Connect the Dots?

As we try to decide what is the right course of action, that is, what God want us to do, we
sometimes need to “connect the dots.” That is because God’s Word does not always address every particular situation we face.

We have all done this when we take a general Biblical principle such as, “do not
practice idolatry,” and then apply it to some practice that is not necessarily idolatry.
Eating food is not in itself idolatrous, but we can “make an idol” out of food and the
comfort it gives.

Sometimes the Bible itself connects the dots. In Colossians 3:5 we read, “Put to
death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil
desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry.”
Violating the 10 th commandment is an
expression of idolatry in our hearts.

So, when a passage in the Scriptures does not have a direct and immediate command we can apply, with the Holy Spirit’s help we “connect-the-dots.” Often, we must connect the dots as we move from understanding the author’s intended meaning of a Biblical passage. There may not be a direct application for us in that meaning aimed at the original readers, but when we prayerfully consider how to apply the principles, we can walk away with a personal action
step of faith.

A huge challenge is not to allow ourselves to imagine that our personal application step has the same authority as God’s Word itself. When we make absolute the final dot in our chain of logic, we easily become legalistic and divisive.

We cross the line when we make our logic in connecting the dots into authoritative conclusion that applies to everyone equally. It is a common error to use our connect-the-dots logic to justify disobeying or ignoring some other direct command in Scripture.

This danger is even more profound when there are a lot of dots in our logic chain. For example, the Bible teaches us that we must be reverent when we come before the Lord. Dot one. In the Old Testament, that respect for God was shown in many ways, including the how the priests dressed. Dot two. We are now all priests and therefore how we dress when we come to public worship is very important. Dots three and four. So, I should wear my “Sunday best”
when I come to church. Dot five. And we should have a dress code at church so that everyone does the same and God is honored. Dot six.

To some folks that seems like a logical connecting of the dots. The problem is when their last dot keeps them from welcoming someone who is dressed shabbily. It is clearly a “first-level dot” in James 2 that says, “and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?” (see James 2:1-7).

May the Lord help us as we connect-the-dots. May we make good personal applications of the text’s meaning. May we not give our thinking about how to connect the dots more authority than the Word itself, thereby becoming legalistic.  May we not give our “down-line” logic more weight than is given to those entrusted to make the judgment calls that impact the local body, thereby becoming divisive.

Gerhard deBock
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