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Powerful inferences

Christians can boldly extrapolate from what we know about God

Issue: "Dead heat," Sept. 22, 2012

Have you noticed that the greatest saints are all extrapolators?

Extrapolate: (1) to infer or estimate by extending or projecting known information. (2) Mathematics. To estimate ... from values within a known range by assuming that the estimated value follows logically from the known values (The Free Dictionary).

God has always shown delight in those who "infer" with confidence. The "known information" from which they "project" is God's words and His deeds. Each time He performed a miracle, it pushed out the boundaries of the possible and the askable that much further. It simultaneously created the responsibility to believe Him for a similar situation in the future. When Jesus fed a multitude on a child's lunch, the apostles were meant to extrapolate that He could do it again. Jesus chided them when they did not.

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Abraham extrapolated when he considered both God's power and His promise of an heir, and "inferred" from that "known information" that if God wanted him to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar, He would raise him up again (Hebrews 11:19). Abe extrapolated to the extreme.

The centurion of Matthew 8 was an extrapolator. He believed Jesus was God, and then he did a little mental calculation. Step One: God has authority over all He made, including words. He can make things happen just by speaking them, because words are His servants. Step Two: I have authority over a hundred men. I can make things happen by just speaking them, because my men are my servants. Step Three: Jesus doesn't need to be physically at my house to heal my daughter. He can say, "Heal her!" from this spot, and His words will ricochet like greased lightning through the doglegged streets to her bedside.

I know a man whose marriage is restored today because he read Hosea and reasoned that God's pursuit of ancient Israel meant he could pursue his estranged wife. That's extrapolation.

My friend Kathleen prays for her dream life because she reckons from the command "to love God with all your mind" that it is not desirable to waste one-third of one's life in unproductive sleep. That prayer is extrapolation.

On Sunday I happened to sit near a woman I don't know. She shared with me the drowning death of her 3-year-old a year ago this Wednesday. I am praying for her this week, extrapolating from Esther 4:14 that it was for my praying that God seated us together.

We can go through life scratching the surface of Scripture, or we can become extrapolators. Extrapolating is God's upper-level course, yet it is available to everyone. It involves God's propositional revelation and the Holy Spirit's personal and creative application to you.

I read in 1 Corinthians 11:15 that "if a woman has long hair, it is her glory … her hair is given to her for a covering." I felt at liberty to extrapolate from this that I was within my rights and God's declared will to ask God to arrest my alarming hair loss. Extrapolation means you may not say the miracles have ceased: God is still willing and able.

In the middle of a cholera epidemic in 1854, Charles Spurgeon was returning home from yet another funeral when a shard of paper wedged in a shoemaker's window caught his eye. It said, "Because thou hast made the Lord … thy habitation, there shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling." Surgeon subsequently wrote:

"The effect upon my heart was immediate. Faith appropriated the passage as her own. I felt secure, refreshed, girt with immortality. I went on with my visitation of the dying in a calm and peaceful spirit; I felt no fear of evil, and I suffered no harm."

Consider what a stretch that was. The preacher took a 3,000-year-old psalm, made a leap of historical context and centuries, and applied it to himself in a mid-19th-century cholera-ridden Britain. God found no fault with his theology. Who knows what reservoir of "known values" coalesced in Spurgeon to produce his eureka moment? Was it inferences from the Atonement (Isaiah 53:4-5; Psalm 103:2-3; 1 Peter 1:10)? Was it the doctrine that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil (1 John 3:8)?

Extrapolating is fun because it is the Spirit leading us into all truth as we need it-which is just as Jesus promised He would (John 16:13).

Andrée Seu Peterson
Andrée Seu Peterson

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again. Follow Andrée on Twitter @Andreespeterson.

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