The Essential Outline: Less Basic Not Unnecessary

Read the first two installments of “The Essential Outline:” (1) The Main Points, (2) The Bottom Line.

After exploring its main points and considering what those mean to us, we acknowledge that Romans 1:2-4 is still a bare outline. If it weren’t, Paul would not have needed to write further. But thanks be to God we have the whole book of Romans!

We should remember that an outline is just that, an outline. A summary touches the high points, but doesn’t include all that needs to be said. Comparing this summary with that of 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, we discover to our shock that Paul has different talking points in these two. That’s because each summary is conditioned to the moment.

People who tout what they call a “core gospel” forget this. In the 1 Corinthians 15 summary there is no mention of the incarnation. In Romans 1 Paul doesn’t mention the crucifixion. Can these be discarded? Obviously not! So let’s drop the pretense of boiling the gospel down into an essential jelly that conveniently omits ungainly portions that don’t go down well with our worldly elixirs.

There are things more basic to the gospel, but that doesn’t make others items any less necessary. Jesus said as much.

“Woe to you, experts in the law and you Pharisees, hypocrites! You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law — justice, mercy, and faithfulness! You should have done these things without neglecting the others” (Matthew 23:23 NET).

Just because we know where to drive the tent pegs doesn’t mean we don’t sweep the ground to remove sticks and rocks.

But some think that the existence of less important matters means they are non-essential, that they may be ignored and disobeyed with impunity. The confusion between the important and essential often results from a desire to jettison what is considered unpalatable. After all, if we can weed out what doesn’t resonate with the masses, we’ll do a better job of bringing them in and of joining the ranks of the religious world in general.

Such an approach, using summaries as a crutch, is a broken religion.

To fix it, it requires confession, especially from some Doctors of Theology. To follow it, it requires obedience of the whole will of God, from all of us.

After all, that is what faith means.

Share your thoughts: