Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 21, 1951

A Number Of Essentials And Incidentals

Murray Marshall, Frederick, Oklahoma

The sum of what we presented in our first in this series is: All God's commands given to us are essential. Where God has specified the way we are to do a command, we must do it that way and no other; we are limited to the specifications He has given. But where He has not specified (by precept, example, or necessary inference) the incidentals are left to our judgment. "Unity in essentials; liberty in incidentals.'

In the present article we shall consider some of the essentials. We do not claim this list to include all the essentials, for all the Lord's commands, given to us in the New Testament, are essential. God has given us no nonessential commands. Here are some of the essentials. For convenience we shall number them:

1. Preach the gospel; (2 Tim. 4:3, 4; Rom. 1:16) preaching is essential; preaching the gospel is essential; the Lord has specified what to preach. The gospel is essential.

2. Unity in Christ (Eph. 4:3-6; 1 Cor. 1:10) is essential. God wants His people united.

3. Contending for the faith: (Jude 3; Rom. 10:17; Eph. 4:5) it is necessary that we hold to the "one faith," not to the faiths of men, not to some faith not found in the scripture. To contend for that faith found in the scriptures is also required of us.

4. Faith in Christ and in his word (John 8:24; Acts 16:31) is required; it is necessary unto the salvation of our souls, both from our past sins, and in heaven.

5. Repentance from sins (Acts 2:38) is an essential, a condition of pardon.

6. Confession of faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9, 10) is required.

7. Baptism into Christ (Gal. 3:27; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38) is essential.

8. The name of Christ (Acts 4:12; 11:26; Rom. 16:16; James 2:7) is important; it is wrong to wear any other name for, in religion, in true religion, "there is none other name;" (Acts 4:12) in it alone is salvation; it is wrong to wear a name that does not honor Christ; His bride, His people, His church, will wear His name!

9. Christian worship and the five scriptural items (John 4:24; 17:17; Eph. 5:19; Acts 2:42; 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2; 1 Tim. 4:13) — these are essentials. We are not to worship God in our own way, but according to His will; He has given in His word the items or acts of acceptable worship. But He has not given the order in which they are to come in the Lord's Day service.

10. The scriptural organization of the church (Acts 14:23; Phil. 1:1; Eph. 5:23, with Christ as head and each congregation a local, independent, autonomous unit); this necessarily excludes a super-organization or a centralized authority to do all or part of the work of the church; this excludes a missionary society in full-grown form or in embryo.

11. Teach (Mt. 28:19, 20; Heb. 5:12; Eph. 4:11) — teaching is essential. The scriptures do not give one (or an exclusive) way to teach. We teach in revivals of various lengths, in the worship service, by ads and circulars, by gospel papers, by our lives, in song, and in Bible study classes.

12. Study (2 Tim. 2:15) — this is essential, a much neglected one, today, we fear. But God has not given us an exclusive method of study; He has not specified a certain way to obey this command. We may make any arrangements, use any means, and employ any methods (in obeying this command) which do not in some way contradict the scriptures.

And now for some incidentals: (1) The place of worshipping and studying. Church buildings are incidentals used in carrying out the commands to worship and to teach. Where, how big, and how to build such a building, or whether to rent or buy one, all these are incidentals. Of course in obeying the commands to assemble, to worship and to study, we are permitted to have a place to do so.

(2) Also the objects and furniture to have in the building in order to worship and to teach, are incidental. But to bring in a piano or an altar of burnt offering or a ping pong table would be to introduce an addition or innovation for God has nowhere given any command that involves the use of these. If the object or item of furniture is "subordinate to a principal thing," if it is a way of obeying an essential, if it is a help in carrying out that which is commanded to be done, then it is an incidental. And remember that incidentals are all right. Maps, blackboards, songbooks, pulpit stands, tables and such like are all incidentals.

(3) Then, too, the kind of service to conduct in the church building is incidental. It may be a wedding or a funeral. We have not heard of anyone objecting to these. The Bible has not legislated as to what kind of service to have, or not to have, hence, the service or kind of gathering we have is incidental, just so we are obeying a command of the Lord. Here, too, the principle of expediency enters the picture. We may scripturally conduct singing schools, "Sunday schools" (Bible classes), baptizings, revivals, "lectureships," "training services" and such like as well as the regular worship services, even though the details or exact procedure of these are not specified in the word of the Lord.

(Next time: "Some More Incidentals")