What "Matters" Matter?

by Mark J. Ward

There are many things in the Bible of which we can read that make us wonder, "What 'matters' really matter?" This is a very good question and in this article we will explore some truths that will hopefully be of benefit to us all as we continue our spiritual journey.


There are several ways, I suppose, to "divide" or "categorize" topics in the Bible, but let us (for the sake of this article) make two broad categories: Academic matters and Activities. By academic matters, we will refer to things that can be believed, but are not necessarily tied to activites. By distinction, something that we might engage in, an "activity", would necessarily be the other category which would be able to cover all things. In other words, in the way in which we have defined these two categories: all Biblical matters, or topics, could fall into either the "academic" or the "activities" categories. For the sake of this teaching, we will not allow a topic to fall into both (though this author realizes that we can "believe" things about "activities").


Since the Bible covers three dispensations, or law ages (i.e. Patriarchal, Mosaical, and Gospel ages), we must certainly recognize that not all "academic matters" are of the same weight, or importance to us today. While we should certainly be interested in academic matters pertaining to Adam, Noah, Moses, and other Old Testament characters (See Rom. 15:4), we should be most concerned and give greatest attention to academic matters concerning the new testament that are essential for us to believe. This brings up the point that all academic matters are not of the same nature, or weight. Please notice the following:

1. Some academic matters relating to spiritual questions are not even addressed in the Bible for various reasons (Deut. 29:29; John 20:30; I Cor. 5:9; Col. 4:16). But, we do have all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3) so we know that the inspired, written record (canon) is sufficient for the purposes God intended (I Tim. 4:17; 2 Tim. 3:16,17; Jude 3). We should not speculate on academic matters wherein God has not revealed any information or we don't have conclusive information to make a determination. After all, these would not be "essential academic matters" or God would have revealed His Will to us on the matter.

2. Other academic matters relating to spiritual quesitons are addressed in the Bible, but are not essential for us to "know and believe" in order to be saved. These could include a wide variety of things that the Bible contains, such as the dimensions for the building of the temple, the geographical relationships between cities, purely informational data on events and rulers who were in power at various times in history, etc. We can know of a surety, in these academic matters, that these things are true (factual) with all confidence, but these are still not the type of topics that are essential unto the saving of one's soul.

3. By now the reader might be wondering, "What's the big deal about an 'academic matter' anyway? Isn't that type of information just facts or data?" Let us let the Bible answer this question. In John 8:24, Jesus said, "I said there unto you, that ye shall die in your sins: for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins." This is an example of an academic matter that requires our attention! If we do not believe this academic matter, we will be lost eternally! See the essentialty of such a "matter"? By all means, this type of matter, really matters!


Many of the readers may now already see the distinctions that might be made in the category of "matters" that are in the realm of "activities" (as opposed to merely academic matters). Have you ever thought about this before? Possibly not. Please read on. How are we to decided, "What 'matters" matter concerning 'activities'?" Well, I would suggest that we let the Word of God assist us in this determination. After all, it contains all things that pertain unto life and godliness and can completely furnish us to all good works!

We could separate all activities into two broad categories: scriptural and unscriptural. By scriptural we mean things God would authorize for us to participate in today. By unscriptural, we would mean things that God would determine to be "sin" today.

We could further distinguish between things that are "scriptural" by dividing scriptural activities into the two categories of "things mandated" and "things optional". And, of course, those things which are "unscriptural" for us today, are simply "forbidden". (The problem lies in accurately arriving at where, among these three categories, "activies today" really fall). These are relatively self-explanatory, but often misunderstood among good brethren and cause for continued study, discernment and growth. Further, much patience and love should be exhibited among brethren (and even toward non-Christians) in these matters. Without addressing all the details involved in "fellowship", we certainly must realize that there are some topics that are of a nature that we must not have fellowship with brethren in things that are wrong at any time, yet other "activities" are of such a nature that we can work and worship among brethren who disagree with us and our fellowship is not hindered (though we would never be participating in anything ourselves that we would believe to be error).

There are some matters of an individual nature that are such that we must respect the views and consciences of others and should be able to work and worship with brethren who might disagree with us on these subjects without any problem along the lines of fellowship. There are also some congregational matters that are such that we would not have to participate in something we deemed unscriptural, and would not have to break fellowship (i.e. leave such a congregation) over the matter (such as an unscriptural song that might be sung, for example). Those brethren who believe the "activity" to be scriptural participate; those who believe the matter to be unscriptural don't participate. Please notice the fact (which is crucial in our understanding the point) that the very nature of the activity is such that no one participates in that which they believe to be error. Study should continue on the topic, realizing that both sides of the question cannot be right...and being desirous of "God's view/answer" on the topic should always be our goal! (Please read the article entitled, "When Brethren Disagree" by clicking on this link).

Other matters are of such a nature that fellowship must be severed, for the very essence of the activity, for example, would be such that a person could not stay in a local church and not be in fellowship with the activity in question. For example, the use of mechanical instruments of music (MIM) with all spiritual songs that are sung at all services of a local church would be of "such a nature" that a Christian would never be able to praise God in song in the church without sin! This particular "matter" matters greatly, for it is such that division will come if the practice does not cease. This is not merely a topic over which good brethren can differ and those who wish to participate can and those who don't believe such to be correct can't and both sides of the issue get to worship together with clear consciences! In this case, the brethren who force the use of the mechanical instrument are pushing such to the exclusion (and expulsion, I might add) of the good brethren who hold the view that mechanical instruments of music are forbidden with the singing of spiritual songs in church worship unto God. (NOTE: The topic of MIM outside the local church is a very important matter, but is not of the same "nature" in that all saints in a local church are not affected by such a practice. There is still a "right answer" on that question, but it is not the same as MIM in the local church).

Teachers and preachers of God's Word today are under considerable obligations (See James 3:1; Acts 20:16-18; Gal. 4:16; 2 Tim. 4:2; 2 Tim. 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26). This includes such important tasks of: not only rightly dividing the truth, speaking the truth in love, and not failing to declare the whole counsel of God, but it also includes making the proper distinctions between "What 'matters' matter" and "The nature and relationship of various 'matters that matter'!" We have tried to do such in a very brief way in this article.

May God richly bless us as we all seek to exercise ourselves to the point that we have our senses trained for proper discernment as we continue to grow in love for God, the truth of God's Holy Word, and for brethren and friends who are not yet Christians! Thanks for reading. mjw

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