There are many implicit realities in both life and the Scriptures. Things that while perhaps not explicitly stated are nevertheless very much true. I would like to briefly touch on several implicit realities found within the holy Scriptures. Let’s begin with one that we can all perhaps agree on.
The doctrine of the trinity is one that is not expressly taught by the sacred Scriptures, but rather is a doctrine that developed over time within the Church. While the Ante-Nicene Fathers affirmed Christ’s deity and spoke of “Father, Son and Holy Spirit”, there was no mention of the word “trinity” until the late 2nd century originating with Theophilus of Antioch’s writings. It is a word that is not found in the bible. Theological concepts such as hypostases, and consubstantial persons forming one divine being, developed slowly and over centuries. Scripture does not expressly contain a formulated doctrine of the Trinity. Rather, according to Christian theology, it bears witness to the activity of a God who can only be understood in trinitarian terms.
We see implicit in Scripture this trinitarian God from the very beginning when we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit of God was moving over the face of the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light’”1 In St. John’s Gospel account we are told that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.”2
With this in mind we see that it is by God’s spoken Word that all things are created, as the Spirit hovers over the waters. God the Father, Christ the spoken Word, and the Spirit of God are all present at creation. This three-in-one nature may even be reflected in the words of God Himself as we read, “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image, after our likeness;'”3 Is God making use of the royal “we” or is there something more implicit in the text? Many of the Fathers of the Church saw even Old Testament elements such as the appearance of three men to Abraham in the book of Genesis chapter 18, as a foreshadowing of the Trinity.
It is in the New Testament however that we see the greatest indications of the three-fold nature of God. The most influential of the New Testament texts which imply the teaching of the Trinity is in St. Matthew’s gospel where we see Christ mandate that His disciples baptize “…in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”4 The text itself is fairly explicit in nature, and all the more so when we take a look back at Christ’s own baptism reordered earlier in St. Matthew’s gospel. “And when Jesus was baptized, he went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and alighting on him; and lo, a voice from heaven, saying, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.’”5
Then Jesus approached and said to them, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”6
Often when we read this passage we immediately appropriate Christ’s words to ourselves as if somehow the Lord was speaking directly to those of us who call ourselves by His name and live here in the 21’st century. And there may be a sense spiritually in which this is the case. But when Jesus actually said this He was speaking directly to His apostles – eleven men. It was to them that he conveyed His divine authority, and it was to them that He directly gave the charge of converting, discipling, baptizing, and teaching the whole world.
Oh yes, and one other thing…it was to them that He promised, “Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.”
There is something important that we find implicit in this statement. Christ, the God-man, the risen Lord, will indeed still be here when the end of the age comes. But the apostles to whom He made this promise? As martyrs for their Lord7 they wouldn’t even live full lives, much less be around at the “end of the age” to benefit from Christ’s promise to them. Implicit in this statement then is the expectation that Christ’s promise would extend to their successors. Successors? The bible doesn’t mention any successors to the ministry of the apostles – or does it?
Actually, in the very first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, we read that St. Peter stands up and quoting from the Psalms declares,
‘His office let another take.’ So one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from us—one of these men must become with us a witness to his resurrection.” And they put forward two, Joseph called Barsab′bas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthi′as. And they prayed and said, “Lord, who knowest the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside, to go to his own place.”8
Implicit in Christ’s commission and promise to the apostles was the extension of this commission and His promise to the apostle’s successors. Something that they themselves understood very well and carried out through the laying on of hands.9 It is only in this light of Apostolic succession that His promise to be with them always – even to the very end of the age – makes sense.
Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”10
This one actually seems pretty obvious once you read the text. Unless divine knowledge was somehow also conveyed in the authority to forgive and retain sins, Christ’s disciples would not have been aware of the hidden sins of others ( Padre Pio notwithstanding! ) unless confession of some kind was implemented. Confession to the apostles (or their successors) would seem to be a necessary prerequisite to the apostolic forgiveness of sins.
We see this implicit reality fleshed out in St. Paul’s words to the Corinthians when he writes, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.”11 Is it any wonder that the Catholic Church refers to confession as the Sacrament of Reconciliation?
The Role of High Priest
This one is perhaps a little trickier, but let’s start by defining what a priest does. Luckily we can look to holy Scripture itself and read that, “every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”12 Pretty straight forward – no? A priest’s duty is to act on behalf of men in relation to God, and to offer sacrifice for our sins.
In the epistle to the Hebrews we see that Christ has become our high priest and is to be, “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.”13 According to the author of Hebrews, “Those who formerly became priests took their office without an oath, but this one was addressed with an oath, ‘The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘Thou art a priest for ever.” This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”14 Christ exists to fulfill his priestly duties forever, and we should remember that a priest’s sole function wasn’t just intercession but also sacrifice. Implicit in Christ’s eternal priestly duties is His ongoing sacrificial offering on our behalf.
