“In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things charity.”

October 27, 2005 § 10 Comments

I was going to write a long essay about that statement. Basically I think it is pretty over-used. And mis-applied. After all, who says that Augustine was qualified to judge what constitutes an essential? Or a non-essential?

Jesus and His apostles said that to attain salvation, we need faith, and we need to obey Christ. Right? So those are the essentials, right? Faith and obedience. So what are we to believe in and obey? All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Tim 3:16,17.

So the same Scripture that tells us “That if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved,” Romans 10:9; also says, “But the one who endures to the end, he will be saved,” Matt 24:13.

Jesus Himself in Mark 16:15 says, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned,” while 1 Peter 3:21 says, “…baptism now saves you…”

Jesus gave a lot of commands. He said to turn the other cheek, and not resist an evil person. He said that unless we eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, we have no life in us. He said we must be born of water and the Spirit. But He also said there were dire consequences for those who did not believe and did not obey. The Apostles were just as adamant about holding to the teaching they had passed down– for salvation’s sake.

Only God is the judge over what is essential or not. But man has usurped that position. He has had the arrogance to decide which scriptures he will believe and how far he will go in obeying those commands.

That is playing with fire. Eternal fire. When Paul tells us to work out our salvation with “fear and trembling” I suggest we heed him on that.

Let us be diligent, brothers and sisters, in searching out the Scriptures, and making sure that we are doing all He tells us. If it is in Scripture– if it came from the mouth of Christ, or one of His appointed Apostles– it is essential.

Don’t play games with His mercy and grace.

Parting Thought: Luke 12:42-48 And the Lord said, “Who then is the faithful and sensible steward, whom his master will put in charge of his servants, to give them their rations at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions. But if that slave says in his heart, ‘My master will be a long time in coming,’ and begins to beat the slaves, both men and women, and to eat and drink and get drunk; the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces, and assign him a place with the unbelievers. And that slave who knew his master’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes, but the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few. From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.”

Even in our ignorance, we are held accountable. Seek out His Word. That’s what it is there for!

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§ 10 Responses to “In essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; in all things charity.”

  • judetherat says:

    A caveat
    Just be careful that you don’t confuse “Essential for Salvation” with “Precepts to Live by in God’s Family.”
    The former relates to essentials needed to actually be saved. The latter points to attitudes and behaviors one needs to cultivate in order to live a fulfilled life of salvation. One’s a change that takes place in an instant, the other is a life long process of growth (but shouldn’t be 100% expected for a Christian starting out)

  • koinegeek says:

    Jesus taught us what thing we ought and ought not do, wrapped up in the two commandements of Matthew 22:37-41. (Love God, Love your neighbor). He gave us examples of what it was to love a faithful life, but He didn’t intend us to live like the pharisees. We were to live from the inside out. To be changed by God on the inside, to have the indwelling Spirit, that internal change yielding the external results He described.
    (sorry, didn’t mean for that to sound contrarian, it’s just that trying to live from the outside-in had some drastic results in my life and my faith walk).
    You are right, we are to study and show are selves approved every chance we get. We may not get it all 100% right, but we ought to strive for that, with the difference covered by God’s grace (can you believe me, a Campbellite saying this? ๐Ÿ™‚ )

  • DT says:

    Re: A caveat
    Just be careful that you don’t confuse “Essential for Salvation” with “Precepts to Live by in God’s Family.”
    And you make my point beautifully. This type of thing is exactly what I am talking about.
    New Testament Christians, and those in the first couple of centuries would say there is no difference between living a godly life and Salvation. The two are intertwined. Are we saved at the moment we come to Christ? Yes. Our debt is paid, the slate is wiped clean, and, through baptism, we are ushered into re-birth and new life.
    But then comes the Maintenance portion of our salvation. Paul tells us we are to “work out our salvation in fear and trembling.” Jesus said the ones who would enter the Kingdom would be those who “endure to the end.”
    The writings of the early church echo and expound on these types of verses.
    Basically, they believed there were two steps in salvation. The initial coming to faith/baptism, and then walking the walk– running the race. All this is supported by the sayings of Jesus, and the teachings of the Apostles.
    Paul tells all of the churches he wrote to adhere to the doctrines and teachings he passed down to them. Hebrews tells us if we fall back in to our old ways, we risk losing our salvation. In Romans, Paul tells us that God has put something in us “which does not sin” and that we are to walk in the Spirit.
    The warnings from all the Apostles (Paul, Jude, Peter, etc) against false doctrine were dire indeed. If these things were simply matters of conscience, they would not have made such a big deal about it, or called those that spread false teachings “antichrists.”
    My whole point with this post is that we have been duped into calling important matters “not important.” The very fact that a Christian can make a distinction between “Salvation” and “godly living” shows how far off base we really are.
    The matters that are “unimportant” are specially noted as such– such as dietary issues. But unless otherwise noted, we should err on the side of caution, and expect that God will take an accounting of our every action, and that many will come to Him on the day and say “Lord, Lord” and He will say, “Depart from me, I never knew you.” I’d hate to find out on the last day that I was careless in my walk.
    For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY ” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:30,31

