Friday, July 13, 2007

Essentials, Non-Essentials, and Christian Fellowship: An Introduction

The post For What Purpose was intended to stimulate thinking, dialogue and questions, and I believe it did just that. But questions need answers or else we slide down the postmodern slippery slope leading us to world of questions, undiscerning acceptance, and anarchy against biblical and pastoral authority. Over the next several posts I'd like to explore the meaning of Romans 14-15 since I referenced it so many times in the "purpose" post. I hope this exercise will proof fruitful as you put your nose in the Word of God and seek clarity and understanding from His Word.

Romans 14-15 is much more than a passage about Christian liberty. It can certainly be used to justify whatever freedom we have in Christ related to diets and days (or other non-essential issues such as the mode of baptism; the giving and receiving of wedding rings; wearing make-up or jewelry; tattoos; profanity [professing believers around the world do use language regularly that we would find offensive in our culture]; gifts of the Spirit; and the precise nature of heaven and hell). But more than being a treatise for our liberty in Christ, it is a passage where Paul, after calling believers in Rome to live a life of love - for one another, for enemies and in the way we fulfill the law by making no provision for the flesh in our relationship to God and others - Paul brings the issue of "liberty" under the microscope by bringing our Christian relationships under greater scrutiny. In other words, Paul recognizes that our opinions and convictions about these non-essential matters have great potential to divide and destroy the unity we are called to strive for in the Christian church (Eph 4:3; Heb 12:14).

The questions is this passage are significant:
(1) How are we to relate to other Christians when their beliefs on issues that are not central to the Gospel are different from our own?
(2) What is the difference between an essential belief and non-essential belief biblically?
(3) When matters of conscience become a part of our moral DNA, how do we respond to believers who are persuaded differently?
(4) Why do some Christians induldge in activities or hold to beliefs that we could never imagine participating in or believing?
(5) Is there such a beast as "gray matters" of faith - issues where there is no clear instruction from Scripture about what we should believe?

I hope that this text will answer these questions and others. Feel free to post comments or questions along the journey.


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