The Law of Inclusion and Exclusion

IIntroduction:  When God gives a specific command, it not only demands doing all He commands, but it also restricts action to only that which is specified!  Such a command is inclusive, and is also exclusive!  It included all within the command, but it also excludes everything else!  Nothing can be added to it, or taken from it.  Nor can one obey by substituting, or taken from it.  But if it is a generic command, then there is tolerance allowed for choice of action while still obeying.  A generic command does not specify as to how, when, where, etc.  What is not specified may be entirely optional in a generic command.  It is the specific command which allows no such latitude.

    Let me illustrate for ease of understanding.  If you are sent to the store with the command:  “Go and buy groceries,” you are free to buy any kind of food in the store.  There are no restrictions.  But a specific command might be:  “Go and buy a loaf of bread and a quart of milk.”  Then you are restricted to those two items!  If you omit either you have not obeyed, and if you get more than one of each you have not obeyed.  You cannot obey by buying a substitute or something else.  A specific command is inclusive and exclusive:  it includes the loaf of bread and quart of milk – and it excludes every other item you may find on the shelves!  You cannot crowd bacon and eggs, butter, cheese and preserves into that specific order!


A.      Man was created with the natural inclination to worship.  But God wants man to direct his worship to the proper object of worship.

1.      If God had merely commanded:  “Worship”; then man would have been free to worship anything, and in any way, he pleased!

2.      He could have worshipped Astarte, Baal, Dagon, or any other heathen god or idol.

3.      He could have worshipped in paganism, in heathenism, and chosen any number of vain religions in the world.

4.      Under a generic command to worship, he could have chosen Taoism, Buddhism, or the Moslem religion.

5.      But God gave no such choice, and made no allowances! 

B.      God made it specific and plan:  “I am the Lord thy God.  Thou shalt have no other gods before me(Ex. 20:2-3).

1.      The worship of God was specifically set forth by Jesus our Lord:  Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve(Matt. 4:10).

a.       That has neither latitude nor allowance!

2.      But Jesus emphasized again:  Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment (Matt. 22:37-38).

3.      After seeing the revelation, John wrote:  And when I had seen and heard, I fell down to worship at the feet of the angel which showed me these things.  Then said he unto me, See thou do it not:  for I am thy fellow servant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them that keep the sayings of this book:  Worship God(Rev. 22:8-9).

4.      That specific command rules out any worship to other gods.  It is inclusive and exclusive. 

Eph. 4:6, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.


A.      If God had not been specific about marriage, then mankind could have chosen between monogamy, bigamy, or polygamy. 

B.      The original pattern for the home was given at the beginning:  “God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”  (Gen. 1:27).

1.      God ordained one man, one woman; male and female; husband and wife.  Though man often has ignored God’s original order, God has not altered it! 

Gen. 2:24, “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife:  and they shall be one flesh.”

2.      You cannot get but one man and one woman in the specifics of that relationship!  When Jesus was questioned of this by the Pharisees, He cited this, and added:  Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh.  What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder(Matt. 19:4-9).

3.      The specifics of marriage were used by Christ to show His affinity with the church. 

Eph. 5:31-32, “For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh.  This is a great mystery:  but I speak concerning Christ and his church.” 

4.      The confined, restricted relationship is seen in Paul’s words:  Nevertheless, to avoid fornication, let every man have his own wife, and let every woman have her own husband(1 Cor. 7:2).

a. Degenerates of Hollywood mock God’s specific arrangement, but it still stands, and will be intact at judgment!                                        


A.      When God determined to destroy a sinful world with the flood, He found Noah a righteous man, and gave a plan for Noah and his family’s salvation.

1.      God said:  Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shall pitch it within and without with pitch(Gen. 6:14). 

2.      Noah had his orders!  God was very specific detailing the length, breadth, and the height of the ark.  He also specified one door and one window.  If God had merely said, “Build an ark,” it would have allowed Noah to build it of any length, width and height, and of as many materials in which he desired.  He could have had several windows and doors. 

