Never Compromising on Christian Principles
“Whoever, therefore, wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.”—Jas. 4:4, NW.
1. What are principles?
TRUE Christians are governed by principles. A principle is a fundamental truth. Since truth is that which is in accordance with the actual state of things, principles essentially are statements of basic facts. The Bible contains thousands of these principles, expressly stated as in the text above. Others are deduced or found in the book of nature, as Paul wrote at Romans 1:20 (NW): God’s “invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are understood by the things made.”
2, 3. What are some examples of principles, and how might they be used in reasoning?
2 Some examples of principles will serve to show the part principles play in our understanding and reasoning. Here are a few: Jehovah is the Most High over all the earth. There is no God besides Jehovah. Jehovah is from everlasting to everlasting. Jesus is the beginning of the creation of God. God is head over Christ. The Father is greater than Christ. The Son is subject to God. God raised up Christ from the dead. God gave Christ a higher position than before. Holy spirit is not a person. People can be filled with holy spirit.—Ps. 83:18; Isa. 44:6; Ps. 90:2; Col. 1:15; 1 Cor. 11:3; John 14:28; 1 Cor. 15:28; Acts 13:30; 2:32, 33; 2:4, 17.
3 How would such principles be put to use? They might be viewed as building materials assembled according to plans to form a house. These particular principles of truth assembled together according to divine pattern form Bible doctrines of truth. One point that immediately becomes evident is that it is impossible for Jehovah God, Christ Jesus and holy spirit to be one ‘coequal, coeternal god,’ as trinitarians say. Jehovah is more powerful than Christ Jesus; therefore they are not equal. Jehovah is eternal, but Jesus was created by God; so they are not equal and Jesus is not the Eternal One. And the holy spirit is God’s force, not a person. People cannot be filled with a person, but they can be filled with an active force or holy spirit. The clergy refuse to reason on these Scriptural principles, but insist that the trinity doctrine is a mystery. In effect the clergy are tools of Satan, because Satan is trying to show that God is not supreme; and the clergy by teaching the trinity doctrine try to put Almighty God Jehovah into a position where others are equal to Him. That is impossible according to the Bible principles and the facts. So by reasoning on these principles you are enabled to see clearly that Christendom’s trinity doctrine is false. And, of course, the word “trinity” does not appear in the Bible.
4, 5. What is the relationship of Jehovah’s laws and principles?
4 Jehovah’s theocratic laws are based on principles of truth. For example, the divine law still in effect to this day forbids murder. It is based on the plain principle or fact that man is mortal. Therefore just as true principles are used to build up all the many Bible doctrines, so true principles lie behind all God’s laws.
5 Actually each of the hundreds of laws comprising the law covenant as given to Moses is based on one or more principles of truth. A multitude of righteous principles came to man’s attention for the first time when, as a revelation, the law covenant was given to the Israelites. So when God brought the legal binding force of the law covenant to an end at the death of Jesus, he did not destroy the eternal principles of truth that came to man’s notice by means of it. These principles of truth found in the Law, still preserved for us in the Bible, continue to guide Christians in the way of righteousness.—Col. 2:14.
6. Why was it easier to live in the time of Moses than under the instruction of Christ?
6 Living by rules laid down by Moses was not so difficult as learning to live by the principles of Christ. It is so much easier to conform the conduct to a rule than to make a principle guide the whole life. Moses prescribed rules; Christ inculcated principles. Rules are for children; principles for men and women mature in Christian growth.
7. Are Christians governed entirely by principles, or are there laws they must obey?
7 While Christ inculcated principles, that does not mean there are no laws that govern the activities of Christians. Laws are rules of action dictated by the superior for the conduct of the inferior, and Christians are therefore obliged to obey God’s laws. Examples of laws given to Christians are: forbidding to eat blood, abstaining from fornication, keeping oneself from worshiping idols, not forsaking the gathering together in assemblies, not committing murder, and so on. And we must not forget the two great laws or commandments that Jesus repeated for us: “‘You must love Jehovah your God with your whole heart and with your whole soul and with your whole mind.’ This is the greatest and first commandment. The second, like it, is this: ‘You must love your neighbor as yourself.’” These laws are based on principles of truth. They are set out to lead Christians to maturity.—Acts 15:20; Heb. 10:25; Rom. 13:9; Matt. 22:37, NW.
8, 9. (a) How is a Christian governed by principles? (b) What does it mean to be governed by passion?
