Elementary Principles

For several years there has been a question that I have asked many. The question is, “What are the basic or elementary principles of Christ?” what are the first things we should teach new believers? It is interesting that there have been few (whether pastor or believer) who can tell me what they are or where they can be found in the New Testament.

Paul is the one who gives us these foundation stones that should be the starting point for those who call themselves believers or followers of Christ. In Hebrews 5:12-6:2 we find his statements on this subject.

Heb 5:12 –Heb 6:3 (NKJV)

For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.

1Therefore, 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, 2of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. 3And this we will do if God permits.

Hebrews 5 talks of who Jesus is, and in verse 11 Paul says that there is much he cannot say as –they (the followers of Christ) have become “dull” or “hard of hearing.” Then he explains to them that they do not even know the “first principles of the oracles of God”. They are “unskilled” — having not used or practiced these first principles so that they would “discern” good (God) and evil (not God).

In verses 1-3 of Chapter 6 He states, (verse 3) “if God permits”, they can go on from the elementary principles of Christ. In the end of verse 1 and in verse 2 he defines the elementary or first principles of Christ that they can go on from –if God permits.

Before I list these elementary principles, let us define; “first” (found in 5:12), and

“elementary” (found in 6:1): a commencement, or (concrete) chief (in various applications of order, time, place or rank):—beginning, corner, (at the, the) first (estate), magistrate, power, principality, principle, rule.

And “principle” (found in both places); something orderly in arrangement, that is, (by implication) a serial (basal, fundamental, initial) constituent (literally), proposition (figuratively):—element, principle, rudiment.

So from these definitions we can see that these listed “foundational elements” should be the beginning, — the first, chief rules or commands we, as believers, obey out of our desire to know God and please Him. They should be rudimentary, the cornerstone in our living. — If I am reading this passage correctly until we are “practicing or using” these first principles we cannot go on to maturity. Actually I think it would be safe to say that the practice or use of the elementary, first principles of Christ shows our maturity or lack of it.

It is interesting to note that these principles that Paul lays out in 6:1-2 are found in the four Gospels also and are even mentioned in the Old Testament. But, lets not get ahead of ourselves. Before we can move on to perfection we should “lay the foundation”. Lets make a list of these first principles and put a bit of a definition to them.

· Repentance from dead works – turn from your way of living independent of God to following, committing and surrendering your life to Him.

· Faith towards God— exhibit trust in, display relying on and live in adherence to Him

· Doctrine of baptisms (plural—more than one kind) – I will list 3, water, Spirit, and fire.

· Laying on of hands – this is anointing, and the miraculous, ie; lay hands on the sick

· Resurrection of the dead – no distinction here, so probably both, raising the dead and being resurrected in the end.

· Eternal judgment – what we do will be judged, our “works of faith” are important. There is an end and “Grace, Grace” is not enough, our relationship must be lived. We are accountable and responsible to “show” our faith.

Since these principles are elementary, disciples should be teaching disciples to “do” these first. And only after the “new” Christ-follower is doing these, being naturally supernatural, should more be given. If we empower and loose new Christ followers into these elementary principles they will not want to walk away or warm a pew. They will experience being needed and used by the Lord!

Of course to teach someone these basic Christian concepts we ourselves will have to walk in these basic principles, as they must be demonstrated or modeled in us to be given away by us. You cannot give away that which you do not possess.

{to teach these principles you must first show Christ followers who they are, get them to understand the depth of “being saved”. They need to know they are children of God, not slaves, and that intimacy with Father and Son is the goal of Christ’s sacrifice. Jn.17:3. } They also need to recognize the responsibility of the position they occupy.

If Paul was the first to lay these elementary doctrines as the foundation for Christ followers to do, we might be able to say this is just his opinion of what should come first but he is not. Jesus left us with some commands after He was resurrected, and we need to compare these statements of Paul’s with Jesus last words to us from the Gospels. All of Paul’s writings must be put UNDER or in line with Jesus’ commands to be interpreted correctly. To take Paul’s writings and have them stand alone will lead you to some wrong ideas of what he is saying. When put with Jesus’ statements, many of Paul’s words have a whole different slant to their meaning than what we have been taught.

In each of the four Gospels Jesus leaves us with an action command after He was resurrected. His “last things” should be our “first things”. (in the beginning of His ministry He had His disciples laying hands on the sick, preaching, and baptizing. Then in the end He told them again to continue to do these things they had learned to do).

An Example of “last things, first things” in living; As a parent with young kids, we begin to teach them important things first. For instance, if we have a wood stove one of the first things we teach our young children is not to touch the stove as it will burn them. Second we will teach them “do not play with matches”. Then as they grow we teach them how to take care of the stove and how to use matches safely. Why? Because we know that these two things have the potential to keep us warm or destroy, not only their lives, but the whole family. Years go by and we have taught our children many things but the first time we leave them alone in the house for an hour or two by themselves what do we re-iterate”? “Don’t play with matches and be careful with the wood stove”!

