly not!

The command to “Go” is generic. The apostles could use any lawful method to carry out the order. They could walk, run, sail etc. even though Jesus did not expressly tell them they could walk, run or sail. In a generic command such as this silence is permissive.

There are times, however, when silence is prohibitive. In Hebrews 7:11-14 the Hebrews writer is making the point that Jesus being our priest required a change in the law. Why? Hebrews 7:14 gives us the answer: “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood” (NKJV).

The tribe of Levi was the priestly tribe under the Old Covenant; this was specifically ordered by God (Numbers 1:49-52). When God specified the Levites he therefore automatically excluded the other tribes. Silence was prohibitive because the charge was specific. Jesus, from the tribe of Judah, was prohibited from being a priest under the Old Covenant.

What have we noted, then? We have noticed that silence is neither always permissive nor always prohibitive. There are many things that the Bible does not mention specifically. Some of them are permissible because we see from Bible principle that they are permitted (ex: driving a car). Others are prohibited because God has specified exactly what He wants (ex: the specific command to sing forbids the addition of a mechanical instrument in worship).

It is intended that these words be helpful to us as we consider the significance of silence in the Bible. Any time we consider whether a matter is permitted by God or not we do well to consider it prayerfully and in light of what the Bible teaches: that is certainly true with regards to the area of silence.

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. All rights reserved.

This entry was posted on Friday, April 16th, 2010 at 12:38 pm and is filed under Bible, The Church, Worship.

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