Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God (Hebrews 6:1, NKJV).
Just as there are “basic principles of the world,” there are “elementary principles of Christ.” The writer introduced “first principles of the oracles of God” in Hebrews 5:12 and explained that Christians who “partakes only of milk” are “unskilled” in the word of righteousness – spiritual infants ill-equipped to use God’s word to discern good and evil (Heb. 5:13-14). Please meditate with me on the place of the first principles of Christ in your life. (1) First principles are foundational (Heb. 6:1). They are a starting point for faith, not the end. Just as infants are fed milk first and progress to solid food, we begin with first principles and progress to the solid food of God’s truth (Heb. 5:12). (2) First principles help Christians become skilled in using God’s word (Heb. 5:13-14). First principles like repentance, faith, baptisms, miraculous gifts, resurrection, and judgment provide a framework to use God’s word as we mature (advance spiritually, Heb. 6:1-2). (3) First principles must be remembered and built upon (Heb. 6:1). We are exhorted not to linger only on the elementary principles, lest through neglect our faith recedes, and we fall away (Heb. 6:3-6, 11-12). The first principles of Christ lay a foundation of faith upon which we can continue to build and mature as we “press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14).
22 Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 24 because “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, 25 But the word of the Lord endures forever.” Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you. (1 Peter 1:22–25, NKJV)
This passage identifies the word of God and describes what it does. First, the word of God is “the truth” (v. 22). The word of God is not a truth among many other truths. It is the truth, it is exclusive, accurate and reliable because is the word of God, not the word of men (1 Thessalonians 2:13). The truth of God purifies the soul when it is obeyed (v. 22; Hebrews 5:9). Our souls cannot be purified unless we obey the truth. Next, the word of God is the seed that produces the new birth (v. 23). The sinner is “born again” when this seed is planted in the heart and obeyed from the heart (Luke 8:11, 15). Those who believe sinners are born again without obedience must ignore this verse (John 3:3, 5). The word of God is powerful, incorruptible and “endures forever” (v. 23, 25). The first-century gospel will do its work in this century. We must receive and obey the truth – the incorruptible word – to be purified of sins and to truly love one another (John 8:31-32; 13:34-35).
45 Now when the chief priests and Pharisees heard His parables, they perceived that He was speaking of them. 46 But when they sought to lay hands on Him, they feared the multitudes, because they took Him for a prophet. (Matthew 21:45–46, NKJV)
How do you react when the Scriptures pierce through to your heart and you know they are addressing your life? Are you receptive and humbly responsive to God’s call of repentance, redemption and spiritual renewal in Jesus Christ? Or, do you castoff its rebukes and promptings like these priests and Pharisees did? They knew Jesus had been addressing their rejection of Him and God’s punishment for doing so (Matthew 21:42-44). But, they obstinately tried to silence God’s Son instead of accepting His message of truth. And, so it goes today. The truth of God’s word melts the tender heart even as it hardens the prideful heart of unbelief. Receive its indictments of sin and offerings of redemption. God’s warnings and rebukes bring life in the Son to those who are corrected by them. Those who oppose the word of Christ will be ground to powder (Matthew 21:44). Those whose hearts are broken by it will not be put to shame (Romans 9:33).
“The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?” And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’” (Matthew 21:25, NKJV)
When differences arise over how we understand and apply the Scriptures on matters of moral living and religious duty, some people say, “What difference does it make? As long as you are sincere, you will be fine.” But, minimizing the disagreement and its effects does not remove the difference. Nor does making sincerity the standard of acceptability solve the problem. But, making such statements does reveal a mindset that Christians must not have and hold. In today’s passage, Jesus said there are only two possible sources of authority in soul-effecting matters: heaven or men. When heaven speaks, it makes a great difference over what men have to say (Galatians 1:10). This is why we must have Bible authority for all we say and do. Otherwise, we are acting upon no authority greater than ourselves, and, by doing so, violate heaven’s authority (Colossians 3:17). Jesus Christ has the authority to command, to save, to bless and to condemn (Matthew 28:18; John 5:19-23; 17:1-2). You will find His authority in His word, and nowhere else (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord. (Deuteronomy 8:3, NKJV)
God allowed Israel to be hungry in the wilderness, before feeding them with manna for forty years. God was teaching them a lesson, one that proved difficult for them to remember. The daily bread from heaven they received taught them dependence on God for their daily bread. But, it taught so much more. Israel’s existence in the promised land depended on them living by every word that came from God’s mouth (Deut. 8:1). Jesus used this verse to withstand the devil’s temptation (Matt. 4:4). Jesus is the “bread of God,” the “living bread” who came down from heaven to give us the food that enables us to live forever (Jno. 6:33-35, 48, 51, 57-58). Like Israel, we must know our hunger for eternal life before we are prepared to partake of the bread of God, Jesus Christ, and live forever. Our hunger for eternal life leads us to know that we only have life when we keep every word of God (Rom. 1:16-17).
36 Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.” 38 Then Mary said, “Behold the maidservant of the Lord! Let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. (Luke 1:36–38, NKJV)
Elizabeth, the mother of John, had not been able to bear children her whole life. Now, she was “well advanced in years” (Lk. 1:7). Furthermore, her husband Zacharias admitted to being “an old man” (Lk. 1:18). Yet, she conceived a son. Elizabeth’s pregnancy was a sign to Mary that, although she was a virgin, she would indeed bear a son by the power of God (Lk. 1:34-35). Notice carefully how Mary said the “impossible” would be accomplished. She had faith these things would occur to her “according to your word” (v. 38). Things that are “impossible” with man are accomplished according to the word of God, not contrary to it. Do not expect God to act against His word; He will not. Instead, when you rely on and obey God’s word, great things will be accomplished that defy human wisdom, will and power.