“It’s Not A Matter Of Salvation”

There are times when all of us struggle to understand some portion of God’s word. Some have questioned God’s method of revealing His will to us. They have asked, “Why didn’t God express Himself more clearly? Wouldn’t it have been better if God had simply said, ‘To be a Christian you must hear, believe, repent, confess, and be baptized.’ Instead, we have to study quite a lot of different passages to come to the right conclusion.” Some would have preferred God to lay out His word like a book of theology. They would like it orderly (as they define order) and easy to understand.

The fact is that God wants us to struggle with His word. He wants us to “wrestle” with it and consider its meaning, and finally to come to the correct conclusion. This can be seen in such statements as “the entirety of Your word is truth” (Ps. 119:160) and “work out your own salvation in fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12). Jesus said to the Jews of His day, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (Jn. 5:39-40). Searching the scriptures was the correct thing to do, but they didn’t approach their study with an honest, sincere heart. Because of their pre-conceived ideas they missed the Messiah who was standing before them.

Many passages are easy to understand. These simple passages form the basis of understanding those that are more difficult. God expects us to grow in our knowledge of His will. Peter writes, “as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious” (1 Pet. 2:2-3). And the Hebrew writer states, “Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, of laying on of hands, of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this we will do if God permits” (Heb. 6:1-3). “Leaving” does not mean to abandon, but to move beyond. We are to seek perfection or maturity in our understanding of the scriptures.

From time to time, when dealing with a difficult topic or passage someone will inevitably declare, “Well, it’s not a matter of salvation.” While it is true that some things don’t affect our salvation, that can’t be said in every case. What do brethren really mean when they say this? Are we saying that difficult matters are optional? Is it irrelevant whether our understanding is correct or in error? Peter wrote, “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Peter states clearly that “things hard to understand” will lead to our “destruction” if we “twist” them. That means we had better have a proper understanding of difficult matters. So, it may well be a matter of salvation.

Also, who gets to decide that something “is not a matter of salvation?” Where God has spoken we must listen. We don’t have the choice of not accepting it if we are to be saved. Not long ago, some declared that the Bible teaching on the deity of Christ was “not a matter of salvation.” Yet, the scriptures clearly teach that Christ was God in the flesh while on earth (Col. 1:19, 2:9). Jesus Himself said, “Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for if you do not believe that I am He, you will die in your sins” (Jn. 8:24). In this passage, “He” is added by the translators. Jesus actually said, “for if you do not believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.” He was clearly claiming deity. To say that it doesn’t matter what we believe about Jesus is to contradict Him (cf. Jn. 12:48).

Some have claimed that the Bible teaching on divorce and remarriage is so difficult and complicated that we cannot be dogmatic in our teaching. Therefore, it cannot be a “matter of salvation.” But it’s not complicated. It’s actually quite simple: one man and one woman for life, with one exception (fornication, and the exception only applies to the spouse innocent of fornication). What complicates things are the various attempts to justify sinful relationships.

Most often we declare that something “is not a matter of salvation” when there is something we don’t understand. If its not in the realm of our knowledge it must not be important. This places us, with our imperfect knowledge, as the standard of right and wrong rather than the word of God.

Having said all that, we also need to understand that God allows us time to grow. A new convert is not expected to understand “the deep things of God” (1 Cor. 2:10). He can still be saved with his simple, basic knowledge of the word. But we are commanded to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). Some have erroneously concluded that the basics are all that’s necessary to remain saved. This is the thinking of those who distinguish between gospel and doctrine. It ignores the command to “grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ—” (Eph. 4:15).

There are things that are not “a matter of salvation.” Opinions and matters of conscience as discussed in Romans 14. Paul wrote, “Receive one who is weak in the faith, but not to disputes over doubtful things.” (Rom. 14:1). The NASV renders it this way: ”Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.” How can we know if something is a matter of doctrine or just an opinion? Simple, if God has something to say through His word it’s not a matter of our opinion.

By Dan Gatlin

Return to the General Articles page

Home / Bible studies / Bible Survey / Special Studies / General Articles / Non-Bible Articles / Sermons / Sermon Outlines / Links / Questions and Answers / What Saith The Scriptures /Daily Devotional / Correspondence Courses / What is the Church of Christ / Book: Christian Growth / Website Policy / E-mail / About Me /