  • DT says:

    We were to live from the inside out. To be changed by God on the inside, to have the indwelling Spirit, that internal change yielding the external results He described.
    It’s funny, because this is very close to what we were talking about last week in our discipleship group.
    We were doing a study of Hebrews (we just finished tonight)and it was all about how the Law was basically about the outside– the blood was sprinkled on the outer man, and the sins were forgiven, but the people were not able to be made perfect by the Law or the sacrificial system.
    But now the old system is done away with (but that’s my next topic of controversy;)) and we live by a new covenant; a covenant that does perfect one– from the inside out. No longer do we sprinkle the blood of bulls and goats on the outside. Now we take in the Blood of Jesus– into our inner being. No longer does the Spirit settle on us for a time and then depart. Now we have a promise that He will indwell us, and that we now have “that within us that does not sin.” We are chastened to “walk in the Spirit” and not cater to the flesh.
    In the early church, this was so much easier, because you had the Apostles right there to show you it could be done, and to provide not only an example, but to answer any questions that one might have.
    We’re about 1800 years removed from those who either walked with the Apostles, or knew someone who had. We haven’t really seen anyone doing exactly what is described in scripture. If we were to look at all of the experiential language in scripture (and I challenge you to do that sometime) we would probably find that what we experience in our walk is not what is described in scripture.
    Sorry. Got carried away. What I meant was, “Oh yes, I agree with you!” ๐Ÿ˜‰

  • koinegeek says:

    If we were to look at all of the experiential language in scripture (and I challenge you to do that sometime) we would probably find that what we experience in our walk is not what is described in scripture.
    Oh? What kinds of ‘experiential language’ do you mean? Guess I’ve never heard that term used in this context and am a bit confused. Any examples?

  • judetherat says:

    Re: A caveat
    My whole point with this post is that we have been duped into calling important matters “not important.” The very fact that a Christian can make a distinction between “Salvation” and “godly living” shows how far off base we really are.
    No no no! It’s important that we make this distinction. If not, we fall into the same trap that the Hebrew did. If we start telling a nonChristian that they have to follow every single commandment that Jesus gave, it degrades the Grace of God to a list of do’s and don’ts. That’s why the apostles Paul, James and John and the writer of Hebrew basically keep on reminding us that godly living is majorly important, but one has to get to the point where they can live godly first.
    Basically, they believed there were two steps in salvation. The initial coming to faith/baptism, and then walking the walk– running the race. All this is supported by the sayings of Jesus, and the teachings of the Apostles.
    Don’t confuse the process of sancitification with the complete salvation experience. You’ll only end up a legalist. Marking off a checklist rather than cultivating a relationship with the Master. Yes, there are still rules, precepts and principles to follow, however they flow out of that love relationship first. You’re not going to please the Father without being in the Family first.
    In the Bible, “salvation” can refer to both parts of salvation: “getting saved” as the aspect of recieving God’s gift. AND growing in faithfulness and holiness as one progresses toward the Heavenly City.
    Take the 1 Corinthians 3 passage for example, like you said, God is going to hold us accountable for how we lived our salvation life. If we submit to God and follow the leading of the Spirit, that’s the gold, silver and jeweled construction. If a person chooses to go their own way after recieving Christ then he’s building with the wood, hay and straw. After passing appearing before God, He’ll purify the building. Some people will have a strong lasting “house” built up, others will just be left with the foundation – Jesus Himself – but nothing else. They’ll still be saved, but will still have the smell of smoke on ’em for a while (and miss out from the blessings God promised overcomers).
    Two steps to Heaven: salvation (the laying of the foundation of Jesus in a person’s life), and sanctification (building upon that foundation, learning to use the best materials).
    It’s sad, some people never mature past the “I’ve recieved Jesus” stage. Conversely, some people never mature past the “These are His commands to follow.” The mature Christian understands that genuinely loving Christ will compel one to fulfill his commands automatically.