3.      But God gave a command, and Noah was restricted to it!  He could not use walnut, hickory, oak or mahogany and still obey God.  The Lord had said gopher wood.” Noah understood the restrictions:  Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he.((Gen. 6:22).

4.      Noah did not try to substitute another kind of wood, nor alter the plans God gave.  He acted on orders!   

Heb. 11:7, “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of righteousness which is by faith.”

5.      Noah’s faith was sufficient to obey implicitly, and it put him into God’s gallery of the faithful! 


A.      Naaman, the great Syrian army captain, sought a cure for his leprosy.  After vainly seeking cleansing from the king of Israel, he was summoned by the prophet Elisha.

1.      He was given a specific command in which he was unwilling at first to receive.  Elisha instructed him:  Go and wash in Jordan seven times.(2 Kings 4:10).  But that was too restrictive for the army man!  He expected something else, and thought of a substitute!  Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the rivers in Israel?(Verse 12). 

2.      But Elisha gave specific orders!  He did not say Abana or Pharpar, he said Jordan!  He could have cured him by having herbs rubbed on the spots; or anointing the skin with snake oil; or having him roll in the dust.  He could have cured him any way He chose! 

3.      In fact, His Son cured ten lepers without them doing anything (Luke 17:12-16).  God was not restricted, but He restricted Naaman by giving a specific order!  After He said dip seven times in Jordan, Naaman could be cured no other way!  His specific order was inclusive, and exclusive! 


A.      If God had said, “One church is as good as another,” and “Join the church of your choice,” the field would have been “wide open” to choose among several hundred different sects in the U. S. A. 

B.      But God did not deal in generalities!  God’s Word specifically sets forth one church and He allows no substitute or alteration!

1.      Jesus said, Upon this rock I will build my church(Matt. 16:18).  That is singular!  After He had built one church, who has the audacity to build one to compete against it.

 Acts 2:47, …And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved. 

2.      Since He adds to only one, what right have men to “vote them in” to some rival church?  Elders were told to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28).

3.      Since the Lord purchased only one church with His blood, who has paid such a price for all these counterfeit churches?  Christ’s blood has never purchased but that one church; so who had the nerve to start all of the denominational churches that exist today? 

C.      God gave His son “to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all” (Eph. 1:22-23).

1.      If you find Him the Head over another body, you will then have two bodies and one Head, which is a very freakish notion?  Or if you find two Heads over one body, again you have a circus attraction!  There is just one body, and one Head!  That is inclusive and exclusive! 

Eph. 5:25, “Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it.” 

2.      Do you see the exclusiveness of that?  Jesus did not bleed and die for any other church! 

Eph. 5:23, “Christ is the head of the church, and he is the Savior of the body.” 

3.  This being true, why jeopardize your soul by joining any other? 


A.      If God had just said, “Choose some religious name,” we could then choose among hundreds floating about.

1.      Many are prone to say, “There is nothing in a name!”

2.      Of course, when it comes to signing a check an individual would soon learn that names are significant.

3.      No one actually believes that there is nothing in a name.  After all, anyone would resent being called a traitor or cheat.                    

B.      Long before Jesus was born, God’s prophet foretold of a new specific name to be given His people. 

Isa. 62:3, “And the Gentiles shall see thy righteousness, and all kings thy glory:  and thou shalt be called by a new name, which the mouth of the Lord shall name.” 

Isa. 65:15, “And ye shall leave your name for a curse unto my chosen:  for the Lord God shall slay thee, and call his servant by another name:” 

C.      What is that new name? 

Acts 11:26, “…And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.” 

Acts 26:28, “Then Agrippa said unto Paul, Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian.” 

1 Pet. 4:16, “Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf.”

1.      Those saints were glad to suffer for “that worthy name by which ye are called” (James 2:7).

2.      The name Christian is the family name of God’s people under the new covenant. 

3.      That name includes all in the family of God, and excludes all others. 


A.      In ordaining the Lord’s Supper, if Jesus had merely said “Eat and drink in my memory,” we would have had a generic command, with much latitude and no restrictions!

