Recently, I read of a church that had identified for all to see what they called salvation issues. In its simplest form it was a list of non-negotiable’s and negotiable’s. The non-negotiable’s were considered salvation issues, there was no flexibility, no debate it just was, for example: Jesus is the Son of God, He came to the earth, lived a perfect life, died on the cross for our sins and rose from the dead. A negotiable was considered to be something that people could discuss and even disagree on—but it did not divide fellowship or unity, for example: end times could be pre-millenial, amillenial, post-millenial, or something else.
This got me thinking…How do you determine what is a salvation issue? How does a person determine that anything other than following the whole and complete Word of God could possibly be acceptable? Does this mean that everything is a salvation issue? And if so, where do disputable matters come in? Are there more disputable matters than meat sacrificed to idols and holy days; matters that have to do more with conscience than practice?
To start, I think there are several scriptures that should guide a person in identifying doctrine and practice that should be considered salvation issues. In Matthew 7:1-2 Jesus warns followers, “Do not judge, so that you won’t be judged. For with the judgment you use, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” I think it is vital to remember that we are not the Judge—and there is no jury! Abraham asked God in Genesis 18:25, “…Won’t the Judge of all the earth do what is just?” I think this was a rhetorical question and the answer is “Yes!” I must be significantly more legalistic, strict and critical in identifying salvation issues in regards to myself, my practice, my lifestyle, my faith, and my doctrine than what I identify for any other person.
In addition, Paul will tell the Philippians in 2:12, “…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” Wise advice given salvation and damnation are eternal. The Berean’s in Acts 17:11 “…examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things [what Paul and Silas were teaching] were so.” A sure example we should all follow.
With those things in mind, what do I consider to be a salvation issue—specifically, what is required for another person to be considered a brother or sister in Christ?
- First, I believe salvation to be a personal issue; an issue between a believer and God. I think Scripture is very clear that each person will stand before God in Judgment (Ecclesiastes 12:14, Matthew 12:36, Romans 14:1-4, Romans 14:12, Revelation 19:1-3).
- Second, I do not believe God will judge a person solely on any one thing. The name on the building doesn’t save. Race, socio-economic position, nationality, political party, military service, occupation, orientation, addictions, family history, and the like will not be used as the sole basis for entrance or denial into heaven. I do not believe these things are salvation issues. They may have an impact—but salvation is not tied to any one of these things.
- Finally, God’s grace and mercy must always be given generously to others.
With these three things in mind, how do you answer this question? What is negotiable? What is not negotiable? This isn’t just a church decision, rather it is something every follower of Jesus must define or else how will you know your own salvation is secure?