Necessary Inference and Immersion

By John McCort

One of the subjects most frequently discussed these days is the subject of “necessary inference.” Many are questioning the validity of binding doctrines on others which have been derived from the Scriptures by necessary inference. More specifically, a few brethren are now denying the necessity of partaking of the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week because the practice of communing every Lord’s Day is derived from the Bible only by necessary inference. The Scriptures nowhere directly command that Christians observe the Lord’s Supper every first day of the week. It is necessarily inferred that such was done weekly. We have the example of the New Testament Christians partaking of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7) and thus it is necessarily inferred that if we follow the example of the New Testament Christians, we will observe the Lord’s Supper when the first day of the week comes around. (Consider also the weekly observance of the Sabbath by the children of Israel.)

To some the term “Necessary Inference” sounds rather ominous. Some visualize a dark and complicated reasoning method when they hear the phrase “necessary inference.” Necessary inference is a reasoning process that is used unconsciously by all in studying the Bible. In studying the cases of conversion in the book of Acts we find the apostles commanding the people to repent and be baptized for the remission of their sins (Acts 2:38). It is a necessary inference that we, today, are likewise commanded to do the same.

The Lord demands that we use necessary inference in determining that he exists. “For the invisible things of Him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse” (Rom. 1:20). The Lord revealed himself unto man through “the things that are made.” We are expected to observe the evidence of His existence in the universe and necessarily infer that God must exist. The Lord made the gathering of evidence and drawing the necessary conclusions and inferences about His existence a matter of salvation and thus a test of fellowship. Those who did not draw the proper conclusions about His existence from the evidence in the universe were held “without excuse” in the eyes of God.

In studying the subject of baptism, it is impossible to determine, from the scriptures that baptism is immersion without using necessary inference. Suppose, momentarily, that an individual did not have access to a Greek lexicon or dictionary and had no idea whether baptism was sprinkling, pouring, or immersion. That individual could not determine that baptism was immersion without employing necessary inference. John 3:23, “And John was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim because there was much water there; and they came and were baptized.” Sprinkling or pouring would not require “much water” and thus necessary inference would demand that baptism was immersion. Acts 8:38, “And he commanded the chariot to stand still; and they both went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they came up out of the water . . . .” Again, it would be unnecessary for them to go down into the river if baptism was sprinkling or pouring. Rom. 6:3-4, “Or are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him through baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we also might walk in newness of life.” It must be necessarily inferred that the subject being discussed by Paul is water baptism. It must also be inferred that the burial discussed is a burial in water and not a burial of our sins in the life of Christ. It must also be inferred that being raised to walk in newness of life refers to the Christian being raised out of the watery grave of baptism. The Bible never directly states that baptism is immersion. That fact can only be derived by necessary inference. Brethren, if all matters of inference and deduction are not to be excluded from being made tests of fellowship, then you are going to have to stop making immersion a test of fellowship.

Whether we realize it or not we all employ necessary inference in our study of the Bible. A great controversy has raged over the Greek word eis, in Acts 2:38: The Baptists have argued that the word eis means “because of, with a view toward, with reference to.” They have argued that we are baptized because of (eis) the remission of our sins. They have produced a prejudiced scholar or two to substantiate their point. The weight of evidence, though, points to the fact that the word eis means “unto, in order to.” Thus baptism would be necessary for the remission of sins. We must use necessary inference to determine that eis is to be translated “unto” rather than “because of.” We gather the evidence and logically infer that the weight of, evidence overwhelmingly determines that the, Baptist arguments are incorrect. In studying almost any controversial point of Scripture, we must employ necessary inference to determine what the truth of the matter is.

Truth Magazine XIX: 40, p. 637
August 21, 1975