What non-essentials can Christians agree to disagree on? We know what the essentials of the faith are but what are those things that we can differ on in our beliefs?
We know that the essentials are that Jesus was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, and died to redeem fallen mankind and that we can place our trust in Jesus Christ and have eternal life. The essentials are not negotiable. As Christians, we must disagree with things that are not biblical because God’s Word is inerrant and we can not disagree with what the Bible says. But what about those things that Christians believe that are not essential to salvation and therefore we can agree to disagree, yet not be disagreeable? Check out this article for more of the Essential Beliefs of Christianity .
There are many different beliefs and practices that Christians have where the Bible is silent  on or where the Bible is somewhat ambiguous in. Some of these beliefs are not going to send people to hell just because they have a different idea on what they think the Bible is talking about. Here are a few things that Christians have different beliefs on but does not affect their eternal salvation in Jesus Christ:
Not everyone believes in the rapture . Many of the greatest theologians, Bible scholars, seminary professors and seminary presidents do not believe in the rapture. Whether the rapture is true or not is not an issue that should divide Christians and create controversy or heated debate over.
The Age of the Earth
This should not be an issue that divides believers. The Bible does give literal 24-hour days in the story of the creation, but the Bible doesn’t precisely say just how old the earth is and so it is not something that jeopardizes someone’s salvation if they believe the earth is billions of years old or is around 6,000 years old. I think we waste time and energy debating this issue. We would be better served on how we can share the gospel with those who are lost and rescue the perishing because the Great Commission is the imperative command that Christ gives five times in the New Testament.
Some Christians hold a postmillennial view while others believe in no millennium which is called an amillennial view and still others prefer a premillennial view. Sadly, I have heard many Christians get into heated arguments over this belief but when they ask me, as I have said before, I tell them that I am a panmilleniast. That is, it will all pan out in the end. Jesus is coming back and that’s all that’s the most important thing.
Various Do’s and Don’ts
Some strict religions believe it is a sin to play cards, to dance, to drink alcohol , to smoke, to…and the list goes on. I believe that it is a sin to drink alcohol and be drunken to excess (1 Cor 6:10). It is a sin to get drunk and so Christians can agree on this, but we can not agree that all drinking is sin because for us it might go against our conscience, but for others, we must give them liberty where the Bible gives it.
Days of Worship, Food and Drink
The majority of Christians worship God on Sunday but still others do so on Saturday, as they feel convicted about keeping the Sabbath. I will not judge them nor will I condemn them for being legalists but I would hope that they would also give me the freedom to worship on Sunday as well. Paul was clear on judging others in things that are not essential to our faith. Things like having faith in Christ Jesus, not being saved by works, believing on Jesus’ literal sinless life, death on the cross, and resurrection. Not one of these can be compromised.
On things where the Bible does not expressly say we can not expressly say it is commanded. For example, Jesus repeated all of the Ten Commandments except the Sabbath day, so we know that we should live by the Ten Commandments , but nowhere in the New Testament are we commanded to keep a Saturday Sabbath. For this reason, Paul wrote “Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day” (Col 2:16). Paul was clear on this subject when he wrote, “One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind” (Rom 14:5). Some Sabbath-keepers don’t eat pork but they shouldn’t judge others because they do. Neither should those who eat pork judge those who abstain from it. Do you see the principle? Where our beliefs are not expressly commanded from the Bible, we must allow for others to live out their faith in their own way in areas that are not clear, doctrinally.
Just because some church denominations have differences in the sacraments, or they keep a Sabbath day, or they do not drink alcohol, or eat pork, does not mean that they are not Christian. Ultimately that is not our call. Only God can look at the heart and see if a person is truly regenerate. We can not tell from the outside. Just because a person is smoking a cigarette outside of a church building does not mean that they are not saved. They may be trying to overcome it or they may not believe it is essential to their salvation. In areas where the Bible is silent, I will also choose to be.
Paul said, “The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him” (Rom 14:3). If God has accepted him, then so should we. Paul continued, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:7). Paul warned Timothy about those who would try to force others to believe as they did, saying “They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth” (1 Tim 4:3).
Let us hear from the Master, the Lord Jesus Christ, about a practical lesson on foods that we can apply to the non-essentials of our faith. Jesus had just rebuked the religious leaders in Mark 7 for keeping their own customs and traditions and criticizing the disciples for not doing the same thing. What did Jesus say to them? “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods clean.). He went on: “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person” (Mark 7:18-23). Let that sink in. Jesus said that the real issues that do affect our salvation are open, blatant sins that God will condemn. God is not ready to send someone to hell for what they eat, whether clean or unclean in the eyes of others. No, Jesus said these heinous sins He mentioned like adultery, murder, theft, sexual immorality, and others, are what defiles a person…not what they eat or drink or whether they wash their hands ceremonially and according to the Old Testament customs (Mark 7:5-8).
The original saying, falsely attributed to Philip Schaff, but actually written by the German Theologian Rupertus Meldenius, says it all as far as the essentials and non-essentials:
In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity (or love).
Amen Mr. Meldenius. In essentials of the faith we must be unified (Acts 4:12), in non-essentials we should have liberty (Col 2:16), and in all things charity, which is another word for love (John 13:35). What is this “all things?” That is if we agree on the essentials and we disagree on the non-essentials, we can agree to disagree but not be agreeable, because Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). On that, we can all agree.
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