What is a principle?
A principle is like a foundation isn’t it? You can take a basic principle, and then build upon that principle. For instance; you can take the basic principle that “honesty is the best policy”, and you can build a lifetime pattern of behavior, upon that principle.
Or, you can begin with more than one principle, and put them together, and build upon them. For instance; You can take the principle that concrete is a strong building material. And you can add to it, the principle that steel is an even stronger material. And you can put them together, by lacing bars of steel within a concrete slab, and you’ll have a super strong foundation, that you can build the biggest building on.
One dictionary that I looked at, said.. “A principle is a fundamental truth or proposition, that serves as the foundation for a system of belief, or behavior, or a chain of reasoning.”
Now, the bible can very appropriately be viewed, as a book which contains many different principles, or foundational truths, that serve as a solid foundation for building the system of Christian belief, and for building the pattern of Christian behavior, and for building sound Christian reasoning.
Let me read to you, two passages from the book of Hebrews. First, Hebrews 5, verse 12; “For indeed, by the time that you ought to be teachers, you have need again for one to teach you the ‘principles’ of the beginning of the oracles of God, and have become as one needing milk, and not solid food.”
Now, Hebrews 6, verses 1 & 2; “Therefore, having left the beginning teaching about the Christ, we should go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works, and faith in God, of instructions about baptisms, and of laying on of hands, of the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.”
All those things listed in that last verse, are said to be a part of a “foundation”. In other words, according to chapter 12, verse 5, they are “the principles of the beginning, of the oracles of God”. Listen again to what’s listed as “principles” of our faith.. “Repentance from dead works, faith in God, instructions about baptisms, laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment.”
These things are a part of the very beginning of our faith. They make up the very foundation, upon which our faith is built.
And even though God says these things are “foundational” to our faith, there’s a lot of church members who do NOT understand some of those things. Specifically many church members don’t have a proper understanding about the laying on of hands, and of the resurrection of the dead. And that’s part of the reason that I did the previous lesson called “WILL JESUS CHRIST RETURN TO THE EARTH?” We as Christians, should know, what will really happen when Christ comes, and when we’re resurrected.
There’s one more thing mentioned in chapter 5, that is presented as a foundational truth. Listen to verses 8 & 9; “Although He were a Son, He learned obedience, from the things that He suffered. And having been perfected (or, made complete) He became, to all those who obey Him, the source of eternal salvation.”
Obedience to Christ, is a foundational principle, of Christian faith. Here’s why I say that the bible presents that as “foundational”. Verse 11 says; “Concerning Him, we have much to say, and it is hard to explain since you have become dull of hearing.” So the writer wants to explain more things about Christ, but he hesitates to tell them, because they wouldn’t understand. And the reason they wouldn’t understand, is because they weren’t growing in their faith like they should have been. But the writer does tell them, that Christ is the source of salvation, ONLY to those who obey Him. So therefore, obedience must a foundational principle of our faith.
The writer wanted to tell them more, but all they could take was the “milk of the word”, not the “meat of the word”. And learning about obedience, was a part of the “milk of the word”. Our behavior and our reasoning must be built upon the principle of obeying what the bible says.
Now, among those who claim to be Christians, there are very few who accept, or acknowledge, that obedience is a foundational principle of Christianity. People want to think they’re a Christian, but they don’t want to be obligated to obey what the bible says to do.
Look at Hebrews 5, verse 8 again; “Although He were a Son, He learned obedience from the things that He suffered.” That’s usually how we learn to obey, isn’t it? We have to suffer something, before we learn to obey. When we suffer something, we are experiencing something that we don’t like. And since we don’t want to experience that suffering again, we learn, and we choose to obey.
However, most of the time, our first choice is to disobey. Try to imagine this; You’re experiencing something that you don’t like. Maybe someone’s yelling at you, and accusing you, and degrading you, and you don’t like it. And you want to show them what it feels like to be treated like that; And so you disobey God, and you yell back at them, and you call them every nasty name you can think of, and they punch you in the nose.
Well, now you don’t like the way that feels either. So you think about it, and you learn from it. You “learn” that you would have been better of by obeying God, and turning the other cheek, rather than disobeying God, and getting punched in the nose.
Wouldn’t it be great, if we could experience things that we don’t like, and learn right then and there, to obey God, and wait for HIM to give us relief, and comfort, from that situation?
Here’s a foundational principle that God gives us, that might save us from getting punched in the nose; “Do unto others, as you would have them do unto you”. It’s the “Golden Rule”, from Mathew 7, verse 12.
Here’s how we should learn obedience.. We experience suffering, we consider the foundational principles that our behavior should be based upon, and then we obey God, according to those principles. That’s what Jesus did. That’s how Jesus “learned obedience from the things that He suffered”.
Isn’t that what He did when He was tempted by Satan, tempted by the very spirit of disobedience to God? That spirit of disobedience tempted Jesus three times. And three times, Jesus considered foundational principles from God, to govern His response.
For instance; After Jesus had not eaten for forty days, Satan said to Him, in Luke 4, verse 3; “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” And Jesus responded and said, in verse 4; “Man shall not live by bread alone.” That’s a foundational principle that we need to remember.
