When Secondary Issues Become Primary
July 25, 2012, 11:20 am
Filed under: Milk and Meat
by Scott Price

“For I am determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”   I Corinthians 2:2

The gospel of Christ is the message condensed within the whole of Scripture that shines forth in predominance and should be our primary concern. The gospel is the message declaring how God was glorified by the Person and work of Jesus Christ as He saved guilty sinners. All other issues in the Scripture are of secondary importance when put next to the gospel. When a church body gathers for fellowship and worship it must be done with the primary focus on gospel issues not secondary or side issues. In other words we are not to major on the minors. If someone believes the same gospel we do there should be no problem with them worshiping together with us. This means even if they do have differences in side issues like church government, millennial views, social differences, musical preferences, liberty issues, etc., we can still focus together in worship in a gospel context and get along fine.

Some people turn secondary issues into primary issues. This means an issue is put in higher esteem than the gospel of Christ. When this takes place the fellowship of brothers and sisters in Christ is broken because of something that one party has put above the gospel of Christ. Some issues can still be tolerated by the person who still has their focus on the gospel, BUT when the other party makes the secondary issue to be a gospel issue, then it cannot and should not be tolerated! What are some examples of this?

Church views: If a person’s view put someone on a higher plane of acceptability in Heaven as a result of what denomination or church they were a member of on earth, they have perverted the grace of God.

Millennial views: If a person’s millennial views are such that they do damage to the gospel it should not be tolerated. Some might hold to the millennial view that God saved people by the works of the Law in the Old Testament. This portrays a false god and false gospel of salvation by works.

Water baptism: If a person’s view of water baptism is such that the act of baptism has some saving effect or merit, then the gospel has been affected. If a person says regeneration comes from water baptism or that water baptism washes away sin(s) or even Adam’s original sin, then the gospel is affected. They have made a secondary to be primary. A person holding to such damnable heresy is not to be fellowshipped with since they believe a false gospel of conditional, works religion.

The Lord’s Supper: If a person’s view of the Lord’s Supper is such that the act of it has some saving effect or merit, then the gospel has been affected. They have made a secondary to be primary and perverted the gospel.

Judging views: If the view of judging whether another person is saved or not saved has become priority OVER the very gospel itself they claim to be judging by, then they have made judging their gospel. We are no doubt to distinguish false religion, false gospels, false prophets, and false professors from the true, but there are biblical guidelines for doing so. People many times themselves end up being the offense rather than the message of the cross being the offense to others.

Any other view:  When someone says because a person does any or all of the following they will go to hell; smokes cigarettes, drinks alcohol, goes to movie theaters, gets a tattoo, eats pork, drinks caffeine, listens to or plays music that in not “gospel music”, or does any or all these on Sunday, etc., then it is a perversion of the gospel. They are preaching a legalistic “touch not, taste not, handle not” false gospel that is not to be tolerated. They have made secondary (and in many cases a non-issue) to become primary.

All issues, and there are many, that are considered secondary must be seen with a gospel focus and be run through the gospel funnel and filter. If they are not consistent with the gospel of grace the away with the thing. The church should be a gospel-driven church not one who majors on the minors. That is what sectarians do. That is what religious people do.

I hope you understand how issues can become out of focus, twisted, and perverted to do damage to the gospel of God’s pure sovereign grace. You see then that it is very simple. Anything that is elevated above the primary importance of the gospel will battle against the glory of God. Christ and Him crucified is our primary focus. Keep your eyes on Christ. If you have never seen Him then look to Him by faith for all salvation. Faith in anything else will result in idolatry. God is jealous and will not tolerate it.

3 Comments so far
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1. Each of the conclusions about each topic is itself already a “view”. None of us escape having a view. For example, if we DO think that baptism and the Lord’s Supper are a means of grace, does that mean that we don’t believe the gospel? (Btw, I don’t but all who really believe the WCF do)

2. But Scott’s argument stands, even if we ourselves are guilty of putting issues out of place. When we say to ourselves, well, I just don’t want to be around people who think like that, then we have inevitably become people who think like that.

For example, think of the last time you actually had a good gospel conversation with a person who still holds to a pre-trib view. How long ago was it? Was it a version of your old self that you don’t want to revisit again?

Comment by markmcculley

Because of his distinction between “gospel” and “religion”, Luther tended toward gradualism instead of immediate obedience to what he himself understood from Scripture. In his early days, for example, Luther called for a ‘truly evangelical order consisting of those who
1. want to be Christians in earnest and who profess the gospel
2. sign their names and meet alone in a house
3. accept the necessity of being reproved or corrected
Though Luther emphasized faith in justification , Luther did not make faith a requirement for being in “the church”. In fact, Germany enforced infant baptism with the death penalty! But that doesn’t stop some “Reformed” folks from labeling as “prostitution” those who “withdraw from the world into a holy remnant waiting the eschaton.” The Anabaptists withdrew because Lutheran antinomians were coming after them with swords!

Comment by markmcculley

Carson: if by “gospel” we mean the sort of thing that is often taught in lowest-common-denominator evangelicalism—e.g., “Jesus died on the cross for my sins,” without any attempt to establish what is meant by the confession—then in what sense is penal, substitutionary atonement a gospel issue? It may be a gospel issue in that in some sense or other it is tied to Jesus’ death, but that is not enough to make the statement “Penal, substitutionary atonement is a gospel issue” say anything important (my second point, above). More precisely: if “Jesus died on the cross for my sins” is a sufficient definition of the gospel, then it is not clear that failing to believe in penal, substitutionary atonement adversely affects or threatens the gospel, for in itself this formulation of the gospel does not specify with any precision what understanding of the atonement the formulation presupposes. http://themelios.thegospelcoalition.org/article/what-are-gospel-issues

Comment by markmcculley

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