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The Law of Equivalences

Studying the Bible is a great joy.  The truths that are found within the pages of God’s word have value that the world cannot measure with earthly things.  The excitement of unearthing these treasures is accelerated as each student detects the urgency in grasping its teachings.  Eternity is at stake.  Time does not stop so that I can perceive truths.  We are given one life and with that one life we must gain knowledge and wisely practice what we learn.  We must open God’s word, look to the context, consider associate passages, and reflect on what I call, “The Law of Equivalences.”

Give diligence to present thyself approved unto God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, handling aright the word of truth”

2 Timothy 2:15

Context and associated passages are a must to consider when defining a Bible term or topic.  To examine the statement, “For by grace have ye been saved through faith; and that no of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, that no man should glory” (Ephesians 2:8-9) will certainly bring about the wrong conclusions without a basic understanding of context and associated passages.  The diligent student of God’s word will also consider “the law of equivalences” to determine the meaning of words and topics.  Remember, the Bible is its own best commentary!

Let me explain what I mean by the phrase, “law of equivalences.”  Divine revelation is often written by way of using synonymous terms that connect Bible principles together and thereby make the terms equivalent.  Consider these two examples.  The apostle Paul writes, “Wherefore I make known unto you that no man speaking in the Spirit of God saith Jesus is anathema; and no man can say, Jesus is Lord, but in the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 12:3).  While this verse teaches that man would know nothing about the Lord Jesus Christ without divine revelation it also teaches through the law of equivalences.  Note the equivalent terms “Spirit of God” and “Holy Spirit.”  I know that when Paul speaks of the Spirit of God he is speaking of the Holy Spirit.  Another example is found at Isaiah 53:6.  Isaiah writes, “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and Jehovah hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.”  Again, we learn what “iniquity” is by using the law of equivalence.  The two equivalences are “iniquity” and “turning to one’s own way.”  When we do things that we want to do rather than what God wants us to do it is termed “iniquity” and this is against God’s laws (see 1 John 3:4).

A modern day example may be used to further illustrate the point.  Follow this line of thought in relationship to the law of equivalence. 

I bought a new motorcycle last week.  I plan to take my new bike on a road trip next week.  All my friends have been impressed with my new hog.

 The three equivalent terms are motorcycle, bike, and hog.  They are three different words but all three mean the same thing. 

 The value of equivalences is that it helps us to rightly divide the word of God rather than drawing faulty conclusions. 

 I know that I cannot separate Christ from divine revelation because of their analogous connection to one another.  Paul refers to the “word of God” as the “mystery” which is “Christ in you, the hope of glory: … even Christ” (see Colossians 1:25 – 2:2).  The value to acknowledging the equivalent terms in this text is that no one can lawfully separate the “man from the plan.”

Another equivalent text is found at Ephesians 1:7.  The apostle Paul, speaking of Christ, writes, “in whom we have our redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace.”  Paul equates “redemption” with “forgiveness of trespasses” and God’s “rich grace.”  The three are inseparably connected by the Holy Spirit’s use of equivalent terms.  When I turn to Acts 2:38 and see that Peter inseparably connects baptism to the forgiveness of sins I draw the right and only conclusion.  God redeems the man who is baptized for the forgiveness of their sins.  The baptized man has tapped into the rich grace of God, through the blood of Jesus, when he complies with the Lord’s divine instructions (see Romans 5:1-4).  Now our example of misunderstanding Ephesians 2:8 is better understood.

There are many such equivalences in the Bible.  When you study God’s word be aware of these analogous terms and texts and rightly divide the word of truth.