The other day, taking advantage of a perceived opportunity to challenge the intellect, my grandmother asked my daughter, “How many oceans are there?”
Without skipping a beat, my daughter answered, “One.”
I told my grandma, “Well, in a general sense, she’s exactly right.”
There are times in religion when people err because we make specific principles act more like general principles, and we make general principles act more like specific principles … then we seek the answer that suits us best.
For example, take Paul’s correction concerning the church’s relationship with people living ungodly lives:
“I wrote you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people. In no way did I mean the immoral people of this world, or the greedy and swindlers and idolaters, since you would then have to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who calls himself a Christian who is sexually immoral, or greedy, or an idolater, or verbally abusive, or a drunkard, or a swindler. Do not even eat with such a person.” (1 Corinthians 5:9-11 NET)
When commands are given in the Bible, these commands need to be balanced with the guidance of other given commands.
We must submit to one another in order to maintain peace (Ephesians 5:21; 1 Peter 5:5) but if a person refuses to submit to apostolic authority then we are under no moral obligation to give way (Acts 2:42; 3 John 1:9-11). We must obey the laws of man (1 Peter 2:13) but when the laws of man contradict the laws of God then we are under no moral obligation to give heed (Acts 5:29).
There is a balance in God’s word that guides and educates in matters of discretion (Psalm 119:160, Hebrews 5:14) and this discretion does not allow one principle to ignore what is given in other places of the scripture for the purpose of self-justification or satisfaction.
True, some principles are general and some are specific … but all are important (Matthew 4:6-7).
“Now when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they assembled together. And one of them, an expert in religious law, asked him a question to test him: “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” Jesus said to him, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. The second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:34-40)