The Essential/Non-Essential Doctrine Debacle
The Unity of God and His Word
We begin where this series must begin: the Unity of God as detailed in the Scriptures.
The nature of God is the foundation of all Bible doctrine. By design and definition, all accurately expressed Bible doctrines will be absolutely compatible and consistent with the Lord’s own nature; it simply can’t be otherwise:
2 Tim 2.11-13
It is a trustworthy statement:
For if we died with Him, we will also live with Him;
If we endure, we will also reign with Him; If we deny Him, He also will deny us;
If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself.
The Lord will never call upon us to believe something or act in any manner which is contrary to His nature; to do so would be to “deny Himself”. However, modern churches conveniently ignore this characteristic of the Divine Nature when they implement and support the distinction of essential and non-essential doctrines. Instead, they believe the Word of God can be carved into pieces based on the false—and humanistic—criterion of “fellowship”, or the equally biblically-unsupported notion of whether or not the doctrine in question directly deals with the salvation of the lost.
The fact is, there can be no biblical reason ever to divide the Word of God into essential and non-essential components. Those who do so ignore this verse, which the Lord used before His ministry even started, when resisting the temptation of Apollyon:
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry. And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.’”
The Lord quoted from:
You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.
Consider the scene! Matthew is careful to note that Apollyon’s temptation to eat was made after the Lord Christ had fasted 40 days! We can rightly assume that He would have been physically weak and extremely hungry. There is nothing intrinsically wrong with food; if fact, food is a component of the prayer that same Lord taught to His disciples:
Give us this day our daily bread.
But, the Lord Christ realized that just as the ancient Jews were tested 40 years in the desert, He had been tested 40 days in the wilderness without food in order that He realize the truth that the Word of God in its entirety is actually more important than food!
Did you notice what Yahweh said in that passage in Deu 8? “everything that proceeds…”! Remember that the book of Deuteronomy was written just before the death of Moses, at the end of the 40 years of wandering and discipline. The Lord Christ did not say
that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by the Ten Commandments or the statutes or the ordinances, or any other subset of the words of the Lord …
No, He said “every word”. Since when do puny "theologians" have the right to overrule the Lord’s own words by saying, in effect,
“Lord, we have carefully considered your Word as revealed in the Bible. We have, in our own wisdom, determined that those things you taught concerning the salvation of the lost are more important than, for example, the sacrificial system, the priesthood or a hundred other doctrines that are (maybe) interesting in their own right but seem disconnected, obscure, esoteric, vague, unimportant or controversial. And, Lord, since you taught us that the fellowship of believers is important, we therefore reject as ‘non-essential’ these distracting and controversial doctrines that seem to accomplish nothing other than inserting disagreement and division into the fellowship of the brethren.”
Those who foolishly hold to this (representative) babble obviously don’t understand (more likely, refuse to learn):
that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord
Any church, especially those who present themselves as conservative evangelicals and yet believe in the charade of "essential" and "non-essential" doctrine need to return to Bible 101, starting with Deu 8. Any elder/pastor who teaches this false distinction should immediately step down from the pulpit and resign in disgrace; he is doing enormous damage to the people of God (if, in fact, there are any true believers left in those so-called churches!).