The Essential/Non-Essential Doctrine Debacle
The consistent teaching of the Bible is that the Lord is Unity; this is the foundation for how we must regard anything that the Lord teaches us. But, again, I must emphasize that this does not mean that SolaScripturaToday.org is Unitarian. Here, I quote from myself:
[In using the term ‘unity’, I have never, do not, and will never support a Unitarian position. SolaScripturaToday holds to the truth of the Divine Trinity: one God in three persons, the Father, Son and Spirit. The purpose of using the term ‘unity’ in this series is to emphasize God’s “oneness” in distinction to the Trinity, not to replace or ignore it. The oneness of God is throughout the Scripture in the same way that the Triune Nature of God is throughout the Scripture.]
The Unity of God is seen from Genesis to Revelation, from the creation through the consummation of all things. Here is but a small representative sample of this grand truth:
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.
To you it was shown that you might know that the Lord, He is God; there is no other besides Him. … Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other.
Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one!
See now that I, I am He, and there is no god besides Me; it is I who put to death and give life. I have wounded and it is I who heal, and there is no one who can deliver from My hand.
“You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “And My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me there was no God formed, and there will be none after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and there is no savior besides Me. It is I who have declared and saved and proclaimed, and there was no strange god among you; so you are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “And I am God. Even from eternity I am He, and there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?”
“Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me. Who is like Me? Let him proclaim and declare it; yes, let him recount it to Me in order, from the time that I established the ancient nation. And let them declare to them the things that are coming and the events that are going to take place. Do not tremble and do not be afraid; have I not long since announced it to you and declared it? And you are My witnesses. Is there any God besides Me, or is there any other Rock? I know of none.’”
“I am the Lord, and there is no other; besides Me there is no God. I will gird you, though you have not known Me; that men may know from the rising to the setting of the sun that there is no one besides Me. I am the Lord, and there is no other, the One forming light and creating darkness, causing well-being and creating calamity; I am the Lord who does all these.
Or is God the God of Jews only? Is He not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also, since indeed God who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith is one.
But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
1 Cor 8.4-6
Therefore concerning the eating of things sacrificed to idols, we know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one. For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords, yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.
1 Tim 2.5-6
For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.
Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them.
At the same, the truth of the Trinity is also seen. Here are but a few representative samples:
Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”
After being baptized, Jesus came up immediately from the water; and behold, the heavens were opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending as a dove and lighting on Him, and behold, a voice out of the heavens said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.”
Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit,
I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.
You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him.
Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, … concerning His Son, … who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Jesus Christ our Lord,
2 Cor. 13.14
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.
Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!”
how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?
Remember, the Apostle Paul gave us an important insight into the Unity of God:
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 can’t deny Himself—yet, wicked, self-serving, humanistic, irresponsible “churches” (and I use the term very loosely!) maintain that somehow, in some way, the truths that that very same Lord gave us can be parceled into “essential” and “non-essential” compartments. They simply don’t see their own oxymoronic action: the Lord, who can’t be divided from Himself—ever—nevertheless acceded to having His teachings divided into those portions that must be believed and obeyed (the “essentials”) from those portions which are optional (the “non-essentials”)!
Once again, the spectacular arrogance of man is seen arrayed against his Creator. Moreover, these same rebels profess to know and love Him! What spectacular hypocrisy!
How these groups dare to call themselves “churches”, assemblies devoted to the One Lord, is a mystery beyond all comprehension. They, in effect, have asked the very same question that Abaddon asked in Gen 3:
Now the serpent was more crafty than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said to the woman, “Indeed, has God said …
The Lord regards His own Word very highly:
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.
yet “churches” and their leaders regularly ignore this in favor of their own priorities and narcissistic notions of fellowship.
The Lord is working His plan to ensure the ultimate “oneness” of both Israel and Gentiles in Christ:
Behold, I will gather them out of all the lands to which I have driven them in My anger, in My wrath and in great indignation; and I will bring them back to this place and make them dwell in safety. They shall be My people, and I will be their God; and I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me always, for their own good and for the good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with them that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; and I will put the fear of Me in their hearts so that they will not turn away from Me.
For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth. I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—a renewal in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.
Remember that fellowship is never commanded; it is the natural result of true unity.
Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.
Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.
2 Cor 13.11
Finally, brethren, rejoice, be made complete, be comforted, be like-minded, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.
Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.
Disunity occurs when doctrinal error is introduced into the assembly; those who have the insight to see that error will oppose it, causing initial disunity, but later, if grace prevails, will achieve the goal of restoring true unity and fellowship.
1 Cor 11.17-19
But in giving this instruction, I do not praise you, because you come together not for the better but for the worse. For, in the first place, when you come together as a church, I hear that divisions exist among you; and in part I believe it. For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you.
Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
Remember the Lord’s words and warnings to the churches in Ephesus, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis and Laodicea in Rev 2-3.
The biblical Christian is placed in a very difficult position when he/she is in an area in which there are no true, biblical assemblies; there is really only one possible recourse.
The biblical Christian is required to avoid these unbiblical "churches" for the simple reason that there can be no doctrinal unity with those who are disobedient and careless with the Word of God. To attend these type of churches is to disobey the LORD's command to doctrinal unity:
2 Cor 6.14-15
Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness? Or what harmony has Christ with Belial, or what has a believer in common with an unbeliever?
True fellowship would be impossible. Lest anyone is wondering at this point: any assembly which has as one of its points in its Statement of Faith the adherence to "essential" and "non-essential" doctrines is filled with darkness. They, from the top down, have arrayed themselves against the one true God and His Word. They are not a biblical assembly and are to be shunned.
The biblical Christian does not have the luxury of selecting "the least bad from the array of bad churches". If you try to "make the best of a bad situation" within an unbiblical assembly, it is you who will be corrupted if you stay:
1 Cor 15.33
Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”
[The previous chapter deals at length with this issue.]
Our adversary, Apollyon, knows that if he can introduce doctrinal error, he can render any assembly powerless in the true work of God’s kingdom by that assembly. At the same time, he will emphasize “fellowship” over doctrinal unity in order to white-wash the fractures and impotence of these careless and irresponsible groups.
The answer to this problem is simple and straightforward: treat the entire Word of God as the indivisible Word of God and refuse to carve it into “essential” and “non-essential” pieces—something which is reprehensible to the LORD and contrary to His very nature.