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The Principles and the Person
By David A. DePra
The Bible is filled with PRINCIPLES. Included in these principles are MORE than just the moral law, of course, but also guidelines for family, money, ministry, and the church itself. Many people throughout Christian history have gone into the Bible, and constructed lists of principles by which we ought to live.
The Bible, however, is not merely a book of principles to follow. The Bible is about a Person with whom we are to walk, and whom we are to worship. Jesus Christ is not a principle. He is a Living Being – God Incarnate. And He wants a RELATIONSHIP with us.
If I walk with Jesus Christ it is going to result in a life that is lived according to Biblical principles. Absolutely! But if there is one mistake that people make more than any other it is this: They sever the principle from the Person. And when you do that, you end up with DEAD RELIGION. Do that long enough and hard enough, and you will actually end up with Biblical error.
Jesus said, "I am the Vine and you are the Branches." He taught that only as we abide, or live IN HIM, can we remain alive spiritually. Sever yourself from Christ and spiritual death occurs.
Now, of course, this applies to salvation. But it also applies to everything else in the Christian life – where salvation is secure – but where spiritual health is not automatic. It is entirely possible to be IN CHRIST – to be a branch that is attached to the Vine – but to be one who is really not, "abiding," in the Vine. In other words, you are a Christian as to identity, but you really aren’t living in and with Jesus Christ.
All that is needed to be in this bad condition is to sever the principles by which you are living from the Person with whom you are supposed to have a relationship. But of course this is a very subtle error. Most people who keep principles apart from Christ will tell you that their principles ARE their relationship with Him. They will tell you that they keep their rules and laws because they love Christ, and want to revere Him. The question, however, is in another arena. The question is this: Are you abiding by faith? – and this is resulting in obedience? Or are you obeying SO THAT you can abide? If so, you are under the law. You have severed the principle from the Person.
Legalism is faith in my works. It is using something about ME as the source of my confidence – to establish myself before God. Christians under legalism obey God’s law and Bible principles, not because they BELIEVE, but because they DON’T BELIEVE. Where there is little faith, we fill the gap with works. Where there is no Person, we fill the gap with principles.
Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace. (Gal 5:4)
If a single thing that we do could keep us in Christ, we wouldn’t need Christ or faith. The irony is that the moment we put our faith in a single thing about ourselves, Christ has become of no effect for us. That’s because our faith in ourselves is the basis of our abiding. The Truth is, we abide in Christ only by our faith and dependent upon Him. And unless that is so, we will never be able to bear fruit. We will be as a cut off branch – that is – we won’t, as saved people, have any benefit from His resurrection life.
Again – anything you sever the principle from the Person, the life that is in that Person becomes of no effect for you. For you are abiding in your principle, and not the Person. You are keeping Bible principles – GOOD Bible principles – but not as the outcome of faith in Christ. You are keeping them as a substitute FOR faith.
Christians need to obey God, as described in the Bible. But this is all about relationship with God. God didn't give rules and principles as things to keep. He gave Himself. The principles -- assuming they are the ones taught in the Bible (that's another subject!) -- tell us how to walk with Him.
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