Some Truths Sequentially Taught
Truth is seen being taught in a number of climates and circumstances in the scriptures. We normally think of God enunciating his truths through men whom he miraculously guided (cp. 2 Pet. 1: 19-21, I Cor. 14: 37). However, on one occasion God articulated his truth through a beast of burden (Num. 22: 28). In this study, we shall notice some truths that God presented in the climate of sequence. By "sequence," we have reference to arrangement in order. That is right, there are many biblical truths that are related to another truth or event and that either precede or follow that event. Some key words that indicate a sequence consideration are "first" (protos), "and" (kai), and "then" (the Greek ara).
"First" used in sequence teaching. The Holy Spirit used "first" to teach the importance and urgency of one who has sinned against another seeking that person's forgiveness. To stress this importance, the Spirit used another very important event and act, man's worship of God. Consider the teaching:
"23: Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; 24: Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. 25: Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison" (Matt. 5).
Jesus stressed the significance of personal infractions in Matthew 18: 15-17. He presented this teaching by addressing the one who had been sinned against and showed the responsibility of the offended. In the case of Matthew 5: 23-25, Jesus addressed the sinner. While worship is very important, the offending brother seeking the forgiveness of the one against whom he has sinned is to be first in order, even to the point of stopping his public worship and going to the sinned against. Hence, the matter of seeking forgiveness has priority and sequence preference to worship. One reason for this sequence is because God only accepts pure worship (cp. Jn. 4: 24).
The priority and sequence word "first" is also used in the case of the work of John the Baptist and the work of Jesus. We read, "And Jesus answered and said unto them, Elias truly shall first come, and restore all things" (Matt. 17: 11, John was the anti-type of Elias, vs. 12). John had a specific work and that work was the introduction and preparing of the way for the Lamb of God (Jn. 1: 29, Matt. 3: 1-3, 8, 11, Mk. 1: 4). It is apparent from the scriptures that God does things in order, even in sequential order. It was needed that John prepare the way for Christ before Jesus came.
"And" used in sequence situations. One of the great and consequential events recorded in the Bible is the Great Commission. The Great Commission is when Jesus commissioned the twelve to preach the gospel of the kingdom informing man of salvation and how to be saved through Jesus' shed blood (cp. Matt. 26: 28). Mark's account reads thus:
"15: And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16: He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mk. 16).
"And" is a copulative conjunction that is joining "believeth" and "is baptized." "Believeth" and "baptized" both precede salvation and are, therefore, necessary to being saved. "And" shows this to be the case. "And" also serves to indicate sequence, "believeth" goes before "baptized" in the order and sequence of the action. Moreover, repentance and confession of Jesus' deity also precede baptism in the sequence scenario (cp. Acts 2: 38, 8: 36, 37, KJV). When one realizes this sequence truth, one will not practice infant baptism because baptism precedes belief in this matter.
"And" is also of sequential importance in the case of divorcement. Jesus taught the following very plainly and cogently:
"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 doeth commit adultery" (Matt. 19: 9).
Notice the following sequential action resident in the verse: (1). A man unscripturally puts away his wife (without the exception clause), (2) the man marries another and commits adultery, (3) the man who marries the put away woman commits adultery. Hence, Jesus totally precludes even the opportunity for the waiting game. Also, post divorce (adultery following divorce) does not alter the situation with the put away mate. While the guilty putting away mate is wrong, the act of putting away is still recognized and precludes the innocent put away from marrying another.
"Then" used in sequence matters. I Corinthians chapter fifteen is rightly called the resurrection chapter. It is in this chapter that Paul presents the elemental nature of Jesus' resurrection, proof of it, and consequential teaching based on the resurrection of Jesus.
"12: Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13: But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (I Cor. 15).
Focus on, "And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain" (vs. 15). "Then" (ara) has the force of consequence and sequence. Without Jesus' resurrection, Paul's preaching would be without substance and the Christians at Corinth would have an empty or vain faith. Paul continues to show, though, that Jesus was resurrected (vs. 20).
In Paul's Epistle to the churches in the Region of Galatia, he used "then" to teach a profound truth. "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Gal. 3: 29). Jew and Gentile alike could be the seed of Abraham (Gen. 22: 17; Gal. 3: 7-29). In fact, all that have been baptized into Christ (his church, I Cor. 12: 13, Gal. 3: 26, 27), are Abraham's seed. They also enjoy the "promise," all of this is taught by "then." Again, "then" suggests consequence and sequence.
In conclusion, God has always sought to clearly and unmistakably present his truths to man. God does this through his written word, the Bible. The syntax, vernacular, and language of the scriptures is very precise and is designed to with great precision communicate the mind and will of God to man. Some of this precision is seen in truths taught in the climate of sequence.