The Good News for a Modern World | Part 11
How Do Bible Principles Benefit Us?
Bible principles are commonly used to enable Christians to be better people – better husbands, better wives, better children, better employers, better employees, etc. And this is a fine use of Bible principles.
But there is an even deeper and more meaningful way that Bible principles can be used – a way that results in our eternal survival and our realization of the heavenly hope held out to us. For sons and daughters of the Kingdom, we will expound on the higher use of Bible principles.
Why Do We Need Guidance?
Like animals, man has built-in instincts and automated actions and reactions that guide his behavior in order to survive. For example, we thirst when we need water, we hunger when we need food, we generate adrenaline when we need to flee, we get sleepy when we need rest.
Our instincts help us to maneuver through our environment in the best way to preserve and promote our physical survival. But man was not created to just survive. The Father has big plans for his mortal sons and daughters – plans that are beyond even our most fantastic imagination:
“Eye has not seen and ear has not heard, neither have there been conceived in the heart of man the things that God has prepared for those who love him.”
– 1 Corinthians 2:9
These plans were laid even before man was created:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for he has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in union with Christ, just as he chose us in union with him before the founding of the world, that we should be holy and without blemish before him in love. For he foreordained us to the adoption through Jesus Christ as sons to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, in praise of his glorious undeserved kindness which he kindly conferred upon us by means of [his] loved one.”
– Ephesians 1:3-6
Yet man has no instinctive knowledge of these matters. For centuries, even millenniums, man has been in the dark about these plans.
“I became a minister of this [congregation] in accordance with the stewardship from God which was given me in your interest to preach the word of God fully, the sacred secret that was hidden from the past systems of things and from the past generations. But now it has been made manifest to his holy ones, to whom God has been pleased to make known what are the glorious riches of this sacred secret among the nations. It is Christ in union with you, the hope of [his] glory.”
- Colossians 1:25-27
But with the arrival of Christ Jesus, the sacred secret was made known, and man was invited to enter into the heavenly Kingdom. But how would we get there? What must we do? What sort of persons must we be? To answer these questions, we need outside guidance – guidance from another knowledgeable source. Our human instincts will not lead us into the Kingdom of the Heavens. As the Apostle Paul wrote:
“For ‘everyone who calls on the name of Jehovah will be saved.’ However, how will they call on him in whom they have not put faith? How, in turn, will they put faith in him of whom they have not heard? How, in turn, will they hear without someone to preach? How, in turn, will they preach unless they have been sent forth? Just as it is written: ‘How comely are the feet of those who declare good news of good things!’”
– Romans 10:13-15
Yes, in order to reach our spiritual goals and begin the heavenly career, we need guidance – an understanding of the good news of the Kingdom and its underlying Bible principles.
What Are Bible Principles?
Bible principles are the policies that underlie the laws that are stated in the Bible. Principles are a higher form of guidance than are laws. But the ability to follow principles is a skill acquired through maturity. We can illustrate it this way:
When a boy is about 2 to 5 years of age, you would lay down a strict law not to go out into the street unaccompanied by an adult. You would accompany that law with various assurances of punishment. The punishment is not the goal. It is not intended to harm the child; but only to reinforce the seriousness of not going into the street.
As he gets older and he is able to understand what laws are, he is given a little more freedom in this regard. You would change the law to an admonition only to cross the street at light signals. There is no need to assure punishment for disobeying. Instead, you would accompany the admonition with information, such as an explanation of what the signal means, and the possible result of not obeying the traffic signal. The consequences are often a sufficient deterrent against crossing the street in disregard to the signal.
As he gets older and his thinking ability increases, he comes to understand the dangers inherent in crossing a street. Now all he needs is a principle: only cross the street when it is safe. Accordingly, his freedom also increases as he understands that there are various ways to successfully cross a street, even jay-walking’ on occasion, as long as he navigates the danger safely. That is what Bible principles are all about – helping you to navigate life’s dangers safely.
