by Tim Hall
Some methods of justifying religious practices are questionable.
There’s a statement that is heard with increasing frequency. A person may be asked whether he believes a certain religious practice is right or wrong. His response may be “I don’t believe this is a salvation issue.” What he means, apparently, is that it doesn’t matter one way or another.
A search of the phrase “not a salvation issue” on Google.com leads to intriguing sites. One author pondered the question of whether pets (animals) will go to heaven. He concluded that it was not a salvation issue. Other sites discussed whether homosexuality, the ordination of women as religious leaders or baptism for the forgiveness of sins are salvation issues. If the doctrine is not a salvation issue, it is inferred, then there’s no point in disputing the question.
Where did this line of reasoning come from? Is this a valid way to settle an issue?
Most will agree that not all topics of discussion are of equal importance. Some congregations observe the Lord’s Supper near the beginning of Sunday worship; others wait until closer to the end. Does this matter? Most would say, “Of course not.” As long as we commune with the Lord on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7), the timing is not an issue. Should church buildings be air conditioned? Are windows in the church building allowed? Because the Bible gives no commands or principles that govern such questions, these do not affect our salvation.
Alan Highers’ thoughts on this topic are worth considering:
“The real question is whether it is a sin to introduce into the worship a practice that God did not authorize. If we will focus on that question, and determine what the Bible teaches, we will not be distracted by side issues and smoke screens.”1 Instead of asking whether something is a salvation issue, we should be asking if it is a sin.
John gave a succinct answer to our question in 1 John 1:7: “But if we walk in the light as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his son cleanses us from all sin” (NKJV). To be cleansed of our sins is to have salvation. In order to obtain that blessing we must “walk in the light”. Whether God has given explicit instruction or general principles, we must walk in the light he has given. To ignore such puts our salvation in jeopardy.
Jesus’ opinion matters most. Here is his standard: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21). Doing the will of God, according to Jesus, is what will save us.
Deciding what is or is not a salvation issue is not our job. God has already decided those questions.
1/ Gospel Advocate, November 2006, p. 27