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Pete
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« on: June 16, 2008, 08:04:47 PM »

A little article I've been working on...



Essentials and Non-essentials

Divisions abound between many good and Godly Christians and Christian denominations. Often these are the result of the pettiest concerns, like the color of the church carpet or type of church music, but often, too, divisions are the result of well-meaning brothers grappling over doctrine or theology. What divisions are good? When are they wrong? How should we measure and decide? All good questions we will seek to answer.

The church has had theological battles since Christ ascended into Heaven! Seriously! Acts 11:2 begins the description of Peter being taken to task for ministering to Gentiles. Acts 15:4-12 relates another debate in Jerusalem. Another easily identifiable debate where faith and works are juxtaposed is seen in James 2:14ff where James declares true faith should produce good works. Many others are alluded to in the New Testament epistles and verify that the nature of seeking truth requires hard questions and searching the Scriptures.

Most questions or disagreements can be separated into two major categories: essential and non-essential. Simply, what is essential to the basic tenets of Christian faith, and what is not.

Understanding the categories demands a clear definition of the word: essential. Merriam-Webster's Dictionary offers:

 es·sen·tial  Listen to the pronunciation of essential
Pronunciation: i-̀̀̀sen(t)-shəl

Function: /adjective/

Date: 14th century

1*:* of, relating to, or constituting essence : inherent

2 a: of the utmost importance : basic, indispensable, necessary <an essential requirement for admission to college>

The central core beliefs of Christianity are the essential, inherent beliefs that are of utmost import. Examples of essential beliefs would be the inerrancy of the inspired Word of God, the sufficiency of the shed blood of Christ, salvation by grace through faith, and the Deity of Christ as the second Person in the Triune Godhead. Many other clearly defined doctrines of the Christian faith fall into the essential doctrines' category. These are the core beliefs worth living and dying for, the beliefs defined as cornerstones of Christianity.

Non-essential, by definition, are those beliefs that are important, but not necessarily core beliefs. In this category we might include as examples modes of baptism (sprinkle or dunk), forms of worship, the ordo salutis, and for our purposes, eschatological positions (pre-mid-post trib, or others...).

Often we tend to define as essential the major core beliefs, PLUS whatever pet doctrine we think everyone should agree with us on... The result is a slightly unpredictable line dividing the two unless a believer is willing to truly ask himself if a given minor doctrine is really essential, and therefore worth dividing the body of Christ over.

Essential beliefs are absolutely worthy of division and separation. It is these beliefs that, when violated, identify who the false teachers and preachers are. Questioning the Deity of Christ, against all the evidence in Scripture, requires the label of heretic.' Certainly, there are times when the finer points of understanding in these areas need to be discussed, but once the conclusion is drawn, if it does not line up with the clear teaching of Scripture, then it is heresy and demands a sharp rebuke and if needs be, shaking the dust from our sandals and moving on.

It is in the non-essentials that we often show our sinful nature, and that is what I'd primarily like to address in this article.

As a board that is passionate about prophecy, we can be very zealous not only about the Word of God, but our individual interpretations of it. Often we can come to the false conclusion that we have it all figured out, or others who might not see things our way are misguided, wrong or even heretical. We can quickly move our understanding of prophecy from the non-essential to the essential and then treat others accordingly. Such should never happen.

The Apostle Paul, in I Corinthians 13:2 addresses exactly, how we are to act when dealing with prophecy. He says, (NASB) “If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” How many of us would relish the opportunity to truly “know all mysteries and all knowledge?” If we did, would we wield that powerful sword in love? Or might it be a hammer to prove we are right!'

The reformers of centuries past had a saying, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity.” As believers in Jesus Christ from diverse backgrounds, we do well to heed those words. We are called to discuss, debate and work together to understand and, if possible, solve the questions within prophetic Scripture, but at the end of the day, we are to be drawn closer as brothers to both Christ and to each other. Only through love' can we be so.

Now, are there rare times when we have to deal strongly, even in the non-essentials? Yes, if one's interpretation is clearly contrary to Scripture and damaging to the core of essential beliefs. An example might be a replacement theology based on an AD 70 fulfillment... Clearly, Scripture and history concur to identify a false teaching, exacerbated by the fact that the Book of Revelation was written after the fact! Would the general Pre-tribulational or Post-tribulational view fit this mold? No, because either position, as well as other similar positions, can be articulated with varying degrees of certainty from Scripture, without damaging the essential doctrines of the faith.

Some might ask if by this unity, I am promoting ecumenicalism'... And I would stand guilty if your definition of ecumenicalism' is narrowly defined by the essentials of the Christian faith. I do not broadly embrace all who profess Christ, because not all do so according to Scripture. What I do promote is unity as Christ petitioned the Father for in His High Priestly prayer in John 17. Jesus specifically prays that the Body be one' in verses 11, 21, and 23 with special emphasis on us knowing the truth (17 and 19) resulting in a display of His love to the world (26).

Will we have differences in our understanding of prophecy or other minor doctrines? Yep. Should we discuss and try to sort it out? Certainly. Should we be divided over differences that do not strike at the essentials of the faith? Absolutely NOT! Rather, we are to display charity.

In short, “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, charity.”

Oh, and the color of the carpet in the sanctuary? Who cares? We have much more important things to be concerned about.



May God bless us as we seek purity and unity.

Peace,

Pete
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Rev. 13:10  If anyone is destined for captivity, to captivity he goes; if anyone kills with the sword, with the sword he must be killed.  Here is the perseverance and faith of the saints.

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« Reply #1 on: June 16, 2008, 08:45:32 PM »

Good article, sounds a lot like this one: Disputable Matters Wink
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« Reply #2 on: June 16, 2008, 09:05:13 PM »

Really good article thumbs up
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Mike 99
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« Reply #3 on: June 17, 2008, 08:45:27 AM »

 Bless You  Pete

Good Article

 shalom
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Gal 1:10For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the bondslave of Christ.(KJV)
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« Reply #4 on: June 17, 2008, 08:48:46 AM »

 thumbs up  Awesome Pete, thank you.
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« Reply #5 on: June 18, 2008, 07:18:14 PM »

thumbs up  Awesome Pete, thank you.

In agreement with all. This is a blessed teaching for us at WOP and ALL in the body of Christ. May it strengthen our armor and become a witness in our life and love of Jesus Christ as we serve Him.

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« Reply #6 on: October 13, 2016, 01:53:35 AM »

Nice Post
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