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.
1. 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:
“However, as it is written: "What no eye has seen, what no ear has heard, and what no human mind has conceived" - the things 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, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love He predestined us to adoption as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the kind intention of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, which He freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.”
– 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.
“Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God, that is, the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of 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 whoever will call on the name of the lord will be saved.” How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring 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.
2. 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:
“‘But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will 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:
“Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.”
– 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:
“But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, 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:
“Live as free people, but do not use your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God's slaves.”
– 1 Peter 2:16
“For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall 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.
3. 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:
“One of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”And He said to him, “ ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ “This is the great and foremost commandment. “The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “On these two commandments depend the whole Law 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.
4. 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.
“Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, storing up for themselves the treasure of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is life indeed.”
– 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.