These two things could be called “elementary principles of living” in our family and house. If someone comes to our home with kids, they are told first thing, “that stove is hot and will burn you, so be careful around it. And, do not play with the matches we use to start the fire with as they can really do some damage to you, others and the house” .

The commission commands Jesus had His disciples begin with, — upon resurrection, He re-emphasizes to be the continued foundation for all to walk in.

Let’s look at what Jesus left them to observe or do;

Mt 28:18 –Mt 28:20 (NKJV)

And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

Mk 16:15 –Mk 15:18

15And He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. 16He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned. 17And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; 18they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.”

Lk 24:46 –Lk 24:49 (NKJV)

Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. And you are witnesses of these things. Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high.”

Jn 20:21 –Jn 20:23 (NKJV)

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

In each of the above commission commands we will find some if not all of the “first or elementary” principles of Christ listed by Paul in Heb.6:1-2 .

In Mt.28:18-20 Jesus commissions and commands the disciples go make more disciples, to baptize, and teach others to do what they had been taught to do. If we look at what Jesus taught them “to do” or “observe”, we find that they preached, laid hands on the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead — basically he taught them to walk like He did. He had them do what Paul says are the basic principles of Christ and He told them to teach others to do these elementary principles. He also taught them to live the characteristics of Father.

In Mk 16:15-18 Jesus commands His disciples to preach the gospel (repent and believe in Jesus), baptize, (in water and Spirit as these new believers are to speak in tongues), the believers are also to do what the apostles or disciples did, cast out demons, lay hands on the sick, etc…

Again, Jesus is having the disciples get others to do the same basic principles listed by Paul.

In Lu 24:46-49 Jesus speaks a little clearer through Luke than Mark recorded but basically He tells them to teach repentance and remission of sins, and that they should not try to be a witness without “receiving power from on high” which according to Acts 1:8 is the baptism of the Spirit or the “Spirit coming upon them” with the purpose of giving them power to be a witness. (signs and wonders, healings, etc.). Ok, so here we have Jesus telling them to preach, and that they should do nothing without The POWER. Isn’t this the same thing that Paul is saying in the list of the first principles of Christ?

In Jn 20:21-23 Jesus makes it all real plain and uses few words in His statement to the disciples. “I am sending you Just like me”! That definitely is saying to do all that Paul describes in His elementary principles.

Here is where it gets a bit interesting, have you ever looked at Lu 4:18 and Jesus commission and compared His commission to Paul’s basic elementary principles that new believers should walk in and the resurrection commission commands?

Lk 4:18 –Lk 4:19 (NKJV) “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,

Because He has anointed Me

To preach the gospel to the poor;

He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,

To proclaim liberty to the captives

And recovery of sight to the blind,

To set at liberty those who are oppressed;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Is this not the same commission that we have in the resurrection commands and in Paul’s elementary principles of Christ? Jesus was sent to do these, to model what He wanted His disciples to do, AND what He wanted them to teach others to do after He left to go be with Father!

Ok, so my point in all this. How did we get to a place where we teach new followers of Christ what we do and NOT what is shown biblically to be the “basic” rudimentary commission commands or principles of Christ?

My Lady Dana asks this question of a lot of people, “Why is it easier to believe a lie than the truth”? I think in this case it would be, “Why is it easier to follow the traditions of man rather than being obedient to the Word of God”? And why do we justify not changing when we see the truth?

We have been teaching discipleship/intimacy with God for many years and when I am presenting the concept of Mt. 28:18-20 to leaders in the traditional church settings, after the training is over many of the pastors or leaders will come to me and say, “We see that what you are saying is true, but we will continue to do what we have done as this discipleship thing is too hard” – or they will say it will not be accepted by their denomination – or they will say that if they do it they will lose their “position” as pastor. NOT ONE HAS EVER SAID IT IS NOT SCRIPTURAL, just the opposite, they know what we teach is The Truth but will not repent and follow what they admit is God. It is easier and more comfortable to do what they have always done, even though they know what they are doing doesn’t work or change the communities they exist in. How sad is that?

These same leaders will get together and pray that God will save the people in their communities with fervor and tears flowing. They will fast, pray and constantly bring in “new programs” and “anointed teachers or preachers” in hopes of seeing a move of God. But, they will not repent and change. Christ followers trust them to teach/model the TRUTH, so they do what their leaders do—that is scary!

The same questions are always here, Why do we pray if we are unwilling to obey? Why do we cry yet refuse to acknowledge the error of our ways? Why do we read the Bible if we have already decided what it says in-spite of what is written on it’s pages.

Why do we justify our powerless gospel and reject biblical statements like Jesus saying, ,… “As the Father has sent me so I send you” (Jn.20:21) or Paul’s statements in 1 Corinthians, “… my speech… in demonstration of the Spirit and Power” and “…for the kingdom of God is not in word but Power (1 Cor. 2:4 and 4:20). We leaders must step down from our “position of authority” and “empower and equip” the Church with the authority and “fullness of Christ” so Jesus may be seen by the world through them. The greatest must become the servants of all…we must go back to the elementary principles of Christ, the resurrection commission commands and walk them out equipping others to do the same. In Father’s Hand, neil

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