STUDY TWO: SPIRITUAL PRINCIPLES THAT DEFUSE OUR QUEST FOR POWER
© Rosemary Bardsley 2009,2014
In Study One we looked at biblical priorities. In this study we are looking at principles. ‘Priorities’ identify the most important things, the core issues, the things that matter most to us. ‘Principles’ are the broad value packages which set the boundaries of what kinds of thoughts, attitudes, words and actions will help to implement the priorities we have just examined and defined.
It is from broad underlying principles that specific rules and regulations are derived, and of which biblical rules and commands are particular expressions. For example, the command ‘be kind to one another’ is an expression of the principle of love, which in turn is an expression of the priority of the other.
A. THE PRINCIPLE OF HUMILITY/SUBMISSION - a head-on collision with our human craving for power
Expressing the priority of God and of the other is the over-arching principle of humility/submission – a broad value package which defuses and invalidates my quest for personal power and prestige, and in which I consider the well-being of the other more important than my own personal agenda, more important than my personal reputation. It is expressed in a number of supporting principles which direct our lives away from our sinful self-seeking and self-promotion and towards God’s honour and the well-being of the other.
God has always required humility and hated pride. It is, after all, only the humble, only the poor in spirit, who have no confidence in their own ability to keep his commands, and who are willing to submit to his Lordship, who will ever truly acknowledge him as God. A person full of himself does not easily turn to the Lord.
Study the verses in Section #1 of the Study Two Worksheet, and answer the question.
The references in the Worksheet are just a small sample of the Scriptures that command humility and submission. Humility is not weakness, nor is it uncertainty as John Piper points very rightly points out. Humility is submission to the will and the rule and the priorities of God.
John Piper [in a chapter titled Brothers, don’t confuse uncertainty with humility] points out that in our pluralistic, relativistic society there has been an astonishing change in the use of words:
Arrogance is used to refer to confidence.
Humility is used to refer to uncertainty.
Our culture no longer considers it socially or politically correct to be confident in matters of truth and doctrine. Expressions of confidence are interpreted as ‘arrogant’ and lacking in ‘humility’. Such a concept cuts right across the claims of Christ to be the one light of the world and the one truth for the world. By contemporary standards the claims of Christ are arrogant and discriminatory in the extreme. And yet the Bible refers to the meekness and humility of Christ.
Consider these five quotes from Piper:
‘Humility begins with a sense of subordination to God in Christ’
‘Humility does not feel a right to better treatment than Jesus got’
‘Humility asserts truth not to bolster ego with control or with triumphs in debate, but as service to Christ and love to the adversary’
‘Humility knows it is dependent on grace for all knowing, believing, living, and acting’
‘Humility knows it is fallible and so considers criticism and learns from it, but it also knows God has made provision for unshakeable human conviction and that he calls us to persuade others’.
[Brothers, we are not professionals pp 159-166]
B. THE PRINCIPLE OF LOVE
According to the Bible the command to love embraces all the commands. In fact, if we were totally committed to love, we would not need the other commands because, having taken on board the principle of love, love itself will prevent us from choices that harm our neighbour. [But, being sinners, we need the detailed rules!]
Matthew 22:37-40: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart … soul … mind …Love your neighbour as your self. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.’
We might ask: why is love so important a principle that it embraces and includes all the commands?
In 1John 4:7-21 John bases the extreme significance of love for Christians on several facts about love:
- Love comes from God 
- Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God 
- God is love 
- God showed his love by sending his Son 
- Love is … that God sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins 
- God loved us this much 
- We know and rely on the love God has for us 
- Whoever loves lives in God and God in him 
- God’s perfect love drives out the fear of judgment 
- We love because he first loved us 
- It is not possible to love God and hate one’s brother 
The principle of love is grounded in the very nature of God and is revealed and expressed in the action of God in sending Jesus to die for our salvation. Therefore, because we are his people, and as his servants, love must of necessity be our over-riding, over-ruling principle. It can be no other way. We claim to know this God who is love, we claim to belong to this God who is love. As John points out, if we do not embrace love, all of our claims are worthless. Not only is love the very nature of God, it is also his specific command and his expectation. Those who know his love must love:
- ‘A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loves you, so you must love one another’ [John 13:34]
- ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.’ [John 15:12]
- ‘Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves’ [Romans 12:10]
- ‘… live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us’ [Ephesians 5:1]
- ‘… since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another’ [1John 4:11]
- ‘He has given us this command: whoever loves God must also love his brother’ [1John 4:21].
