With so many disagreements among Christians, pursuing unhealthy unity can be a temptation. This article show that at the heart of unity is sound biblical doctrine, and that no unity should be pursued based on personal preferences.

Source: Faith in Focus, 2006. 2 pages.

'It’s Not A Salvation Issue' So Who Cares?

There is a lot of disagreement amongst Christians today. Two individuals in a church disagree. One church disagrees with another. New Zealand churches disagree with Austral­ian churches. The Reformed denomination disagrees with Anglicans, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Seventh Day Advent­ists and Brethren; and all of those groups disagree with Catholics.

Against this backdrop we are called to consider Paul’s exhortation, I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought (1 Cor 1:10). Paul continues to warn against factions in verses 12 and 13: What I mean is this: One of you says, ‘I follow Paul’; another, ‘I follow Apollos’; another, ‘I follow Cephas’; still another, ‘I follow Christ. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptised into the name of Paul?

People who seek unity occasionally at­tempt to end disagreements by saying, “It’s not a salvation issue.” The implication is that if the disagreement does not threaten a per­son’s salvation, it is therefore not important, and not worth discussing.

Everything Matters to God🔗

While this phrase might be well-meant, it is dangerous for a number of reasons. Firstly, it indicates a kind of disinterest in issues that don’t ‘directly’ relate to salvation. This is to ignore the reality that there are many ‘non-salvation’ issues that we must regard as very important. For example, ‘murder,’ ‘rape’ and ‘theft’ don’t necessarily prevent a person from entering heaven. The criminal on the cross went to be with Jesus in paradise (Luke 23:43). His chequered past obviously did not bar his path to heaven. But ‘murder,’ ‘rape’ and ‘theft’ are not unimportant simply because they can be described as ‘non-salva­tion issues.’

Furthermore, it is to ignore scriptural op­position to a casual Christian walk: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your strength (Deut 6:5). Similarly with God’s commandments: These commandments that I give to you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.Deuteronomy 6:6-9

I do not read anywhere in scripture that we must love God to the extent that this will get us into heaven, and that beyond this our heart, soul, and strength may be employed as we see fit – provided we don’t jeopardise our salvation. I do not read that we should talk about God’s command­ments if our salvation is in danger, but for the rest – when we sit at home, when we walk along the road, when we lie down, and when we get up – God’s commandments are unimportant.

Nor does scripture urge us to discard theology if it is not directly related to salva­tion. Sound doctrine is mandatory: You must teach what is in accordance with sound doc­trine (Titus 2:1). We are spurred on to digest theological meat, not milk: Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God, instruction about baptisms, the laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead, and eternal judgment (Heb. 6:1-2). Those with voracious theological appetites will get their teeth into all sorts of ‘non-salvation issues.’ Only spiritual anorexics say, ‘It is not a salvation issue so I have no part in it.’

It’s Not About You🔗

The second danger is selfishness. A selfish approach says, ‘How does religion benefit me? It gets me to heaven. Heaven aside, God has nothing to offer.’ By this approach, salvation is what motivates one’s spiritual walk. Salvation becomes the standard by which a matter’s importance is judged: ‘Is it a salvation issue? No? Then it is not important.’ This mentality is wrong. A mat­ter’s importance does not depend on the furtherance of our own interests; a matter is important if it furthers God’s interests. Man’s chief end is to glorify God: Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteous­ness, and all these things will be added unto you (Matt 6:33).

A third danger is that we will lose perspec­tive on what salvation means. The problem is it is largely artificial to separate ‘salvation’ issues from ‘non-salvation’ issues. Salva­tion is not some narrow facet of religion, unrelated to all other biblical issues. As will be clear from the passages above, if we respond correctly to God’s gift of salvation, we will be serious about serving God in every area of our lives. Not simply those areas that get us to heaven. That is the correct perspective on salvation.

Putting it into Practice🔗

So much for principle. What is the applica­tion? Applications are myriad, but I’ll choose one and leave the rest to you. Perhaps your son is considering a relationship with a Baptist girl. Do you:

  1. Turn a blind eye because Baptists go to heaven? Or:
  2. Weigh up the differences between the Baptist and Reformed faiths and decide whether or not to permit the relationship based on the significance of those differ­ences?

I’m not saying it is wrong to have a rela­tionship with a Baptist. But I do say that it is wrong for parents to ignore this issue (or any issue) simply because it is not a ‘salvation issue.’ Numerous questions arise, which go deeper than first appearances admit. What church will your son attend? If your son mar­ries this girl, what church will their children attend? Will the children remain unbaptised until adulthood? What is your son’s view of God’s covenant with his children? How will he exercise headship in a relationship? How will this girl respond in the event that baptism becomes a problem?

Perhaps your reaction at this point is that the above questions make a mountain out of a molehill. Maybe so. But the point of the ex­ample is not to demonstrate that Reformed Christians cannot have relationships with Baptists. The point is to illustrate the level of significance that ‘non-salvation issues’ can have. It is wrong to automatically dis­miss these issues as unimportant. A much better approach is to give to each issue an appropriate degree of care and attention as the situation requires.

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