You need to know the precepts — need to know what’s right and wrong, what you should do and what you shouldn’t do — but I think we’re designed to operate by principles.
Case in point, the Ten Commandments. We should know all ten. Yet, when Jesus was asked which of the ten was the most important He responded that they were contained in two overarching principles: “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength . . . love your neighbor as yourself” (Mk. 12:29-31). Love God, love others. Operate under those principles and you’re going to walk in obedience to the precepts.
But what about when it comes to stuff that’s less clearly laid out? Stuff not specifically commanded or forbidden? Stuff where there’s freedom, but also the potential for destruction? Stuff like eating food sacrificed to idols? Stuff like participating in something which, though good with your conscience, doesn’t pass the “tummy test” for someone else? What then?
Chewing on a valuable principle in 1Corinthians 10:
“All things are lawful,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful,” but not all things build up. Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbor.
(1Corinthians 10:23-24 ESV)
A premise and a principle.
The Premise. While all things might be lawful given the freedom we have in Christ, that doesn’t mean they’re helpful; doesn’t mean they’re profitable; they may not contribute to bringing together things that really matter. While all things might be permissible, they may not necessarily be edifying. Won’t necessarily promote growth in wisdom and holy living. Have no real value in restoring, rebuilding, or repairing. While something might be good, when it comes to it’s real value, it could be good for nothing.
The Principle. Seek not your own good, but the good of others. If I know that my freedom could be a choking point for a brother or sister and I’m operating under the principle that I’ll seek their good over my own, then I don’t need a rule to tell me what to do or not to do. I don’t need a command in order to consider others over myself. I don’t need a law in order to love others before myself. I don’t need a precept when I buy into the premise and resolve — as much as lies in me and by the empowering of the Spirit — to operate under the right principle.
I think that’s part of knowing how to walk as a mature Christian. Being informed by Scriptural concepts. I think that’s how we can thrive in our freedom. By understanding the framework of the kingdom.
By His grace. For His glory.