1.      We could have had freedom of choice of what would be included on the Lord’s Table.

2.      Ham and eggs, black-eyed peas and buttermilk would have been permissible.

3.      But again, we find the specifics which rules out the generic. 

Matt. 26:26-29, “And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body.  And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.  But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.” 

B.      The law of inclusion and exclusion forever settles what shall be on the Lord’s Table!

1.      The bread and fruit of the vine cannot be changed, and no substitutes will be acceptable!

2.      Due to corruptions in their observance in Corinth, Paul was very explicit in directing the saints, citing the words of the Lord in ordaining it (1 Cor. 11:18-34). 

3.      So, in view of what is written, can we substitute anything for the bread and fruit of the vine?  What order shall be followed in partaking?  Can we offer thanks for the bread and the cup, and then pass them out to be taken simultaneously?  Does it make a difference? 

4.      The Lord was specific in the instituting the Supper and He will not condone our tampering with His divine orders!  A true application of Heb. 8:5 is – “See that ye do all things according to the pattern showed to thee.”                      

C.      An apostolic example establishes the time and frequency of this observance. 

Acts 20:7, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” 

1.      The specific reason for this gathering was “to break bread.”  Other things may have been done, but this was the cause of their gathering.  So, if we follow their example, on what day will we meet” And how often?  And for what purpose?  As often as the “first day of the week” comes around, saints meet to break bread!

2.      It’s strange that sectarian preachers cannot see this.  But they readily pounce on First Corinthians 16:2, “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store.”

3.      Oh, they love to preach that, and exalt that practice!  Yet the “lay by in store” on that day was because saints met on that day to observe the Lord’s Supper! 


A.      If the Lord had given a generic command, “Make music,” we would have been left free to ascribe any kind of music to Him in worship! 

1.      We would have been allowed to devise any mechanical music available.

2.        This would have opened the way for Tambourines, drums, fiddles, pianos, pipe organs, and any other noise-makers we like.

3.      But God was not so generous! 

1 Cor. 14:15, “I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also.” 

4.      Now, did you get any instrumental music out of that?  It is specific:  the word is “sing.” It includes vocal music; it excludes all mechanical instruments of music. 

Eph. 5:19, “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” 

Col. 3:16, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord.”           

B.      The New Testament is very specific regarding music in praise to God.  It tells us what to do, even to stating what is to be sung!

1.      If it had been a generic command, we could then use any song we liked.  We could borrow songs from the stage or screen.  But God says, “psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.”

2.      Since we are told what to sing, we are not at liberty to use secular songs in praise to God.  We are to sing praise unto God, not to false gods.

3.      When the Lord said, “sing, making melody in your heart to the Lord,” He ruled out everything but singing.

4.      He ruled out making melody on mechanical instruments. 

5.      Mechanical instruments are excluded in the same way mahogany was excluded from Noah’s ark.  Instrumental music is excluded by the same rule as animal sacrifice, burning of incense, and wearing of robes/ 


A.      If the Lord had simply commanded to administer water upon a penitent believe, then any mode of administering water would be acceptable.

1.      The term baptism is commanded, not sprinkling or pouring.

2.      The Greek word baptidzo has been transliterated into English; it means “to dip, plunge, to immerse.”  There are two entire different words in the Greek language for sprinkling and pouring.  The Greek word for sprinkle is:  rhantidzo; and the Greek word for pour is:  ekcheo.   

Matt. 3:16-17, “And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water:  and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:  and lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”  

Rom. 6:3-4, “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?  Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death:  that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”  

Col. 2:12, “Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead.” 

B.      The Lord was specific as to why we must be baptized in order to be pleasing unto Him.

 Mk. 16:15-16, “And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.  He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” 

Acts 2:38, “Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.” 

Acts 22:16, “And now why tarriest thou?  Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” 

1 Pet. 3:21, “The like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us, (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ:” 


From this study we see that God’s law is inclusive and exclusive.  We must determine whether a particular command is specific or generic. 

--Dub Mowery

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