The Essentials

One of my favorite quotes from the Restoration Movement is “in essentials, unity; in non-essentials, liberty; and in all things, love.” In my mind, application of this principle is one of the keys to maintaining unity in the body of Christ. Of course the struggle is that you and I might (and often do) disagree on what exactly constitutes an “essential.” I could give several examples, but most of them would just get me in trouble so use your imagination. I ran across this little paragraph from Douglas Moo in his commentary on Romans 14…

Recognizing the need to distinguish between essential doctrines and the “adiaphoroa” [things neither commanded nor prohibited to Christians] raises another perplexing issue. How do we determine what belongs to which category? Roman Catholics have an advantage here. They can rely on papal authority to make that decision for them. But for Protestants the answer is not so easy. To be sure, Scripture is clear about some doctrinal matters. But the evidence on others is not so clear-cut. Thus, professing Christians take positions along a wide spectrum. Some are “minimalists,” insisting on only a very few beliefs (or none at all) as essential to the faith. This impulse is found especially in the ecumenical movement. At the other end of the spectrum are “maximalists,” who insist that any Christan who wants to enter into fellowship must cross the “t” and dot the “i” on an interminable list of doctrinal, ethical, and social issues. Some fundamentalists take this latter kind of an approach.

That’s a good summary of the issue and I’ve stood on both sides of it. I used to have a rather expansive list of beliefs that I considered essential to the Christian faith. Basically, anything and everything the church did (regardless of how much of it was influenced by tradition or weak Scriptural support). I now lean more to a “minimalist” view of things. I certainly don’t go as far as saying that there are no essential beliefs, but I do think the list is much shorter than I used to think it was. To me the essentials of the Christian faith center around five things–God, his Word, his Son, his Spirit, and his People (the redeemed). To see a little more explanation of each, check out the statement of beliefs that our church developed a few years ago.

11 thoughts on “The Essentials

  1. I just found out last night that most of our hosue church is coming this weekend to run the 5k and all want to eat Friday night. Kim let me know she was not a big fan of the place we went last year. Do you have any other suggestions or do you just want me to find a place and get reservations and let you know?

  2. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail. – Luke16:17 a tittle = literally something like the dot of an “i” or the cross of a “t” in English.Christ never taught “minimals” -K

  3. Peterson’s The Message leads me to believe that God can read even our flawed spellings,– without crossed t’s and dotted i’s. Jesus saw (God sees) peoples real intentions and thoughts. Jesus reminds the Pharisees that God’s intent of the law was to be followed, not their prideful and self-rightous interpertations.Read the context of verse 17.TBLuke 16The Story of the Crooked Manager 1-2Jesus said to his disciples, “There was once a rich man who had a manager. He got reports that the manager had been taking advantage of his position by running up huge personal expenses. So he called him in and said, ‘What’s this I hear about you? You’re fired. And I want a complete audit of your books.’ 3-4″The manager said to himself, ‘What am I going to do? I’ve lost my job as manager. I’m not strong enough for a laboring job, and I’m too proud to beg. . . . Ah, I’ve got a plan. Here’s what I’ll do . . . then when I’m turned out into the street, people will take me into their houses.’ 5″Then he went at it. One after another, he called in the people who were in debt to his master. He said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ 6″He replied, ‘A hundred jugs of olive oil.’ “The manager said, ‘Here, take your bill, sit down here—quick now— write fifty.’ 7″To the next he said, ‘And you, what do you owe?’ “He answered, ‘A hundred sacks of wheat.’ “He said, ‘Take your bill, write in eighty.’ 8-9″Now here’s a surprise: The master praised the crooked manager! And why? Because he knew how to look after himself. Streetwise people are smarter in this regard than law-abiding citizens. They are on constant alert, looking for angles, surviving by their wits. I want you to be smart in the same way—but for what is right—using every adversity to stimulate you to creative survival, to concentrate your attention on the bare essentials, so you’ll live, really live, and not complacently just get by on good behavior.” God Sees Behind Appearances 10-13Jesus went on to make these comments: If you’re honest in small things, you’ll be honest in big things; If you’re a crook in small things, you’ll be a crook in big things. If you’re not honest in small jobs, who will put you in charge of the store? No worker can serve two bosses: He’ll either hate the first and love the second Or adore the first and despise the second. You can’t serve both God and the Bank. 14-18When the Pharisees, a money-obsessed bunch, heard him say these things, they rolled their eyes, dismissing him as hopelessly out of touch. So Jesus spoke to them: “You are masters at making yourselves look good in front of others, but God knows what’s behind the appearance. What society sees and calls monumental, God sees through and calls monstrous. God’s Law and the Prophets climaxed in John; Now it’s all kingdom of God—the glad news and compelling invitation to every man and woman. The sky will disintegrate and the earth dissolve before a single letter of God’s Law wears out. Using the legalities of divorce as a cover for lust is adultery; Using the legalities of marriage as a cover for lust is adultery.

