A “salvation issue” is generally regarded as those matters that affect one’s eternal destiny. Indeed, there are matters in which a person may engage that would not adversely affect his eternal destiny. For instance, the apostle Paul addressed the matter of eating meats sacrificed to idols in his Corinthian correspondence (1 Cor. 8). To eat or not eat such meat is a matter of indifference (1 Cor. 8:8). In either case, it would not affect that person’s eternal destiny.
There are numerous things that we may do as Christians that will not affect our eternal destiny. For instance, it is a matter of indifference whether or not we worship in a rented facility or one that is paid for by the church. For that matter, we could worship under a tree or in a straw hut so long as we worshipped God according to his instructions (Jn. 4:24). We can sing using a songbook or a power point portrayal on a screen so long as we teach and admonish one another and make melody in our heart (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). We can evangelize through the printed page, the Internet, the mass media of radio or television without violating any command of God. We can travel to our mission points by car, boat, airplane, bicycle, donkey, or walking. It makes no difference so long as we go. None of these matters are “salvation issues.”
However, there are practices that, if observed, would condemn a person to eternal punishment because they are a violation of God’s word. A problem arises when man decides what is or is not a matter of indifference. For instance, some people view baptism as a matter of indifference. They do not consider it a “salvation issue” and, thus, do not teach its essentiality. Jesus did not so regard it, for He said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). Neither did the inspired apostle Peter regard it as unessential, for he wrote, “The like figure whereunto baptism doth also now save us” (1 Pet. 3:21). There are many passages in the New Testament that affirm baptism as an absolute requirement for salvation in spite of the fact that many religious people do not regard it as such.
Some do not regard being a member of the church as a “salvation issue.” They advocate that having a “relationship with Jesus” is the important thing and it doesn’t matter to which church a person belongs or, for that matter, if he belongs to any church. Yet, the Bible says God added the saved to the church (Acts 2:47). Since the Bible affirms that there is only one church (Eph. 4:4), it appears to me that it does matter to which church one belongs. A multiplicity of churches with their various and contradictory teachings about redemption, worship, divorce and remarriage, etc. is simply not acceptable to God. Thus, whether or not a person is a member of the Lord’s church is a “salvation issue.” It does make a difference to which church a person belongs. Jesus only died for one (Acts 20:28) and built only one (Matt. 16:18).
Some even advocate that one’s sexual preference is not a “salvation issue.” They reason that God made them with a sexual orientation toward a member of the same sex, therefore, to practice homosexuality will not affect their eternal destiny. Yet, God condemns such behavior in no uncertain terms and declares that those who practice such will not inherit eternal life (Rom. 1:26-27; 1 Cor. 6:9-10).
We are living in a period of time when “tolerance” seems to be the operative word. As a result, the floodgates of fellowship are flung wide open to accept varying and conflicting views on biblical subjects in the name of “openness” and “freedom.” To do otherwise is considered by some to be unkind, judgmental, narrow-minded and legalistic. I beg to differ. It is not being unkind or legalistic to teach and practice what God has authorized in His word and encourage others to do the same. After all, it is by God’s word that we shall be judged (Jn. 12:48).
There is a safe and biblical principle upon which our doctrine and practice should be founded. It is that we should teach and practice only that which is authorized in God’s word. Peter declared, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11). Paul told us not to go beyond that which is written (1 Cor. 4:6). John declared that if we go beyond that which is taught in God’s word we do not have God (2 Jn. 9). When God speaks on a matter, that settles it whether I believe it or not. Man does not have the authority to put it in the category of being a matter of indifference that he can choose to obey or not without affecting his eternal destiny.
Compliance with this principle would settle many issues that now face us. God has given us everything we need to know in order to be saved (2 Pet. 1:3). That being the case, when the Bible addresses a doctrinal or moral subject it is a matter of salvation. A person cannot view it as a matter of indifference simply because he does not want to comply with the Bible, or because he feels the need to extend love and kindness to another person who may believe or practice something that does not harmonize with it. The greatest love and kindness he can extend is to point out the area of transgression and appeal for compliance to God’s word and to do so in a “spirit of gentleness” (2 Tim. 2:24). A minister of the gospel, for that matter any Christian, would be derelict in his responsibility if he did not “put the brethren in mind” (2 Tim. 4:6) of those things God has enjoined upon us. Genuine unity is obtained upon the observance of divine instruction and not upon the husks of human opinion.