And I don’t know exactly how this next thing took place, but we’re told in verse 5, that Satan led Jesus, “and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world, in a moment of time”. And verse 6 says; “And the devil said to Him; I will give you all this domain and it’s glory, for it has been handed over to me, and I will give it to whomever I wish.” Now that was an obvious lie! God never “handed over” all the kingdoms of the earth to Satan. As a matter of fact, God said, in Psalm 22:28; “For dominion is the Lord’s, and He rules over the nations.” He said in Psalm 47:8; “For God reigns over the nations. God sits in His holy throne.”
But it’s nothing new that the spirit of disobedience should tell a lie. So then Satan said, in verse 7; “Therefore, if You worship before me, It shall all be Yours.” And Jesus considered another foundational principle of God, and He responded in verse 8, and said; “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only!”
And then once again Satan tempted Jesus. And I don’t know exactly how this came about either, but verse 9 says that Satan led Jesus to Jerusalem; “..And satan had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him; If You are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here; For it is written; He will give His angels charge concerning You, to guard You; And “On their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike your foot against a stone.”
So I don’t know if Jesus was led physically, or if He was led in His Spirit, but somehow, He was brought to the pinnacle of the temple in Jerusalem. It’s kind of like when the apostle Paul was “caught up to the third heaven”, as he says in 2 Corinthians 12, verse 2. In verse 4, He says, he was “caught up unto Paradise”. “Paradise”, the “third heaven”, the “heaven of heavens”, however you phrase it, there’s only ONE paradise, and according to Revelation 2, verse 7, that’s where the tree of life stands.
But at any rate, Paul says he was caught up to this “third heaven”, and in verse 3, he says; “..whether in the body or apart from the body, I do not know..”
So, in the same way, we don’t know if Jesus was “brought to the pinnacle of the temple”, in the body, or apart from the body.. We don’t have to know, but God knows.
And it seems like Satan had learned something, from the way Jesus kept going back to the bible, and to the principles of faith, when He said; “Man shall not live by bread alone”, and “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only”.
And so Satan goes back to the bible, and he says to Jesus; If you’re really the Son of God, then just throw yourself down, You won’t get hurt. “For it is written; He will give His angels charge concerning You, and On their hands they will bear You up, lest You strike your foot against a stone.”
So maybe Jesus was there in the body, because Satan was saying that You won’t even so much as bruise Your foot on a stone, when You land.
But once again, Jesus goes back to another fundamental principle that should govern our faith; And His response to Satan was; “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Have you ever tried to put God to the test? Have you ever said; Lord God, if You really love me, then do this for me, or give me that, and prove that you love me. That would be putting God to the test. But that would be disobeying God, and then God would probably have to cause something to happen, to allow you to “learn” from your mistake.
But what we really NEED to learn, is HOW to learn, without first disobeying God. We need to be grounded in His principles of faith, so that we are strong enough to allow the situations that we face, to teach us to obey.
Remember in the old testament, when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego, were threatened by king Nebuchadnezzar, and they were told that they had to worship a golden image? And Nebuchadnezzar said in Daniel 3, verse 15; “But if you will NOT worship, you will in this same hour, be cast into the midst of a furnace of blazing fire, and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hand?
Well, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego had already learned, that “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only”. And so they said, in verse 17; “If it be so (that you cast us into the furnace) our God whom we serve, is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire, and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king. But even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods, or worship the golden image that you have set up.”
Now, we don’t know anything about how Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego were raised, but we know one thing for sure, they had learned to trust God. And so when they were faced with suffering, they already knew they were going to obey God, because they trusted Him! “Our God whom we serve, is able to deliver us!” Whether it was from the furnace of fire, or from the hand of the king, they had no doubt.
Do you think Jesus had any doubt about whether God would take care of Him? Did He have any doubt when He was tempted? Or when He was ridiculed, or scorned, or even when He was crucified? “He learned obedience from the things that He suffered”, because He had no doubts.
And Hebrews 5, verse 9 says; “And having been perfected, He became, to all those who obey Him, the source of eternal salvation.”
Let me say something about that phrase, “having been perfected”. That comes from one Greek word which means.. “I accomplish, or I complete, or I make perfect”. It refers to reaching the “end stage”, to “reach the end goal”.
God’s goal for Jesus Christ, was for Him to become the perfect sacrifice. And obedience to God, is of such importance, that Jesus could not have been “perfected” until He learned what it was like, to experience suffering while remaining perfectly obedient.
And so, one of the things that brought Jesus unto His perfect “end stage”, namely obedience, has become one of the foundational principles of our faith.
Jesus said in John 6, verse 38; “For I have not come down from heaven, to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.”
A good lesson for us, isn’t it? We’re not here to do our will, but to do the will of Him who saves us.
It is God’s will that we should believe His word, repent of our sins, confess our faith in the name of Jesus, and be baptized in His name, for the forgiveness of our sins. And then it is His will that we should remain faithful unto death.
Will you do His will today?