  4. I would consider that when I base my faith in “Peterson’s The Message” and not God’s the Bible. Even so I fail to see how my point, Jesus’ point, is challenged. Let us look at Matthew’s inspired document of the story. “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. -Matthew 5:17-19My point stands, Christ never taught minimals. I dont know what Peterson says but God says “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven.” Every bit matters, if you love Him obey every last word. -K

  5. Dear “K”In Act 15 Peter speaks of placing “a Yoke on the necks of the disciples that niether they nor their fathers were ever able to bare”.It sounds like that is exactly what you would like to do.Demand perfection? Dictate what is really required? Is that really your job?Gary

  6. Christ did not give a lot of commands, He did give us a new command “love one another”. I think that is the litmus test for all of our interpretations of scripture…if the interpretation turned into action is not loving or cannot be seen as loving then I would challenge that interpretation. Historically a lot of our interpetations of God’s commands have been in the light of showing ourselves to be better than someone else (building up or self image)…that is not loving. We don’t work our way into God’s grace, or learn our way…right from scripture it is given to us.There is a reason Paul warns us not to be involved in arguments about non-essentials…it causes division and plays into the hand of our enemy. Who would much rather you think you are perfect than come before the living God with humility.Mike Smith

  7. Dear “Gary”God is the only one to Dictate which is exactly my point. God tells us very clearly what to do in his word, To make maximums and minimals of it is dictating. I and no other man or spiritual being can belittle any of God’s laws. They are all of great importance. In Acts 15 Peter speeks against placing on people laws outside of God’s, such as circumcision which is not commanded in the new law. On the matter of perfection. Do I believe any man can obtain it, NO. Do I seek and Demand it for God, absolutely! Matthew 5:48 – Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.Dear Shump, I am going to assume that you commented sincerely and not sarcastically. What we call a dot of an I or the cross of a T in english is the exact same thing as a jot or a tittle in Hebrew. These words mean a portion of a letter. If you do not like Christ’s example take it up with Him not me, or just choose to make this a part of the Bible that is a minimal.Dear Mr. Smith,I admit, I did have to look up the litmus test. God’s law turned into action is always love. Come now, How many times does the Bible have to tell us that to love God is to keep His Commandments. You desire to love God, do you not? Then keep ALL of His word. Action is required on our part to gain His grace and to love Him. Do you claim to judge my intent? What else do you judge, what is and is not a “non-essential” perhaps? I certainly do not want to be the man that decides what is non-essential, I would rather keep all God’s word because I love Him. An honest question Mr. Smith, or anyone else who cares to answer, do you believe any part of the New Testament to be non-essential or of less value? None of these are my personal points or arguments, they are God’s. They come from His word, and they will always stand. This is not of pride but that you may give ear to what the Lord says. Do not belittle any of the Holy, complete, and perfect word of God. May it be all man’s desire and action to comply and to conform to ALL of God’s word. If you love Him keep His commandments!

  8. Dear “K”I have no trouble with your zeal to keep God’s command’s. That is very noble. We should all strive to do exactly that.I do however have trouble with our interpretations, opinions, infrences, and traditions getting in the way of those commands. I fear that we would not agree on just which things were commands and which things were traditions and opinions. But that’s OK as long as we don’t go condemning each other as non-Christians just because we disagree.Gary A.

  9. They Key again is God’s commands verus tradition or man’s commands. A lot of things that were taught to us as “commands” are not…they are just traditions that we feel comfortable with. Those are the things that are not essential. The Bible and it’s teachings are. Christ spent a lot more time reprimanding the legalists than he did chaastising the “sinners.”Mike

  10. Good discussion all. A couple of thoughts…I can go with the idea of “every bit matters” on two conditions: 1) It’s limited to the simple commands of Scripture and not to our traditions, necessary inferences, or interpretations of silence. 2) It’s understood that love trumps all. If we keep the law, but fail to love, than we’ve failed to keep the law.When Jesus was asked, “Of all the commands, which is the greatest?” He didn’t answer, “there is no way to differentiate because they are equally important and therefore they are all great.” (An answer I might have given at one time). Without hesitation he said, “the greatest is love.” He had no trouble prioritizing the commands.

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