Summary: INTRODUCTION: There is a famous quote used by many churches that goes like this: “In essentials, unity. In non-essentials, liberty. In all things, love.”
A few months ago I was going through some of the church archives and I ran across this quote printed on a very old bulletin. The more I thought about the quote, the more I began to wonder where it came from and why we used it.
I will ask you all to now humor me as I give you a very brief history lesson
In my studies I have found that many people believe that this quote came from Augustine around A.D. 400 – But there are others who ascribe it to a later Lutheran theologian named Peter Meiderlin.
The quote really gained notoriety when it became the motto of the restoration movement, in which the ‘Christian Church’, the ‘Church of Christ’, ‘The Disciples of Christ’ and some others grew out of.
It is interesting to note, however, that Barton W. Stone (One of the formers of the restoration movement) was not very receptive to the use of this quote.
QUOTE: Stone is quoted in one of his lectures from 1841 as having said, “Some…plead for the necessity of a few essential doctrines to be embodied, as a bond of union. But who shall determine what these doctrines are?”
***Why did a man like Stone, a true student of the scriptures, have a problem with this creed?
I. It fosters an approach that boils down Bible truths to bare minimum ‘essentials’
a. Take John 3:16 for instance
i. Many people say, “just believe” and you will be saved – and they stand on John 3:16
ii. But we have to remember that saving belief is not just an intellectual assent of the mind
iii. Illustration: “The ‘Saved’ Waitress” There is a couple on television who boast that they have a fool-proof way of getting people saved. They say that whenever they are talking to a waitress they ask her, “There are two types of waitresses, ones that want to go to heaven and ones that don’t, which one are you?” Of course the waitress says she wants to go to heaven and they then reply, “Just repeat these words in a prayer and believe them and you will go to heaven”
iv. No faith. No repentance. No new birth. No sanctification. No holiness. And certainly no obedience.
v. They have boiled salvation down to a ‘repeat after me’ and you’ll be fine – somewhat like an initiation into a club
b. By doing this many have eliminated what Jesus Christ said in the Gospel of John
i. John 10:27 “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me”
ii. John 14:15 “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
iii. John 14:21 “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”
c. By saying that we are going to adapt to only the bare minimum of scriptural truths eliminates the ability of Christ to be both Savior and Lord
i. Many people boast Christ as their Savior, but few are willing to call Him Lord
1. This is because we feel like we need to be the masters of our own destiny
2. We often refuse God’s will for our lives because it requires us to relinquish control to Him
ii. But we need Christ as Lord as much as we need Him as Savior – We need Him as much in our daily walk as we needed Him on that cross
d. But still some will say, “It is all about the bare minimum”
Transitional Statement: “Not only does this quote boil down the Bible to bare essentials, but…”
II. It makes a distinction in Bible teachings that results in a ‘pick and choose’ attitude
a. To use the phrase, “In non essentials, liberty” is to say that there are things in the Bible that are non-essential – But the entire Bible is essential!
i. Creation is essential
1. Since the ‘scopes trial’ of the 1930’s where the origin of man and the book of Genesis were questioned in criminal court many pastors have conceded that Genesis may not be accurate – and many teach now that creation and evolution go hand in hand
2. But the truth is without creation there would be no need for the cross
3. Without the first man and first woman there would be no first sin. Without the first sin there would be no fall of man. Without the fall of man there would be no need for man’s redemption. With no need for redemption there would be no need for the cross
ii. The Old Testament is essential
1. Many Christians dismiss the Old Testament truths because of the many fantastic stories that it boasts