The Inadequacy of Biblical Principles

There are a lot of pastors, churches and ministries that seem to focus on ‘biblical principles.’   These are something like the collective wisdom of the Bible that we can use to guide our lives by.

There are biblical principles for marriage

Biblical principles for parenting

Biblical principles for our relationships

Biblical principles for…

Some Christians believe – or seem to believe- the the problem with people, and the world, is that we don’t live in light of biblical principles.

Maybe that’s you.

It’s like seeing the whole Bible through the lens of the book of Proverbs.

The problem isn’t so much the idea of biblical principles – there are such things and they are indeed wisdom for Christian living.

But the missing link is often  Jesus.

If you can reorient your life around biblical principles without encountering Jesus, that’s not Christianity. 

Sometimes we ‘assume’ Jesus as the foundation and then move on to the practical stuff.

As an example, I recently read this in a spiritual memoir:

“It feels as if the more I moved into church culture, the less I heard about Jesus. We could go months and months of Sunday sermons on how to ‘apply the Word’ to our lives for Monday morning, and yet never hear the name of Jesus.”                         Sarah Bessey, Out of Sorts

Now, I doubt many churches go a Sunday without mentioning the word Jesus, but it seems to me that many messages and lessons don’t tie robustly back to the person, teaching and gospel accomplishments of Jesus.

This is deeply problematic when it applies.

It’s also foreign to a New Testament understanding of what it means to be a Christian.

Jesus didn’t just ‘come to die.’  He also spent 3 years discipling the Twelve so that they could disciple others – including us in his way of life in the world.

For the writers of the New Testament letters, all of the life application flows from a direct and robust connection to what Jesus has already accomplished – his death, resurrection and enthronement as King.

They would not have us to live out biblical principles apart from the outflow and application of the good news in our lives.

“So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him,  rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.”  Colossians 2:6-7

“Therefore, with minds that are alert and fully sober, set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming. As obedient children, do not conform to the evil desires you had when you lived in ignorance. But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do.”    1 Peter 1:13-15

Ultimately, Jesus himself summed it up best.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.   John 15:5

Life in Jesus has a profound effect on the way that we live.  But what we need – and what the world needs – is not primarily the knowledge of more biblical principles, but a life deeply connected to faith in Jesus and our desire to follow after him.

Author: Dan Masshardt

Husband, Father, Pastor...

2 thoughts on “The Inadequacy of Biblical Principles”

  1. WordPress tantalizingly tells me that I can “be the first to like this.” Well, do I dare, when I am almost totally oblivious to the background, training, motives, and prejudices of the author? (And ignoring that his tiny thumbnail photo suggests that he’s likely not more than half my age.) This time, I will. I like to affirm writings with which I agree, even risking that I might live to regret it. In this case, however, I more than agree; I was challenged by this in the sense that I will contemplate the point more deliberately as I prepare Sunday’s message. Hopefully, every Sunday. Good job, sir.

    1. Thanks for the comment pastor! I’ve aged a few years since that photo, but not twice the age. My other blog posts would probably give a better idea of my prejudices and motives, but less likely my background and training. Regardless of that, I’ve personally found thoughts worth pondering from many places inside and outside of my own tradition and prejudices. To be frank, I’m not sure that I always follow my own advice totally in my own preaching, but I strive to do so.

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