Essential Things or Not: Do All to the Glory of God

Perhaps one of the greatest struggles for followers of Jesus Christ is the very real tension between essential and less-essential matters within Christianity.  If the The Threshing Floor is going to be of any use to anyone (not the least of which, me), then we must bear in mind that some wheat kernels that fall to the ground are less essential than others.  When we speak of essential matters, most Christians are referring to the most fundamental truths of Christianity.  Truths that would render Christianity quite unremarkable and quite impotent if they were ignored or adjusted.

What are some of these essential truths (also referred to as core or fundamental truths)?  To name only a few, we should mention: the sovereignty and holiness of God; the sinfulness of man; the virgin conception of Jesus, His substitutionary atonement and bodily resurrection; His Second Coming; justification of the sinner by faith in Christ alone; and the sanctification of all those who are genuinely His.

What, then, are some of the less-essential truths (also known as non-core or secondary truths)?  Again to name only a few, we should mention: Sabbath-keeping; frequency of Lord Supper observance; food choices; clothing choices; alcohol consumption; tattoos; styles of music; speaking in tongues; and the list could go on and on.

On all of the essential truths, Christians must be inflexible and vigilant as the assaults of the enemy are relentless here.  We can in no way deny these truths without denying the very core of Christianity itself. But what should Christians do with the less-essential truths of Christianity?  Paul’s instructions to the Corinthians can be especially helpful here.

In 1 Corinthians 10:23-33, Paul writes about the less-essential issue of meat that has been sacrificed to idols.  Should a Christian eat or not?  Many believers would immediately answer, “No way!  Don’t eat it!”  But Paul instructs us differently.  He actually says, “Eat” (v.25), although we should be able to answer “Yes!” to at least two questions:
1)  Is it helpful to my neighbor? (1 Cor.10:23-24; Rom.14:13-19)
2)  Does it bring glory to God? (1 Cor.10:31)

If the answer to either question is no, then the Christian must not partake.  If, however, the Christian’s conscience is clear on these two points, then he may proceed, all to the glory of God.  I pray this helps us in at least some small way to navigate the often confusing maze of truth.

legalism, liberty, orthodoxy, primary doctrine, secondary doctrine, soli deo gloria

Comments (4)

  • One of the scariest things I see happening within the American Church today is the addition that is taking place concerning first order doctrines-valuing 2nd or 3rd level doctrines as if they are 1st level.

    While I believe that we must hold rigidly to orthodox, biblical, absolute truth, we must be willing the recognize the parameters of that orthodoxy. Orthodoxy is big enough and firm enough to allow some people that don’t look JUST LIKE ME to be considered Christian while it is also firm enough to keep some out.

    What I see are splinterings happening within the Body of Christ over 2nd and 3rd order doctrines that is just plain wrong and scary. I am not supporting ecumenicalism, but the common expressions of grace expected of us by God and His currently ruling King of all things, Jesus.

    Eschatological views for example are now being so narrowly defined that if one does not believe in a specific time for the return of Christ they are labeled as “heretic”! Someone casually mentioned to me the other day as they were making a comment about someone else, “and he doesn’t even believe in the (pre-trib) rapture!”

    One of my favorite verses to ponder is Mt. 24:10-13 “And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved” (KJV).

    The gospel causes division and offense in this world between the children of God and the children of Satan. BUT, betrayal occurs among friends and love that grows cold happens to those who seemingly have shown the evidence of loving. Could it be that the way some treat others over some of these issues reveals that there is a false love that is growing cold within many among the Church? A love not for Jesus or others but a love of the appearance righteousness that is revealed by a lack of grace and an abundance of venom over issues that don’t deserve that kind of attention?

    But the one who endures shall be saved. Let us endure! Not simply as those who make it to the finish line, but let HOW we make it to the finish line matter. Ephesians 4:15; John 17:17; Rom. 12:21

  • Brad, I agree that too many Southern Baptist churches are making things essential that are not. Perhaps this is one of the effects of becoming more biblically solid as a denomination. As Dr. Mohler has helped steer the Southern Baptist Seminary away from biblical anarchy for nearly two decades, we should not be surprised that local bodies of Christ would bristle up when better trained theologians began to hit the church field. I will say that in some ways we are dealing with the same old problem, just topics tend to get shuffled around. Yesterday, it was missions funding or “worship wars”; today it is dispensational, pre-tribulationism, or Calvinism; tomorrow it will be _______–you fill in the blank.
    Your comment about the way we treat one another on these second and third level issues revealing our heart really hits home. If we have not love, we have not anything. For he who endures to the end, only loves remains.

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