8 But for the Christian, advice and instructions given are often general, setting out the principle to follow and leaving each individual a free moral agent to choose to follow the faithful principles set forth or to follow his selfish desire. In that way God allows each individual to prove how much love and confidence he has toward God and how eager he is to do the divine will.
9 There are two forces operating toward all persons. One is passion, which is induced by the influence of others upon the person that is influenced, and the second is principle or law, that is, God’s law or rule of action prescribing the way that is right and proper. Those who are devoted to Jehovah are governed by his law and follow his commandments based on principles of truth. So, then, to be governed by principle means to act upon the knowledge of the facts according to reason and conscience. To be governed by passion means to act because of outside influence, to let personal considerations dictate, such as wealth, fame, power, safety, or gratifications of the senses or instincts.
10. How did Paul show the contrast between those who follow passion and those who are guided by principles?
10 Passion guides the minds of most men in the evaluation of things in this system under Satan. It is becoming more and more evident that the lusts of the passionate flesh are regarded with favor by the world, while those who are guided by the principles of God’s Word are scoffed at and ridiculed by the majority of mankind today. At Galatians 5:19-24 (NW) Paul showed the contrast between those who follow passions and those who follow God’s righteous principles, and we can note how the things inspired by passion are rapidly growing in popularity in these last days: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, and they are fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these. As to these things I am forewarning you, the same way as I did forewarn you, that those who practice such things will not inherit God’s kingdom. On the other hand, the fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. Moreover, those who belong to Christ Jesus impale the flesh together with its passions and desires.”
11. (a) What are two outstanding principles seen in Paul’s words? (b) How did Peter show that the right course of Christians brings praise to Jehovah?
11 Note two principles set out here: those who practice the works of the flesh will not inherit God’s kingdom; those who are Christians do not do those works. The Christians want to live under God’s government; therefore they must stick to right principles. That is why Peter forcefully advised at 1 Peter 2:11, 12 (NW): “Beloved, I exhort you as aliens and temporary residents to keep abstaining from fleshly desires, which are the very ones that carry on a conflict against the soul. Maintain your conduct right among the nations, that, in the thing in which they are speaking against you as evildoers, they may as a result of your right works of which they are eyewitnesses glorify God in the day for his inspection.” The right course taken by Christians brings praise to Jehovah in the eyes of the men of good will, but not in the eyes of the world. In this system of things it costs something to follow principles. It means loving the truth even though it is unpopular. It means fearing God, not man. It means hating unjust gain, not going after it. These are the qualities Jehovah looks for in those who will serve him in the new world.—Ex. 18:21; Prov. 29:25.
PRINCIPLES—A FOUNDATION TO BUILD ON
12. What did Paul include in the basic principles or Christianity?
12 The apostle Paul specifically wrote the Hebrews about some foundation or basic principles of truth that all Christians must adhere to, saying: “For, indeed, although you ought to be teachers in view of the time, you again need someone to teach you from the beginning the first principles of the sacred pronouncements of God, and you have become such as need milk, not solid food. For everyone that partakes of milk is unacquainted with the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong. For this reason, now that we have left the elementary doctrine about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying a foundation again, namely, repentance from dead works, and faith toward God, the teaching on baptisms and the laying on of the hands, the resurrection of the dead and everlasting judgment.”—Heb. 5:12-6:2, NW.
13-15. (a) What did Paul mean when he said we have “left” the elementary doctrine? (b) How might this be compared to the use of the foundation principles of mathematics?
13 And what does Paul mean when he says we have “left” these doctrinal principles of basic truth? By saying we have “left” them Paul surely does not mean we should cease to believe in or practice repentance and faith; neither does he mean we should cease to believe in and practice baptism. What the apostle is showing is that we should not have to learn all these things over and over again. We must not be satisfied with knowing only the fundamentals. Paul was reproving the Hebrews addressed because, when they ought to have been teachers, they required somebody to teach them the first principles over again. They should have understood all these things and been able to teach them; and while continuing to believe in these they should have been adding to their knowledge of the Word and purposes of God; and not only so, but they should remember that it is not only correct doctrines on these subjects that are necessary to our full development as followers of Christ, but in addition the gaining of the intended results, namely, becoming full-grown Christians able to reason on and understand the Word of God and conduct ourselves according to its principles of righteousness. That is what he means when he says “press on to maturity.”