  • DT says:

    Lessee…
    Statements like John 7:38: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'” As a greek scholar, you will know the word for “innermost being” much better than I. I will not attempt to spell it here, but most directly translated, it is “gut” or “belly” which indicates something you experience physically.
    In John 4:13,14, Jesus talks to the Samaritan woman at the well, Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.” (NASB) The NKJV translates it, But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.
    Here He has been talking about the Holy Spirit, and in Acts, we see other language that indicates there are occurances that are truly experienced, and that the Apostles in their letters assume of those they are writing to.
    We tend to look at the Epistles, and translate the “you” that Paul and the others write as “me” or “we” but can we really do that (yet)? If we are not experiencing our walk the same way they did, can we apply the same promises or commands? Or assume that what we experience is exactly the same as what they experienced?
    A good way to check this out for yourself would be to go through the New Testament and underline any verses that sound like an experience, i.e. “experiential language.” Then try checking off any that you have experienced, and take note of any that you have not or are unsure of.
    It’s a very interesting study, and very eye-opening.

  • DT says:

    Part 1
    It’s important that we make this distinction. If not, we fall into the same trap that the Hebrew did. If we start telling a nonChristian that they have to follow every single commandment that Jesus gave, it degrades the Grace of God to a list of do’s and don’ts.
    Why is that? This is what Jesus did. He went around to huge crowds of non-Christians and said basically “If you are going to follow me and have eternal life, this is how you must live. If you don’t believe in me and live this way, you will not enter into eternal life.” (paraphrased from many statements, obviously. ;)) The Hebrews were in danger of falling into the trap of following the Hebraic Law– as where the Galatians. Even in Romans, Paul addresses this. Being legalist in their terms was following a dead and gone covenant. But Hebrews is very explicit about what happens if, in faith, you do not follow Christ’s and His Apostles’ commands: For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
    but a terrifying expectation of judgment and THE FURY OF A FIRE WHICH WILL CONSUME THE ADVERSARIES. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY ” And again, “THE LORD WILL JUDGE HIS PEOPLE.” It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    All of Hebrews has been addressing trying to live by the Old Covenant. But the writer tells us that we are now under a more excellent covenant.
    The trouble today is that many mainline denominations dip into the old covenant, and most of Paul’s epistles are about how that is what it means to be legalistic, and even dangerous.

  • DT says:

    Part 2
    I’ve never exceeded the word-count before… >sheepish grin<
    Do we need Christ’s Spirit to walk in the ways He has prescribed? Absolutely. We cannot try to walk in our own strength. Paul tells us that Chirst now lives in us, and that we should walk in Him, and not try to live by the carnal Law For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God. I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!” Gal. 2:19-21
    I am not at all saying that if we live by rules, we will be saved. I am saying, if we live by the Spirit, who saves us, then we will obey Him and be saved– the salvation process that was begun when we first believed will be completed.
    Now this is very similar to the point you are trying to make. But there is a distinction.
    If we claim to have the Spirit, yet do not walk in the ways Jesus and His Apostles instructed, we can no longer claim that salvation. Hebrews makes this clear, and so does the book of James. What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? James 2:14
    James goes on to say, Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself. But someone may well say, “You have faith and I have works; show me your faith without the works, and I will show you my faith by my works.” You believe that God is one You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?
    So please do not think that I am saying that works alone will save us. But works in faith do have a huge part in the salvation process.
    Again, Jesus said that “He who endures to the end will be saved.” His parable of the sheep and the ghoats is all about “Christians” who discover that works definitely matter in their salvation. Most of His parables were along those lines.
    We need to rethink our attitude toward His and His Apostles’ teachings. they cannot be taken lightly, and we should be up front with unbelievers, telling them, “This is how Christ has called us to live,” and actually live that way. We cannot tell non-Christians that if the behave this way on their own, they will attain salvation. But they should know that if they come to Christ in faith, He will, through His word (which equips us for every good work) and His Spirit (Who will write His word upon our hearts and minds) walk in the manner that will lead to the salvation of their souls.
    No one slides into the kingdom of heaven. We endure, we struggle, we suffer, we strive. And in the end, we will recieve our reward. Not because we followed the Law, but because we lived by faith– doing the works prepared for us by God Himself. But we must “show ourselves approved.” We can’t do it all on our own– but we are supposed to do it.

  • koinegeek says:

    Ahh, I understand now. That’s an interesting way to look at it… When I’m asked why I believe in Jesus, I often state my primary reason as being experiential – that it simply works, that I have many struggles that I would not have made it through had it not been for divine intervention. I do try to balance my faith… go too far focusing on the experiential, I can lose sight of the intellectual, ignoring the more abstract concepts. While delving into only those concepts, I miss the application they have in life. I find that, at least in my denomination, there is a constant struggle between the internal and external manifestations of faith (Grace vs. Obedience). I truly feel that to walk more closely to Jesus, we must have a balance of both (starting internally and manifesting externally).

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