(“Essential” Doctrine vs “Non-Essential” Doctrine?) Bible Question
“Our young adults and youth are being taught about the ‘essential’ doctrines as opposed to ‘non-essential’ doctrines. The material they are studying lists belief in God and water baptism as essential, but among the non-essential doctrines are listed instrumental music, celebrating holidays in worship, etc. How can we decide which teachings are essential?”
Thank you for your question. Really the answer is very simple. If God said it, it is essential. If He is not the author of it, it is not done by His authority. Frankly, I am very much afraid of anyone who arrogate to himself the right to decide what part of God’s word we should respect and which part can be safely ignored. Let us look at the examples you gave.
Belief in God is essential because God says so:
“And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him . . . For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” (Hebrews 11:6 and John 3:16; New International Version)
And God’s word says, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned . . . Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.” (Mark 16:16 and Acts 2:38a)
We believe and teach that baptism is essential to salvation because God says so. Now, for one who believes the Bible is the word of God, that is not difficult.
But what of the two examples of the so-called non-essential doctrines? The doctrine that we can safely use instruments in the worship of God is not only a “non-essential” doctrine, it is one that is diametrically opposed to God and His authority.
You see, too many people want to reverse the process by which we decide what God approves. They want to say that God will accept things that He has not specifically forbidden. But this ignores the principle of authority. God has not authorized instruments of music in worship, and He has always forbidden that which is not authorized (Leviticus 10:1, 2; 1 Corinthians 4:6; 2 John 9 – 11; etc.).
In the same way, He has not authorized “special days” in the worship of the church (Galatians 4:9 – 11), and those who practice such do not do so with the authority of God.
The entire question comes down to this:
“Should we do what we want, or should we accept what God has said?”
As long as we are determined to do things our way, each person decides for himself what is “essential” and what is not. That means that God’s authority is not only ignored bur is flagrantly rejected. And we thus become our own authority.
I know that many people claim that certain teachings (or practices) are not “salvation issues”. But the truth is that what God says is authoritative, and to ignore what God says – on any subject – and do what we want instead, is definitely a “salvation issue”. After all, who gives any person the right to decide for himself what is essential about what God has said?