14 It might be compared to the way a child, when it goes to school, first learns the multiplication table and how to add, subtract and divide. These are the foundation principles of mathematics; and yet we would think a child either very stupid or careless in his studies to remain several years learning these first principles; and we would say that it ought to leave the first principles and go on to other things; by which we would not mean that it should forget these first principles or consider them something to leave behind never to be thought of again. The child should remember them and use them and add to them the higher branches of mathematics. If the child were going to become an engineer he would have to advance to the understanding and use of higher mathematics. And he would have to learn and be guided by the additional principles thereof. He could not make a success of his career if he ignored the principles learned because, through incorrect figuring of basic construction needs, the structure on which he worked would collapse.
15 The Christian might be said to be in a similar position. He, according to Paul, ought to use the foundation principles of Christ as a means of advancement to spiritual maturity. He must learn and be guided by advanced principles of Christ and should be able to teach them to others. If he did not understand them himself he would not be guided by them, and if he did not understand them he would be unable to instruct others about them. Christian teaching is both oral and exemplary; the course of life of the mature Christian is observed by the immature person as good to imitate, and it is good to imitate if it is based on right principles. This is another reason why the mature Christian has to be governed by principles.—Phil. 3:17.
16. What danger exists for those who do not advance beyond the first principles?
16 On the other hand, if we do not advance beyond the first principles of Christ, but childishly linger with the foundation truths of repentance, faith, baptism, begetting by the spirit, resurrection, judgment of souls and so on, there is danger. What is the danger? A relapse into sin. We must have a strong structure, well built on the solid foundation principles of Christianity, and continue building.—Rom. 14:19; Jude 20.
17. What may be said of one who, after learning the first principles, fails to undergo Christian dedication and baptism?
17 It should be noted that repentance, faith and baptism are foundation truths. The Scriptures bid us to advance beyond those and to attain maturity. Therefore, any individual associated with the New World society today who for one reason or another fails to undergo Christian baptism marks himself as very immature, not thoroughly understanding even the first principles of Christ. Though he may have been many years associating with the New World society and attending congregational meetings, he is still controlled more by passion than principle. Those who advance beyond these fundamental truths will, with the benefit of God’s spirit, advance to the mature spiritual food, gaining a penetrating understanding of God’s Word. The spirit or active force of God has clarifying powers, and with it the deeper things of God are delved into and uncovered to our understanding.—1 Cor. 2:9, 10, NW.
18. How does God’s Word help us be governed by principles?
18 All this spiritual discernment is based on God’s Word. Hence there is no substitute for knowledge of God’s Word. All of us need to meditate daily on God’s Word, to imbed more firmly in our minds the principles of truth of Almighty God Jehovah. The more basic principles we absorb, the more mature we become, the more stable and the more able to avoid collapse or a relapse into sin. The Jewish religious leaders prepared a Talmud for the Jews to follow, thereby setting out rules for every type of conduct, leaving little or no opportunity for reasoning on God’s Word, for logic and for learning God’s principles. Jehovah has not provided a Talmud-like set of rules through Christ for Christian living. He has stated some basic laws and rules in the Bible so we have a record of the principles that Christians must follow. It is necessary for Christians to apply these Christian principles to their daily living. Having a sparse knowledge of some facts found in the Scriptures is not sufficient.
CHRISTIANS AND THE WORLD
19. How does following God’s principles affect a Christian’s relationship to the world?
19 The righteous principles of God’s Word are more difficult for men than is the acceptance of Bible facts of common knowledge. Today Jehovah’s witnesses find themselves in a world where many people claim to be Christians and speak highly of the principles set forth in the Bible, but it is a rarity to find people outside of the New World society who try consistently to live up to the principles and rules set out by Almighty God in his Word. It is because Jehovah’s witnesses follow Christian principles that they are looked upon by the majority of those in the world as a peculiar people. The world is so far from Jehovah’s principles that Jehovah’s witnesses are made different from all the other people of this world, and they are looked upon by some governments of this world as an obstinate people, people that will not fall in line. The rulers do not understand the principles set forth in the Scriptures showing that Satan is the god of this world and that Christians are no part of this world, even as Christ Jesus was no part of this world. (1 Cor. 2:14) The world, through its judges and rulers, demands that Jehovah’s witnesses render to Caesar, not only the things that are Caesar’s, but more than that, and the world forgets the rest of the command of Jesus to pay the things that are God’s to God. Jehovah’s witnesses pay their taxes, accept education of the nation through the schools and support all the laws of the land that are in full accord with God’s principles of truth and righteousness, and wherever they live they comply with the rules and regulations of that nation. They dress as do other people and for the most part conform to the customs and habits of the people. But one thing Jehovah’s witnesses can not and will not do, that is, violate their conscience, which has been trained according to the principles set forth in God’s Word. True Christians, Jehovah’s witnesses, will adhere to the principles of Almighty God and pay back to God what belongs to God.—Matt. 22:21, NW.