Complete section #2 on the Study Two Worksheet now.
C. THE PRINCIPLE OF GRACE AND FORGIVENESS
Embedded deep in the principle of love is the principle of grace and forgiveness. It is, at one and the same time:
An expression of love.
An evidence of love.
That which enables the expression of love.
A yardstick which measures love.
C.1 Grace – the sovereign operating principle of the kingdom of God’s Son
Colossians 1:13 assures us that when he saved us God rescued us from ‘the dominion of darkness’ and set us up in ‘the kingdom of the Son he loves’. Once we were in this dominion of darkness – where Satan rules. Now we are already in the kingdom of Christ, where Christ is King. In Romans 5:12-21 Paul explains the contrasting legal operational set-ups of these two kingdoms.
In Romans 5:12-21 we find the following contrasts:
|Dominion of darkness||Kingdom of Christ|
|Impact of the one man – Adam||Impact of the one man – Jesus Christ|
|We are all involved in Adam’s sin||Christ’s righteousness given to all who believe|
|Key factor: our sin and guilt||Key factor: righteousness and acquittal|
|Result: death to all||Result: life to all who believe|
|Operating principle: law||Operating principle: grace|
|Basis of application: what we do||Basis of application: God’s gift|
|The sin/law/death trilogy of condemnation||The righteousness/grace/life principle of justification|
|The genuine Christian believer has been removed from this legal operational set up||The genuine Christian believer is now permanently under this legal operational set up.|
Note: this is not about the moral set up; God’s moral expectations and requirements are the same, irrespective of which kingdom we belong to. What we are looking at here is the legal set-up relating to guilt and the imposition of legal penalties, acquittal and the non-imposition of legal penalties.
If we think clearly and deeply about this incredible change of citizenship and identity that has been given to us as part of our salvation we will understand that this principle of grace is the only appropriate principle by which to live our lives. We ought to no longer relate to God, ourselves and others by the principle of law, for it is foreign to the kingdom of which we are now members, and foreign to the means by which we were granted membership of this kingdom.
This principle of grace has the potential to have incredible and liberating impact on every area of our lives.
Complete section #3A in the Study Two Worksheet now.
C.2 Forgiveness – grace in action
[Forgiveness is studied in more detail in Salvation and the Work of Christ . What is covered here in this small sub-section is minimal.]
Grace and forgiveness go hand in hand. They exist together. They operate together. Because God acts towards us in grace the sin barrier is removed from between him and us. This removal of the sin barrier is the fundamental meaning of forgiveness. The two words used for forgive in the New Testament are:
aphiemi – which literally means to take or lift away
charizomai – which literally means to give a free gift [to grace over]
Life under this principle of forgiveness means that:
- God no longer holds our sin against us.
- We should no longer carry the burden of our guilt around in the inner depths of our souls.
- We are commanded to forgive each other – to never hold their sin against them – just as God, for Christ’s sake has forgiven us [Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13].
- We are commanded never to seek revenge, but to leave justice in God’s hands [Romans 12:19-21].
Complete Section #3B in the Study Two Worksheet now.
D. THE PRINCIPLE OF PEACE AND RECONCILIATION
This principle also ties in intimately with the principle of love and the principle of grace and forgiveness. Like all of God’s truth there is a mutual interdependence, a total cohesion. Each part affirms and supports the other. Each part depends on the other. The more we understand this the more our lives will display this same consistency and cohesion.
In Genesis 3 the entry of sin erected a barrier and separation in the four fundamental relationships of our lives:
Our relationship to ourselves [Genesis 37].
Our relationship to each other [Genesis 3:12].
Our relationship with God [Genesis 3:8-10; 22-24].
Our relationship with the rest of creation [Genesis 3:14-19].
This separation is the deep meaning of the word ‘die’ in Genesis 2:17. Disobedience, sin, inevitably causes this division which is actually the death of the real human being that God created, and the destruction of the inter-personal relationships intended by God. In this division and separation there are inevitable power-plays as human beings [individually or corporately] seek to justify, promote, preserve and defend themselves by dominating and belittling one another.
But God’s action in Christ:
God commands us to express this peace and reconciliation in our relationships with each other:
- ‘If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone’ [Romans 12:18]
- ‘Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace’ [Colossians 3:15]
- ‘Live in peace with each other’ [1Thessalonians 5:13b]
- ‘Make every effort to live at peace with all men …’ [Hebrews 12:14a]
Complete Section #4 in the Study Two Worksheet now.