Wednesday in the Eighth Week of Ordinary Time

Acts 16:1-5

Essentials and Nonessentials

Knowing the difference between what is essential to the Christian faith and nonessential, or what we must demand agreement upon and what we can agree to disagree upon, is, well, essential to the Christian faith.  The Christian faith is not some manmade philosophy that changes over time with the ever-changing whims of men.  Man is like the grass of the field, but the word of God endures forever (Psalm 119).  And do not be fooled by those deceivers who will say that as man’s knowledge grows about the world that our understanding of Sacred Scripture must grow with it, for this is simply another way of changing what the Bible says to justify our sinful desires.

Thus, in the Church there are doctrinal and moral teachings to which we must cling, and matters over which we may disagree.  Matters essential would include the doctrine of the Trinity, that Christ was and is fully human and divine, was virginally conceived, that he rose bodily from the grave and will return again, the substitutionary atonement, salvation by grace through faith, the person and work of the Holy Spirit in regeneration, the inspiration and infallibility of Scripture, and that all of this was according to the plan of the Father out of love for His people – these doctrines the Church has always accepted.  Along with these are moral laws that express the very heart of God, such as the Ten Commandments, love of God and neighbor, and the necessity of pursuing godliness in the Christian life.  We may disagree as to mode of baptism, our several understandings of the Lord’s Supper, or whether one should send their kids to a Christian school, public school, or homeschool.  There are matters of doctrine over which honest men disagree that do not compromise the faith, and other matters of mere prudence.

So to our passage: Why would Paul circumcise Timothy while at the same time delivering the decision of the recent council (Acts 15:1-35) that circumcision was not necessary for salvation?  And the answer is to not give offense to his Jewish listeners.  If someone said to Paul: “You must be circumcised to be saved,” Paul saw that as compromising salvation by grace through faith and was ready to go to war (see his Letter to the Galatians).  But if circumcising Timothy would open a door to witness to Jews who would not listen otherwise, then Paul and Timothy were willing to do what was necessary to open that door, as long as there were no sin in it.  In other words, we see here in Scripture an excellent example of distinguishing between essentials and nonessentials.  And this is becoming increasingly important in an uncompromising and intolerant pagan society.

Author: The Reformed Baptist

My name is Stephen Taylor, ordained Baptist minister of eighteen years pastoral experience with a Ph.D. in Historical Theology from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas. Better than that, I am married to a godly woman, Karla, who has been very patient with me since 1989. I have two daughters, both of whom I homeschooled for extended periods of time, who became godly young women, and who ran off and married godly young men, all of which is very proper. The oldest daughter has even seen fit to bless me with a grandson and a granddaughter, and my youngest daughter with a grandson, all three of whom are bundles of exceeding joy. As you can see, I am quite blessed. This website is dedicated to helping people grow in the wisdom and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ through the gift of writing that the Lord has given to me. It is specifically about helping His people grow in godliness, the theme you see repeated above. I write devotions with this aim and hope that they might be of some help to God’s people. Full disclosure: I am of a Reformed bent, meaning that my understanding of Scripture is primarily informed by the Reformers and their successors of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. However, as a student of church history and theology, I strive to remain true to that teaching handed down once for all unto the saints through every age of the Church. I like to think of myself as a “catholic” Christian, as the Reformers thought of themselves. At any rate, feel free to read, pray, and contact me if you wish, or correct me if need be. As you can see, I tend to follow the church year. Of course, I make no special claims about these devotions. I know very well that others have written better and plumbed the depths of God’s word with greater insight. But if my musings help someone draw closer to the Lord, well then, I have my reward. Blessings to you and may the God and Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ speak to you that word which He knows you especially need to hear. Grace & peace, Stephen Taylor

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