20. What is an outstanding principle that is ignored by many?
20 Men cannot ignore the outstanding principle that Jehovah is the Creator and Almighty God of the universe, if they are to have understanding. Some so-called wise men of science in the world set up an insurmountable barrier to comprehending the origin of life by deliberately ignoring this principle. Then try as they may, without this basic truth they cannot ever arrive at a satisfactory explanation of life.—Gen. 1:1.
21. (a) What is Jehovah’s right as Creator? (b) When one becomes a dedicated worshiper of Jehovah what is his position with respect to the world?
21 As the Creator and Almighty One, Jehovah has the right to receive the exclusive devotion of human creatures on the earth. Jehovah himself made this plain in giving his law to Israel: “You must not make for yourself a carved image or a form like anything that is in the heavens above or that is on the earth underneath or that is in the waters under the earth. You must not bow down to them nor be induced to serve them, because I Jehovah your God am a God exacting exclusive devotion.” (Ex. 20:4, 5, NW) That is a principle of truth or a fact. It is also a fact that his supremacy has been challenged by Satan, the god of this world, and this world is in opposition to Almighty God Jehovah. (Job 1:11; Isa. 14:13; Jas. 4:4) Christians make an unconditional dedication to Jehovah and thus become aliens to this devilish old world. Therefore dedication is like applying for citizenship in the new world and the formal ceremony of baptism is like an oath before witnesses confirming this fact. The founder of Christianity, Christ Jesus, set the example by his dedication and baptism, and then, at John 17:14 (NW), clearly stated concerning Christians: “They are no part of the world just as I am no part of the world.”
22. When Jesus set out the principle at John 17:14, why did he not give a multitude of minute rules and details for Christians to follow?
22 What did Jesus mean by the principle here stated? Why did he not go into detail and set out a multitude of rules for Christians to follow? It is true that he stated the principle a little earlier when he said to his followers, at John 15:19 (NW): “If you were part of the world, the world would be fond of what is its own. Now because you are no part of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, on this account the world hates you.” Yet he did not want Christians to be isolated from preaching to the world, for he prayed to Jehovah, at John 17:15 (NW): “I request you, not to take them out of the world, but to watch over them because of the wicked one.” Yes, there is danger from the god of this world. (2 Cor. 4:4) Jesus told Christians the theocratic principles, but he left it for them to reason on the Scriptures and to determine how to deal with Satan’s subtle snares and how to conduct their lives in this system of things.
23. How does the exemplary life of Christ aid Christians to reason on how to live in accord with the principles of God’s Word in this world?
23 Christians upon the earth today have the benefit of seeing how Christ and the inspired apostles reasoned on Bible principles. Jesus himself had made a solemn dedication to serve Jehovah. That meant he was a minister or ambassador of Jehovah and was required to give his first attention to Jehovah’s service. He appreciated true values, visualizing the rightness of his position and keeping clear of the old world or false human reasonings. He preached the storing up of treasures in heaven and practiced what he preached by serving in full-time ministry. He understood the principles that all things belong to Jehovah and the blessing of Jehovah makes rich. He resisted the effort of the people to make him a king. Jesus was positive in his expressions and actions. He fully understood his place and the work to be done. While he was neutral toward the conflicts, politics and commerce of this world, yet he did not hesitate to speak out in condemnation of the violations of the righteous principles of God. He did not compromise principles with being overly tactful. Jesus refused to share in the false religions of his day, and by his strict adherence to God’s principles of righteousness he drew the fire of religious leaders, who caused him to be brought before the Roman rulers. There Jesus stated a principle: “My kingdom is no part of this world.” And then he said: “If my kingdom were part of this world, my attendants would have fought that I should not be delivered up to the Jews. But, as it is, my kingdom is not from this source.”—John 18:36, NW; also Matt. 6:20; 4:1-10; 23:4, 5.