PRECEPT OR PRINCIPLE?


2 John 10-11 – “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; 11 for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.” NKJV

3 John 5-8 – “Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, 6 who have borne witness of your love before the church. If you send them forward on their journey in a manner worthy of God, you will do well, 7 because they went forth for His name’s sake, taking nothing from the Gentiles. 8 We therefore ought to receive such, that we may become fellow workers for the truth.” NKJV

Some definitions are appropriate here:

Precept – – Comes from Latin and means to teach.  It is a commandment, instruction, or order intended as an authoritative rule of action.

Principle – – Is a law or rule that has to be, or usually is to be followed, or can be desirably followed, or is an inevitable consequence of something, such as the laws observed in nature or the way that a system is constructed.  The principles of such a system are understood by its users as the essential characteristics of the system, or reflecting the system’s designed purpose, and the effective operation or use of which would be impossible if any other of the principles was to be ignored.

It is not an easy task to follow biblical directives.  It is one thing to know and understand the biblical directive and another to have the moral fiber and faith to carry it out.  This can sometimes become incredibly murky and filled with shades of gray that an individual truly desiring to fully follow God’s Precepts and Principles could easily become confused.

Example:

Exodus 20:13 – “You shall not murder.” NKJV

The commandment of God against murder is as relevant today as it was when it was given to Moses here in Exodus and should be followed as a precept today.  I believe that we would all agree to that.

Let’s take another to illustrate what I’m saying about murky waters.

Acts 1:4-8 – “And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, “which,” He said, “you have heard from Me; 5 for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”  6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.  8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” NKJV

Look at verse four – – “do not depart from Jerusalem…”  How do we follow that literally today since most of us do not live in Jerusalem?  Do we move to Jerusalem and wait for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit then begin to evangelize?  Do we begin in Jerusalem then move out to the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) and then finally be free to go “to the ends of the earth” and whatever land the Lord might have put in our hearts to evangelize?

But there are several principles that we can draw from Acts 1:8 that are essential:

  1. The power of the Holy Spirit is essential for effective evangelization.
  2. Potential missionaries should begin evangelizing right where they are, before heading off to some foreign field.
  3. Reaching the large cities first is a good strategy, so the gospel can ripple out to the countryside.  Reach the masses.

So, we follow Exodus 20:13 as a precept and Acts 1:8 as a principle.  In the passages that we used in our text; we face another dilemma.  Do we follow this as a precept or principle?  I believe that we should be incredibly cautious about accepting anyone into our homes that bring another Gospel other than that of Christ.  I do believe that it is okay to have a friendly discussion with them about the error of their teaching, but we must also be incredibly careful about how closely we align ourselves with them. Likewise taking money from non-Christians for the work of the Gospel should always be done with the certainty that there are no strings attached.

Something to think about:

  1. Biblical directives can always be followed by drawing out valid principles.
  2. In interpreting Scripture always proceed from then to now.  Take the passage in its historical context to help you determine if it is a precept that transcends all timelines or a principle to follow.
  3. In interpreting and applying Scripture it is good to always find as much common ground as possible between the interpretation and the application.  That makes knowing the original setting crucial and why knowing the “Manners and Customs” of the Bible is very important.  We tend to read the Bible with a Western mentality and it wasn’t written to Westerners it was written in the Middle East.

I hope that I have not been too confusing, and may God be with you as you go through your day and always know that just because someone else has a little different understanding of something biblical than you doesn’t make them wrong both of you may need more clarification that God will give in time and with study.

God bless you richly is my desire and prayer this day!

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