The fact of the ongoing nature of the heavenly sacrifices is admitted by the Protestant commentator George W. Buchanan. In his commentary on Hebrews, he writes, “Since the heavenly archetype functions just as its earthly imitation, it seemed reasonable for the heavenly high priest to offer sacrifices in heaven (Heb 8:3-4). These sacrifices, of course, must be better than their earthly counterparts, but their function is to cleanse “the heavenly things” (Heb 9:23). [Protestant] Scholars have had trouble with these passages, because Christ’s ‘once for all’ sacrifice on earth was thought to make all other sacrifices unnecessary. It also seems a little surprising to think of heaven as a place where there would be sin and defilement that needed cleansing. The author of Hebrews found no difficulty with this, however. For him, heaven and the holy of holies were very close together. God’s presence and his angels were in both. From the holy of holies the smoke carried the incense from the sacrifices directly to heaven, where there were also a holy of holies, sacrifices, and angels. When Jesus, as the heavenly high priest, passed through the curtain into the holy of holies, which was like heaven, he not only offered a sacrifice, but he was himself the sacrifice (Heb 9:12).”
Implicit in Christ’s ongoing role as high priest therefore is his ongoing intercession and his ongoing sacrificial offering to God on our behalf.
We should be careful to note however that this sacrifice is an un-bloody one in which Christ re-presents His once and for all sacrifice to the Father throughout eternity on our behalf. This implicit sacrificial nature of the Mass was understood by the very earliest Christians as we see reflected in the Didache itself, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles written around A.D. 70. “Assemble on the Lord’s day, and break bread and offer the Eucharist; but first make confession of your faults, so that your sacrifice may be a pure one. Anyone who has a difference with his fellow is not to take part with you until he has been reconciled, so as to avoid any profanation of your sacrifice [Matthew 5:23–24]. For this is the offering of which the Lord has said, ‘Everywhere and always bring me a sacrifice that is undefiled, for I am a great king, says the Lord, and my name is the wonder of nations’ [Malachi 1:11, 14]”15
Real Food and Real Drink
This is another one that I actually think is far more straightforward than we give it credit for. When Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.”16 – He means exactly what he says.
His disciples understand Him to mean exactly what he says – they leave Him because they cannot accept this teaching; and He lets them go! He repeats this claim over and over within the chapter even resorting to saying, “Unless you chew my flesh…” Implicit in this claim is the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. This is why St. Paul will write to the Corinthians saying, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body of Christ eats and drinks judgment upon himself.”17
Notice what St. Paul doesn’t say. “Those who eat or drink in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning a symbol of the body and blood of the Lord.” Or perhaps, “Those who eat and drink without discerning the metaphor of Christ in communion will eat and drink judgement on himself.” No – rather the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist is an implicit reality that is taught by Scripture.
The Visible Church
There is a tendency among certain Christians to view the Church as something mystical, non-heirarchial, non-localized, invisible. But when we look to the Scriptures we see that Christ views His Church in a very different way. “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”18
Implicit in Christ’s words is the hierarchal, authoritative, and visible nature of His Church. It is a Church founded by Christ that speaks with His authority. If the Church is merely mystical and invisible, how are we to take our problems to the Church for her ruling? What Church? Where?
In the last 500 years we have had any number of men starting their own churches based on their own authority and scriptural interpretation and dispensing their own judgements as they speak on behalf of Christ. If I take my problem to 40,000 different denominations, in all likelihood I will receive 40,000 differing judgements. This cannot be what Christ intended. When Christ commands them to, “tell it to the Church;” He had to have had a specific Church in mind.
There is so much truth that is implicit in the sacred writings! These examples serve only to scratch the surface when it comes to implicit truths which can be found in the texts. All too often we read the Scriptures with an eye for only the obvious truths, the explicit claims of Scripture, without ever stopping to consider the implications that are woven throughout.
Today we have the benefit of centuries of accumulated wisdom from the mind of the Church that we can rely on in order to help us sift through difficult passages and come to a fuller understanding of the Christian faith. We should take seriously the words of the Apostle Paul who writes, “I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth.”19
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Genesis 1:1-3a ↩
John 1:1-3 ↩
Genesis 1:26a ↩
Matthew 28:19b ↩
Matthew 3:16-17 ↩
Matthew 28:18-20 ↩
with the exception of St. John ↩
Acts 1:20b-25 ↩
1 Timothy 1:6, 4:14, 5:22 ↩
John 20:19b-23 ↩
2 Corinthians 5:18-20 ↩
Hebrews 5:1 ↩
Hebrews 5:6, 7:17 ↩
Hebrews 7:21-25 ↩
Didache 14 ↩
John 6:53b-55 ↩
1 Corinthians 11:27 & 29 ↩
Matthew 18:15-18 ↩
1 Timothy 3:14b-15 ↩