The principle of crossing only when safe is meaningless to a 2 year old, and insufficient for an older child. Allowing a child to engage life on principles alone leads to certain disaster. They simply are not mentally equipped to utilize principles. Laws are for the immature, whereas principles are for those who have their perceptive powers trained ‘through use.’ (Hebrews 5:14)
The Hebrew nation in Biblical times was a fleshly nation in need of laws written on tablets. They began as an illiterate, nomadic tribe who held primitive ideas about God. Moses began them on a journey toward spiritual maturity by establishing certain and specific laws and rules of behavior. But those laws were not to continue indefinitely. A time would come when mankind would develop the ability to successfully maneuver life by principles alone. Jeremiah prophesied about that day when he wrote:
“‘For this is the covenant that I shall conclude with the house of Israel after those days,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘I will put my law within them, and in their heart I shall write it. And I will become their God, and they themselves will become my people. And they will no more teach each one his companion and each one his brother, saying, ‘KNOW Jehovah!’ for they will all of them know me, from the least one of them even to the greatest one of them,’ is the utterance of Jehovah. ‘For I shall forgive their error and their sin I shall remember no more.”
– Jeremiah 31:33-34
Thus, understanding principles is the means by which laws are written in the heart. In other words, one does not have to be taught specific laws because the underlying principle which directs appropriate behavior exists within the individual himself. James put it this way:
“[P]ut away all filthiness and that superfluous thing, badness, and accept with mildness the implanting of the word which is able to save your souls.”
– James 1:21
The temporary nature of laws, as regards their ability to develop spiritually mature people, is explained in Paul’s letter to the Galatians:
“However, before the faith arrived, we were being guarded under law, being delivered up together into custody, looking to the faith that was destined to be revealed. Consequently the Law has become our tutor leading to Christ, that we might be declared righteous due to faith. But now that the faith has arrived, we are no longer under a tutor.”
– Galatians 3:23-25
The follower of Christ is expected to be a spiritually mature individual who can operate from principles. He is to be long removed from the elementary, bedouin way of thinking. This is evident in Peter and Paul’s counsel regarding Christian freedom. And they acknowledged that while we are not under law, we are not lawless:
“Be as free people, and yet holding your freedom, not as a blind for badness, but as slaves of God.”
– 1 Peter 2:16
“You were, of course, called for freedom, brothers; only do not use this freedom as an inducement for the flesh, but through love slave for one another. For the entire Law stands fulfilled in one saying, namely: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’”
– Galatians 5:13-14
In Paul’s counsel, he explained that the founding principle of Christian freedom is to love your neighbor as yourself. If we apply that principle in our lives, no laws regarding moral social behavior are necessary.
Each of us who endeavors to be a spiritual son or daughter of God and joint heir with Christ, must took to the underlying Bible principles for guidance. And if we do so, we will without fail find ourselves approved and ready for entry into the Kingdom of the Heavens.
Which Two Principles Are Primary?
Since Jesus was here to advance mankind spiritually, he did not lay down any new laws. Nor did he promote any existing laws. Instead, Jesus penetrated all laws and reached down to the underlying principles of successful living and survival potential. When asked about which laws his followers should adhere to, this exchange occurred:
“[O]ne of them, versed in the Law, asked, testing him: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’ He said to him: ‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this, ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments the whole Law hangs, and the Prophets.”
– Matthew 22:35-40
Though labeled as commandments for the sake of his audience, these are more accurately referred to as the two great principles which underlie the ‘whole body of law’ that was intended to develop God-oriented people.
These two principles are to be applied consecutively – loving God first, and then our neighbor – because when we love God first, we are in the proper frame of mind to love our neighbor.
How Do Bible Principles Benefit Us?
When we love the Father with our whole heart, soul, mind and strength, we gain a clean conscience. When we love our neighbor as ourselves, we gain clean personal relationships. When we apply Bible principles in our daily activities, we are helped to successfully navigate life in the flesh. But the highest benefit we receive from applying Bible principles is that we will be able to ‘get a firm hold on the real life’ – the eternal destiny, the heavenly career.
“Give orders to those who are rich in the present system of things not to be high-minded, and to rest their hope, not on uncertain riches, but on God, who furnishes us all things richly for our enjoyment; to work at good, to be rich in fine works, to be liberal, ready to share, safely treasuring up for themselves a fine foundation for the future, in order that they may get a firm hold on the real life.”
– 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Applying Bible principles allows us to look beyond the superfluous things, the superficial laws. And they help us to focus on what really makes a difference in people’s lives – love for God and service to mankind.