“…contend for the faith once delivered…” PART 1

Last week , in a post entitled “Blood in the Water“, I wrote I would start a series on essentials and nonessentials.  That post alone drew some obvious interest.  The wait is now over.  Here we go…

“In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; in all things, love.”  If I’ve heard this saying once, I’ve heard it a million times.  Preachers, teachers, and professors in my “tribe” (the Christian Churches/Churches of Christ) spent many sermons, lectures, and lessons on this saying.  What I’ve found interesting is that it isn’t even in the Bible.  But the sentiment is.  On those things that are essential to the faith, we must be  unified.  In those things that are not essential to the faith, we have freedom to decide.  In all things, essential and nonessential, we’re to love each other.

It’s a really cool statement.  I appreciate it.  I try to live it out.  But I’ve always struggled with something:  what things are essential, and what things aren’t?  There are a few things we can all agree on (hopefully):  the person and work of Jesus, the concept of the trinity (even though that term isn’t in the Bible), the reality of sin, etc.  Here’s the thing:  beyond these and a few other issues, we don’t agree on what is essential and what isn’t.

First, I think we need to differentiate between what is essential to the Christian faith and what is essential for someone to become a Christian.  Many in my tribe have assumed these lists are one and the same.  I no longer think they are.  Related and intertwined, yes… but not exactly the same.  There are some things essential to the Christian faith that aren’t essential for someone to become a Christian (they may not know these things at first, but as they progress in their faith, they come to know these things).

So let’s start the discussion here:

  1. What is essential to the Christian faith (without these things, the Christian faith falls apart)?
  2. What is essential for someone to become a follower of Jesus?

A few rules for the discussion:

  1. Play nice.  Feel free to discuss, but do not make it personal.  If you can’t play nice, you’ll get one warning and then be placed in time out.  Oh yeah–this is your warning.
  2. Briefly explain your thoughts–don’t just rattle off a list.

Tomorrow, I’ll post about some things I believe are essential.  Until then, have at it…


About Aaron

Aaron is a follower of Jesus. He's married to his smokin' hot wife Laura and is the father of three adorable girls. He enjoys a robust cigar, a complex root beer, a good movie, writing, football, thought-provoking books, and rousing discussions about subjects you're not supposed to talk about (like theology and politics). Religious people irritate him (because he once was one). He's on a quest to find the perfect dry rub and sauce for ribs.
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6 Responses to “…contend for the faith once delivered…” PART 1

  1. Levi Cichorz says:

    One essential thing to the christian faith is that Jesus is the Christ. That he is fully God and Fully human. That he died, was buried, and rose again.

    This is essential because this is what all Christians place there faith in.

  2. Gman says:


    How one comes to Christ?

    (Dealing with Salvation)

    How one views the Bible?

    (Inerrant, infallible or not)


    Eschatology. (End times …you’re allowed to be wrong) Just be ready, faithful and a witness.

  3. thomas says:

    not only did Jesus die and raise aging but the reason for that is to give us (the disobedient) an opportunity to be in connection with God.

  4. David Willis says:

    1. What is essential to the Christian faith (without these things, the Christian faith falls apart)?

    -GOD: Father, Son & Holy Spirit
    -Inspiration of Scritpure
    -Exclusivity of Jesus
    -Christ’s Church/Kingdom
    -Miracles of the Bible
    -The Gospel
    -The impertive to spread the Gospel
    -Return of Jesus
    -Final judgment

    2. What is essential for someone to become a follower of Jesus?

    -God’s grace
    -Faith in the Gospel & trust in Jesus

    I should put more thought into this, but it has been a loooong day. I’ll be back later.

    PS. You might find this article by Jack Cottrell interesting and relevant to the discussion:

  5. Koffijah says:

    I’m not trying to be some kind of a Campbellite, but constructing a list of what is essential to the Christian faith… is essentially the same thing as making a Creed. Now, I know your goal isn’t to create something besides scripture to measure people by, but if by the slogan, “in essentials, unity” we mean we would require people to agree to these set of doctrines, then in essence it is the same thing. And you know what–I would probably agree with everything you come up with.

    But here’s the thing… If we believe the Bible is the Word of God, let it be the Word of God. We don’t need to simplify it, summarize it or extract the “essential” things out of it in any kind of dogmatic way. I like the slogan (and I know you’ve heard this one a million times, too), “Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we’re silent.”

    I like this approach because it is not a systematic theological approach, but a faith in the Word of God approach. If we make our theology into a system then we are assuming we know enough to make it all fit together. However, I believe that the purpose of God’s revelation is not for us to understand how God and everything in this world works and fits together, but for us to know who God is and enough to get us home to him. Perhaps when we are home we will know fully, for now we only know in part. (1 Corinthians reference there.)

    I wrote a post on this topic at the Koffi House called Gut and Theology

    What would be an interesting discussion, to me, is why do we feel the command “make disciples of all nations” is binding upon us when we feel the command “Wash one another’s feet” is not. Or, “Greet one another with a holy kiss.” Or, “Wives be submissive to your husbands.” Or, “I also want women to dress modestly… not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.”

    Any time I’ve heard an argument (“Well, that was applicable to their culture back then.”) it has never been convincing to me as a rule for discarding a biblical (NT) command while holding other commands as binding. I mean, I could use similar reasoning to get out of the so-called “binding” commandments.

    Well, I don’t mean to hijack the post, so you can ignore this if you like. Sorry.

    • Aaron says:

      Hijack away, K. Some real wisdom in this post (you actually did hijack a few thoughts from a future post, but that’s totally cool).

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