By S.C. Shaw
What do I mean by “Christian conviction is not scripture”? This is a topic that has been on my heart and mind for years. This is a topic not talked about in most churches, bible studies or even amongst friends. Why? Because most Christians don’t even know this is something to consider. Why is it important? Because I see more Christians wasting their time and energy trying to push their convictions on others and it needs to stop because it is unbiblical and is pushing people away from the love of Christ. We can and should share our convictions and opinions with other believers, but everything you think is wrong is not always what the Bible says is wrong. You feel guilty about something and insist that it is a sin for everyone, and that is simply not true. There are tiers to these issues.
Tier one: Salvation based truths
These are the essential Christian faith doctrinal truths that are necessary for salvation as seen in Scripture.
Simple example: God is three in One (the Trinity). Jesus lived a perfect life as 100% man and 100% God, died for sinners on a cross, rose from the grave and ascended to heaven, 1 Corinthians 15:3–5. One day He will return for a final judgment on evil and His children will be with God for eternity. Others include authority of Scripture alone, Glory to God alone, and salvation in Christ alone.
Tier two: Conviction based ideas
These are the things that brothers and sisters in Christ can have differing opinions on and still be in Gods family for eternity. This is one of the areas many Christians try and enforce as a first-tier Gospel truth.
Simple example: Modes of baptism, drinking alcohol, tithing, church membership, church government etc.
These are the issues that create denominations. These are things that are important to think through and know where you stand but are not a matter of salvation.
Tier three: Opinion based things
These are the things that one can have an idea about that is not explicit right, wrong or doctrinal truth in the Bible. These opinions can also be talked about as if they are Gospel truths but are not.
Simple example: How long was creation, new earth, old earth, end times etc.
Why is this important to talk about? Because we want to be confessional Christians and want to know who we are in our convictions and opinions. But we need to know where to stop. Your convictions and opinions are not inspired truths of God. In fact, nothing is if it is not systematically talked about in the Scriptures. What the whole Bible agrees on any given topic is the only thing that is salvation based. These are the issues in which why so many on lookers hate, the church, the Bible and God. This is where legalism stems from and is ungodly and wicked. Let’s read what the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith says.
1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 21
Christian Liberty and Liberty of Conscience
The liberty Christ has purchased for believers under the gospel is found in their freedom from the guilt of sin, the condemning wrath of God, and the severity and curse of the law. It also includes their deliverance from this present evil age, bondage to Satan, the dominion of sin, the suffering of afflictions, the fear and sting of death, the victory of the grave, and everlasting damnation. In addition, it includes their free access to God and their obedience to him, not from slavish fear but from a childlike love and willing mind.
All these liberties were also enjoyed in their essence by believers under the law. But under the New Testament the liberty of Christians is further expanded. They are free from the yoke of the ceremonial law to which the Jewish congregation was subjected; they have greater confidence of access to the throne of grace; and they have a fuller supply of God’s free Spirit than believers under the law usually experienced.
God alone is Lord of the conscience, and he has left it free from human doctrines and commandments that are in any way contrary to his word or not contained in it. So, believing such doctrines, or obeying such commands out of conscience, is a betrayal of true liberty of conscience. Requiring implicit faith or absolute and blind obedience destroys liberty of conscience and reason as well.
Those who use Christian liberty as an excuse to practice any sin or nurture any sinful desire pervert the main objective of the grace of the gospel to their own destruction, and they completely destroy the purpose of Christian liberty. This purpose is that we, having been delivered from the hands of all our enemies, may serve the Lord without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our lives.
You see the measure in which this is a big deal?
There is a balance, however. We must not be a stumbling block to other believers. We need to put every other believer’s wellbeing in front of our own. Example: If you believe you can drink to the glory of God and are able to control yourself, then it is ok for you. But if you feel guilty when you drink then don’t drink. Another side of this is; if your brother struggles with addiction then not drinking when he’s around would be a God honoring thing. And that’s the main point to everything, honoring and glorifying God, 1 Corinthians 10:31.
I am writing this blog, so I have a place to send people who struggle with this understanding or maybe have never thought about it. When I hear Christians argue or voice their opinion on various matters, it always stems from an ignorant view of this topic. But just as importantly, the way Christians will impose their convictions and opinions on the non-believer. First, never expect the unrepentant heart to think about right and wrong as you do. They are dead in their sin just as you were once. We stick to the Gospel and our testimony. Only the Holy Spirit can change a heart and make the dead to life. Second, our legalism is what has been the biggest problem in the church since the start. Not only should we not be imposing our second and third tier ideas on believers, but we should keep those to yourself amongst non-believers. The Christian looking down on the non-Christian for not living a life for God is unrealistic and dangerous. We are to love them, teach the truth (the first tier mainly) and live a life worthy of the Gospel. That’s it! Everything else is self-righteous, prideful and hurtful to the Kingdom. We are sinning when trying raise our opinions to the level of God’s Word. Keep the main thing the main thing.
Lastly, sometimes we need to mature in our faith and wisdom of Scripture before we can know what our true convictions and opinions are. They will change as you grow. Like the way a child understanding of things change as they grow up. No one thinks the same at 8 years old as they do when they are 18. In fact, it might be the opposite on most matters of life. Let us all start there and most of this will handle itself.
Please don’t let my word be the final word on this. Pick up the Bible, read Gospel-saturated books by good authors, read good commentaries on the Bible, pick up Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology”, read the 1689 London Baptist confession of faith and learn from a man’s lifetime of study and meditation on the Word of God. Most of all, trust in Jesus Christ and know what He has given us is whole, perfect and is for our good and His glory. Love you all!