Vol.IX No.II Pg.4
April 1972

It Figures~~

Robert F. Turner

Then the preacher said, Let each one put his shoulder to the wheel and his nose to the grindstone, one of the deacons remarked, Wow are we going to get any work done in that condition? Of course the preacher was using figurative language, justifiably; but his mixing of figures made an absurdity. The same effect may be obtained by stretching a figure, or extending its application to something the maker did not intend.

Years ago I heard a negro jokingly argue that only the blacks would be saved. He pointed out that in the judgement scene (Matt. 25:) the sheep were saved, the goats lost. He then asked, Who has the wool? I enjoy such humor, in its place; but can not appreciate the serious extension of a Bible figure to promote some man s concept of fellowship.

Carl Ketchersides child of God in prospect does just that. He reasons (apparently prompted by an early article by Alexander Campbell, Millennial Harbinger) that spiritual life begins when spiritual begetting takes place, and before the new birth. There is an element of truth here— applicable in understanding how one is drawn or called unto God. But there is nothing in Gods word to indicate such life (?) is recognized as making one a child of God. in any fixed relationship. In fact, in Jn. 8: Jesus told those who believed on (eis) Him—If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; and later, He called these same people children of the Devil. (Vs. 39-44) All accountable beings are potentially (in prospect?) children of God, and we must love, teach with patience, and

use every legitimate means to bring them to the Lord. The Lord had many people in Corinth in prospect (Acts 18:9-10) but Paul had yet to teach them and convert them. They were not yet his brethren in the Lord.

Figurative language is subject to the user, and must be interpreted in context, i.e., with the meaning and limitations imposed by the user. An uninspired user of figures may make a poor choice of metaphors, and confuse rather than edify the listener. We may charge him with ineptness, but we have no right to make of his bungle something he did not intend to teach.

Figurative language may have dual uses— again, subject to the user. In Jn. 8:39-f. Jesus uses child of— to stress family characteristics. Here He is concerned with being a child of God, not with becoming such..(.See Matt. 5:44-45) The general epistle of John is written to Christians, and it is in the context of being a child of God (Gods seed remaineth in him) that we sin not. (1 Jn. 3:9) The same context influences the born of God statement of 1 Jn. 5:1-f., and the faith here is faithfulness as a Christian (see vs. 4) rather than some supposed faith only in order to become a child of God.

If I say some track star is like lightening, I am using an exaggerated figure to say he is fast— not that he lights up the sky. The same common sense rules for interpreting the Scriptures would save us from many a blunder— and foolish notions.