“Are some things the Bible says more important than others?”
1. In our responses to a series of questions, we have come to these conclusions about the proper handling of the Scriptures.
a. They carry weight because God is God.
b. They are to be approached with the belief that they can be understood.
c. They must be read with the intention of doing what God wants.
d. The normal principles of communication should be applied by the reader.
e. The application of what they reveal can be made with reason.
2. Our present question is related to that last thought: “Are some things the Bible says more important than other things it says?”
a. Taken in its best sense, this is a like a question Jesus was once asked: what are the first and great commandments?
b. But on the other hand it may be aimed more in the direction of this query I heard once: “Do you guys think everything is a salvation issue?”
c. Either way, it asks us to do something important: to think of how to use the instruction of the Bible with Scriptural perspective.
3. We will seek an answer by considering three meaningful statements from the Gospel of Matthew, starting from end and working our way backward.
1. Matthew 28:20 – “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
a. You will recognize this as the final statement in the Great Commission.
i. People are to be taught to observe all that the Lord has commanded.
ii. But those people are ones who have been baptized in his name (v. 19b).
iii. They did so because they had come to believe that he has all authority in heaven and on earth (v. 18-19a).
b. We think the perspective we should have when we read Scripture is encapsulated here very well.
i. Because we believe in him, we take whatever the Lord says as the truth.
ii. Because we are committed to his Lordship, we take seriously our obligation to observe – that is, to do – all that he has commanded.
iii. Because we love him and depend on him to be with us, our intention to obey him is no burden to us.
(1) John 14:23-24; 15:10
(2) 1 John 5:3
c. This allows us be begin to get a handle on our question.
i. Everything the Bible teaches is important because of who has revealed it.
ii. Everywhere it reveals truth that applies to us, we are compelled to pay attention and “trust and obey.”
iii. In nothing can we conceive of pausing first to argue whether it is a “salvation issue,” as if we are completely unwilling to act on what the Lord wants unless we are threatened with lostness if we don’t.
2. Matthew 23:23 – “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and you have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.”
a. You can see that the problem Jesus was correcting is hypocrisy.
i. He was not saying some things need not be done because others are more important.
ii. He was not criticizing the tithing of small garden herbs, but the meticulous attention to these smallest practices by people who were appallingly uninterested in, and inattentive to, the grandest principles of godliness.
iii. At the deepest level, the fault was in the excessive amplification of ritual precepts that goes hand-in-hand with a failure to give priority to the fundamental moral precepts (Tasker, 218). In other words, they were engaging in external acts that would impress people, but with very little inward exposure of their motives to the view of God.
b. But notice that in the process offering this instruction, it is the Lord himself who makes reference to “the weightier matters.”
i. He was speaking of importance rather than difficulty.
ii. There are “weightier matters” and there is “the greater sin” (Jn. 19:11).
iii. The weightier matters are the harder to measure inward, moral principles that are rooted in the character of God himself.
(1) “Justice” is right judgment of our fellow man.
(2) “Mercy” is forbearance toward the guilty and compassion toward the suffering.
(3) “Faithfulness” is both the belief of the truth and the habitual manifestation of that belief in the life.
iv. The priority of these matters has always existed, and always will – because they are based in the nature of God himself (cf. Hos. 2:19; Mic. 6:8).
c. We are ready then to proceed a little farther toward the answer to our question.
i. While we are not looking for a way around anything Scripture asks us to do, we must recognize that even the lighter details have to be done with a spirit of respect for the weightier matters.
ii. What are they? Whatever relates to the character of God. Nothing that diminishes the worth of persons. Anything that extends as great a grace as we have required ourselves.
iii. It is our obligation as Bible readers to involve ourselves with important enough issues. Response to the work of Christ. The whole church gathered together. True spirituality.
3. Matthew 16:19 – “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
a. The apostles had just confessed that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God, and he was speaking of the authority he was giving them.
i. NASB gives the sense of it: “...shall have been bound in heaven...shall have been loosed in heaven.”
ii. They were to be his inspired witnesses: they would bind what heaven would already have bound, and they would loose what heaven had already loosed.
iii. In this way they would “bear witness to the truth.”
b. There is an important implication in this saying: there are, and there have always been, two kinds of truth-breakers.
i. There are those who loose what God has not loosed, and there are those who bind what God has not bound.
ii. Either approach is a challenge to the authority of heaven.
iii. If truth is a rock, it can be fallen off of on either side.
c. A third part of the answer to our question is here. Extremism is what happens when more weight is attached to something the Bible says than Scripture gives it, to the point that weightier matters are left out of focus.
i. Extremism handles some point of truth with an ugly, unkind spirit toward struggling, hurting people.
(1) Sides are chosen and the benefit of the doubt is no longer given.
(2) It brings more interest in the issues than in the word of God.
(3) The product is either a more extreme position or an over-reaction.
ii. Extremes are hurting the church. We can think of some examples.
iii. Humility, honesty, and kindness are themselves elements of the truth that the Bible teaches.
1. “Rightly dividing the word of truth” has more meaning than just distinguishing between the Old Testament and the New. We are to do it with regard to all things that come before us.
2. Matthew 28:19