Guest Blogger: Jason Helopoulos
I am thankful for the current emphasis in our Reformed Evangelical world upon the Gospel, justification by faith, and the substitutionary atonement of our Lord. It is a blessing that our community is emphasizing “the main thing.” However, I hope that as we give emphasis to these tenants of our faith we don’t somehow minimize other important doctrines of the Scripture or even disregard them as unimportant (i.e. ecclesiology, the sacraments, sanctification, etc.).
Thomas Witherow, a Scottish Presbyterian, had this same concern when he wrote along these lines in his little tract, “The Apostolic Church: Which Is It?” (1851):
To say that, because a fact of Divine revelation is not essential to salvation, it must of necessity be unimportant, and may or may not be received by us, is to assert a principle, the application of which would make havoc of our Christianity. For, what are the truths essential to salvation? Are they not these: That there is a God; that all men are sinners; that the Son of God died upon the cross to make atonement for the guilty; and that whosoever believes on the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved?…But if all the other truths of revelation are unimportant, because they happen to be non-essentials, it follows that the Word of God itself is in the main unimportant…
As Witherow makes clear, if this is the argument we choose to make then we are pulling the rug out from under our own feet . For we are robbing the vast majority of the Scriptures’ teaching and pages from having any influence, relevance, or importance for our Christian lives:
Let a man once persuade himself that importance attaches only to what he is pleased to call essentials, whatever their number, and he will, no doubt, shorten his creed and cut away the foundation of many controversies; but he will practically set aside all except a very small part of the Scriptures. If such a principle does not mutilate the Bible, it stigmatizes much of it as trivial. Revelation is all gold for preciousness and purity, but the very touch of such a principle would transmute the most of it into dross.
Let us unite around the Gospel. Let us be clear in emphasizing and proclaiming it. Let us underscore the importance of justification by faith alone. Let us continually point ourselves and others to the substitutionary atonement of Christ.
But as we do this, let us never say or act as though the other doctrines and teachings of the Scripture are unimportant. “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). We can continue to uphold that which is at the heart of our faith and all the while not neglect or relegate the “secondary” doctrines to that of unimportance.